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Me and Humanae Vitae

February 7, AD 2012 1 Comment

There is no doubt in my mind as to why many Catholics call Humanae Vitae one of the most prophetic documents of the 20th Century. Issued in July 1968, in my opinion, has become the most sourced document when revering to Catholic pro-life teachings.  But why is one small (30 page) document so controversial?

Historically, this is what’s been happening and will be happening within a decade of  Humanae Vitae being released.

1960 –  “The Pill” receives FDA approval despite the Comstock Laws still being in effect. The Comstock Laws were passed in 1873 prohibiting the sale of any form of birth control. Many birth control devices were still sold as feminine hygiene items regardless of the law.

1962 – Vatican II begins.

1963 – Dr. John Rock, the gynecologist who lead the medical trials of “the Pill,” publishes The Time Has Come: A Catholic Doctor’s Proposal to End the Battle over Birth Control. The purpose of this book is to convince the Church to allow the use of “the Pill” as a supplement to the rhythm method.

1964 – Pope Paul VI starts his Commission on Population, the Family,  and Natality.

1965 – Vatican II comes to a close with no definitive statement on Artificial Birth Control. The U.S. Supreme Court eliminates the Comstock Laws by a vote of 7 – 2 in Griswold v.s Connecticut. The citing factor is that the Comstock Laws violated a couples right to privacy.

1968 – Humanae Vitae is released by Pope Paul VI.

1973 – Roe V. Wade allows for women to have the right to abortion.

1976 – The Inter-Uterine Device is approved by the FDA allowing for a form of removable Artificial Birth Control that can last up to 10 years. *

But what does this mini history lesson have to do with both me as a woman and as a Catholic? As you can see in the realm of Pro-Life issues there is a lot going on and Pope Paul VI did not leave any room for wiggling. In Humanae Vitae 14** Pope Paul VI states the following,

Therefore We base Our words on the first principles of a human and Christian doctrine of marriage when We are obliged once more to declare that the direct interruption of the generative process already begun and, above all, all direct abortion, even for therapeutic reasons, are to be absolutely excluded as lawful means of regulating the number of children. Equally to be condemned, as the magisterium of the Church has affirmed on many occasions, is direct sterilization, whether of the man or of the woman, whether permanent or temporary.

Similarly excluded is any action which either before, at the moment of, or after sexual intercourse, is specifically intended to prevent procreation—whether as an end or as a means.

In one small section of this powerful document, Pope Paul VI strikes down, artificial birth control, abortion (which at this time is still illegal in much of the world), and intentional sterilization.

I can hear many people starting to wonder though, what about those people who have had surgeries, procedures or accidents which have rendered them sterile? At the end of Humanae Vitae 14 Pope Paul VI makes a statement which addresses this. The essential part of  it is that in those cases, becoming sterile was not the intended effect of these procedures.

How all this effects me and others like me.

Humanae Vitae has had a greater effect on me and others like me than I will ever know. Pope Paul VI predicted a huge downfall in the ability of the young people to keep the moral law. Teen pregnancies, sexually transmitted diseases, abortion, and pornography has latched on and become a part of the world wide culture that most do not seem to find offensive. Pope Paul VI even predicted that government officials would one day create laws such as the Health and Human Service Mandate which is being pushed by the Obama Administration.

Finally, careful consideration should be given to the danger of this power passing into the hands of those public authorities who care little for the precepts of the moral law. Who will blame a government which in its attempt to resolve the problems affecting an entire country resorts to the same measures as are regarded as lawful by married people in the solution of a particular family difficulty? Who will prevent public authorities from favoring those contraceptive methods which they consider more effective? Should they regard this as necessary, they may even impose their use on everyone.

Humanae Vitae 17

I, as a young Catholic woman and a professional who works with many teenagers and youth, am afraid. I am watching as the once most free nation on earth is imposing laws and regulations that are in direct violation of the Bill of Rights. I am watching as many of the youth I serve lack the support and education by those around them and tell them that the Churches teachings are outdated, oppressive, and limiting. I am watching a world that is loosing generations with a decreasing birth rate. I am seeing a culture that regards pregnancy as a disease to be controlled rather than a gift to be embraced, and all of this scares me.

What astonishes me is that we were warned about all of this less than 50 years ago and we as a culture don’t get it.  We get global warming, human rights, the need to help the impoverished and care for your fellow person, provided that they are outside of the womb and not in the bedroom.

We as Catholics have a right to stand up against this unconstitutional law. If you are an American Citizen over the age of 18, and would like to sign this petition, I encourage you to do so.!/petition/rescind-hhs-dept-mandate-requiring-catholic-employers-provide-contraceptivesabortifacients-their/lBxr7SdP

* The information from this small timeline is obtained from the following.

** You can read Humanae Vitae in it’s entirety here:

[author][author_image timthumb=’on’][/author_image] [author_info]Amanda Castro is a Youth Minister and Director of Religious Education at a small rural Iowa parish. Some of her students have begun a crusade to try and stump their youth minister, even so far as asking the local Bishop for help. If they could have remembered the Latin they would have succeeded too! Aside from being happily newly married to her best friend, her passions include (but are not limited too) her 9 nieces and nephews, the Mass, Adoration, and photography. You can find her new blog at Defined by Faith.[/author_info] [/author]

About the Author:

Amanda is a wife, youth minister, and artistic nut. She holds a BA in Mathematics but has over 10 years experience in Catechesis and Youth Ministry. Self referred as a "Jack of all trades, but a master of none" she writes about her life experience at Defined by Faith.
  • Richard

    Reading your post I agree totally with what you wrote, I have even brought up this Encyclical in discussions in relation to birthcontrol, abortion and the latest attack on Catholic conscience. I’ve read it many times and have quoted Humanae Vitae many times in relation to conversations. I’ve even used it when I was on my parish RCIA team when we got into morality issues.