was officially issued by Pope Paul VI on this day in 1968. From the start it generated a firestorm. & then it was promptly ignored by all those who think they know better than God what God's plans for sex & marriage are.
In preparing to write this post I dud out my copy of Humanae vitae to refresh my memory of what it said. As I read it, I was impressed with how fresh & vital a message for today that was contained within it.
Pope Paul made it clear from the start that what he was going to say was based on "natural law" established by God. "Marriage, then, is far from being the effect of chance or the result of the blind evolution of natural forces. It is in reality the wise and provident institution of God the Creator, whose purpose was to effect in man His loving design. As a consequence, husband and wife, through that mutual gift of themselves, which is specific and exclusive to them alone, develop that union of two persons in which they perfect one another, cooperating with God in the generation and rearing of new lives. " (emphasis mine)
OK, before I go any further, I am sure some of you who hav never read the encyclical still recognize what I emphasised. You should, esp if you know anything about Pope John Paul the Great's Theology of the Body
. That series of talks took the heart of this Encyclical & gave it flesh & bones. But even more so, the reason why they are so similar is that the source of many of the arguements used was the writings of then Archbishop Karol Wojtyła, the future pope.
"The sexual activity, in which husband and wife are intimately and chastely united with one another, through which human life is transmitted, is, as the recent Council recalled, "noble and worthy.'' It does not, moreover, cease to be legitimate even when, for reasons independent of their will, it is foreseen to be infertile. For its natural adaptation to the expression and strengthening of the union of husband and wife is not thereby suppressed. The fact is, as experience shows, that new life is not the result of each and every act of sexual intercourse. God has wisely ordered laws of nature and the incidence of fertility in such a way that successive births are already naturally spaced through the inherent operation of these laws. The Church, nevertheless, in urging men to the observance of the precepts of the natural law, which it interprets by its constant doctrine, teaches that each and every marital act must of necessity retain its intrinsic relationship to the procreation of human life."
After making it clear that marriage is divinely ordered Pope Paul explains why artificial birth control is wrong, unconditionally. "If they further reflect, they must also recognize that an act of mutual love which impairs the capacity to transmit life which God the Creator, through specific laws, has built into it, frustrates His design which constitutes the norm of marriage, and contradicts the will of the Author of life. Hence to use this divine gift while depriving it, even if only partially, of its meaning and purpose, is equally repugnant to the nature of man and of woman, and is consequently in opposition to the plan of God and His holy will."
Pope Paul takes on some specific arguements in favor of birth control & shows why they are wrong. "Neither is it valid to argue, as a justification for sexual intercourse which is deliberately contraceptive, that a lesser evil is to be preferred to a greater one, or that such intercourse would merge with procreative acts of past and future to form a single entity, and so be qualified by exactly the same moral goodness as these. Though it is true that sometimes it is lawful to tolerate a lesser moral evil in order to avoid a greater evil or in order to promote a greater good," it is never lawful, even for the gravest reasons, to do evil that good may come of it—in other words, to intend directly something which of its very nature contradicts the moral order, and which must therefore be judged unworthy of man, even though the intention is to protect or promote the welfare of an individual, of a family or of society in general. Consequently, it is a serious error to think that a whole married life of otherwise normal relations can justify sexual intercourse which is deliberately contraceptive and so intrinsically wrong."
Yet over the years the very thing he warned about has come to be. & the evil consequences he predicted have come to pass. "Responsible men can become more deeply convinced of the truth of the doctrine laid down by the Church on this issue if they reflect on the consequences of methods and plans for artificial birth control. Let them first consider how easily this course of action could open wide the way for marital infidelity and a general lowering of moral standards. (Do I even have to point out how well this describes the current status of our society?) Not much experience is needed to be fully aware of human weakness and to understand that human beings—and especially the young, who are so exposed to temptation—need incentives to keep the moral law, and it is an evil thing to make it easy for them to break that law. Another effect that gives cause for alarm is that a man who grows accustomed to the use of contraceptive methods may forget the reverence due to a woman, and, disregarding her physical and emotional equilibrium, reduce her to being a mere instrument for the satisfaction of his own desires, no longer considering her as his partner whom he should surround with care and affection. (Anyone listened to much of today's rap lyrics that describe women in just sucah a way as this? & let's not forget the fact that most men have abandoned their responsibilities as fathers because of the attitudes arround abortion.)"
"Finally, careful consideration should be given to the danger of this power passing into the hands of those public authorities who care little for the precepts of the moral law. Who will blame a government which in its attempt to resolve the problems affecting an entire country resorts to the same measures as are regarded as lawful by married people in the solution of a particular family difficulty? Who will prevent public authorities from favoring those contraceptive methods which they consider more effective? Should they regard this as necessary, they may even impose their use on everyone. It could well happen, therefore, that when people, either individually or in family or social life, experience the inherent difficulties of the divine law and are determined to avoid them, they may give into the hands of public authorities the power to intervene in the most personal and intimate responsibility of husband and wife." (Communist China's population control policies, 1 child, forced abortion, forced sterilization illustrate the truth of this perfectly.)
Pope Paul even forsaw the arguements against what he said & made it clear that it wasn't his words but that he was merely fullfilling his role as cheif shepherd by proclaiming God's truth in this situation.
"It is to be anticipated that perhaps not everyone will easily accept this particular teaching. There is too much clamorous outcry against the voice of the Church, and this is intensified by modern means of communication. But it comes as no surprise to the Church that she, no less than her divine Founder, is destined to be a "sign of contradiction." She does not, because of this, evade the duty imposed on her of proclaiming humbly but firmly the entire moral law, both natural and evangelical."
"Since the Church did not make either of these laws, she cannot be their arbiter—only their guardian and interpreter. It could never be right for her to declare lawful what is in fact unlawful, since that, by its very nature, is always opposed to the true good of man."
"In preserving intact the whole moral law of marriage, the Church is convinced that she is contributing to the creation of a truly human civilization. She urges man not to betray his personal responsibilities by putting all his faith in technical expedients. In this way she defends the dignity of husband and wife. This course of action shows that the Church, loyal to the example and teaching of the divine Savior, is sincere and unselfish in her regard for men whom she strives to help even now during this earthly pilgrimage "to share God's life as sons of the living God, the Father of all men." "
Plain & simple: ""Human life is sacred—all men must recognize that fact," Our predecessor Pope John XXIII recalled. "From its very inception it reveals the creating hand of God."" That is why Pope Paul had no choice. He had to uphold the 2000 yr old teachings of the Church. As he points out early in the encyclical: "No member of the faithful could possibly deny that the Church is competent in her magisterium to interpret the natural moral law. (Sadly, there are many peole who do this very thing, claim to be faithful. Yet, by their very dissent to authentic teaching such as this prove they are anything but.) It is in fact indisputable, as Our predecessors have many times declared, that Jesus Christ, when He communicated His divine power to Peter and the other Apostles and sent them to teach all nations His commandments, constituted them as the authentic guardians and interpreters of the whole moral law, not only, that is, of the law of the Gospel but also of the natural law. For the natural law, too, declares the will of God, and its faithful observance is necessary for men's eternal salvation." (This is why all valid laws must be in conformity with "natural law", something clearly stated in America's Declaration of Independence.)
"As we know and have repeated many times over the past 29 years, Humanae Vitae's message is the core of our struggle to ending the culture of death not only in America, but in the world. Pope Paul VI's encyclical is profound, and the message cannot be repeated often enough, particularly in our age of rejecting God in favor of moral relativism. I think sometimes we fail to remember that even those in our midst who claim leadership roles can frequently, and with increasing bravado, claim to deny the fundamental facts as we know them. This is what we call moral relativism, and it is a cancer that has tragically attacked the body politic in America and in the Catholic Church in particular.
" Judie Brown - American Life League
"Humanae vitae, the papal encyclical “on the transmission of life,” stands as a solid bulwark against the constant degradation of marriage and family in our modern age. Like Jesus, this teaching is indeed a “sign of contradiction” and even a reproach to those who wish to give human selfishness unbridled permission to wreak havoc on these divine institutions. The dissenters infiltrating our own Church say that this encyclical is “indicative of church hierarchical dysfunction” (National Catholic Reporter) or that millions are “dying as a result of the ban [on contraception]” (“Catholics” for a Free Choice), but in the face of all that dissent, we must say, “Father forgive them for they know not what they do.” And for those who do, in fact, “know what they do,” we offer prayer and fasting for their sins." Fr. Thomas Euteneuer - Human Life International
"Many know of Pope Paul VI's document Humanae Vitae as the "Birth Control" encyclical. Actually, it treats of "control" in a much broader sense than the regulation of birth. This is a document that addresses the question, Who is my God? Who is in charge of my life?
Humanae Vitae does not identify the key problem of our day in the realm of sex or birth or "the pill," but rather in the myth that we can be God. Pope Paul writes at the beginning of the document, "But the most remarkable development of all is to be seen in man's stupendous progress in the domination and rational organization of the forces of nature to the point that he is endeavoring to extend this control over every aspect of his own life -- over his body, over his mind and emotions, over his social life, and even over the laws that regulate the transmission of life" (HV #2).
The Pope here is painting a wider vision of the problem. We think everything belongs to us, but the reality is that we belong to God. "Humanae Vitae" means "Of human life." Human life came from God, belongs to God, and goes back to God. "You are not your own," St. Paul declares. "You have been bought, and at a price" (1 Cor. 6:19-20). Sex and having children are aspects of a whole cluster of realities that make up our lives and activities. We suffer from the illusion that all of these activities belong to us…"This is my life, my body, my choice…"" Fr. Frank Pavone MEV - Priests for Life
Before I conclude, I'd like to conclude this by echoing 2 things said about Humanae vitae by Fr. Euteneuer in a recent column of his:
"This Friday is the 40th anniversary of this marvelous encyclical, and it deserves a special remembrance in our hearts and lives. Please join with us, spiritually, this Friday or the following week, in offering some prayer or tangible sacrifice in reparation for the many sins of the dissenters always keeping in mind that dissent never has the last word. The Truth always wins in the end!"
Thank God, The Truth will win in the end. We need to truly give thanks to God for the gift of Pope Paul VI's Humanae Vitae & Pope John Paul the Great's Theology of the Body. & let us take up Fr. Euteneuer's challenge to offer up a prayer or sacrifice in reperation for the sins of those dissenters.
But that shouldn't be the end of it. "One final challenge: In our task of forming the “generation of assent” to Humanae vitae, the greatest thing we do on the encyclical’s anniversary is to actually read it! (Or read it again, as the case may be.) You will be amazed at its brevity, simplicity and beauty—it is a gift that keeps on giving, just like all the things of God. We have provided a printable version for you or you can read it on-line as you wish. Let us know what you think and your comments may make it into a future HLI publication—as a witness to the new generation of assent. Blessings to all!"
Read it or reread it, you will find what Father said is true. It is a gift of truth & beauty that keeps on giving. Read it, study it & take its message t heart. HLI & Priests for Life have several tools available to help you with this. Check out the following links for teachings as well as ideas on how to get the message of Humanae vitae out.
Generation of Assent’ to Humanae Vitae
(This article links to Humanae vitae Priests
. While its primary aim is to aid priests in proclaiming the encyclical's message, the articles & info are useful for all of us who want to learn more about the message & how to proclaim the message as well as live it out.)
In the July-August 2008 issue ALL's Celebrate Life
, Fr. Euteneuer wrote an article entitled Preaching Humanae Vitae
. He said he would be celebrating the 4oth Anniversary of Humanae vitae
even if he had to do so alone. Father, you are right, "there may not be much celebration of Humanae Vitae's 40th anniversary
". There may not be many but some of us out here are celebrating it. We "love life
" & "appreciate its wisdom". I challenge everyone who reads this to join those of us who are celebrating the gift of Humanae vitae to a world that needs its message. The message is not politically correct, but it is "eternally correct". With Fr. Euteneuer, I believe "it is the one document that stands as a beacon of light against the disintegrating attitudes and effects of the culture of death." & that is what makes it well worth celebrating!!!!!