Professor Seifert Comments on Fr. Chiodi’s “Re-Reading of Humanae Vitae”

Image of Fr. Chiodi courtesy of Diane Montagna/LifeSiteNews

Editor’s Note: The following text is a statement written by Professor Josef Seifert, a famous Austrian philosopher and co-founder of the International Academy of Philosophy (IAP). He kindly sent it to us for publication. 

Professor Father Maurizio Chiodi delivered last Dec. 14, 2017, at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome, a speech entitled “Re-reading Humanae Vitae (1968) in light of Amoris Laetitia (2016)”. He is a new member of PAV, the Pontifical Academy for Life, founded by Pope John Paul II in order to explain and defend the truths the Church teaches about human life in Humanae Vitae and other documents. Nonetheless, Chiodi does not only rejects openly a central moral teaching of the Church on contraception, admirably stated in Humanae Vitae, namely that a wonderful and deep link exists between the conjugal loving union and procreation, such that any single contraceptive act that separates the unitive from the procreative meaning of the conjugal act is intrinsically wrong in any situation. Above and beyond his denial of this teaching, Chiodi asserts that contraception is even morally mandatory under certain circumstances. According to him, responsible parenthood can oblige a married couple to use artificial birth control.

This suggests an answer Fr. Chiodi gives to two of the famous five dubia of the four Cardinals. Chiodi’s implicit answer may be formulated thus: “Indeed, there are no human actions that are intrinsically wrong under all circumstances”.

Chiodi invokes Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation on the family, Amoris Laetitia, as a new model and paradigm for moral theology that eliminates the notion (solemnly and magisterially laid down in Humanae Vitae, Familiaris Consortio, and Veritatis Splendor) that contraception is an intrinsically evil human act that is wrong anywhere and at any time. Chiodi adds, in radical and direct contradiction to the teaching of the Magisterium of the Church in Humanae Vitae, that there are “circumstances — I refer to Amoris Laetitia, Chapter 8 — that precisely for the sake of responsibility, require contraception.” When “natural methods are impossible or unfeasible, other forms of responsibility need to be found,” Fr. Chiodi argued.

Chiodi’s position constitutes an unequivocal defense of the consequentialist and proportionalist ethics that attacked Humanae Vitae from the first day of its publication on, and not only took issue with its teaching that contraception is intrinsically wrong, but claimed that there are no intrinsically evil acts at all; and that any human action is determined in its moral character solely by the proportion between its good and bad effects. This opinion was clearly and unambiguously
refuted and rejected by Veritatis Splendor.

Chiodi likewise proposes more general philosophical and ethical positions that are profoundly erroneous and totally destructive not only of the moral teaching of the Catholic Church, but also of the essence of morality, and in fact, of any truth and any Church Teaching: namely 1) a historical relativism, 2) a consensus theory of truth, and 3) situation ethics.

  1. Saying that the norms of natural law “conserve the good and instruct in the way of good, but they are historical, “ Chiodi denies the perennial truth and validity of the norms that tell us that contraception and many other acts are intrinsically wrong, in a way that is not relative to, and dependent on, historically changing opinions, as if Humanae Vitae could have been true in 1968 but would no longer be so in 2018.
  2. Besides this, Chiodi, while not directly claiming it, still strongly suggests that the fact that a large percentage of Catholic spouses practice contraception and do not accept the norms justifies silence about them, or even proves that these norms are no longer valid, as if majority consensus determined the truth.[1] With the same right, he could claim that we are justified no longer to speak of the first commandment to love God above everything else, or even that this norm is no longer valid because a majority of Catholics do not fulfill it, or that the commandment that forbids to give false witness against one’s neighbor is not valid any longer because most people lie and calumniate others.
  3. Claiming that some “circumstances — I refer to Amoris Laetitia, Chapter 8 —precisely for the sake of responsibility, require contraception” (Chiodo, ibid.), Chiodo denies in fact directly the intrinsic wrongness of contraception magisterially taught by Paul VI and his predecessors and successors, and makes what is morally good or bad in the transmission of human life entirely dependent on concrete situations. Drawing out the lines of such a purely teleological or consequentialist proportionalist ethics of contraception, Chiodi suggests that quite in general no intrinsically wrong acts exist and that the moral quality of a human action can never be determined universally “by a general rule,” but depends on a proportion between good and bad consequences of human actions in concrete situations. Understood in this general way, the situation ethics Fr. Chiodi defends would also deny the intrinsic wrongness of abortion and euthanasia, and of many other acts listed in Veritatis Splendor as acts that are morally wrong under all circumstances and in all situations. It is worth noting that this opinion has nothing to do with blindness of conscience, lack of ethical knowledge, or personal imputability invoked so often by Rocco Buttiglione in the present debate. No, Chiodi implies an entirely objective “duty to contracept” in certain situations.

Thus the lecture of Father Chiodi contains, besides his open rejection of Church Teaching on contraception in Humanae Vitae, disastrous general philosophical errors that have been magisterially and forcefully rejected by Pope John Paul II in Veritatis Splendor. One can only hope that Pope Francis, Archbishop Paglia, and the large majority of members of PAV will ask Father Chiodi to revoke these grave errors, or to resign immediately his membership in this illustrious Academy, whose founder and spiritual Father Pope John Paul II unambiguously and consistently fought against precisely these same errors that Father Chiodi
now proposes, and condemned them in a definitive way.

Moreover, Saint John Paul II founded the PAV precisely in order that it explain and defend these truths Chiodi denies. (As, prior to its reform through Pope Francis in 2016, an ordinary, life-long member of PAV, who had to take an oath never to deny these truths, I could only feel profound sadness over this betrayal of the PAV, especially dear to the heart of John Paul II, if such views as Chiodi’s are not retracted by himself, by the PAV, or by Pope Francis).

Ethical truth and the untruth of this proportionalism are not only subject of Catholic faith, however, but can be recognized by human reason as well.[2] They have been forcefully defended by the great pagan philosophers Socrates, Plato, and Cicero and are being defended by members of other religions, some of whom are members of the new John Paul II Academy for Human Life and the Family that continues, without any ambiguities, its service to the great founding truths and goals of PAV.


Prof. DDr. habil. Dr. h.c. Josef Seifert, President

John Paul II Academy for Human Life and the Family

(See here for more information on the newly founded John Paul II Academy for Human Life and the family)



[1] I rely here on the summary of the talk in LifeSite: “While in the 50s and 60s was an urgent for believers, now the great majority of even believing married couples live as though the norm doesn’t exist,” he said.

“Officially and objectively the norm has remained,” but “even many pastors” don’t talk about it, he said. “In public, in catechesis, and in preaching, they prefer not to talk about it” while “in personal encounters they maintain a very indulgent attitude when the issue is raised.” “And therefore,” he argued, “it’s significant that Amoris Laetitia speaks so little about it.”

[2] See Josef Seifert, “The Splendor of Truth and Intrinsically Immoral Acts I: A Philosophical Defense of the Rejection of Proportionalism and Consequentialism in Veritatis Splendor”. Studia Philosophiae Christianae UKSW 51 (2015) 2, pp. 27-67; “The Splendor of Truth and Intrinsically Immoral Acts II: A Philosophical Defense of the Rejection of Proportionalism and Consequentialism in Veritatis Splendor”. Studia Philosophiae Christianae UKSW 51 (2015) 3, pp. 7-37.

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