Monday, July 25, 2011

The 43rd Anniversary of Humanae Vitae

This post provides a reprint of my post from last year (with slight revisions):

This year's Natural Family Planning Week (July 25-31) marks the 42nd anniversary of Humanae Vitae (On Human Life), the prophetic encyclical of Paul VI which reaffirmed the Catholic Church's opposition to artificial contraception.

Excerpts:

On Marriage:

...Marriage, then, is far from being the effect of chance or the result of the blind evolution of natural forces. It is in reality the wise and provident institution of God the Creator, whose purpose was to effect in man His loving design. As a consequence, husband and wife, through that mutual gift of themselves, which is specific and exclusive to them alone, develop that union of two persons in which they perfect one another, cooperating with God in the generation and rearing of new lives...

...It is a love which is total—that very special form of personal friendship in which husband and wife generously share everything, allowing no unreasonable exceptions and not thinking solely of their own convenience. Whoever really loves his partner loves not only for what he receives, but loves that partner for the partner's own sake, content to be able to enrich the other with the gift of himself.

Married love is also faithful and exclusive of all other, and this until death. This is how husband and wife understood it on the day on which, fully aware of what they were doing, they freely vowed themselves to one another in marriage. Though this fidelity of husband and wife sometimes presents difficulties, no one has the right to assert that it is impossible; it is, on the contrary, always honorable and meritorious. The example of countless married couples proves not only that fidelity is in accord with the nature of marriage, but also that it is the source of profound and enduring happiness.

Finally, this love is fecund. It is not confined wholly to the loving interchange of husband and wife; it also contrives to go beyond this to bring new life into being. "Marriage and conjugal love are by their nature ordained toward the procreation and education of children. Children are really the supreme gift of marriage and contribute in the highest degree to their parents' welfare"....

On Artificial Contraception:

...Responsible men can become more deeply convinced of the truth of the doctrine laid down by the Church on this issue if they reflect on the consequences of methods and plans for artificial birth control. Let them first consider how easily this course of action could open wide the way for marital infidelity and a general lowering of moral standards. Not much experience is needed to be fully aware of human weakness and to understand that human beings—and especially the young, who are so exposed to temptation—need incentives to keep the moral law, and it is an evil thing to make it easy for them to break that law. Another effect that gives cause for alarm is that a man who grows accustomed to the use of contraceptive methods may 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...

My commentary:

It would be an understatement to say the encyclical was controversial when it was released.

Pope Paul was ridiculed by many. Proponents of artificial contraception argued that widespread use of contraception would strengthen and solidify family life by easing the burden of unwanted children, would dramatically reduce (if not eliminate) the need for abortion, and would liberate women so they could become equal partners to men.

However, looking out at the cultural wreckage and family dysfunction of our society, Pope Paul has been proven right in the end. He predicted widespread use of artificial contraception would lead to:

1. "...Increased marital infidelity..."

2. "...General lowering of moral standards.."

3. "...a man who grows accustomed to the use of contraceptive methods may forget the reverence due to a woman, and... reduce her to being a mere instrument for the satisfaction of his own desires..."

Can anyone deny that all these predictions have come true?

What have been the "fruits" of artificial contraception?

  • Half of marriages end in divorce
  • almost half of today's babies are born out of wedlock
  • 50 million abortions have been procured in the US alone over the last 30 years
  • The spread of sexual disease is rampant
  • "hooking up" and "friends with benefits" have replaced romance and courtship
  • a popular culture rooted in the debasement, objectification, and sexual exploitation of women (have you looked at the magazines in the checkout line lately)?

This cultural wreckage is the real legacy of the widespread use of artificial contraception.

Yet, the proponents artificial birth control ridicule abstinence and argue that even more birth control is the solution to all these problems.

But, under their approach, what does a young person today have to look forward to?

  • Having to "protect" themselves from their partner? How did we get to a point where we have to "protect" ourselves during an act that is supposed to be beautiful and intimate?
  • Having their hearts broken over and over? And all the cynicism that results?
  • As a young man, being told by society that the value and measure of a man is in the sexual conquest of women.
  • As a young woman, being told by society that the value and measure of a woman is in her physical appearance, immodestly displayed.
  • Having to grapple with lifelong sexual diseases (including possibility of infertility)?
  • Taking an act that is meant to be beautiful, special, and UNIQUE to one's relationship with one's spouse, and turning it into something common and casual that is shared with many?
  • Being in a position where one of life's greatest joys, the conception of a child, is feared and viewed as a catastrophe?
  • "Living together" without commitment which studies have shown decreases their prospects for a successful marriage later on?

Why would anyone wish this lifestyle on their children?

Note: You may also be interested in my previous post explaining why Pope Benedict was right when he said recently that condoms are not the answer to the AIDS crisis in Africa.


NFP Resources:

Humane Vitae - Full text is here.

My previous posts for Natural Family Planning Week:

- Post 1 (NFP resources & information here)
- Post 2 (benefits of NFP here).

Dr. Janet Smith's Contraception, Why Not the most persuasive presentation of the Church's teaching on artificial contraception I have come across. Contraception, Why Not? is available for here in various formats. I highly recommend it.

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