Reflection: Humanae Vitae at 50

The official Vatican newspaper’s headline with the encyclical. Picture from https://onepeterfive.com/contraception-marriage-culture-death/ 

 

Today marks the 50th Anniversary of Humanae vitae.   On July 25, 1968, Blessed Pope Paul VI signed this monumental encyclical, easily one of the most controversial papal document of all time, and certainly the most controversial piece of Paul VI’s magisterium.  In it, Paul VI defends the Church’s teaching on artificial contraception.  It isn’t merely a “no” to artificial birth control; Paul VI offers a beautiful examination of human love, and how artificial birth control disrupts one of the fundamental aspects of marital, sexual love.

 

I’ve spent much of this past month researching and writing a series of articles on the encyclical for Catholic Exchange.

 

The first article examines the historical context of the encyclical, namely the controversy over artificial contraception that arose in the early 20th century, as well as how Pope St. John Paul II took the teaching of the encyclical and presented it anew during his pontificate.

 

The second article looks at the key questions Paul VI sought to address in the encyclical.  The article gives a good summary (in my opinion) of the essential teaching of the encyclical.  If you want the main points of what Paul VI taught, check that out.

 

The last article, out today, looks at the famous “predictions” of Paul VI in Humanae vitae.  What he said would happen if we ignored the Church’s teaching on life and sexuality came to pass.  However, there are signs of hope.

 

To those who have read the encyclical, I encourage you to read it again.  I’ve read it several times at this point, and I get something out of it every time I reread it.

 

To those who have not yet read it, I say: READ IT!  There’s the Official Vatican Translation or Dr. Janet Smith’s translation, both of which are online.  Either way, read it slowly, carefully.  Make notes.  Print it out and highlight or comment.  Read it with the scriptures open.  Whether you agree or disagree that artificial contraception is immoral and should not be practiced, you will get something out of this encyclical.

 

Our society is sick, both inside and outside the Church.  Humanae vitae may have the antidote to our contemporary poison.  Authentic human love will transform our lives.  Stronger families will lead to a stronger society.  Aligning our will to God’s cannot steer us astray.

 

My hope is that, on this fiftieth anniversary of Humanae vitae, we may finally begin following its teaching.

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