‘When secular opinion needed resisting, the Church undermined its own defences’

16 April 2014 | by Clifford Longley

It was apparently Bishop Basil Christopher Butler OSB who coined the term “creeping infallibility”. In an article in The Tablet in 1971, he dealt cautiously with the dispute that had broken out in the Catholic Church after the publication of Humanae Vitae in 1968. But he acknowledged that certain teachings, not intended as infallible, were often being treated as if they were. Perhaps, he speculated, the example of Humanae Vitae might encourage a more grown-up and constructively critical attitude to church teaching among the laity, and a more reasonable and less dogmatic tone among church leaders.Humanae Vitae’s status as non-infallible was underlined at the Vatican’s initial press conference where the encyclical was unveiled, when the official spokesman said he had

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