Letters to the Editor

Humanae Vitae at 50

Dear Editor: Your July 21 edition, in the As The Tablet Sees It column (“Wisdom of Saints”), there was praise for St. John Paul II and Bishop Sheen for their position on contraception. Now after its release 50 years ago, we can look back on Pope Paul VI’s Humanae Vitae to see where we have progressed. At the time, there was much resistance, which I believe came from a prophetic teaching that was ahead of technology. Usually the Church is trying to do “catch-up” with new technology. Paul was a visionary!

I will leave the discussion of the “moral latitude” of this teaching to the moral theologians. At the time in 1968, the Natural Family Planning (NFP) work was basically the rhythm method which was also known as “Vatican Roulette.” Paul’s vision was that there would be growth in NFP technology. Growth is usually where the money is and that lead to the development of the pill and other exotic methods. Most of these methods put the burden on women with many of its dangers or side effects.

While slow in its development, NFP technology advanced so that today we have many methods available, some so high-tech they incorporate fertility monitors as a plus. The technology, using modern science, works similar to the pregnancy tests available for home use. For those wishing to conceive, it can tell optimum fertility, and for those postponing pregnancy, when “you should work overtime.”

These new approaches, although 50 years late, can match the effectiveness of the artificial methods without the medical side effects and bring couples closer. These methods include the Marquette method and the appropriate monitor just to name one.

Sounds great, technology caught up with the Church’s teaching. Almost – because getting the word to the people in the pews, and especially those planning to be married – is a real challenge. With couples living together before marriage, the issue is to replace contraception with NFP. The selection and how to use these ground-breaking technologies is complex. There is no one method that fits all couples. We can talk about it, but the proper selection and implementation requires a serious commitment by bishops to make this an important priority.

While some have made it a priority, many more are concerned with global geo-political issues than the people who are being drawn into the contraceptive world. The commitment to NFP is not easy. This is a complex issue with many choices available that will require serious and appropriate support from the Church. This important issue deserves a solid decision and not just a flyer or pamphlet at Pre-Cana. The Church must be willing to seriously take the task on, no mediocre response will work.

Marriage is suffering because we don’t counter the world view that sex is everything and it is for me alone. The idea of married unity of a couple, unselfishly giving to the other, and helping each other get to Heaven is disappearing. Human sexuality involves unselfish love! Love is not just sex; it is a total commitment to the other.

With the new technologies, couples can be both united and fruitful in their marriage. Marriage was instituted in the Garden of Eden with the establishment of a loving couple providing the ideal environment for children. God’s plan has not changed, but people’s attitudes have. Remember, He is the Creator and His words are for our good!