In honor of the 50th anniversary of Blessed Pope Paul VI’s visionary letter Humanae Vitae, Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila of Denver has issued a pastoral letter The Splendor of Love. Archbishop Aquila states that Blessed Paul VI “prophetically defended the integrity of married love and warned us against the danger of reducing sexuality to a source of pleasure alone” (SL, 1).
Archbishop Aquila states that his purpose in writing the pastoral letter is “to affirm the great beauty of the Church’s consistent teaching through the centuries on married love, a love that is so desperately needed today” (SL, 5). He goes on to say:
The family is the foundation of society, and when it is undermined, society itself is threatened with collapse. Therefore, it is crucial to reaffirm our commitment to the truth, goodness, and beauty of Christ’s teaching on marriage and sexuality. SL, 6
In the 50 years since Humanae Vitae was published, the Church has consistently proclaimed to the world “the good news that human love finds its ultimate meaning and splendor in God’s own particular love for every human being” (SL, 7). Pope Saint John Paul II’s epic work Theology of the Body showed us that man only comes to know himself through a sincere and complete gift of self for the good of another:
The human body includes right from the beginning…the capacity of expressing love, that love in which the person becomes a gift – and by means of this gift – fulfills the meaning of his being and existence. SL, 8
Pope Benedict XVI taught that the love of a husband and wife in a life-long, monogamous, and fruitful marriage teaches us something of God’s own love:
Corresponding to the image of a monotheistic God is monogamous marriage. Marriage based on exclusive and definitive love becomes the icon of the relationship between God and his people and vice versa. God’s way of loving becomes the measure of human love. SL, 9
Pope Francis has underscored the social nature of the family as a powerful force in encountering and shaping society. “Families should not see themselves as a refuge from society, but instead go forth from their homes in a spirit of solidarity with others” (SL, 10).
Archbishop Aquila goes on to expound on the negative developments of the prevalent use of contraception during the last 50 years as prophetically spoken by Blessed Paul VI in Humanae Vitae:
- Objectification of women for the sexual satisfaction of men
- Increased number of divorces, abortions, and out-of-wedlock pregnancies
- Proliferation of pornography and sex trafficking
- Government imposition of contraception nationally and throughout the world (SL, 12)
“Rejecting the true nature of the sexual act has not led to increased happiness and fulfillment,” says Archbishop Aquila, “but to a distortion of the relationship between men and women” (SL, 13). Additionally, further degradation of society has occurred beyond the prophetic vision of Blessed Paul VI:
- A sharp rise in Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs)
- Birthrates falling below replacement levels
- Decline in people getting married
- Chemical abortifacients in the water supply causing a rise in infertility, increased cancer risk, and hormonal changes in children (SL, 14)
Archbishop Aquila says with all these negative developments, the “greatest tragedy today facing the family may be the unwillingness of many to enter married love and to experience the joys of family life” and that “marriage has become a means of personal fulfillment that lasts only if it pleases both parties” (SL, 15). With sex and marriage being trivialized, marriage has “changed from a gift and source of life in the family to a means of pleasure and self-satisfaction” (SL, 15), leading to the redefinition of marriage itself.
Archbishop Aquila says that only in “accepting God’s plan [for human sexuality and marriage], in our deepest identity, opens to us a path to true happiness and fulfillment” (SL, 17) and that Christians must “give joyful witness in the face of these new trials, knowing that only the love and truth of Christ can adequately respond to the lies and brokenness of our culture” (SL, 18).
Next week, we will continue looking into Archbishop Aquila’s pastoral letter by delving into the goodness of sexuality and how couples can proclaim the splendor of God’s love in their marriages and families.
 St. John Paul II, Wednesday audience January 16, 1980.
 Pope Benedict XVI, Deus Caritas Est, 11.
 Pope Francis, Amoris Laetitia, 181.