From Mr Tom McIntyre SIR – Simon Reilly’s strange idea (Letter, July 9) that, because Church pronouncements on usury proved fallible I imply, illogically, that those on contraception will too, obscures the real point: that Mother Church is very slow to define any teaching as an article of faith.
Duns Scotus settled controversy about the Immaculate Conception in the 13th century. Popes and Councils thereafter taught that the popular tradition accorded with reason, faith and Holy Writ – but it was not defined as of faith until the 19th century. The implication of pronouncements like Summis Desiderantes and Vix Pervenit is that in hesitating long before defining articles of faith the Church acts well.
Other points: neither Casti Connubii, that compassionate document, nor Humanae Vitae is in the form of an ex cathedra statement as explained by Fessler. Natural Law is not a code of statutes: unreconciled views of Natural Law were the very issue in the contraception debate.
As popes before him did when a Church-wide controversy was unsettled and some, not all, of the arguments for change relied on false secular principles, Pope Paul bound the Church to obey the traditional teaching. Prudently, and as events suggest, providentially. But he could hardly affirm that the tradition was the universal belief of the Church or the doctrinal consensus of the Magisterium.
Whatever the truth is, it must, as Newman tells us, await its own time. Newman also tells us that, for the individual, the voice of conscience is the voice of God.
Yours faithfully, TOM McINTYRE Frome, Somerset