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let me count the ways

By Diogenes (articles ) | Nov 30, 2010

Richard Posner, a learned jurist who has written many intelligent things about law and economics, embarrasses himself when he writes on contraception and the Catholic Church:

In 1930, responding to the Anglican Church’s rescission of its prohibition of contraception, Pope Pius VI  made an “infallible” declaration unequivocally reiterating the Catholic Church’s age-old prohibition of the practice, and his declaration was repeated by subsequent popes well into the 1990s.

In 20 seconds, how many gross errors of fact can you find in that single sentence? (We're not looking for misleading statements or silly interpretations; only plain, dumb factual errors count.) If you can't find at least 3, you should be embarrassed too. 

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  • Posted by: Duns Scotus - Dec. 02, 2010 10:13 PM ET USA

    1)XI, not VI. 2)Pius reinterated an infailable teaching of the universal ordinary magisterium; he did not give a dogmatic DEFINITION. 3)The teaching has been reiterated up to the present (though this includes the 1990's). 4)Pius reiterated a teaching about the inherent immorality of contraception; he did not merely reiterate a Church prohibition, such as the prohibition of married priests in the Latin Rite. 5) Lambeth '30 only tolerated contraception by married couples in very limited cases.

  • Posted by: impossible - Dec. 01, 2010 4:07 PM ET USA

    Cornelius is the one who has nailed it. Infallibility is not limited to formal "Ex Cathedra" statements. Unless one wants to emulate the likes of Charles Curran and other dissenters, he regards Humanae Vitae as an infallibile statement. There are many references to articles of faithful orthodox authors who agree, one of which is by Father John Hardon available at For numerous articles go to

  • Posted by: AgnesDay - Dec. 01, 2010 3:37 PM ET USA

    So, where's the answer key?

  • Posted by: Cornelius - Dec. 01, 2010 7:23 AM ET USA

    Not to go off-thread, but I believe John Paul II, in Evangelium Vitae (EV), declared the "direct and voluntary" killing of innocent persons to be gravely immoral, and that this teaching may be regarded as infallible by virtue of the Ordinary and Universal Magisterium, which he invoked. See EV #57.

  • Posted by: philliprenfro3975 - Nov. 30, 2010 8:38 PM ET USA

    I think DCpa nailed the third error, regarding the infallibility claim. It is my understanding that all "infallible" teachings thus far have regarded Doctrine, but we have not yet received one regarding Morals, officially.

  • Posted by: DCpa - Nov. 30, 2010 6:23 PM ET USA

    Pius VI died in 1799. The Anglican church never had a formal condemnation of contraception – they simply held the common negative opinion of all groups in Christendom regarding it up to that time. They did not rescind a prohibition, but rather countenanced limited acceptability for married couples in certain circumstances. The Pope in 1930 issued an encyclical, not an infallible "declaration." Although it remained the constant teaching of the Magisterium, no declaration by any Pope reaffirmed it

  • Posted by: AgnesDay - Nov. 30, 2010 6:08 PM ET USA

    Well, let's see. Not Pius VI, Pius XI. Not into the 1990's. The Twenty first century. But I guess I'm fogging up. What else is wrong? I dunno. The Lambuth Council resolution 15 regarding contraception was in 1930.

  • Posted by: Saint Jimbob of the Apokalypse - Nov. 30, 2010 2:28 PM ET USA

    Pope Pius XI did write Casti Connubii in 1930, so he's off by V Piuses (Piusi?), and the whole 'well into the 1990s' nonsense.

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