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ROME, Italy (LifeSiteNews) — Father Maurizio Chiodi, a pro-contraception priest and member of the Pontifical Academy for Life (PAV), has published a new interview in which he declares that the Church’s teaching in Humanae Vitae and Casti Connubi – that contraception is intrinsically evil – is “reformable doctrine.” 

In the interview, Chiodi claims that Divine Revelation, as the governing norm for theology, is constantly being reinterpreted. “For my part, I would say that theology has no ‘absolute’ freedom,” the priest said. “Its norma normans (“the rule that rules”) is Revelation, constantly reinterpreted and made present in Tradition” (emphasis added). 

This view that Revelation is fluid in its meaning stands in contradiction to the Church’s teaching that the sense in which the Magisterium defines doctrine does not, and cannot change. The First Vatican Council defined that “if anyone says, that as science progresses, at times a sense is to be given to dogmas proposed by the Church different from the one that the Church has understood and understands, let him be anathema.” (Dei Filius, Ch.4, can.3) This constancy of meaning is foundational to the enduring permanence of the Church’s teachings. 

Chiodi also expressed the idea that the ordinary and universal magisterium of the Church is not definitive and infallible. “It is ultimately up to the ecclesiastical magisterium,” Chiodi said, “to determine whether a theological statement conforms to the truth of the gospel or not, but this implies precisely a free discussion, at least to the extent that a doctrine is affirmed by the ordinary and universal magisterium in an ‘authentic’ way, but not in a definitive and infallible way.” 

Chiodi then applied his principle, that the ordinary and universal Magisterium is not infallible, to the question of contraception. He first acknowledged that the teaching that contraception is intrinsically evil belongs to the Church’s ordinary and universal Magisterium, and then denied that it is a definitive or infallible teaching. 

When it comes to Humanae Vitae, and the earlier stance contained in Casti connubii – which was even stronger – we are in the realm of doctrina reformabilis (‘reformable doctrine’). This does not legitimize hastily substituting one’s own idea with the teaching of the magisterium, claiming for oneself an infallibility denied to the magisterium, but it does open up theological discussion, within the Church, and even the possibility of dissent, both for the individual believer and the theologian. Now, contraception is considered an intrinsically evil act, along with many others, as can be read in the long list in Veritatis Splendor 80.”

In justification of the rethinking of the moral judgment of the Church on the sinfulness of contraception, Chiodi argues precisely what Pope St John Paul II condemned in Veritatis Splendor, namely, that judgment about the goodness or evil of a human act cannot be made based on the objective nature of the act prior to a consideration of the circumstances.  

Fallacious argumentation 

Chiodi fallaciously bases his position on the way in which murder is judged to be evil. He argues that since, in the violent act of killing, the innocence of the person killed is a circumstance of the action, but is necessary to consider when judging the murder as intrinsically evil, therefore one must always consider circumstances in order to say an act is intrinsically evil.  

“I believe,” Chiodi maintained, “that we should not deny the existence of intrinsically evil acts, but that we need to think together about what an act is at its source, overcoming an objectified interpretation of it, that is, one that is independent of any circumstance, effect and intention in the actions of those involved.” 

Asking “who is innocent,” in relation to the prohibition of killing an innocent person, Chiodi stated that the relevance of “circumstances and intentions” in this example can be used elsewhere. “A similar argument could be made for what is implied in the pastoral practice introduced by Amoris Laetitia, according to which the sexual relationship between the divorced and remarried is not necessarily adulterous,” he said. 

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The fallacy of this argument is made clear when it is understood that while “being innocent” may be a circumstance of the act of killing — since both the guilty and the innocent can be killed — nonetheless, being innocent is not a circumstance of the act of murder. To kill is to take the life of a person, while to murder is to take the life of an innocent person. What is a circumstance of the first act is not a circumstance of the moral species of the second act, but part of its very definition. The innocence of the person killed is part of the nature and notion of murder. Such moral reasoning has long stood as the foundation of legal justice regarding the taking of human life for centuries.  

Similarly, if adultery is defined as having sexual relations with another person’s spouse, then whatever the intentions of a man or woman may be, a “sexual relationship between the divorced and remarried” will always be adulterous. It is one thing to argue that such sexual relations are not sinful, another to argue that they are not adultery in the first place. The first is an error in moral judgment, the second a denial of the obvious. In order to avoid directly contradicting the Sixth Commandment by saying that adultery is not sinful, Chiodi has claimed that sex between the divorced and remarried is not adultery. 

Chiodi says change ‘does not contradict Humanae Vitae’ 

Finally, Chiodi claims that he is not contradicting Humanae Vitae in holding that contraceptive sexual acts are intrinsically evil. “I believe that, beyond the important historical investigation, today theology has reached a wide-ranging depth of reflections, insights and concepts, that allow us to go one step further, which does not contradict Humanae Vitae, but adopts its spirit, without taking a norm literally.” 

In Humanae Vitae, Pope St. Paul VI condemned “any action which either before, at the moment of, or after sexual intercourse, is specifically intended to prevent procreation—whether as an end or as a means.” The pontiff expressed this same teaching positively when he taught that “each and every marital act must of necessity retain its intrinsic relationship to the procreation of human life.”  

READ: Pope Francis on the Church’s ban of birth control: Morality is ‘always on a path of development’

In other words, every sexual act must be ordered to, “per se destinatus,” the procreation of human life in order to be a morally good act. The contradiction of this statement is that not every sexual act must be ordered to the procreation of human life in order to be a morally good act. The contradiction may be put another way, namely, that some sexual acts may not be ordered to the procreation of human life and yet still be morally good acts.   

Teaching of Casti Connubii 

In an even more solemn manner than Paul VI, Pius XII taught in Casti Connubii that “no reason, however grave, may be put forward by which anything intrinsically against nature may become conformable to nature and morally good. Since, therefore, the conjugal act is destined primarily by nature for the begetting of children, those who in exercising it deliberately frustrate its natural power and purpose sin against nature and commit a deed which is shameful and intrinsically vicious.” 

The Church, wrote Pius XII, “raises her voice in token of her divine ambassadorship and through Our mouth proclaims anew: any use whatsoever of matrimony exercised in such a way that the act is deliberately frustrated in its natural power to generate life is an offense against the law of God and of nature, and those who indulge in such are branded with the guilt of a grave sin.” 

It is the height of sophistical argument to claim in a disagreement that a direct contradiction is not just that, a contradiction. In other quarters of the Church, such as Germany, while prelates dissent from the Chruch’s teachings on sexual morality, they are at least more honest in their discussion of the matter, admitting their clear contradiction of Revelation and Magisterial teaching to be just that, contradictions of the Gospel.  

Chiodi’s latest statements make clear that undermining the Church’s teaching on contraception is the new battlefront and agenda for the Pontifical Academy for Life. 


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