History of Humanae Vitae:
- Latin title means Of Human Life
- Written by Pope Paul VI and issued on July 25, 1968
- Reaffirmed the constant teaching of the Catholic Church on married love, responsible parenthood and the continued rejection of unnatural forms of birth control
- There was an unwavering Christian prohibition on contraception and abortion until the Lambeth Conference of 1930 at which the Anglican Church allowed for contraception in limited circumstances. This gradually opened the floodgates to widespread use of contraception.
- With the first appearance of oral contraceptives in 1960, and amid increasing concerns about overpopulation, John XXIII issued a commission in 1963 to study questions of birth control and population. The commission was expanded by Pope Paul VI.
- This commission, made up of 58 clergy, theologians, married couples and laywomen, did make a final report to Paul VI, approved by a majority of its members, proposing that he might make use of his authority to approve at least some form of contraception for married couples. A minority of members opposed this report and issued their own report to the Holy Father. After two more years of study and consultation, Pope Paul VI issued Humanae Vitae.
- The views of Pope Paul VI reflected the teachings of his predecessors, especially Pius XI, Pius XII, and John XXIII. Pope St. John Paul II’s Theology of the Body fully vindicates and supports Humanae Vitae and Popes Benedict and Francis have also voiced affirmation of its teachings.
Key reasoning in Humanae Vitae:
- Marital relations are much more than a union of two persons. They constitute a union of the loving couple with a loving God, in which a new person can be created, and upon which God completes the creation by adding the soul. For this reason, Paul VI says right in the first sentence of HV that the transmission of human life is a most serious role in which married people collaborate freely and responsibly with God the Creator. This is a divine partnership.
- According to Paul VI, married love takes its origin from God, who is love, and from this basic dignity, he defines his position:
- Love is total – that very special form of 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.
- With this view, there can be no accommodation for giving something less than oneself as created by God, as happens with contraception.
Key quotes from Humanae Vitae
- Humanae Vitae: 12 Quotes on On Marital Love and Parenthood (click to open in new tab)
Open Dissent following Humanae Vitae:
- The publication of HV marked the first time in the 20th century that open dissent from the laity about teachings of the Church was voiced widely and publicly.
- Criticism came from many fronts, including development organizations who said it limited ways to fight population growth and to stop the spread of HIV/AIDS, and theologians and bishops who advocated for a change in teaching.
- Within two days, a group of dissident theologians, led by Rev. Charles Curran of the Catholic University of America, issued a statement that “spouses may responsibly decide according to their conscience that artificial contraception in some circumstances is permissible and indeed necessary to preserve and foster the value and sacredness of marriage.”
- Two months later the Canadian Bishops issued the Winnipeg Statement which said that individuals can in good conscience use contraception as long as they have first made an honest attempt to accept the difficult directives of HV.
- Decades of dissent and poor catechesis has led to the teachings of HV likely being the most ignored teachings of the Catholic Church.
Predictions of Humanae Vitae:
- Pope Paul VI made four prophecies about the consequences of dissenting from the Church’s teachings on marital love.
- Infidelity and moral decline: He predicted that the widespread use of contraception would “lead to conjugal infidelity and the general lowering of morality.” That this has happened is very difficult to deny (increased number of divorces, abortions, out-of-wedlock pregnancies, sexually transmitted diseases, etc.)
- Loss of respect for women: Paul VI argued that “the man” will lose respect for “the woman” and “no longer (care) for her physical and psychological equilibrium” and will come to “the point of considering her a mere instrument of selfish enjoyment and no longer as his respected and beloved companion” (50 Shades of Gray, sex trafficking, pornography, etc.).
- Abuse of power: The Holy Father saw that the widespread use of contraception would place a “dangerous weapon…in the hands of those public authorities who take no heed of moral exigencies” (family planning programs in the Third World, forced abortion in China, Obamacare’s contraception mandate).
- Unlimited dominion: He warned that contraception would lead man to think he had unlimited dominion over his own body (Sterilization is now the most widely used form of contraception in the U.S., in vitro fertilization, test tube babies, cloning, etc.).