50th Anniversary of Humanae Vitae


by John Parker

On July 25th 1968, Pope Paul VI issued a brief but controversial document that shook the secular and ecclesial world. The document was Humanae Vitae, Of Human Life, and within its short 31 paragraphs, the pope affirmed the truths of the Catholic Church, that same Church established on the rock of Peter by Jesus Christ, who Paul declares is the same “yesterday and today and forever.” It is through this authority, handed down by apostolic succession, that our popes have the courage to speak the truth with boldness. Paul VI did this with Humanae Vitae, and was castigated and rejected by the world and practicing Catholics alike. But what was it that we were rejecting? And what have been the consequences of our rebellion?

The world was in the throes of change when Humanae Vitae was issued to the masses. The reforms of the Second Vatican Council were in its infancy and struggling to find purpose with both clergy and laity. The sexual revolution was in full swing, and “free love” reigned. Intoxicated by the spirit of newfound liberty, we cast off the morals that anchored our culture and Christian tradition and allowed ourselves to become adrift in moral autonomy. We shared again in the sin of Adam and Eve, choosing for ourselves the definitions of good and evil. Sexual license, the devaluation of human life through eugenics, abortion and euthanasia, and the widespread acceptance of contraception – these became the new norms, the new good.
In the midst of all the mania, Pope Paul VI saw the future. Speaking of contraception, he wrote in Humanae Vitae, “this course of action could open wide the way for marital infidelity and a general lowering of moral standards…[furthermore] a man who grows accustomed to the use of contraceptive methods may forget the reverence due a woman, and, disregarding her physical and emotional equilibrium, reduce her to being a mere instrument for the satisfaction of his own desires, no longer considering her as his partner whom he should surround with care and affection.”

We have seen the profound effects that these new norms have had on our world: millions of children sacrificed at the altar of convenience, the destruction of the dignity of women by pornography and rampant sex trafficking, homes shattered by divorce, children growing up without a coherent family unit, creating hurt and confusion that strikes right to our very identity, that we are beloved children of our Heavenly Father.

There has to be another way than the one the world has chosen for us, the world that tried to reduce Pope Paul VI’s encyclical to the last gasp of a dying patriarchy. But it wasn’t a dying patriarchy that proclaimed Humanae Vitae, it was the Church established by Jesus Christ, the Good Shepherd who loves us and shows us the way.

Fifty years later, I would like to believe that we can now look soberly at our situation. Fifty years later, I believe the words of Pope Paul VI, words spoken with the authority of the Good Shepherd, can ring true and fruitfully in our hearts.
It is with great joy that I introduce you to the 50th Anniversary of the proclamation of Humanae Vitae, Of Human Life. In commemoration of this most important document, St. Joseph Parish, Shreveport and the Cathedral of St. John Berchmans will host a series of speakers who will flesh out the meaning of Humanae Vitae and help breathe new life into this starved world. I invite you to open your hearts to the promptings of the Holy Spirit and participate in these events. You can find a list of the speakers, topics, locations, dates and times on the page to the left. Nursery care is available with a prior reservation.
May the God who is the Way, the Truth and the Life bless us on this journey. Amen!

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