On July 29th Pope Paul's Encyclical on the Regulation of Birth was presented to the Press by Mons. Ferdinando Lambruschini, Professor of Moral Theology at the Lateran University.

He referred to the Profession of Faith solemnly promulgated by the Pope in St. Peter's Square on June 30th last. That dealt with truths to be believed. The present Encyclical, no less important, dealt with questions of morality. But both documents of the Holy Father had a common purpose, namely, to guard against the document, that is to say, what theological note is to be attached to it?

Mons. Lambruschini traced the events which led up to the Encyclical and he then dealt briefly with the principal points in the document. Later he discussed the Encyclical in relation to the Magisterium. In this context he raised the question of the doctrinal standing of the document, that is to say, what theological note is to be attached to it?

He prefaced his reply with the remark that the majority of theologians, while admitting that the Magisterium could define infallibly certain aspects of the natural law contained explicitly or implicitly in Revelation, nevertheless hold that such an infallible pronouncement in the moral sphere has never yet been made. A careful reading of the document indicates that it is not an infallible definition.

Mons. Lambruschini mentioned that a well-known author had recently published a work in which he asserts that moralists, while excluding the use of contraceptives for selfish and hedonistic ends according to one's own whim, nevertheless would be more disposed to admit the lawfulness of having recourse—in individual cases which are common enough—to other methods of birth control besides that of periodic continence. They would draw the line only at abortion. That author went on to say that an infallible decision of the Papal Magisterium contrary to that view was not only undesirable but was even impossible. He added that in the present circumstances a non-infallible decision would be problematic and leave the matter open to question.

" The decision has been given", said Mons. Lambruschini, "and it is not infallible. But it does not leave the question of the regulation of birth in a state of vague uncertainty. Only definitions strictly so-called command the assent of theological faith. But a pronouncement of the authentic Magisterium requires a full and loyal assent—internal and not merely external—in proportion to the importance of the Authority that issues it (in this case the Supreme Pontiff), and the matter with which it deals (in the present case a matter of the greatest importance, treating as it does of the vexed question of the regulation of birth). This decision binds the consciences of all without any ambiguity.

In particular, it can and must be said that the authentic pronuncement contained in the Encyclical "Humanae vitae excludes the possibility of a probable opinion, valid on the moral plane, opposed to this teaching—and that notwithstanding the number and the authority (hierarchical, scientific and theological) of those who have in recent years maintained that it is possible to have such a probable opinion. The pretext of a presumed doubt in the Church owing to the long silence of the Pope is not consistent, and conflicts with the repeated appeals of (lie Pope and Council to abide by the previous directives of the Magisterium which were still binding.

All those who have in recent years incautiously taught that it is lawful to rise artificial contraceptives to regulate births and have acted accordingly in their pastoral guidance and in the ministry of the confessional, must now change their attitude and set an example by their full acceptance of the teaching of the Encyclical. This is not a case of servility to be shunned, but rather one of essential loyalty and consistency in the profession of Catholic doctrine and in the practice of the Christian life...".

Taken from:
L'Osservatore Romano
Weekly Edition in English
8 August 1968, page 7

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