Editor’s note: Lepanto Institute President Michael Hichborn responds to a Dec. 14 statement at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome by Fr. Maurizio Chiodi that Responsible parenthood can obligate a married couple to use artificial birth control.
January 12, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) – The Code of Canon Law, which is the universal law of the Roman Catholic Church, clearly establishes the obligation of fidelity to everything that has been definitively proposed by the Magisterium of the Church regarding faith and morals. (Ed. note: texts throughout have been bolded by the author.)
Can. 750 §1. A person must believe with divine and Catholic faith all those things contained in the word of God, written or handed on, that is, in the one deposit of faith entrusted to the Church, and at the same time proposed as divinely revealed either by the solemn magisterium of the Church or by its ordinary and universal magisterium which is manifested by the common adherence of the Christian faithful under the leadership of the sacred magisterium; therefore all are bound to avoid any doctrines whatsoever contrary to them.
§2. Each and every thing which is proposed definitively by the magisterium of the Church concerning the doctrine of faith and morals, that is, each and every thing which is required to safeguard reverently and to expound faithfully the same deposit of faith, is also to be firmly embraced and retained; therefore, one who rejects those propositions which are to be held definitively is opposed to the doctrine of the Catholic Church.
Canon 715 of the Code of Canon Law provides the precise definition of what constitutes a heresy:
Can. 751 Heresy is the obstinate denial or obstinate doubt after the reception of baptism of some truth which is to be believed by divine and Catholic faith.
The Magisterium of the Catholic Church teaches, and has taught since Her beginning, that the direct and intentional use of contraception is not only gravely immoral but intrinsically evil. This is to say that it is an evil act in and of itself, and can never be justified.
Pope Pius XI in his 1930 encyclical, Casti Connubii, paragraphs 54-57, not only condemns the use of contraception as intrinsically evil, but he also reminds his priests of the grave evil they commit should they promote or permit by their silence the use of contraception among couples:
54. But 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.
55. Small wonder, therefore, if Holy Writ bears witness that the Divine Majesty regards with greatest detestation this horrible crime and at times has punished it with death. As St. Augustine notes, “Intercourse even with one's legitimate wife is unlawful and wicked where the conception of the offspring is prevented. Onan, the son of Juda, did this and the Lord killed him for it.“
56. Since, therefore, openly departing from the uninterrupted Christian tradition some recently have judged it possible solemnly to declare another doctrine regarding this question, the Catholic Church, to whom God has entrusted the defense of the integrity and purity of morals, standing erect in the midst of the moral ruin which surrounds her, in order that she may preserve the chastity of the nuptial union from being defiled by this foul stain, 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.
57. We admonish, therefore, priests who hear confessions and others who have the care of souls, in virtue of Our supreme authority and in Our solicitude for the salvation of souls, not to allow the faithful entrusted to them to err regarding this most grave law of God; much more, that they keep themselves immune from such false opinions, in no way conniving in them. If any confessor or pastor of souls, which may God forbid, lead the faithful entrusted to him into these errors or should at least confirm them by approval or by guilty silence, let him be mindful of the fact that he must render a strict account to God, the Supreme Judge, for the betrayal of his sacred trust, and let him take to himself the words of Christ: “They are blind and leaders of the blind: and if the blind lead the blind, both fall into the pit.
In section 14 of Pope Paul VI’s 1968 encyclical, Humanae Vitae, he very clearly states that the intentional use of contraception for the sake of preventing procreation is condemned by the Magisterium of the Church.
14. Therefore We base Our words on the first principles of a human and Christian doctrine of marriage when We are obliged once more to declare that the direct interruption of the generative process already begun and, above all, all direct abortion, even for therapeutic reasons, are to be absolutely excluded as lawful means of regulating the number of children. (14) Equally to be condemned, as the magisterium of the Church has affirmed on many occasions, is direct sterilization, whether of the man or of the woman, whether permanent or temporary. (15)
Similarly excluded is 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. (16)
Neither is it valid to argue, as a justification for sexual intercourse which is deliberately contraceptive, that a lesser evil is to be preferred to a greater one, or that such intercourse would merge with procreative acts of past and future to form a single entity, and so be qualified by exactly the same moral goodness as these. Though it is true that sometimes it is lawful to tolerate a lesser moral evil in order to avoid a greater evil or in order to promote a greater good,” it is never lawful, even for the gravest reasons, to do evil that good may come of it (18)—in other words, to intend directly something which of its very nature contradicts the moral order, and which must therefore be judged unworthy of man, even though the intention is to protect or promote the welfare of an individual, of a family or of society in general. Consequently, it is a serious error to think that a whole married life of otherwise normal relations can justify sexual intercourse which is deliberately contraceptive and so intrinsically wrong.
Pope John Paul II, in section 91 of his encyclical Evangelium Vitae, echoed the condemnation of contraception when he wrote:
It is therefore morally unacceptable to encourage, let alone impose, the use of methods such as contraception, sterilization and abortion in order to regulate births.
These clearly defined teachings of the Magisterium of the Church are only the latest teachings of a subject that goes all the way through Scripture and the early Church Fathers. In the 38th Chapter of Genesis, Onan was slain by God because he spilled his seed upon the ground in order to avoid the generation of children.
Father of the Church, St. Clement of Alexandria taught, “Because of its divine institution for the propagation of man, the seed is not to be vainly ejaculated, nor is it to be damaged, nor is it to be wasted.” – The Instructor of Children 2:10:91:2
St. Caesarius of Arles said in a sermon in 522:
“Who is he who cannot warn that no woman may take a potion so that she is unable to conceive or condemns in herself the nature which God willed to be fecund? As often as she could have conceived or given birth, of that many homicides she will be held guilty, and, unless she undergoes suitable penance, she will be damned by eternal death in hell. If a women does not wish to have children, let her enter into a religious agreement with her husband; for chastity is the sole sterility of a Christian woman.”
There are plenty of examples from the early Church to the present which make the case that contraception has always only ever been condemned, and never permitted as a moral good.
However, on Dec. 14, 2017, at the Pontifical Gregorian University, Fr. Maurizio Chiodi (a member of the Pontifical Academy for Life) firmly contradicted the Church’s Universal teaching against the use of artificial contraception. Not only did he state the permissibility of contraception, but emphatically declared that there may be a moral imperative for its use in marriage in some situations.
In his presentation titled, “Re-reading Humanae Vitae in light of Amoris Laetitia,” Fr. Chiodi claims that there are “circumstances — I refer to Amoris Laetitia, Chapter 8 — that precisely for the sake of responsibility, require contraception.”
When “natural methods are impossible or unfeasible, other forms of responsibility need to be found.” In such circumstances, he said, “an artificial method for the regulation of births could be recognized as an act of responsibility that is carried out, not in order to radically reject the gift of a child, but because in those situations responsibility calls the couple and the family to other forms of welcome and hospitality.”
The law of the Church is very clear about what it means to oppose the Magisterial teaching of the Catholic Church. As indicated earlier, material heresy occurs when one denies or doubts some truth which must be believed by the faithful. From Scripture, the Church Fathers, and no less than three popes in the 20th century, there can be no doubt whatsoever that the use of contraception is taught by the Magisterium to be an intrinsically evil act, resulting in grave sin which leads to Hell.
Yet, Fr. Chiodi, a member of the Pontifical Academy for Life, directly opposed the Magisterial teaching of the Church on the matter of contraception.
In fact, it is clear that Fr. Chiodi is guilty of betraying his sacred trust, as described by Pope Pius XI, by professing to souls entrusted to his care that contraception could be permissible or even required.
Given all of this, it is clear that what Fr. Chiodi said in his presentation is heretical. While it is not our intention to determine whether his statement constitutes formal heresy (a matter which should be undertaken by a tribunal), there can be no doubt that what he said at least constitutes material heresy.