I have always noticed that the rallying point of many anti-RH people is the papal encyclical entitled Humanae Vitae. This document has been quoted extensively in the course of discussion about the RH Bill. Some pastors and theologians have pointed to the contention that the Filipino Roman Catholics’ stand on the RH Bill is in keeping with papal infallibility. A number of Roman Catholic priests have replied to this statement in a number of ways, oftentimes contradicting. The Roman Catholic doctrine on papal infallibility in itself is a confusing contention though I do not believe in the papal infallibility doctrine since it contradicts certain aspects of the Bible and that of the nature of the Holy Spirit. Though I understand the technicalities of Roman Catholic doctrines through my extensive studies, let me clarify that I do not claim authority in these since I am an Evangelical Christian and of course non-Roman Catholic.
The question is: “Are papal encyclicals infallible?” Of course in the Biblical, Evangelical and personal standpoint, it is not. Roman Catholic explanations on the papal infallibility especially in papal encyclicals has been confusing. While they contend that papal encyclicals are far from being infallible, there is a qualifier that made it confusing which is “in general”. This leaves out a point for them that some papal encyclicals are “infallible” but how as to these are infallible is vague. One sure infallible declarations for Roman Catholics is the “ex-cathedra” proclamation which is part of the pope’s magisterial authority. Then comes the term “ordinary magisterium” which extends papal infallibility in some matters and this makes their doctrine all the more confusing since what is the qualifier of these “ordinary magisterial” teachings to be infallible? Answers are detailed but heavily laden with words “may” or “some” which contributes to tentativeness rather than certainty.
If I got this correctly, papal encyclicals to them can be fallible and infallible depending on situations. What those situations are, they are a mystery. This rather puts Humanae Vitae in a rather questionable spot. Are the teachings of Humanae Vitae, with regards to Roman Catholic thinking, infallible in its entirety, infallible in part or fallible in whole? This is still a debatable matter even at present in the Roman Catholic Church which reminds me that at the time of the Humanae Vitae publication, it caused confusion or uproar among some Roman Catholic circles. While Humanae Vitae is just one part of the contention among Roman Catholic anti-RH, they must be aware that its subject to the Catholic infallibility is still in question. As Fr. Joaquin Bernas, SJ qualifies the contraception doctrine, maybe referring cum Humanae Vitae, as not subject to infallibility. The issue of papal infallibility with regards to papal encyclicals and the contention on contraception are by far the most confusing of matters when we consider the Roman Catholic standpoint.
With these contentions upon looking at Roman Catholic perspective, I cannot help but say that the Bible alone indeed is useful in matters of faith and practice. Man-made philosophies or religious declarations are merely built on sinking sand. As a Reformed Christian, it is in my uncompromising standpoint that papal infallibility is non-Biblical. Papal Infallibility assumes that the Holy Spirit can still dwell on people with questionable and un-Christian character like some popes undeniably are. The Roman Catholic explanation that even these certain “evil popes” can facilitate infallible doctrine with the help of the Holy Spirit is quite misleading since the evidence of the Spirit’s existence on the life of the person or “… the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” The passage adds further that opposed to “… such things there is no law …” and that people “… who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires …” (Galatians 5:22-24, NIV 1984) This just shows that these certain “evil popes” with their sinful passions or desires and the Holy Spirit can never mix.
The biblical evidences in themselves especially in this passage are at odds with Roman Catholic explanations on papal infallibility. It is this same infallibility they claim to be their advantage with the supposed “disunited” Evangelicals or Biblical Christians but they utterly disregard the fact that what “disunites” us are just matters of liturgical and ceremonial interpretations rather than doctrinal. I am a Baptist, a Conservative Baptist, but I call a Methodist, Presbyterian, Lutheran, Anglican, Pentecostals and Messianic Jews brothers and sisters-in-Christ because there is one thing that binds us and that is Christ died to redeem us from sin and give us eternal salvation by grace, through faith in Jesus Christ alone. With regards to the Roman Catholic interpretation to certain passages that they deem “anti-contraception”, these are rather the consequence of their pounded mindset and not on in depth Biblical exegesis or in-depth Biblical analysis.
Before anyone misconstrue or misinterpret my writing of this blog, let me clarify that I am not debating for the RH Bill by deconstructing Roman Catholic doctrine but rather try to assess the questions I have in mind on this Roman Catholic belief. I just want to facilitate a discussion on that matter and make some of my Roman Catholic friends be aware of some conflicts whilst making them reconsider applying another point in contention to the RH issue. My study on that matter of Roman Catholic belief produced more questions and few or no answers at all. This makes me appreciate more the sure certainty of the Bible itself. On the other hand, in the midst of the RH debate, we must not only look at this in the Roman Catholic angle or any angle whatsoever but examine it in the entirety without pre-conceived bias and pre-conditioned mindsets in order to know fully well, establish the truth and contribute to the wealth of knowledge.