“Contraception and the Infallibility of the Ordinary Magisterium”    

In the early 1960s, two leading moral theologians of the time, John C. Ford, S.J., and Gerald Kelly, S.J., worked on marital morality, and together published a book: Contemporary Moral Theology 2: Marriage Questions (Westminster, Md.: Newman, 1964). Partly as a result, when Paul VI reorganized and expanded the commission dealing with population, family, and birthrate that had been set up by Pope John XXIII, Pope Paul asked Father Ford to serve on it. Convinced that the Church's teaching on contraception is a truth that somehow pertains to revelation, Ford led those on the commission who opposed substantive change in the Church's teaching. Grisez had written his book, Contraception and the Natural Law, in the spring of 1964, and at his request Ford had checked out the manuscript before it was submitted for publication. Grisez then helped Ford with his work on the commission; at its end, the two worked together in Rome for a full month in June–July 1966.

While Ford and Kelly thought that the ordinary magisterium had infallibly taught that contracepting always is gravely wrong, they had not clearly articulated that position or argued systematically for it. While working on ecclesiology and studying the documents of Vatican II in the mid-1970s, Grisez realized that the Council's teaching about the infallibility of the ordinary magisterium provided the premise for showing that the truth about the wrongness of contraception has been taught in such a way that Catholics can be absolutely certain of it. Although Ford, who had retired, at first resisted the proposal that he join Grisez in articulating and publishing that argument, he finally agreed and the two did so. The article is copyright © Theological Studies, Inc. 1978, all rights reserved.

Open the Article (PDF)


“Infallibility and Specific Moral Norms: A Review Discussion”    

A respected specialist in ecclesiology, Francis A. Sullivan, S.J., criticized the argument of Ford and Grisez in a 1983 book: Magisterium: Teaching Authority in the Catholic Church. Grisez took that criticism seriously and responded in detail to it. The review is copyright © Dominican Fathers Province of St. Joseph 1985, all rights reserved.

Open the Review (PDF)


“Infallibility and Contraception: A Reply to Garth Hallett”    

Also responding to Ford and Grisez, Garth L. Hallett, S.J., published an argument, grounded in a certain sort of recent analystical philosophy, in Theological Studies. Grisez replied in the same journal, and that reply is copyright © Theological Studies, Inc. 1986, all rights reserved.

Open the Reply (PDF)


“Two Views of the Church’s Magisterium”    

The Baltimore Archdiocesan Association of Secondary School Administrators organized a panel discussion on 28 January 1987 to clarify for teachers the division in the Church over her moral teachings. Grisez was invited to explain and defend his view. For the occasion, he wrote a very brief summary of his view of the relationship between dissent from received moral teachings and a new conception of the teaching role of the pope and other bishops.

Since most pastors were concerned about the matter, the editor of Homiletic and Pastoral Review published the brief work. The article is copyright © 1987 Catholic Polls Inc.; all rights reserved.

Open the Article (PDF)


“The Ordinary Magisterium’s Infallibility:    
A Reply to Some New Arguments”

In a 1993 article in Theological Studies,, Sullivan again took up the issue and offered some new arguments. Grisez replied in a “Quaestio Disputata” in the same journal and that reply is copyright © Theological Studies, Inc. 1994, all rights reserved.

Open the Reply (PDF)


Sullivan answered in the same issue, and Grisez responded very briefly.

Open the Response (PDF)