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By Tommy Tighe
As your typical cradle Catholic, I made sure to go through all the motions growing up: I was an altar server, I attended CCD and I continued to attend Mass every week even while enjoying all the fun that came with attending UC Santa Barbara.
By the grace of God I met my beautiful wife, and we were married in the Church, mostly because that’s just what you do.
Despite identifying as Catholic, in reality I was just browsing through the cafeteria, holding onto the things I liked about Church teaching while passing on the things that didn’t match up with my lifestyle without so much as a second thought.
One of those teachings I was happy to toss aside was the Church’s stance against contraception.
I had all of the typical responses to the Church’s view on birth control: Why is the pope going to try and tell me what I can and can’t do in my bedroom? This teaching is clearly just behind the times! We should be able to do what’s right for us as a couple! Does the Church expect me to have dozens of children?!
And, of course, there was the Catholic gymnastics to try and squeeze my life to fit what I thought was the teaching: Well, if birth control isn’t 100 percent reliable, I guess I’m technically open to life, and that should be good enough, right?
When my wife and I had our first son, however, we were faced with a challenge we didn’t expect. We had the overwhelming realization that we were now going to have two eyes staring straight at us, analyzing our lives to see if we were being authentic. We wanted to be authentic, obviously, so we acknowledged we had to make a decision: If we were going to call ourselves Catholic, we needed to see if we actually believed what the Catholic Church taught.
We decided to take our most obvious disagreement with the Church head on and printed out the summary of the Church’s teaching on the topic, Humanae Vitae.
Our plan was to read the document, be able to say for sure that the Church had it all wrong, and continue to do as we pleased.
To our surprise, this isn’t how it ended up going down. The 31 paragraphs penned by Pope Paul VI hit us like a 2×4 of truth across the forehead.
Everything we were reading rang true: Parenthood being at the same time joyful and stressful, contraception preventing unconditional love and how buying into the pill inched us toward using each other rather than loving each other.
And even more surprising was the fact that the pope’s words come across less like a strict rule maker laying down the law and more like a loving parent helping their child to understand their best option for joy and happiness.
We were convinced, and through our reading of Humanae Vitae we felt encouraged to look into all the other teachings of the Church that we disagreed with. To our surprise, we discovered the Church was right about so much more!
In the end, Humanae Vitae opened us up to becoming not only more loving and faithful to each other but also more loving and faithful to our relationship with Jesus and the Church He founded, and for this, we will be forever grateful.
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