Loading
July 29, 2008
'Humanae Vitae' – 40th anniversary of a profile in courage
By Bishop Thomas Wenski *

By Bishop Thomas Wenski *

This past July 25 marked the 40th anniversary of Pope Paul VI’s controversial and still little heeded encyclical, “Humanae Vitae” (“On the Regulation of Birth”). Many, both within and without the Church – heady from the many changes initiated by the Second Vatican Council – fully expected that the Church would change her clear and constant teachings on human sexuality and procreation. Proponents of change then argued that the development of the contraceptive pill made such change in teaching not only possible but imperative.

 

However, Pope Paul VI (advised closely by the then-Cardinal Wojtyla) realized that while much in the Church was rightly changeable (for example, liturgical rites and languages had changed often in the Church’s 2,000-year history) no one – even the Pope – could change the received teachings of the Church in matters of faith and morals.

 

In “Humanae Vitae,” giving an ecclesiastical example of a profile in courage, Paul VI reaffirmed the immorality of recourse to artificial means of birth regulation. While Pope Paul VI and the Catholic Church practically stood alone in reaffirmation that the procreative and unitive ends of the conjugal act could not morally be arbitrarily separated, it is important to remember that up until the early 20th century this was also the constant teaching of all other Christian ecclesial bodies – Orthodox, Anglican and Protestant.

 

Of course, the Church is not against sexual pleasure as some of her opponents allege; but, more importantly, we are for the happiness of the human person. The fostering of that happiness requires understanding the gift of our sexuality as God has intended it. Sex, in God’s plan, is more than just a “recreational activity.” As Catholic feminist and philosopher, Janet Smith says: “(S)ex is for babies and bonding. If people are not ready for babies and bonding, they ought not to be engaging in acts of sexual intercourse.” And what are nuptials but the public expression of a couple’s readiness to do just that?

 

A careful rereading of “Humanae Vitae” – especially in the light of the “sexual revolution” unleashed in society over the past 40 years – can help us appreciate how prescient the Pope was in his warnings of the dire consequences that a “contraceptive mentality” would have on society. The numbers of unwanted pregnancies and abortions did not decrease with the widespread acceptance of contraception – they increased. And the “pill,” far from freeing women from male domination, made them more likely to be victims of sexual exploitation by men. The breakup of families and the epidemic of divorce in our culture, the increasingly high incidence of women bearing children out of wedlock, the flight from adult responsibility and the extended “adolescence” of men, all point to – in hindsight – the rightness of Paul VI’s and the Church’s teaching on human sexuality.

 

The Church condemns artificial contraception not just because of its bad consequences. She condemns artificial contraception because it is intrinsically evil (and because it is evil, it has bad consequences). Contraception is evil because it violates the very purpose and nature of the sexual act – and in doing so violates the dignity of the human person.

 

Pope John Paul II reaffirmed “Humanae Vitae” throughout his pontificate. His “Theology of the Body” has sought to represent the perennial teachings of Church on human sexuality in an idiom more accessible to our contemporaries. The sexual act, he teaches, implies self-giving, a self-giving denied in the very act of contraception. One’s “body language” should mean as much as one’s words do. Happiness and human flourishing cannot be built on insincere language or lies. Contraception – like premarital or extramarital sex – is a lie because it denies the unconditional “yes” of one to another implied in the very act of lovemaking.

 

Printed with permission from Florida Catholic.

Most Rev. Thomas Wenski is bishop of Orlando, Florida.
« Previous entry     Back to index     Next entry »
Ads by Google
(What's this?)
blog comments powered by Disqus

RESOURCES »

Ads by Google (What's this?)

Featured Videos

3D Church mapping
3D Church mapping
#PAUSEforPeace Initiative
Dedicating art to San Juan de la Cruz
A state without territory elects new government
The renewal of the Legionaries of Christ
Presentation of the book "The Pastor"
Synod on the Family October 2014
Preferential option for the poor
God is alive, even in sport
'A forbidden God' named Best Film at the International Catholic Film Festival
Vatican backs a 'Pause for Peace' during World Cup final
The effects of religious violence in Sarajevo 
The origin of Corpus Christi 
Corpus Christi at the Vatican 
Homage to an Indian Cardinal
Train of the Child's Light
New book explaining gestures of the Mass
Encounter between Pope Francis and the Charismatic Renewal in the Spirit Movement.
Religious tensions subside amid Balkan floods
John Paul II Center for Studies on Marriage and Family
Jul
29

Liturgical Calendar

July 29, 2014

Saint Martha

All readings:
Today »
This year »

Catholic Daily

Gospel of the Day

Jn 11:19-27

Gospel
Date
07/29/14
07/28/14
07/27/14

Daily Readings


First Reading:: Jer 14: 17-22
Gospel:: Jn 11: 19-27

Saint of the Day

St. Martha »

Saint
Date
07/29/14
07/27/14

Homily of the Day

Jn 11:19-27

Homily
Date
07/29/14
07/28/14
07/27/14

Ads by AdsLiveMedia.com

Ads by AdsLiveMedia.com
     HTML
Text only
Headlines
  

Follow us: