Debate continues over Humanae Vitae

Published on 1st Sep, 2022

WelCom September 2022

The Vatican’s top body on life issues has caused a stir for suggesting that one of the Church’s most influential and controversial magisterial documents, Humanae Vitae, is not covered by papal infallibility.

A tweet sent from the Pontifical Academy for Life’s official Twitter account suggested that St Pope Paul VI’s 1968 encyclical was not covered by the doctrine of papal infallibility. This means it can be subject to change.

‘History records by Archbishop Lambruschini confirmed that Paul VI said to him directly that Humanae Vitae was not under infallibility,’ the Pontifical Academy’s official Twitter account said on 6 August.

The academy’s now-deleted tweet generated considerable backlash and speculation online. Many commentators interpreted the statement as suggesting the landmark encyclical could become the subject of papal review or reform.

The debate began last month with the publication by the Pontifical Academy for Life of a new volume titled Theological Ethics of Life: Scripture, Tradition, Practical Challenges. In the book, some theologians appeared to suggest that in certain limited circumstances couples might be justified in choosing artificial contraception or methods of artificial reproduction.

The academy defended the volume, saying its role as a pontifical academy is to facilitate dialogue among the top theological thinkers of the day about contemporary issues.

However, critics argued it was inappropriate for an official Vatican entity to include voices questioning some of the Church’s core moral teachings.

Ever since Humanae Vitae first appeared in 1968, there’s been an active debate over exactly what level of authority it possesses and, by implication, whether one can dissent from it and still be a good Catholic.

In general, conservative theologians say no, insisting the mere fact that the ban on birth control has never been formally declared as infallible doesn’t mean it’s not. In 1997, a Vatican office termed the ban on birth control ‘definitive and irreformable’.

Liberal theologians, on the other hand, insist that had any pope since Paul VI wanted to declare Humanae Vitae infallible he could have, but none did.

Source: Crux now, Cath News

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