50th Anniversary of Humanae Vitae. This coming Wednesday, July 25, is the 50th Anniversary of Humanae Vitae, Pope Paul VI’s 1968 encyclical reaffirming the ancient and apostolic teaching of the Church that contraception is a grave sin. In the years since, his words have been largely ignored by the world, even by Catholics. But they still remain as true today as ever. Moreover, his explanations of the reasons for and the consequences of disregarding this teaching have been proven out over the years. He warned that it would lead to increased sexual infidelity and “the general lowering of morality,” especially among young men, and that eventually men would lose respect for women, seeing them only as object of selfish enjoyment. Elsewhere he would specifically point to the immediate connection between contraception and abortion.
Over the last 50 years we have seen this all bear out as we’ve seen the dramatic and catastrophic increase in (to name a few): divorces, marital infidelity, pornography, abortion, prostitution, teenage pregnancy and promiscuity, child abuse, wife abuse, and acceptance of homosexuality and transgenderism.
At the same time Pope Paul recognized that it was morally acceptable, for a just reason, to “regulate birth” using methods that take into account the “natural rhythms” of the fertility cycle of women. Today several highly scientific methods are available to couples in this regard. Usually referred to together as “Natural Family Planning” (NFP) they are very effective in both postponing and promoting conception. They have the full approval of the Church, and we actively promote their proper use.
Mark Your Calendars: Humanae Vitae Conference on September 8. To more deeply consider the meaning of Humanae Vitae, and the ramifications of contraception in general, St. Raymond’s will be sponsoring a conference to commemorate its 50th anniversary on Saturday, September 8. Speakers will include Fr. Tad Pacholzyk, Ph.D., Director of Education at The National Catholic Bioethics Center in Philadelphia; Dr. Robert Royal, Editor-in-Chief of The Catholic Thing, and President of the Faith & Reason Institute in Washington, D.C.; and Bob and Gerri Laird—Bob is Vice President for Program Development at The Cardinal Newman Society, and Gerri is a nationally known speaker and writer on marriage and family. I am really excited about this conference and hope you will be able to join us. Stay tuned for more information.
Pull Quotes. Below follows a few short quotes from Humanae Vitae. I encourage you to read (or reread) this important teaching document in toto (it’s relatively short: only about 20 pages). To that end, we have placed free copies of the encyclical near the doors of the church. Take and read.
A few important quotes from Humanae Vitae:
11. …the Church, calling men back to the observance of the norms of the natural law, as interpreted by their constant doctrine, teaches that each and every marriage act must remain open to the transmission of life. [Note: the term “marriage act” presumes this act belongs only in marriage, and so applies to that same act when it wrongly takes place outside of marriage].
16. Now, some may ask: …is it not reasonable …to have recourse to artificial birth control if, thereby, we secure the harmony and peace of the family, and better conditions for the education of the children already born? To this question it is necessary to reply with clarity: the Church is the first to praise and recommend the intervention of intelligence in a function which so closely associates the rational creature with his Creator; but she affirms that this must be done with respect for the order established by God. If, then, there are just motives to space out births, which derive from the physical or psychological conditions of husband and wife, or from external conditions, the Church teaches that it is then licit to take into account the natural rhythms immanent in the generative functions, for the use of marriage in the infecund periods only, and in this way to regulate birth without offending the moral principles which have been recalled earlier….
17. …reflect upon the consequences of methods of artificial birth control. ….first of all, how wide and easy a road would thus be opened up towards conjugal infidelity and the general lowering of morality…[M]en—especially the young….—have need of encouragement to be faithful to the moral law, so that they must not be offered some easy means of eluding its observance. It is also to be feared that the man…may finally lose respect for the woman and, no longer caring for her physical and psychological equilibrium, may come to the point of considering her as a mere instrument of selfish enjoyment, and no longer as his respected and beloved companion…Let it be considered also that a dangerous weapon would thus be placed in the hands of those public authorities …Who could blame a government for applying [contraception] to the solution of the problems of the community…? from even imposing …contraception…?
St. Mary Magdalene. Today, July 22, would normally be the feast of this great saint, but because it falls on Sunday this year its celebration is suppressed in favor of the Lord’s Day. According to ancient Catholic tradition Mary was the sister of Lazarus and Martha, who grew up innocently enough in the small town of Bethany, but somehow left home and fell into a life mired in debauchery and filled with all seven deadly sins. In God’s mercy, however, she eventually heard Jesus preaching and was transformed by His words, grace and love, and her faith in and love for Him (“she has loved much”) led her to become the great repentant servant of the Lord Jesus, who would go on to stand at the foot of the Cross, be the first to see the Risen Christ, and the first to proclaim the Resurrection, even to the Apostles themselves.
It seems to me that the Magdalene is a great patron of all the women who are so debased by today’s overly sexualized and perverted culture. Although we don’t know the details of her sins, her life of sin would seem to have most certainly involved sexual sins. Having a longstanding tender affection for Magdalene, I tend to think she must have been corrupted and used by some man, causing her to fall from the graces of her family, and deeper into sin. In all this she would seem to be much like so many girls and women of our age, where so many overtly try to corrupt them and promote their sexual abuse. But most importantly, she reminds us of the saving power of the love and grace of Jesus, who lifted her up from sin and raised her to be the great saint of the Resurrection.
I particularly propose this great St. Mary Magdalene to all who struggle with contraception—women and men alike. May she help you to end the abuse of sexuality it represents and promotes, and may she lead you to the life of grace and true love in Christ.
Oremus pro invicem, et Sancta Maria Magdalena, ora pro nobis. Fr. De Celles