Humanae Vitae 45 Years Later: Part II

Part 2: Prophecies Fulfilled

Bob & Gerri Laird

This week marks national NFP Awareness Week as well as the 45th anniversary of the encyclical Humanae Vitae. Part 2 of this series points to how much Pope Paul VI’s prophetic vision has come true.

Why is HV significant today?

Humanae Vitae was prophetic. Pope Paul VI predicted grave consequences if methods of artificial birth control were accepted, and his predictions ring true today:

“Let [upright men] consider, first of all, how wide and easy a road would thus be opened up towards conjugal infidelity and the general lowering of morality. . . . It is also to be feared that the man, growing used to the employment of anticonceptive practices, 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.”[1]

In his 1999 book, The Decline of Males, Dr. Lionel Tiger proved (among other things) that when men are eliminated from the reproductive equation, it affects their sense of responsibility. He wanted to see how hormonal contraception affected male/female relationships, so he studied the effect of chemical contraception on male and female stumptail macaque monkeys. There were several writers awaiting the outcome of these experiments, as well as the results of his studies of human behavior, but he was unable to get much publicity once his negative conclusions were revealed. Although a skeptic when it comes to belief in God, Tiger concluded:  “Realities ignored are realities corrupted.”[2]

Rev. Richard Hogan summarized Tiger’s findings as follows:

“Two anthropologists, Lionel Tiger and Robin Fox, performed an experiment on a group of monkeys. The study included the head male, a number of other males, and some females. The head male, Austin, appropriated to himself three females and did not allow the other males to touch those three. Then, the scientists gave contraception to five of the females, including two of Austin’s three favorites. After these two of Austin’s favorites were medicated with contraception, Austin would still approach them, but not engage them as he had before. He found two other females who had not been medicated to replace the two who had been given the contraceptive medicine. With these two in addition to the one from the previous set of three who had not been contracepted, Austin formed a new set of three favorites. Of course, none of the other males were allowed to touch Austin’s favorites. Next, the scientists gave contraception to all the females. At this point, Austin became very confused, attempting rape and self-abuse. He would approach the females, but never engage them as he had before. When the scientists stopped giving contraception to the females, Austin re-established his relationship with the first set of three females and would not allow any of the other males to touch those three. The other males also re-established their relationships with the other females. Contraception caused the males to turn away from the females and toward deviant behavior.”[3]

Sadly, the prophecies inherent in HV were fulfilled in large part through the efforts of women. Feminism developed in the early 1900s as part of the movement toward liberalism, a strongly individualistic philosophy that is hostile to all authoritative religion. Individualism led to the degradation of the family because everyone was free and equal with no levels of authority as in a family. While liberalism offered women social opportunity as individuals, it also encouraged them to seek their success outside of the home.

The introduction of the birth control movement was an extension of this individualism: children were no longer a normative part of marriage unless they were wanted and planned. Unwanted children could be discarded through abortion. Spousal relationships embraced individual desires and needs rather than sacrifice and labor for the good of the marriage and the family. Women wanted reproductive freedom without consequences.

“Let it be considered also that a dangerous weapon would thus be placed in the hands of those public authorities who take no heed of moral exigencies. Who could blame a government for applying to the solution of the problems of the community those means acknowledged to be licit for married couples in the solution of a family problem? Who will stop rulers. . . from imposing. . . the method of contraception which they judge to be most efficacious?”[4]

And we are now faced with a Mandate to provide free contraceptives, sterilizations, and abortion-inducing drugs to all fertile women. The Obama Administration has drawn a line in the sand daring Catholics to practice their faith in the public square. If the government can require a religious organization to provide services clearly against its religious beliefs, it can also infringe on the rights of religious individuals or organizations in other ways.

“ObamaCare” called for the Secretary of Health and Human Services to provide at no cost to women (said nothing about men) preventative services. Preventative services in traditional medicine include: blood pressure and cholesterol screening; counseling on obesity and tobacco cessation; routine immunizations; diabetes, cancer, and sexually transmitted infection screenings; etc.  These services emphasize the prevention of serious illness and/or disease and can provide an early warning to illness or disease. None of these services has negative side effects.

The Secretary of HHS then deferred to the Institute of Medicine (IOM) to determine what is included in “preventative services.” The IOM added “the full range of Food and Drug Administration-approved contraceptive methods, sterilizations procedures, and patient education and counseling for all women with reproductive capacity.” (Recommendation 5.5)  The Catholic Church responded initially by showing that contraception, sterilization, and abortion-inducing drugs are not preventative medicine because they are harmful to women, and thus are not health care at all.

The Catholic Church wants to protect women from becoming mere commodities whose reproductive systems are regulated by the government. This new HHS regulation treats women as things, and every time the government interferes with our ability to function as human persons, we are closer to becoming non-persons – things. Furthermore, the mandate pits women against men and against their own flesh and blood because it does not respect the unique power held by both men and women to create a new life.  This is also why the Catholic Church opposes health plans that force individuals to purchase coverage for male or female sterilization.

Anthony Picarello, Associate General Secretary and the General Counsel of the USCCB, in a press conference on February 16, 2012, raised the religious liberty issue, “We are now entering a new stage.  It has gone from that which is allowed by government; to that which is supported by government; to that which is mandated by government.  This latter step is what makes it a religious liberty issue.”

The government has issued regulations that do not exempt most religious organizations, or groups and businesses operating with religious principles, from these directives. The latest final rule, issued on June 29, 2013, did little to change what the HHS proposed in the past and what the U.S. Catholic bishops have called unacceptable. Furthermore, President Obama publicly changed the language of freedom of religion to “freedom of worship.”[5] The distinction is critical. Americans, under Obama, have the right to freely worship in the Church building, but such religious freedom does not exist beyond the walls of the Church.

In a recent press conference, Archbishop William Lori, the Chairman of the Ad hoc Committee on Religious Liberty, said, “We in the Catholic Church have never seen such a distinction between what we do within the walls of a church and how we serve our neighbors. The faith by which we worship on Sunday is the very same faith by which we act in the world the other six days of the week.”[6]

In Part 3: We should love people and use things. If we can use people as society and the government now defend under the guise of “human rights,” then all sorts of immoral behaviors (abortion, prostitution, sex trafficking, slavery, pornography, and homosexuality, etc.) will be permitted.


[1]Pope Paul VI, HV #17.

[2]Lionel Tiger, The Decline of Males, (1999), 265. Tiger was deeply involved in bridging the gap between the natural and social sciences.

[3]Rev. Richard M. Hogan, “A band of brothers,” Homiletic & Pastoral Review, March 2005, 49.

[4]HV #17.