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Paul VI Humanae Vitae

Today marks the 50th anniversary of the papal encyclical, Humanae Vitae (HV), written by Blessed Pope Paul VI. It provides a concise, clear, and beautiful teaching on God’s plan for married love and the transmission of life. Specifically, it addressed the evils of contraception.

Much damage has been done to couples and families by contraception. Prior to 1930, all Christian denominations shared this belief. Today, the Catholic Church alone declares that contraception is morally evil. “The Church condemns contraception since it violates the procreative and unitive meaning of the human sexual act,” says Janet E. Smith, expert on Humanae Vitae. “Sex is for babies and for bonding; if people are not ready for babies or bonding, they ought not to be engaging in acts of sexual intercourse…our society [has] lost sight of the fundamental truth that if you are not ready for babies, you are not ready for sexual intercourse.”[1]

Failure to heed Paul VI’s prophetic warning has resulted in an increase in numerous societal ills that we are experiencing today: objectification of women, pornography, marital breakdown, divorce, unwed pregnancies and abortion. Is it a surprise that such rotten fruits are the consequence of accepting a moral evil?

“Much of what we see around us in the culture today, 50 years later, is actually the result of not following God’s plan for sexuality and marriage,” said Bishop Andrew Cozzens, auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis in a recent talk to young adults. “This is the direct result of the breaking down of the sacredness of sexuality.”[2]

Contraception “turns [the marital] act into something that is not a covenantal, sacramental, symbolic, total gift of self,” says Cozzens. About 50 percent of marriages in the United States end in divorce, an increase of “several hundred percent” since Humanae Vitae was published.

Couples who faithfully follow the Church’s teaching on contraception and use natural family planning – a Church-approved method of observing a woman’s natural cycle of fertility and abstaining from sexual relations when necessary – have a much higher success rate of staying married. Statistical studies “prove that the Church is right on this teaching,” said Cozzens. “Couples who practice this teaching of the Church have about a 98 to 99 percent success rate in marriage.”

God has designed marriage to be a blessing to the couple and their family. When God is obeyed, He pours great graces upon the couple to faithfully live out their vocation to marriage. This is the source of true joy and happiness in marriage. Ignoring God and His plan for marriage results in the social ills we face today.

As part of Humanae Vitae, Pope Paul VI called for the formation of family apostolates, couples leading and encouraging other couples in their call to the vocation of marriage.

Among the fruits that ripen if the law of God be resolutely obeyed, the most precious is certainly this, that married couples themselves will often desire to communicate their own experience to others. Thus it comes about that in the fullness of the lay vocation will be included a novel and outstanding form of the apostolate by which, like ministering to like, married couples themselves by the leadership they offer will become apostles to other married couples. And surely among all the forms of the Christian apostolate it is hard to think of one more opportune for the present time.[3]

We have formed the Calling Couples to Christ Apostolate to serve this purpose. Please join us in praying for married couples to fully embrace this beautiful teaching on marriage. May Christ take center place in our homes and hearts, as we reap indescribable joy in submitting to God’s holy will.

[1] Janet E. Smith, Ph.D., Humanae Vitae: A Challenge to Love – Updated introductory essay and revised translation from the Latin, New Hope: New Hope Publications (Revised Edition 2009), 9 and 10.

[2] Crux, ‘Humanae vitae’ saves marriages, says Minneapolis bishop, internet: https://cruxnow.com/church-in-the-usa/2018/07/24/humanae-vitae-saves-marriages-says-minneapolis-bishop/, (accessed July 24, 2018).

[3] See Second Vatican Council, Lumen Gentium (Dogmatic Constitution on the Church), §35 and 41.