So, how does Church define ‘infallible teaching’?

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This is a reaction to Bernardo M. Villegas article titled “Infallible teaching on artificial contraceptives” (Inquirer, 10/20/12).

Having been a priest for over 50 years, I find it interesting to read a highly respected economist explain the theological concept of “infallible teaching.” Since at this Alzheimerian age of 75 I must have forgotten part of my Thomasian theology, I would request him to help me answer the following questions:

1. In the past, our bishops taught us that if a baby died without being baptized, he would go to limbo. Recently, Pope Benedixt XVI said that there is no limbo. So, how do you define “infallible teaching”?

2. A few decades ago, our bishops told us that if students were required to study Rizal’s writings, they would lose their faith. Students have since been studying Rizal’s writings, but they have not lost their faith. So, how do you define “infallible teaching”?

3. Centuries ago, our bishops forbade lay Catholics from reading the Holy Bible. Now, our bishops are encouraging lay Catholics to read the Holy Bible. So, how do you define “infallible teaching”?

4. Some decades ago, the precursor of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines removed the local bishop of Lipa and his auxiliary bishop from that diocese as a punishment for having approved the devotion to Our Lady Mediatrix of All Graces in Lipa. Now, the CBCP is working for the beatification of the two bishops and is promoting that devotion. So, how do you define “infallible teaching”?

5. Before Vatican II, our bishops taught us that death penalty was morally permissible. After Vatican II, our bishops have been telling us that death penalty is morally and intrinsically evil. So, how do you define “infallible teaching”?

Here is something concrete. Some time between 1957 and 1961, a Dominican theology professor in the UST Seminary told his students (among them being Leonardo Legaspi, Oscar Cruz and Onesimo Gordoncillo, now archbishops, and me): The state is morally allowed to put a criminal to death because Jesus Christ said, “If your right hand scandalizes you, cut it off and cast it from you.” (Matthew 5:30).

6. A young woman appealed to the CBCP for justice concerning a priest whom she denounced for having raped her, but whose bishop was evasive about it. The CBCP told her that it could not do anything about the case because “according to Canon Law, the bishop is directly answerable only to the Pope.”

That answer is different from what Jesus Christ said about anyone scandalizing young people: “millstone around the neck” and “drowned in the depth of the sea.” (Matthew 18:6). This case ignores Christ’s basic teaching of “loving one’s neighbor.”

The contrast seems to contain a “teaching” which some respectable anti-Malthusian economists might declare authoritatively as “infallible,” namely: “Our loyalty to the Holy Bible and to the Philippine Constitution must end where our loyalty to Canon Law and to the Baltimore Catechism begins.”

And so, how do you define “infallible teaching”?

—FR. EDILBERTO V. SANTOS,

sanvaled1936@yahoo.com

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