Past teaching errors
Disobeying the official Church’s instructions regarding birth control does not imply disrespect for Church authority as such. It implies a recognition that regarding birth control the Church has not caught up with present-day insights.
The Church has often been out of date – and innocent people suffered.
First Example – Slavery
For 19 centuries the Catholic Church tolerated slavery. The Vatican Congregation for Doctrine still declared in 1866: “Slavery itself is not at all contrary to the natural and divine law . . . It is not contrary to the natural and divine law for a slave to be sold, bought, exchanged or given.”
But, finally, in 1965 Vatican Council II taught that “any form of slavery is contrary to the mind of Christ” (Gaudium et Spes § 27, 29).
Second Example – Burning Heretics
In the Middle Ages the Catholic Church punished those who did not believe its teaching by publicly burning them at the stake. In 1864 Pope Pius IX still condemned the notion that every person has the right of conscience and freedom of religion.
But finally, in 1965, Vatican Council II declared: “Each human person has a right to religious freedom. In matters of religion no one is to be forced to act in a manner contrary to his/her own beliefs.”
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