There has been widespread speculation recently about the likelihood of Church doctrine being modified to allow the use of condoms within the context of marriage, where one spouse has HIV/AIDS. Doubtless, compassion is the motivation for the mooted change, but this questioning of Church doctrine on contraception is not new.
In 1930, Pope Pius XI in Casti Connubii condemned the practice in no uncertain terms, quoting St Augustine (AD354-430): "Intercourse even with one's legitimate wife is unlawful and wicked where the conception of the offspring is prevented. Onan, the son of Juda did this and the Lord killed him for it."
In 1968, Paul VI in Humanae Vitae also reiterated unequivocally the intrinsic evil of contraceptive use. This encyclical was met with dissent from many liberal Catholics, including priests, long before the HIV/AIDS epidemic manifested itself.
Still more recently, in 1988, the then Cardinal Ratzinger, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine if the Faith, wrote to the United States Bishops' Conference following publication of a Conference document entitled "The Many Faces of AIDS ". The document caused much confusion among the faithful, "regarding the authentic Catholic position on the moral problems involved".
Cardinal Ratzinger made it abundantly clear in his letter that no deviation from the traditional moral doctrine of the Church could be countenanced.
Catholicism has ever held that our Lord made His Church the infallible repository of all truth in the realm of faith and morals, incapable of teaching doctrinal error. Nothing may be added to the deposit of truth and nothing may be taken from it.
The Magisterium, in the person of the Holy Father and those bishops in communion with him, is the sole arbiter in any doctrinal dispute, and has already ruled irrevocably against contraception. Nevertheless, we now see many Catholics, including theologians, priests and even very senior prelates, still seeking to change the eternal moral teaching.
Those people, however inadvertently, are lobbying for a precedent which could have only one obvious and devastating outcome. Not once, in almost 2,000 years, has the Church ceased to teach a doctrine of faith held previously. If any Pope or Council should ever do so, then plainly, Jesus Christ would not be God, but a liar, Christianity would be a monstrous fraud and heaven a cruel deception.
That, of course, is an unthinkable consequence, but it is precisely why the Magisterium cannot and will not institute the proposed doctrinal change.