On Saturday, Pope Benedict addressed members of an international conference marking the 40th anniversary of the promulgation of “Humanae Vitae.” The Holy Father told the participants that new technological developments cannot replace the quality of marital love or the sacredness of life.
Noting that the letter by Pope Paul VI was published on July 25, 1968, Benedict XVI recalled the controversy that surrounded the encyclical as it upheld the tradition and doctrine of the Church regarding the use of artificial birth control.
Despite such controversy, he explained that the letter’s instruction remains relevant even today, "The truth expressed in Humanae vitae does not change," he said. In fact, “in the light of new scientific discoveries its teaching becomes more relevant and stimulates reflection on the intrinsic values it possesses."
The Holy Father affirmed that "in a culture suffering from the prevalence of ‘having’ over ‘being,’ human life risks losing its value. If the practice of sexuality becomes a drug that seeks to enslave the partner to one's own desires and interests without respecting the…beloved, then what must be defended is no longer just the concept of love but, primarily, the dignity of the person. As believers we could never allow the power of technology to invalidate the quality of love and the sacredness of life."
Benedict continued his address by emphasizing natural law.
This law "deserves to be recognized as the source inspiring the relationship between a married couple in their responsibility to generate children. The transmission of life is inscribed in nature and its laws stand as an unwritten norm to which everyone must refer."
This life "is the fruit of a love capable of thinking and choosing in complete freedom, without allowing itself to be overly conditioned by the sacrifice this may require.” When spouses freely choose to love, the Pope continued, “From here emerges the miracle of life which parents experience in themselves as they sense the extraordinary nature of what is achieved in them and through them. No mechanical technique can substitute the act of love that husband and wife exchange as a sign of the greater mystery, in which they are protagonists and co-participants of creation."
He concluded by emphasizing essential components of this love – freedom with truth, and “responsibility with strength of dedication to others,” which finds its expression in sacrifice. Without these principles the community of man does not develop and there is a risk of being trapped in oppressive selfishness.”