The National Catholic Review
How I teach ‘Humanae Vitae’

When I teach the papal encyclical “Humanae Vitae,” published in 1968, I usually do so with a class of undergraduate students at Boston College. I teach it after studying with them five other noteworthy texts: the two creation accounts in Genesis, the teachings on marriage and sexuality by Paul and then by Augustine, and finally the papal encyclical, “Casti Connubii” (1930).

In many instances I try to teach them how to read and understand “Humanae Vitae” as a real, authoritative document. I lead them, as I do here, through the document, paragraph by paragraph (indicated by the numbers in parentheses).

First, I explain to them who wrote it and to whom. I have them see that the encyclical, that is, the papal letter, was written to brother bishops, clergy, Catholic laity and to all people of good will. I help them understand the different hierarchical levels of the audience. I also explain that the universal audience reflects the conviction of the pope and, indeed, the Catholic tradition, that such natural law teachings are not simply for Catholics but for all persons, since these teachings are from right reason.

I then try to help them see that Pope Paul VI wrote it and that, as a papal encyclical, it expresses the authoritative teaching from a pope. Without trying to get into exactly how authoritative a specific encyclical is, I try to highlight that in modern times the encyclical is a major mode of authoritative teaching that imposes objective claims on the consciences of all.

I then try to explain that “Humanae Vitae” was a document that was responding to the signs of the times; it was written in response to questions that were raised most notably by the invention and marketing of the birth control pill. The pill, like many other inventions, gave humanity the opportunity to dominate and rationally organize the forces of nature such that, we could now “extend this control over every aspect” of our own lives (No. 2). In one sense the document is specifically reflecting on birth control, but in a broader sense, the pope is asking the fundamental question of whether every invention is in itself worthy.

In teaching the encyclical I often find that students today do not appreciate the specific concern of the encyclical. They tend to think that the letter was about the birth control pill. I tell them it was about married people who were wondering about the use of contraception for the purpose of responsible parenting.

I then remind them that church teaching upholds marriage as the only legitimate context for sexual activity between a man and a woman. That is, I reiterate church teaching about the rightness of chastity and the wrongness of sex outside of marriage. Here, then, I note that the church was not considering whether birth control in any context was legitimate, but whether married couples alone could use it. No one, I remind them, was asking the more general question (“Can anyone use birth control?”) simply because contraception could only have been entertained as morally legitimate in the context of marriage, where sexual intimacy is permissible. This helps open their eyes to the many, many references to “married love” made in the encyclical.

I also introduce them to an argument, the principle of totality, which was current in the 1960s. This principle follows from a metaphysical insight that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, and that therefore if a married couple is committed to having children, they do not need to leave each and every act of sexual love open to procreation. In other words, the principle of totality lets married couples believe that “procreative finality applies to the totality of the married life rather than to each single act” (No. 3). According to this argument, Christian marriage could be open to contraception in specific circumstances, but not in the marriage as a total reality. I alert them to the fact that later in the encyclical the pope rejects this use of the principle.

I note the authority of the church’s competency to teach the natural law and that adherence to the law is required for our salvation (No. 4). I similarly note the commission that Pope John XXIII established for the study of the correct regulations of births and that Pope Paul VI confirmed and expanded that commission (No. 5). I add that my own life was affected by two members on that commission: John Ford, S.J., whose position at Weston Jesuit School of Theology I later held, and Josef Fuchs, S.J., with whom I did my dissertation. I describe the very different roles they ended up having as members of the commission.

I note that the commission produced a majority report influenced by Father Fuchs, among others, suggesting that married couples could regulate the ordering of the birth of their children through contraception, and a minority report influenced by Father Ford that contended against this position. I add that the pope saw in the disagreement the need to personally examine this question, particularly in light of the “moral doctrine on marriage constantly taught by the magisterium of the church” (No. 6). Having covered this background, I turn to the doctrinal principles of the encyclical.

I note that a new development emerges immediately in this section. The encyclical talks about sexual intimacy not as a right or a duty, nor as permissible or tolerable, as theologians and bishops had in earlier days. Nor does the document immediately turn to procreation as the primary end of marriage, as it did in “Casti Connubii.” Rather it turns to “married love,” which derives its nature and nobility from God who is love (No. 8, reiterated in No. 11). I have my students study how the encyclical specifically describes this love: friendship, faithful, exclusive and fecund (No. 9). I turn then to the question of the ordering of births in responsible parenthood. Here I focus on the notion of an objective moral order, a concept the students reasonably acknowledge and respect (No. 10).

I then have them study paragraph 11. Here I highlight the natural law’s recognition of the “intrinsic relationship” between sexual activity and procreation. While the encyclical acknowledges that any natural infertility does not compromise the moral legitimacy of sexual intimacy in marriage, still, “each and every marital act must of necessity retain its intrinsic relationship to the procreation of human life” (No. 11). Here the encyclical instructs us on the two-fold, inherent significance of marital, sexual activity as unitive and procreative. There are no moral grounds for breaking this bond (No. 12).

The magisterium then demonstrates the rationality of its argument. Just as a sexual act with an unwilling spouse is no true act of love, so too a conjugal act that “impairs the capacity to transmit life” “frustrates” God’s designs and “contradicts the will of the Author of life” (No. 13). In highlighting the moral limits of our actions, the encyclical returns to an earlier observation: just as we do not have an unlimited domination of our lives, so too we cannot claim an unlimited dominion over our sexual faculties.

The document then specifically enunciates those activities that are by no means legitimate for the regulation of births. First, it names “the direct interruption of the generative process already begun,” above all “direct abortion”; then it re-declares its opposition to direct sterilization. Finally, it declares: “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.” It then names certain casuistic principles that cannot be invoked in order to legitimate deliberately contraceptive conjugal activity: lesser evil, totality and toleration (No. 14).

It does, however, acknowledge that it “does not consider at all illicit the use of those therapeutic means necessary to cure bodily diseases, even if a foreseeable impediment to procreation should result there from—provided such impediment is not directly intended for any motive” (No. 15). This paragraph highlights an important distinction, first articulated, as the encyclical notes, by Pope Pius XII.

As a theologian who has worked in the area of H.I.V./AIDS, trying to combat stigma, while advocating for proper education and equal accessibility to treatment for all people, I have also espoused a comprehensive prevention strategy, which includes the use of the condom, not as a contraceptive, but as a preventive or prophylactic device. This certainly applies in the case of a discordant couple (where one spouse is H.I.V. positive and the other is not) who are infertile, whether by illness, accident or age. Certainly such a couple using a condom in their marital intimacy are not in any way using the device as a contraceptive. As such, it is not an immoral activity.

Paragraph 15, I think, may be applied to those discordant married couples who may be fertile. “Humanae Vitae” does not prohibit the discordant couple from engaging in sexual intimacy while using a condom solely to prevent the transmission of the virus and not in any deliberately contraceptive way.

I think it is worth noting that I have continuously upheld the teaching of “Humanae Vitae” and through it, I have also spoken, for 25 years, about the moral legitimacy of a comprehensive H.I.V. prevention strategy, that insists on marital fidelity, abstinence of sexual relations outside of marriage and the human dignity of the person, while including the use of the condom solely as a strategy to prevent disease in the context of the loving intimacy of discordant couples.

In Paragraph 16, the encyclical highlights that no couple needs to refrain from sexual intimacy at a time of infertility. It contrasts couples who rightly engage in sexual intimacy at times of infertility with those who “obstruct the natural development of the generative process.”

The document moves to its conclusion with warnings about the social repercussions of legitimating contraceptive activity and reminding readers of the limits of human power (No. 17). It also acknowledges that its position toward the natural law is not to be its arbiter, but rather its “guardian and interpreter”(No. 18).

In its last section on pastoral directives, the encyclical urges all to appreciate the law of God (No. 20), the value of self-discipline (No. 21) and the relevant need to promote chastity. It appeals to public authorities to seek true solutions to overpopulation and to scientists to study “natural rhythms” so as to “succeed in determining a sufficiently secure basis for the chaste limitation of offspring” (No. 24). It positively admonishes couples struggling with the matter (No. 25) and exhorts priests (No. 28) and bishops (No. 30) to minister well and to uphold the constant teaching of the church.

I find that following this close textual approach gives my students full appreciation of the teaching and the doctrine of “Humanae Vitae.”

James F. Keenan, S.J., Founders Professor of Theology at Boston College, is writing a book about university ethics (Rowman and Littlefield).


Tim Reidy | 2/28/2014 - 11:14am

Since this thread is now a debate among two or three people, I think it's time to take it offline. The arguments have been pretty well covered, I think.

Michael Barberi | 2/27/2014 - 9:50pm

There is much in dispute regarding the effectiveness of condoms for there is a profound distinction between its incorrect and inconsistent use (a factor that must be considered) and its actual effectiveness by those who are responsible and careful. For that matter, one could use a double condom if there is an exaggerated fear of infection. Thus, the argument about effectiveness becomes a moot point.

As for other arguments by apologists, they deflect and do not address the many issues that cause the impasse in fundamental theological ethics regarding HV. This also includes the many practical cases of moral dilemma where the answers offered by the magisterium are rightly viewed by most of the laity (and most theologians and many bishops and priests) as unreasonable and impractical or in profound tension with human reason and experience in the practice of responsible parenthood. It seems that a teaching is simply to be obeyed regardless of the reasons offered.

Enough said. I do not want to go down roads that will only twist and turn into circles and move far from the arguments made clear in all of these blog comments.

Paul Ferris | 2/28/2014 - 9:16am

Good point...Michael....blessings to you...let's agree together to move on.

Paul Ferris | 2/27/2014 - 11:00pm


You make a good point about HIV. I really don't know how to answer except you may be right. And you made a good point without the help of the magisterium. However your point is based on respect for the person, not some abstract idea of natural law. You see you can think for yourself when it is required. Maybe Fr. Keenan has a better answer than I can provide. Good job on this one.

You mentioned in one of your posts a quote where Jesus said he did not come to change a jot or tittle of the law. Why then did he stop the crowd from stoning the woman caught in adultery? According to the Law she had it coming.

Also as regards your argument we have gone from contraception to abortion, to same sex marriage, to condoms etc. I think what has happened is that the person has become more important than rules and physical pictures of acts. No one is saying that all abortions are good. Personally I would allow abortion in case of rape and incest because of my respect for the person who has been violated. I would allow same sex marriage because I believe that people are born with their sexual orientation. I believe with the bible that it is not good to be alone in most cases. I believe condoms can help alleviate the spread of aids though as you point out there is not guarantee that it would eliminate all cases of Aids.Each one of these issues need to be considered not by a physical understanding of how the penis goes into the female vagina directly, or how gays use their sexual organs, but based on what is best for the person doing these acts. I don't see what this has to do with the issue of contraception in marriage.

If you want to say the Magisterium should be the final arbiter on these and other issues I guess I can not argue with that opinion of yours. But please don't presume to judge the quality of the faith commitment and reasonableness of other Catholics. I know I am not worthy that He should enter under my roof but He has said the Word and I am healed, even with opinions that may go against certain popes. You should know enough history that the Roman Papacy has had a long journey and did not simple come down a direct pipeline from Jesus lips to Peter to Pope Francis. Not all of that journey is particularly edifying Faith is not credulity.

This is my last post....blessings to all.

Tim O'Leary | 2/27/2014 - 9:26pm

Several comments in the last few hours refer to me, so I will address them all at once.

As regards Paul’s comments on HIV and marriage, the CDC and other sources report average condom failure rates for pregnancy as 10-20% over a year of use. And women are only fertile for a few days in each cycle. But, an infection can occur on 100% days. So, the risk of infecting one's spouse with HIV using a condom is certainly over 25% and perhaps much higher, especially over a prolonged period. I cannot imagine putting my wife at a 1 in 4 risk for the sake of intercourse. And not for a 1 in 20 chance either. I think abstinence is the only moral response if one is carrying a lethal virus. Here is a quote from Dr. Harold Jaffee, chief of epidemiology, National Centers for Disease Control, "You just can’t tell people it’s all right to do whatever you want as long as you wear a condom. It (AIDS) is just too dangerous a disease to say that."

I take issue with some of Michael’s statements, in quotes to ensure accuracy:

1. “No one denigrates that authority of the magisterium to teach the truth.” This is false. Much of the liberal Catholic world do this. Look at all the statements even on this post telling celibate males they are incompetent to address the contraception question.

2. Referring to the Magisterium “What seems to count is the status of the speaker, rather than the persuasiveness of what has been spoken.” My answer is absolutely yes. The status is all-important. Jesus did not say, you have the power to bind and loose if you are sufficiently persuasive. Persuasion comes secondary to the faith decision. Persuasiveness assists evangelization and a host of good things. But, it is definitely secondary to the status of the speaker. This is a key error of rationalists.

3. It is definitely possible that a theologian who departs from the Magisterium on many issues could be right on at least one objection. But, that was not my point. My argument (opinion) is that a defect in theological reasoning in an area as central as human life can result, quickly, or slowly over years, in several other errors. I think I have several contemporary examples in the lives of prominent dissenters.

A little further down, there is a suggestion I think NFP is morally and theologically just like artificial contraception. But, it is different. First, it has been approved by the Magisterium, and second, it is using the natural rhythms of nature rather than actively blocking nature. Of course, someone could use it wrongly, but it is not inherently wrong, as HV says of blocking methods.

Given the history of the last fifty years, it appears very unlikely that Humanae Vitae will be condemned or reversed by any pope. At least two saints were central to its promulgations and it’s central tenets have been reiterated ever since. There might be some clarifications at the edges, or in particular extreme cases, but it is part of our Catholic heritage and tradition. Pastorally, there is much that exculpates individual Catholics, including incorrect understandings of the teaching, false instruction from their pastors or theologians, and the secular forces in our culture. God is very merciful.

Michael Barberi | 2/27/2014 - 5:31pm

It is important to point out the fallacy of certain dogmatic views as in: show me prominent theologians who favor contraception (as in the practice of responsible parenthood) that does not waiver on any other doctrinal teaching or on the authority of the magisterium. The implication is that to waiver on any other doctrinal teaching is the litmus test for the right to favor contraception or to be relegated to the category of "dissenters", a divisive term connoting unfaithfulness. It seems that the notion of obedience to moral teachings is the most important and expected obligation, rather than understanding them, reflecting on them, taking them into account, holding them close at heart, applying them in cases where the agent has good ends, intentions and circumstances in order to reach a decision of an informed conscience.

Divine inspiration somehow occurs in papal reflections where a teaching goes in, and obedience comes out. What seems to count is the status of the speaker, rather than the persuasiveness of what has been spoken. Teachings collapse into administration at the service of the hierarchy, and its paradigmatic offense is disobedience. Its dynamic is not teaching and learning, but command and control.

No one denigrates that authority of the magisterium to teach the truth. However, it is important to note that in order to teach, one must learn, and if one does not learn, then a teaching can fall into many cases of moral conflict where magisterial answers enter into profound tension with: the hierarchy of values, human experience, right reason, marital love defined by a narrow definition of a so-called unitive love and not the human person in relationship, integrally and adequately considered.

Catholic modernity and the gap between clergy and laity does not measure apostasy, but rather points to the problems facing formal authority and the need to narrow the distance between it and the deeper grades of legitimacy and trust. The numbers from the Univision's recent worldwide survey of Catholics show that for many of them (78% of worldwide Catholics do not receive HV), the leaders of the Church seem too remote, too caught up in the formalities of office to be taken seriously, too prone to absolutization when they claim that by God's design they speak for everyone on the difficult moral issues of life.

One must always respect the authority of the magisterium, to inform one's conscience adequately, to understand both sides of teachings in particular its underlying principles and philosophy. We must always pray, seek priestly counsel, frequent the sacraments and pray for humility and wisdom in making decisions of conscience. In the end, if we disagree with a church teaching (e.g., HV), for legitimate and good reasons, we are not automatically disrespectful, victims of a distorted reasoning, too influenced by secular culture, merely unfaithful, dissenters or invincibly ignorant.

Paul Ferris | 2/27/2014 - 5:58pm


Thanks for hanging in there on this. You are the voice of faith and reason. It took my wife and me seven years of marriage before we agreed to artificial contraception. Most of those first years of our marriage were devoted to celibacy. I was especially careful to examine my conscience in light of the fact that we attended daily liturgy with Fr, Curran at Catholic University. We did not consult with him on this and I am sure this is the way he would want it. We did not want to let our friendship with Curran influence our decision, We wanted to exercise our conscience weighing all factors including the Magisterium. This is probably why I have commented so much on this article by Fr. Keenan.

While I was married I worked at Ft. Meade as Director of Religious Ed. Most of those years were during the Vietnam war. It never occurred to me to question decisions of our soldier spouses as to whether or not they were following HV. Their lives and their time together were not their own. Still I knew some couples who had very large families. As far as military chaplains were concerned they too did not preach HV to our Catholic military but left it to their consciences.

Michael Barberi | 2/27/2014 - 7:26pm


Thank you for your thoughtful and honest portrait of your life and spiritual growth and reflection. Like so many faithful Catholics of our generation, e.g., elementary Catholic school education starting in the 1950s, we were taught a rigorous theology. This was not a bad thing for it has profoundly influenced my spiritual life ever since.

Once I married and had two children, a boy and a girl, my wife did not want more children for good reasons, but we were both open to another child born by accident. If I had a strong preference for more children, she would have lovingly granted me such a request, but I was most sensitive to her physical and emotional well-being and her wishes. To limit children in a marriage is not being unfaithful, nor did we believe that God would somehow cause or not more children if we did not practice some form of birth control…be it NFP or contraception. God creates but it takes our cooperation to procreate and this is not ipso facto something that God wants and expects. The magisterium leaves the number of children in a marriage up to the decision of spouses. They should leave the choice of birth control up to spouses as well provided there is no contraceptive mentality defined as an unreasoned exaggerated fear or hatred of children in a marriage.

The ban on contraception is based on the personalistic mystical theology of the body by one bishop from Krakow named Karol Wojtyla (who became JP II) that called for abstaining from contraception in the name of a rigorous spiritual and aesthetic discipline for the love of God. Ironically, the people in the pews also find it simply mystifying. From time to time the bishops issue reminders of the ban on contraception, but the reminders go unheeded. How long the living tradition will continue to live in this atmosphere of non-reception is uncertain. In the meantime, we try to move the conversation forward toward a better understanding of truth.

I admire your knowledge of the Church and its teachings and your devotion to the God of love.

God bless.

Paul Ferris | 2/27/2014 - 5:48pm


Thanks for hanging in there on this. You are the voice of reason. It took my wife an I seven years of marriage before we agreed to artificial contraception. Most of those first years of our marriage were devoted to celibacy. I was especially careful to examine my conscience in light of the fact that we attended daily liturgy with Fr, Curran and Catholic University. We did not want to let our friendship with Curran influence our decision, We wanted to exercise our conscience weighing all factors including the Magisterium. This is probably why I have commented so much on this article by Fr. Keenan.

Paul Ferris | 2/27/2014 - 8:23am

I asked questions. I was not antagonistic. You misrepresented that you were a father and husband who had practical experience with NFP. I asked you before to clarify your experience. You ignored the question and committed the sin of omission.

You also dawned the mantle of an expert in regard to the orthodoxy of Fr. Keenan's article. You still have not answered the question about how his article was borderline orthodoxy or how you would express your opinions on practical points different from his. These are not my thoughts and words. They are yours. Why won't you stay on topic and answer the questions ?

Michael, Anne, Maria and I did not equivocate. We said we agreed with Fr. Keenan's conclusions but we disagreed with his premises. We were open and honest about that....None of us ever questioned his honesty and sincerity though we did point out that like you, he has not tried NFP or other methods of birth regulation. I think that is a fair criticism. Maybe I did not make my self clear enough. I was not criticizing him for being celibate. As I said some of my best friends are celibate. I was questioning any celibates exclusive right to have the last word on this issue. Fr. Keenan never said his was the last word....out of compassion for HIV carriers he proposed a therapeutic exception for the use of condoms in the marriage. I assume he meant abstinence was impractical. We tried to point out that many married couples would have to practice abstinence to avoid pregnancy where it could be seriously detrimental to the daughters of the church called mothers. Anne even provided a tragic example. You did not respond to this but went off on personal attacks on her credibility.

Enter Tim in the discussion after 88 comments claiming to be a good father and husband who loves HV. Tim wanted the discussion to turn on divorce, adultery, pornography, and disloyalty to the Sense of the Faithful and blame it all on dissent to HV.

This as I said is the customary tactic of the Catholic Right. You fit the mold.

There was no reason to bring in the subject of the sense of the faithful. You brought it up implying that anyone who disagrees with HV is somehow deficient in that respect.

Tim O'Leary | 2/27/2014 - 12:11pm

Paul - this is sad. You are ratcheting up the misrepresentation?

1. Here is what I said "I find HV to be completely consistent with the beautiful plan of God, as outlined in the Scriptures and taught by the Fathers of the Church. Sexual love is only fully Christian if it is freely given, and fully open to fertility as God will's it, within a relationship that is forever faithful. And, for me, and many others I know, it strengthens a marital relationship through many years. As a confirmed non-celibate father, I testify that it is possible to walk the talk."

Now, where does this make a claim about NFP? I think you assume one who is married must automatically want to limit the size of one's family? But, there is periodic abstinence. There is welcoming any child that comes along. There are many ways of expressing love that are not sexual. Yet you accuse me of a sin of omission? Do you assume that everyone must have a contraceptive mentality? Keep in mind that HV warns against a contraceptive mentality even by natural means.

2. And where did I ever question Fr. Keenan's honesty or his sincerity? I just disagree with him that abstinence is impossible, even in marriage, for the health of one's loved one? Love is greater than sex. I disagree that condoms are ever a good in themselves but I could be persuaded of the double effect argument. As to the Church’s teaching on condoms, I am open to being corrected. Just point me to a magisterial document on the use of condoms, such as a papal document, CDF or Council documents.

You say you, Michael, Anne and Maria all agree with Fr. Keenan’s conclusions. I think that would be a great and I am sorry if I didn't see their agreement. They can confirm that if they wish. But, here is what Anne said in a a still existing comment ““I'm not sure why the new editorial leadership of this journal seems to be aggressively pushing this teaching on its readers in recent months and pointedly not including any other points of view but the official one, but it has. Fr. Keenan's article is the latest effort. So many clerics assume that the reason Catholics reject this teaching is that they don't understand it. But they do, and continually repeating the same arguments will not persuade. Perhaps instead, they should try to learn something from our "life lessons".

3. On the connection between dissent on HV leading to other forms of dissent, that is a judgment I have. It does not have to be in every case, but it does seem that those who start out separating the procreative from the unitive end up dropping the procreative in the end, and just focus on the unitive (or even just the pleasurable). It would be great if you could show me a prominent theologian who writes strongly in favor of contraception but does not waiver on any other doctrinal areas, or on the authority of the Magisterium.

Marie Rehbein | 2/27/2014 - 9:55am

Perhaps, to say we agree with the conclusions is too broad. We agree that using condoms to prevent the spread of disease is good, but we don't believe that this goes far enough. We all seem to have said, in various ways, that there is no moral difference between the intent of a couple that counts and measures things in order to avoid having intercourse at a fertile time and a couple that uses a less complicated form of contraception. We have also agreed that there are other circumstances that warrant the use of an effective contraceptive, such as where a pregnancy would pose a mortal danger to a woman.

Michael Barberi | 2/27/2014 - 3:00pm


Excellent comments Maria. One is indeed perplexed how couples who practice NFP because they want to ensure that every marital act is non-procreative and does not result in conception, is any different from couples who have the same end and intention but practice artificial birth control. How anyone can define a contraceptive mentality under these circumstances is beyond me. To be clear, almost all Catholic married couples who practice contraception would welcome a child born by accident into their families with unconditional love. There is no evidence whatsoever that they would tend to abortion (except for the very few who practice any form of birth regulation including NFP).

If any pope, bishop, theologian or lay person can demonstrate how they know God's procreative plan with moral certainty, and apply it in making moral decisions, is something most Catholics would be open to. Unfortunately, no one knows God procreative plan with moral certainly and symbolic speculation of one view of philosophical anthropology is not the absolute moral truth, the last word or the only word.

As you righty mentioned, the case of a pregnancy that threatens the life of a mother is a case that the magisterium or any theologian has yet to adequate answer….that is, except the teaching that this women must practice a life time of sexual abstinence as the only licit means of safe-guarding her life, and quite possibly her marriage, an extreme and unreasonable form of heroic virtue. As I mentioned many times, these are only a few of the many reasons HV should be responsibly reformed.

Marie Rehbein | 2/27/2014 - 9:16am

It struck me too that Tim said he loves HV, implying that he was following its precepts, and then later says that has never practiced NFP. That leaves several possibilities: 1. Tim is not married and is celibate, 2. Tim is married, but he and his wife are infertile, 3. Tim simply rolls the dice and has been fortunate not to beget more children than he can afford to support, 4. Tim has a lot of children, and his family is on public assistance. Maybe others can think of more possibilities.

We could appease Tim in his request for the Sense of the Faithful, by noting that this came into play in declaring that Mary was Immaculately Conceived (conceived without sin). It was adopted because everyone already believed it anyway. Similarly, most married couples believe there is no difference between "natural" and "artificial" contraception, and probably most parish priests would be inclined to believe this based on deferring to their parishioners' obvious greater expertise in the matter.

Paul Ferris | 2/27/2014 - 4:35pm


Tim may be very wealthy and does not worry about providing for his children. #5. Whatever Tim is into is his business and I am satisfied with his clarification. One does not have to practice NFP to say he loves HV. I would qualify his disagreement with Fr. Keenan. Innocent spouses have died because one partner carried the HIV virus.
I know of at least one woman who died that way...a sister of a friend. I agree that sex is not love. What I believe happened in Tim's case is that he read the word condom and like most Right wing Catholics he freaked out.

We have discussed Jesus from time to time in this blog. My own feeling is Jesus was more about attitude than anything else. In fact he criticized the Pharisees for paying too much attention to rules and regulations and not enough to persons. This is why I think Tim is on the wrong track to his approach to Catholicism. But that is just my opinion and I could be wrong.

By the way, at least one doctor of the Church did not agree on the Immaculate Conception: i.e Thomas Aquinas. To me the interesting thing about this dogma is it hardly affects the faithful in any practical way that I can see. Karl Rahner has speculated that Mary represents all of what we will be at the end of time. I like that thought.

Tim O'Leary | 2/27/2014 - 12:20pm

Marie - You would be closest with #3, although I would not call it rolling the dice. To parphrase Einstein, God does not play dice. His providence and grace work differently. Paul not only thought I was dissembling but exaggerated (to use a kinder word) agreement among the 4 (M,M,A,P)

The Immaculate Conception is indeed thought to be an example of sensus fidelium. It was believed by those who were faithful to other Catholic doctrines AND was confirmed by the Magisterium. That would certainly not apply to views on contraception, or the other movements against procreation (abortion and homosexuality).

Notice how the Immaculate Conception speaks of the human perfection of Mary at conception. Another reminder of the Church's teaching that human life, body and soul begins at conception.

Paul Ferris | 2/27/2014 - 5:44pm

But Tim by questioning Fr. Keenan's orthodoxy, not honesty and sincerity, you would have a spouse with HIV role the dice (or practice a life of abstinence) which is tantamount to murdering or attempted murder of ones spouse in my opinion.

Marie Rehbein | 2/27/2014 - 12:26pm

See, Tim, there are common understandings among all of us. I find it interesting that you believe that God is opposed to less fertility in the population. Humans have been fruitful, have multiplied, and populate the ends of the earth. They have done this despite the plague and the high rate of infant mortality throughout history. I wonder, therefore, whether you feel that because we should continue to follow the directive to populate the earth, we should not have worked to prevent death from contagious illnesses or to improve pregnancy outcomes, since those were the ways God had apparently established to prevent overpopulation.

Paul Ferris | 2/26/2014 - 9:08pm


I said you have a univocal concept of truth. You seem to be damning Fr. Kennan with faint praise. Could you be more specific when you say, "even when you my might come to a couple of different conclusions on certain practical points." Do you think it is ok for a married couple to use a condom to avoid passing on HIV to a spouse. This was the key point of the debate. What role would you give Fr. Kennan in your sensus fidelium? Did he meet your criteria or not ? Are you withdrawing your statement that he was almost borderline orthodox. Could you explain what you meant by that ?

Could you respond to my comment that if you were looking for the sensus fidelium, meaning the entire body of the church, a la Ratzinger, wouldn't HV be one of the worst examples you could give. Unless you mean that all the bishops, priests, and lay people who reacted negatively to HV should leave the church so then there would be a sensus fidelium ?

Tim O'Leary | 2/26/2014 - 11:37pm

Paul - since this is your 3rd antagonistic post to me in 15 mins (according to the posted times), I had better respond. But, contrary to your presumption, I have no interest in discussing Tim. The faith is much more interesting.

To correct a misrepresentation, I did not say I used NFP. I said I followed HV and found it persuasive to my mind and heart. But, even if I couldn't see the logic or beauty, I would accept it because the Holy Spirit guides the Church. There are other doctrines of the Church I need to accept that way.

You still have an odd concept of what the sensus fidelium is. It is not what one Catholic or theologian says. It is not what a Bishop or pope says. According to VCII, it is the sense of ALL the faithful in unanimity with the Magisterium. Dissent is automatically excluded (as it cannot be unanimous, or there would be no one to dissent to). HV is certainly not part of the sensus fidelium. Many true doctrines are not. Even the Nicene Creed wasn't accepted by a sensus fidelium (remember all those tempted by Arianism) but by the working of the Holy Spirit through the Magisterium.

Sandi Sinor | 2/26/2014 - 12:48pm

It's been a while since I've been here, but it seems some things never change. Some of the self-appointed defenders of the True Faith who have been here for years are still doing their best to drive people away from having ideas that he doesn't agree with.. Or maybe drive them from the church. Smaller and purer and all that. I

An observation. There are currently 53 comments to this article. The link to "What You're Talking About" shows 146 (?? - maybe it's not comments but page views?). Tim O complained that he had to star commenting after undertaking a self-imposed penance of reading 80+ comments where everyone agreed with one another. Some people might simply have called it a discussion among interested parties, but the discussion apparently offended him.

I was curious, so decided to use the "Find" feature to count (best to use last names because otherwise it's off). It turns out that Michael has 3 posts, Anne has 4, and Marie has 8. So those three have fewer posts combined than Tim has at16. Paul is the champ at 22. Marie and Paul are either more patient than Anne and Michael or they just don't know Tim as well. I know from when I was also a regular here that both, like Tim, have been active commenters on the America site. Some people don't want discussion they just want to prove that they are right and won't quit until others realize that continuing to respond could lead to an infinite number of posts. America's counter might not go up above 5 figures, so best not to test that. Wouldn't want to crash the site. ;)

Tim O persists in bringing Anne into the discussion even though she has not responded to him. Is he trying to bait her?

Michael Barberi | 2/26/2014 - 2:53pm


I had posted quite a number of respectful and scholarly arguments that call into questions the moral absoluteness of HV (on this blog). All comments are not listed, as they had been in the past, but I thought there was a way to see every comment but I could be wrong.

As you questioned, I do think Tim tries to bait people into minor and almost irrelevant side arguments that go in circles, often leading to discussions that are far to negative for my sense of respectful debate. Asking for a definition of Sensus Fidelium is one example. In past blogs he has questioned why I thought my opinion could possibly be more truthful or enlightened than a pope's. This was one of Tim's arguments to demonstrate that people like myself should have more faith in a papal encyclical or in any of the magisterium moral teachings. According to Tim, I lack humility or enough of it and are blinded by a certain ideology. Any legitimate philosophical and theological argument and any decision of an informed conscience should be set aside, per Tim's philosophy, because they only disparage and question the authority of the Church to teach the truth. In Tim's view, this is anathema to the Church that Jesus established despite disagreements about what "the Church" means (e.g, the pope, bishops, clergy, theologians and non-theologican laity….not solely the pope, Curia or the magisterium).

When the discussion turns negative and directly or indirectly denigrate a blogger's character and intentions, and departs from a focus on respectful arguments, then I choose to stop responding to such such comments. With respect to this article about HV, I have already made clear my own life, goals/intentions, and respectful arguments.

Rather than to enter the discussion again, I will leave my fellow bloggers to decide what arguments and positions to make on this most important subject of birth regulation in the practice of responsible parenthood.

Tim O'Leary | 2/26/2014 - 4:03pm

Well, this discussion has really lost its moorings when it becomes a discussion of Tim (I suppose no one sees the "Tim bashing" - eye of the beholder, I guess) rather than HV. In defense of my question on sensus fidelium, it has been a central component of almost everyone clamoring for change on this blog, so is it really an outrageous question to have someone define it?

I do think Fr. Keenan's article is excellent, and very thoughtful and pastoral, and I have no concern with his method, even if I might come to a couple of different conclusions on certain practical points myself. I thank America for the article.

Paul Ferris | 2/26/2014 - 9:14pm

Tim, you love it that the discussion has become about you....from your first announcement that you were a father and husband who practiced NFP and love it, unlike those people who commented before you.....88 times...who have no sense of the even took on Keenan with some vague reference to borderline orthodoxy which you never really clarified when I asked....I have not bashed you....actually I have given you much more respect than you have shown me....and my fellow commenters...

Paul Ferris | 2/26/2014 - 8:59pm


I said you have a univocal concept of truth. You seem to be damning Fr. Kennan with faint praise. Could you be more specific when you say, "even when you my might come to a couple of different conclusions on certain practical points." Do you think it is ok for a married couple to use a condom to avoid passing on HIV to a spouse. This was the key point of the debate. What role would you give Fr. Kennan in your sensus fidelium? Did he meet your criteria or not ? Are you withdrawing your statement that he was almost borderline orthodox. Could you explain what you meant by that ?

Tim O'Leary | 2/26/2014 - 1:29pm

Sandi - Since your comment makes no sense without my first comment you are responding to, I am re-posting it hear. That should help readers see what you are complaining about. I see it mostly as a witness of someone who loves HV.

Tim O'Leary | 2/21/2014 - 1:37pm
I just read Fr. Keenan's article, which I found excellent and very honest, even when he came to some interpretations that might be on the borderline of orthodox teaching. Then, for my penance, I read all the 88 comments below (the blog's counter puts the number of comments at 88). The prize for persistence goes to Paul Ferris (25 comments) with a second to Michael Berberi (16). All the comments oppose Humanae Vitae. So, maybe, it is time to hear from someone who loves HV?

I find HV to be completely consistent with the beautiful plan of God, as outlined in the Scriptures and taught by the Fathers of the Church. Sexual love is only fully Christian if it is freely given, and fully open to fertility as God will's it, within a relationship that is forever faithful. And, for me, and many others I know, it strengthens a marital relationship through many years. As a confirmed non-celibate father, I testify that it is possible to walk the talk.
I expect it would also have been completely accepted by all Eastern Orthodox and Protestant Churches only a century ago. In a way, it would have been the great unifier, along with the Trinitarian understanding of God.

But, times change, opinions change, practices and proclivities change. With the Pill, contraception became truly industrialized, ready for our rich self-satisfying consumer society. So, well-meaning Christians debated, and stretched the faith as far as they could to accommodate the new technology. The pope forms a Committee, which considers the matter at length and gives him their varied and consensus opinion. Then he meditates about it, prays about it, and asks God for guidance (few would doubt Paul VI's honesty and holiness). Then, he comes to a decision and writes HV. This seems exactly how Christ meant the process to go. Deliberate, listening to all sides, praying and meditating and finally being inspired by the Holy Spirit. All future popes and magisterial writings have confirmed the teaching.

It was also prophetic, foretelling how a crack in the fullness of the faith would metastasize into clamors for approval of abortion, homosexuality, extra-marital use etc. With the terrible plague of AIDS, and the rising epidemics of STDs, divorces up to half of all marriages and the massive number of children aborted since then (over 100 million, or about the number of all those who were killed by that other great idea of the 20th century - solving poverty with Communism). How many people, like Charles Curran (and all the Protestant Churches) started out defending contraception as possibly permissible for certain difficult circumstances, and always within a faithful marriage, and then, in their own lives, advanced from there to advocate for everything all the way to homosexual sex?

I will stick with the teaching from the Church Christ founded. I note that many Protestants have connected their conversion to the teaching of HV. I do hope that all pastoral approaches can be considered to bring mercy and the saving grace to those who still have difficulty with the teaching but are still open to listening to the fullness of the faith.

Tim O'Leary | 2/26/2014 - 1:23pm

Hi Sandi - it appears the earlier comments are removed as new one's come on, so your simple method will not work. Also, you haven't seen how much Church bashing went on in the early comments. But, since you have arrived, I have a question. How do you define the sensus fidelium? None of the others seem to know what it means, even though they use it all the time. it would be great if you gave me the source for your definition as well as I would like to see where this started?

Other than that, thanks for the kind words.

Sandi Sinor | 2/26/2014 - 3:02pm

Interesting that they remove comments. I had been reading them all along and don't recall any church bashing. But, I guess I can't go back and check.

Anyway, "church bashing" is in the eye of the beholder, and as I remember it, in your mind anyway, anyone who dares breathe the slightest sentiment that maybe a teaching should be looked at again in light of the 21st century knowledge instead of holding on desperately to the 4th, or that bishops who protected pedophiles should be made to resign, or whatever, you call it "church bashing". Or sometimes people just aren't "real" Catholics. Regardless.

I learned my lesson long ago. There is no way I am going to get involved in a circular debate that ends up with words being put in my mouth, or trying to deal with someone who tries to change the real subject with straw men arguments or whatever. Not productive and so I'm afraid I will pass on responding to your questions. I'm still a dissenter (see, I can save you the trouble of pointing that out) so that makes me "not Catholic" in your mind (and certainly your judgments are beyond question) and we'll leave it at that.

Bye, Tim

Paul Ferris | 2/26/2014 - 1:18pm


Thanks for the background of which I was not aware. Actually my wife went a way for a week so I had some time on my hands. I got drawn into a subject I am not really interested in debating. I agree the discussion was enlightening until Tim turned it into a debate. Actually I cannot figure out his latest turn to the Sensus Fidelium. If there is a prime example where it would not apply it is to HV and its world wide negative response. Thanks again. My wife has returned so it is time for me to get a life.

Marie Rehbein | 2/25/2014 - 9:59pm

Tim, you are the one who is upset throughout this dialog. You take everything to absurd extremes and claim that this is only the logical consequence of what is being said by those with whom you disagree. What do you hope to accomplish?

Here, Tim: the use of NFP, as opposed to other forms of birth control, is on par with fasting and abstinence from meat. It's customary, something the bishop says should be done every Friday, but also something with exceptions and not likely to affect one's condition in the afterlife; a penitential practice.

Paul Ferris | 2/26/2014 - 8:12am

At the risk of being criticized for agreeing with you, I would like to say that is an excellent point you make. I too doubt when one gets to the pearly gates that the first question one will be asked is, "what thought you of HV." Tim may be the one exception to that of course.

Tim O'Leary | 2/25/2014 - 11:23pm

Marie - You're missing the emotional cues from Anne and Paul in their posts. Note that I didn't even comment until the count was over 80 antagonistic to HV. It is amazing so many people who all agree with each other can get to 80 comments, patting themselves on the back for their agreement. And what is all this dissent for? It can go nowhere. Observe the decline of the Protestant denominations. While the low church (Evangelicals and Pentacostals) can survive because of their individualist faith, all the Protestant Ecclesiastical Churches of the Reformation, in one way or another, have bought into just about every single wish. They have had a metaphorical sex-change. And they are dying. We could see the end of the High Church Protestant Denominations in the next 100 years.

Marie Rehbein | 2/26/2014 - 8:50am

Tim, there is a lot to dispute in both HV and other Catholic teaching as it pertains to lived life. Surely, at whatever place you attend Mass, they have other types of religious groups in which they go over and over the same old stuff regarding, say, the sacrifice of Jesus. It seems to me that if there is so much to say and repeat about something about which we all agree, it stands to reason that something controversial would merit lengthy discussion.

If you think we simply all agree with each other, you miss the finer points that people are making. Paul, for instance, has brought a lot of theological argument to the points he makes. I come at it from how I don't pay most of it any mind. Anne brings her research into the history of the subject and her lived experience. There is certainly nothing wrong with the fact that their interest in the subject has an emotional side. Compared to yours, they seem quite controlled, however.

These opinions can go somewhere, even if the Church doesn't jump right on it and change. The Churches of the Reformation have not "brought about every single wish". What they teach on morals is not too different from the Catholic Church. That some of them officially accept "gayness" or understand the living to have more rights than the newly conceived, has nothing to do with any decline in membership. It is your belief that they are dying, and maybe they would, but the Catholic Church keeps sending people their way.

Tim O'Leary | 2/26/2014 - 10:50am

Marie - Can you tell me one moral wish of the open sex ideology that could be a bridge too far for the Episcopalians? Do you think they will hold the line on polyamory? How about polygamy for consenting adults? Or will they say sex selection abortion should be outlawed because it is the worst form of discrimination on women - gendercide? Will they make a clear statement on partial-birth abortion? What is the "sense" of their "faithful"?

They cannot even agree on major theological issues, as prominent bishops and priests have come out denying the Resurrection, or even the Incarnation. What is there position on the Eucharist - symbol, consubstantiation or transsubstantiation? My point is, they are completely susceptible to the very doctrinal drift many dissidents want the Roman Catholic Church to succumb to. There are many good people trying to find the Lord in their churches, but their church has failed abysmally in staying faithful to even their own founding beliefs.

I suppose you "don't pay any mind" to the definiton of sensus fidelium but do you have a definition of it?

Marie Rehbein | 2/26/2014 - 12:18pm

I really have no expertise in the practices or beliefs of Episcopalians. We used to have an Episcopalian pastor and his family living down the street when I was a teenager. They seemed quite conservative, but very tolerant of others. They took in a young man who had been living on the streets due to family difficulties. We used to play monopoly while he told us about his experiences.

I was under the impression that the Anglican Church, which is the precursor for the Episcopalian Church, believed itself to be essentially the same in its doctrine as the Catholic Church but for the fact that it does not defer to the pope but has the monarch of England as its head. Out of this came the Puritans, which evolved into today's United Church of Christ, which used to employ me in its library in Boston. Also out of this came the Baptist church, which was established in Rhode Island, the first place in the new world where separation of church and state was established and where I grew up as a Lutheran.

In other places where I've lived, I have experienced the Methodists as hosts for my sons' scout troops. Where I live now, I can walk to a Presbyterian church and a Jewish temple. My neighbors are mostly young Muslim men from Kuwait who are here as students.

How is this relevant?

Well, you see there are all kinds of interpretations of Biblical teaching and also of Jesus. This does not disturb me, though, the way it seems to disturb you. Why do you require everyone at all times within the Catholic Church to understand and believe the same things and do things the same way? Are you uncomfortable with people questioning, and if so, is this because you do not have a strong sense of God being in charge?

Tim O'Leary | 2/26/2014 - 1:16pm

Fair enough, Marie - with all those options in the Christian world you outline, why is it so important to you that the Catholic Church change its teachings? It is not I that am disturbed by what the Church teaches. As the many comments below prove, it is the dissenters who are disturbed. So, to ask you your own question - why do you complain so much about the Catholic Church? Why not just leave it alone to stay faithful to it's traditions and beliefs? It is just not going to happen. You must believe that the Catholic Church is somehow unique in its relationship with the Truth that you and others spend so much time attacking it and its teachings.

Marie Rehbein | 2/26/2014 - 2:26pm

Do I complain so much, Tim? Are my replies to your challenges complaints? I merely threw in my thoughts that HV was not that important a thing to try to follow. Maybe you have kept track of my first comment. I haven't. Let's just say, Tim, that had you not commented, my commentary on this particular piece might have remained at 1 or 2.

Paul Ferris | 2/26/2014 - 8:06am

80 comments where people agree with each other seem to bother you....wouldn't that be a sign of what you call the sense of the faithful ??? Imagine that.

Tim O'Leary | 2/26/2014 - 11:00am

Paul - Are you only half-joking - an internet blog of like-minded dissidents? Surely, there is someone on the left that can articulate a responsible understanding of sensus fidelium? Didn't Hans Kung or Charles Curran ever define it and show how it was what Vatican Council II meant? If not, how can they be taken as serious theologians, since they frequently use it as a justification for everything under the sun? How many years of theological study does it take to get this clear?

By the way, do you have a scriptural reference for "sensus fidelium"? Also, when Moses came down from the mountain and the Israelite sensus fidelium was to worship a Golden Calf, should Moses have bowed down too?

Tim O'Leary | 2/25/2014 - 11:53am

Anne, Paul, Michael and Marie –since you continuously complement each other’s’ comments, I must be upsetting the applecart with this pesky question. Can any one of you define the sensus fidelium in a clear rational and practical manner and how it should operate? Paul gave a long list of questions below (all filled to the brim with his biased distortions). How should such a questionnaire be answered? And would the response constitute “sensus fidelium”? Of course, it is non-scriptural and not in our Catholic Tradition. Jesus never promised us the truth could be discovered by an opinion poll.

You all seem bewitched by the phrase and think that it can conjure up the truth in opposition to the Magisterium. Anne calls the Magisterium a “faceless force” yet pope Francis is well known. But what in your opinion is the “face” of the sensus fidelium? Is it Charles Curran or Hans Kung, a committee of hand-picked theologians or a lonely liberal blogger?

One cannot claim to know the “sensus fidelium” through opinion polls, no matter how unbiased the questions are (or with the false certainty of +/- 3% confidence intervals). People who do not use statistical tests in the physical sciences (as I do) have way too much confidence in the results of polls. In any case, this idea of the “sensus fidelium” is completely different from the Vatican Council II definition in Lumen Gentium (12 & 18), which requires unanimity and agreement with the Magisterium, or as Pope Benedict XVI said in 2012 to the International Theological Commission: "Today, however, it is particularly important to clarify the criteria used to distinguish the authentic sensus fidelium from its counterfeits. In fact, it is not some kind of public opinion of the Church, and it is unthinkable to mention it in order to challenge the teachings of the Magisterium, this because the sensus fidei cannot grow authentically in the believer except to the extent in which he or she fully participates in the life of the Church, and this requires a responsible adherence to her Magisterium.”

So, if you think the Pope got it wrong, and the Council (who invented it) also got it wrong, where is your support for another interpretation?

Anne - since you no longer worship in the Church Christ founded, I am not surprised you think He founded some other church, and then went away leaving us orphans to our own devices. He didn’t even leave us the New Testament, as that was written and declared canonical by the Church, the very Church you think is finished and on its last legs. You say several times that the Church is cornered ( backed “into a corner”, painted “into a corner”, “a little corner is getting very small” behind closed doors and walls), but the data contradict you. The Church is literally bursting with growth in Africa (up 21% in 6 years, according to the NYT) and Asia. Maybe, you think these converts from the “countries of the south” are lesser Christians (“simple”, “traditional”) but there is the parable of the ungrateful guests declining invitations to a wedding feast and being replaced by new “simpler” guests.

As to corners, Jesus Christ is the cornerstone of the Church (Eph 2:20). On the other hand, the Episcopalian Church, which has conceded on all the sexual morality issues, is disappearing. The question is whether it will divide (with the much larger African contingent going its own way) before it disappears in America.

Paul Ferris | 2/25/2014 - 5:22pm


Don't flatter yourself. Your "pesky questions" roll off me like water off the proverbial duck's back. Who are you to say my questions were distorted? Sometimes I think you fancy yourself the official Magisterium or are you just channeling it.

Tim O'Leary | 2/25/2014 - 6:36pm

Paul - you have a funny way of having things roll off your back (multiple posts, defensiveness, sarcastic insults to me, etc.). You are at least honest enough to say you can't define sensus fidelium, even when I gave the VC II answer in the middle of my post (didn't you read it all?). I think it is more correct to say that you will not accept the Council's definition of the term, because you want to use it more as a weapon than to enlighten.

You got very upset when I called your own questionnaire distorted (15 numbered questions below). You must have forgotten your tone and their content. Questions 2, 3, 6, 7 and 15 insult the respondent. Questions 1, 4, 5, 7, 8, 10, 13 & 14 are not questions at all but hide your own arguments and reveal your prejudices. You even admit your anger and sarcastic tone after Q.15 "So dishonest after fifty years of ignoring the evidence."

As to Anne's place of worship, she has mentioned that many time in her posts. She did not leave in peace and still attacks the Church's doctrine on many issues.

As to complaints about insults, I refer you to all the disparaging insults below aimed at celibate males. The log-speck-eye metaphor comes to mind.

I have no difficulty distinguishing myself from the Magisterium. But, I try to follow it as closely as I can as I believe it is only in the Catholic Church that The Holy Spirit preserves the fullness of the faith. He is also in many people in other churches, especially those that try to hold fast to the biblical faith as they interpret it, and submit their will to the Word. But a different spirit rules in those associations that call evil good, that have abandoned the unborn (even with blessings for the evil event) and that have turned their back on the natural law.

Paul Ferris | 2/25/2014 - 8:33pm

the VC II answer in the middle of your post ??? was that the one addressed to the sons of the church and ignored the daughters ??? sorry Tim, I don't hang on your every paragraph nor do I believe I should ?

Tim O'Leary | 2/25/2014 - 9:52pm

The Sensus fidelium is defined in Lumen Gentium #12. Note the universality and agreement with the Bishops and the Magisterium.

"The entire body of the faithful, anointed as they are by the Holy One, cannot err in matters of belief. They manifest this special property by means of the whole peoples' supernatural discernment in matters of faith when "from the Bishops down to the last of the lay faithful" they show universal agreement in matters of faith and morals. That discernment in matters of faith is aroused and sustained by the Spirit of truth. It is exercised under the guidance of the sacred teaching authority, in faithful and respectful obedience to which the people of God accepts that which is not just the word of men but truly the word of God. Through it, the people of God adheres unwaveringly to the faith given once and for all to the saints, penetrates it more deeply with right thinking, and applies it more fully in its life."

Here it is in the Catechism CCC#92 "The whole body of the faithful. . . cannot err in matters of belief. This characteristic is shown in the supernatural appreciation of faith (sensus fidei) on the part of the whole people, when, from the bishops to the last of the faithful, they manifest a universal consent in matters of faith and morals."

Paul Ferris | 2/26/2014 - 7:52am


Anyone who has even a modicum of historical knowledge knows that the entire body of the faithful has rarely if ever agreed on anything in the Church. I think this is one of those ideals not realities that Francis spoke about in the Joy of the Gospel.

Paul Ferris | 2/26/2014 - 8:08am


I have eight granddaughters and not one grandson. I think VC III should be governed and decided by only women. My cousin is like you. He tried to convince me HV was one step removed from the words and mind of Jesus just as you have done. He used the same quote you did and when I questioned him about the reference to sons of the church he used the same lame excuse that it was the times. Interesting how the Catholic Right can appeal to change when it is convenient and deny the possibility of change when they don't want it.

I did not know you were an expert on the past, present, and future of Protestant churches. What gifts you have.

It is curious that someone who has so little respect for Christianity outside the RCC would use their experience as proof of your positions.

Paul Ferris | 2/25/2014 - 9:05pm


Paul Ferris | 2/25/2014 - 7:07pm

very upset ?? not at all....multiple posts ? did not know there was a quota ? Jesus used anger....against the Scribes and what prejudice was Bishop Lori hiding when he asked the questions in the first place ??? Have you seen the questionnaire ??? If so did you respond Were only those who agree with Bishop Lori and you supposed to respond You cannot have it both ways. When you ask someone what they think and they tell you, you cannot accuse them of calling evil good, abandoned the unborn (even with blessings for the evil event) and that have turned their back on the natural law. etc. etc. How dare you ?

complaints about celibate males who think they have the last word on how couples should regulate the size of their families....I will do it all day.....when you insult the author of the article, Fr. Keenan, you say he is borderline orthodox. What could that possible mean except you know better than him what the Magisterium teaches....and you are his judge of never did explain what you meant so it is just an insult hanging out there...

I will say no more about Anne's place of worship except that it is her business alone..

Final question: do you have a degree in theology and where did you get it ? I majored in philosophy at Notre Dame and Catholic University. I was in the Doctor of Ministry program at Catholic University. I served as Director of Religious Education at Ft. George G. Meade MD for seven years. Peace, Salaam, Shalom....

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