July 25th this year marks the 50th Anniversary of the Promulgation of Blessed Pope Paul VI’s encyclical Humanae Vitae. It is so unfortunate that it was received without fully understanding its beautiful teaching about the sanctity of marriage and life along with how both must be respected and reverenced in the choices that are made about expressing ourselves sexually as well as in the manner in which birth control is practiced.
The encyclical was condemned by many amidst the “free love” mentality of the 1960’s, especially in the United States, Canada and most of western society. However, Paul VI was a kind of modern-day prophet when he warned, in section 17 of Humanae Vitae, that a widespread use of artificial means of contraception would lead to: (1) increased marital infidelity, (2) lowering of moral standards in general, (3) a loss of respect for women and (4) civil governments would seek to intervene in sexual relationships by enacting forced use of artificial birth control. One does not have to look very far to see that all four of these predictions came true and continue to be harmful to individuals, the institutions of marriage and family, the moral/ethical life of society, in general, and many governments seeking to control even more of our lives that ever expected.
Over the next several Sundays, we will be printing in our bulletin excerpts from Humanae Vitae along with questions for your own contemplation and/or discussion (with your fiancé, spouse, teens and young adults). It is my hope that all of us can discover the beauty of our Church’s traditional teaching and make a renewed effort to teach and practice the virtue of chastity in all our relationships.