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Cardinal Walter BrandmullerJan Bentz / LifeSiteNews

ROME, October 28, 2017 (LifeSiteNews) — The Church’s teaching against contraception as expressed in Humanae Vitae is an “extraordinary example” of how the “truth of faith” deepens and develops while “continuing to be identical to itself,” Cardinal Walter Brandmüller stated at a conference in Rome today.

Brandmüller made his remarks as he opened a conference titled Humanae Vitae at 50: Setting the Context that was organized by Voice of the Family. The conference took place at the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas. 


German Cardinal Brandmüller is a world renowned-scholar of church history, having published numerous books on the Crusades, the Spanish Inquisition, and the Reformation. He holds a doctorate in theology and is the former President of the Pontifical Commission for Historical Sciences. He is one of the four Cardinals who signed the dubia [questions] to Pope Francis asking if the Pope’s 2016 exhortation Amoris Laetitia conforms to perennial Catholic teaching. 

Pope Paul VI’s Encyclical Humanae Vitae [Of Human Life] celebrates its 50th anniversary next year. Catholic academics including Josef Seifert and Father George Woodall have outlined how Pope Francis’s teaching on marriage and family, especially as expressed in Amoris Laetitia [Joy of Love], could be used to overturn Catholic teaching against contraception. 

Brandmüller told conference attendees that it is “impossible” for the Catholic Church to change it’s teaching in Humanae Vitae, what he referred to as a “doctrinal document” that was “truly prophetic.” 

The Encyclical states that “each and every marriage act must remain open to the transmission of human life” and calls the use of contraception (including the pill, condom, withdrawal, and other methods) “intrinsically wrong.”

“Humanae Vitae provides an extraordinary example of the workings of the process of parodosis, which means transmission of the doctrine of the Church. When the truth of faith is received, adopted and transmitted, what happens is that what is received, when adopted and transmitted, responds with deeper understanding and more precise expression to the needs of the respective present, while continuing to be identical to itself,” he said. 

“In all of this, contradiction between yesterday and today is impossible: it is the Holy Spirit who acts in the Church of Jesus Christ to guide this process of paradosis. It is the Holy Spirit who ensures that the faith of the Church develops in the course of time, just as an adult person continues to be identical to the infant it was in the past, an intuition formulated by Vincent of Lérins as early as 430 and elaborated upon by Blessed John Henry Newman,” he added.

The Cardinal said that the Catholic Church must withstand pressures from Protestant churches and from the world that want to see the Church use “situation ethics” to accept contraception as morally legitimate. 

Instead, he said, “tribute should be paid” to the “doctrinal document whose prophetic nature has, over time, also been acknowledged by leading non-catholic thinkers.”

“In this Encyclical, Paul VI brought temporary closure to a series of doctrinal affirmations on the matter of contraception, instigated by Pius XI in Casti connubii and continued by Pius XII and John XXIII. These were ultimately taken up, developed and deepened by John Paul II,” he said. 

“The Conference inaugurated today has called for this renewed reception, adoption and more profound transmission of the truly prophetic teaching of Paul VI in the year 2017,” he added. 

Brandmüller's full address.