On July 25, 1968, Blessed Pope Paul VI released his long-awaited encyclical on birth control, “Of Human Life,” or as it is called in its Latin title, “Humanae Vitae.”
The issue was studied for years by a commission of doctors, scientists, sociologists, theologians and bishops appointed by Pope Paul VI. Debates ensued on both sides of whether the use of artificial birth control was morally legitimate within a marriage. Many predicted that the Catholic Church would follow the way set out by the Anglican Communion in its Lambeth Conference in the 1930s, which permitted the use of artificial birth control. Respected theologians in the Church suggested the use of artificial birth control was moral.
After much reflection and prayer, Blessed Paul VI stunned many by reaffirming the Church’s consistent teaching, in accord not only with the ecclesiastical law, but with natural law, namely that every act of sexual intercourse should be open to the transmission of human life. Since that day, dissenters to this official teaching of the Church have vocally fought against it by simply ignoring it and never teaching it publically.
Pope Paul was prescient in his prediction of what would occur in our society if the sexual act between a man and a woman was to involve artificial birth control. The pope stated that contraception would “open wide the way for conjugal infidelity and a general lowering of moral standards.” This has proven true.
Paul VI warned that contraception could lead men to “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.” The #MeToo movement should hail Paul VI as a hero for recognizing this fact.
The pope predicted that contraceptives would allow governments “to intervene in the most personal and intimate responsibility of husband and wife,” to “impose their use on everyone.” This is sadly true. Look not only to the fact that a contraceptive mentality led to an abortive mentality in the horror of 1973’s Roe v. Wade but also in the far overreach of the U.S. Government in the Health and Human Services Acts.
All of Pope Paul VI’s predictions came true. And the truth of “Humanae Vitae” remains timeless.