MR. ST. JOHN-STEVAS, in his brief and contemptuous comment (March 27) on my letter of March 20, dismisses as irrelevant the Council's statement that the Pope's rulings of themselves ,and not from the consent of the Church, are justly styled irreformable." This, he says, refers only to the extraordinary and infallible magisterium.
It certainly refers to every pronouncement made by the Pope under the extraordinary magisterium — this is self-evident; but it also holds given certain conditions, for many pronouncements made when only the ordinary ningisterium is involved. For the Council is speaking of pronouncements made by the Pope "with the assistance of the Holy Spirit," and when "as supreme shepherd and teacher of all the faithful . .. he proclaims by a definitive act some doctrine of faith or morals."
What follows then, so far as obedience and binding force are concerned, is not which magisterium is involved but what the Pope does and says and means; and in Huntanae Vitae Pope Paul not only proclaimed a moral doctrine for all the faithful, referred to the constant teaching of the Church (which he merely reaffirmed) and the pronouncements of his two immediate predecessors, but formally declared that his reply on this "grave issue" (and gravity is always a relevant matter when the ordinary magisterium is involved) was given "in virtue of the mandate given to us by Christ."
In the face of this clear and unequivocal speaking the question of whether the encyclical is or is not technically infallible is of purely academic interest and our duty as Catholics is clear.
Those who hold that Humanae Vitae has no binding force because it was not an act of the extraordinary rnagisterium might consider the following statement by Most Rev. Dr.' Philbin, Bishop of Down and Connor: "If, because the Pope follows the precedent of Vatican H and makes no mention of definitions or anathemas or infallibility, an enunciation of such formidable solemnity could be contradicted. Papal authority would have lost its meaning and Catholicism would be repudiating an essential feature of its structure. its appointed agent of cohesion."
Then, commenting on the well-known "ex cathedra" statement, His Lordship goes on: "There can be little doubt about the intention of the Pope to command obedience, and Vatican II explicitly teaches that when he commands obedience he must be obeyed."
Mr. St. John-Stevas wonders whether his column "really has any purpose or effect"; and sometimes, he says, he despairs. At the risk of being ponderously sarcastic" I cannot resist the temptation of saying that the sin against hope to which he seems most prone is not despair but presumption.
John D. Sheridan Terenure, Dublin 6.
I WONDER if I could 1. append a few remarks to Isabel Quigley's excellent review (March 27) of the Leisure Crafts series.
It is not quite accurate to say that the series is presumably our "swan-song". Apart from the fact that our last titles won't be published until May or June, this particular series will continue in any case, though under what imprint has yet to be decided.
Finally, anyone who has difficulty in getting hold of the requisite materials locally could try writing to Art and Crafts Unlimited, 49 Shelton Street, London WC2, who supply a comprehensive range of craft materials.
J. D. K. Cavanagh Publicity Manager Burns & Oates, Publishers, Ltd. 25 Ashley Place, London, S.W.I.