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A recent ad run by Catholics for Choice merits acknowledgment for its extraordinarily clever mixture of truth and confusion. On the anniversary of Humanae vitae, the ad attempts to redefine Church teaching on condoms, and what it means to be a “good Catholic.”

Distributed through the July 24 edition of the Express paper (a publication of the Washington Post) at all Washington, D.C. area Metro entrances, the ad ran on four pages. The front page portrays a couple surprised in the act of snuggling with the caption, “Abstinence has a high failure rate.” On the back page is a slideshow of four couples, one of them homosexual, making the following statements: “We believe in God,” “We believe that sex is sacred,” “We believe in caring for each other,” and “We believe in using condoms” (this last statement in a different color and in bold font).

The point of the ad is obvious: to pit Catholics against their bishops by calling into question the decency and even morality of the “hierarchy’s position.” By creating a façade of strength in numbers, the ad suggests that Catholics can democratically pressure their hierarchy into changing its “position.”

It’s unclear why so many people insist on describing themselves as “Catholic” when they apparently have no desire to actually learn and live the tenets of the Catholic religion. Yet because of their relentless insistence to muddy the waters and return civilization to the era of the sophists, a clarification of the truly Catholic position in response to this ad is warranted.

First, the teaching of the Church (note the difference in phrasing from “the position of the Catholic hierarchy”) is received teaching— received by the whole Church. Number 84 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) states: “The apostles entrusted the “Sacred deposit” of the faith … contained in Sacred Scripture and Tradition, to the whole of the Church.” Then quoting from the Dogmatic Constitution Dei verbum, the Catechism continues:

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