Tag Archives: Pope Paul VI

Contra-ception: Against Life

By guest writer Nellie Edwards.

As most know by now, Ireland just declared open season on unborn lads and lassies, not to mention their mothers, who will suffer the aftermath of great emotional upheaval!

So tragic that there weren’t enough faith-full Catholics to defeat the foes of Life!

Relative to this, a few thoughts on Humanae Vitae (On Human Life), now in its 50th year. Everything that Pope Paul VI warned would happen to society has indeed happened, because of its acceptance of contraception! (contra literally means “against”, ception=conception/life, so literally it means AGAINST LIFE.)

This, the Church teaches, is a grave sin against God, whose most fundamental attribute is Life-giver.

Paul VI warned that by tying the hands of God’s divine prerogative to create life, serious consequences such as promiscuity, infidelity, divorce, abortion, homosexuality, pornography, and other perversions of God’s plan would soon ensue and we see that clearly today. Anything goes!

The Catholic Church alone has, from the beginning, held out to the world, the “hard saying” that we must practice sacrificial love, not selfish pleasure / using others for sexual gratification. God spoke though Paul VI no less than any of the prophets. Too bad so few listened. Too bad the Protestant churches, as well as too many Catholics did not see that contra-ception was the forbidden fruit.


Nellie Edwards is a Catholic artist. Her most famous piece is of Our Lady of Guadalupe, kneeling in adoration for her unborn Son.

Image via MEV Pro-Life.

Remembering Another Time the Media Predicted the Church Would Change: 1968

Over the last few months, especially with upcoming Synod on the Family this Fall, lots of rumors are swirling about what the Church will or will not say.  Chief among those is a speculation in some circles that the Church must, should, and is bound to adopt a new policy legitimizing communion for divorced and remarried Catholics, cohabitation as a legitimate good, and the hot-button issue of the day, a positive evaluation of homosexual unions of some sort.  Not so long ago, in the 1960s, a similar set of rumors was ruling the press of the day that the Catholic Church would join other Christian groups in recognizing a legitimate use of contraception for married couples.  I think it’s well worth pointing out some of the high points of that era to help navigate through the headlines of today.

In 1963, while Pope St. John XXIII was still alive, he initiated a special commission to study the issue of contraception. The group was called the Commission on Problems of the Family, Population, and Natality  Members of the commission included clergy, people from the medical and psychiatric fields, as well as married couples.  Their work continued even after John XXIII died, and when they had finished their study and completed their final report, it was submitted to Pope Paul VI, in 1966.  This is where the story of Humanae Vitae gets really juicy.

In what is now a classic story, the report of the commission actually recommended that the Church could adopt a policy which allowed for married couples to use contraception.  They argued from a principle of totality, stating that the use of contraception in a marriage in some instances, while leaving the sexual act open to conception in the long term, and with the plan of having children during their marriage, would be morally acceptable.  There are, of course, more points to their report, but this was the critical argument.  As fate would have it, their report, or at least a part of it, was released to the press before Paul VI had issued a response.

George Weigel notes in his biography of John Paul II that while Paul VI was preparing to write Humanae Vitae, he was known to be carrying around a copy of a moral theology book written by a Polish prelate named Wojtyla. The title?  Love and Responsibility, which was a reflection by Wojtyla on sexual morality written after years of regularly meeting with young adults and married couples.  In fact, Wojtyla was supposed to be a part of the final meeting of the commission, bu this government refused to give him permission to leave the country.  Instead, he and some other Polish priests gathered and had their own commission, and wrote their own report, which affirmed the Church’s long-standing teaching on contraception.  Later, Pope St. John Paul II would give a long series of reflections on Humanae Vitae, confirming the teaching and expounding upon it at length.

In the two years between the commission’s final report and the release of the encyclical by Pope Paul VI, rumors started flying, and as the months went on, the assumption by many people was that the Church would open the door to contraception, at least by married couples.  All of this sets the background for the controversy that followed when Paul VI released his final answer to the question.

As I’ve shown in previous posts, the teaching Paul VI gave was nothing new.  It had been the teaching of the Church, was based on Scripture, had been taught in Canon Law, and no single Catholic theologian in the history of the Church had ever expressed an opinion to the contrary.  What set off the real firestorm was the leaking of the commission’s report as well as the speculation that, along with all of the other changes resulting from Vatican II, the contraception question would be just another piece of the puzzle.

A group of theologians from the Catholic University of America kick-started the dissent in America, but statements of questionable orthodoxy were sent out all around the world.  Interestingly, even according to the presentation of some of the lead dissenters (Charles Curran’s group), no group of Bishops explicitly rejected the teaching, much to the chagrin of many who had been hoping for a change.

In the end, as history now is bearing out, Paul VI’s teaching stands as the correct one. From a certain perspective it seems almost miraculous.  He had a commission study the issue, they argue for a change, and everyone in the world was heading down the same path to accepting the morality of contraception.  He had to know the controversy he would face.  And indeed, not too many people follow the teaching today.  But, his predictions about the fallout are starting to really loom large in the discussion of the issue today.  In any case, now, those of you who have read all these posts, you know the rest of the story.



Pope Paul VI’s Playlist

In an attempt to stay plugged in to American culture while I live overseas for 16 months, I have regularly acquainted myself with the Billboard Top 40.

Not surprisingly, in reflecting on the love proposed by Humanae Vitae, the concept of faithfulness is glaringly absent from mainstream media and culture.  Not that freedom, totality, and fruitfulness are overwhelmingly present either, but out of the top 40 singles in the U.S. right now, there are maybe 5 songs that even mention any intention of monogamy.  Why the lack of commitment?  Probably the same reason my guitar skills plateaued 15 years ago: commitment and discipline are harder than immediate gratification.  Why practice scales when all I need are “three chords and the truth”, right? (Or so said country singer and song writer Harlan Howard.)

Faithfulness, a gift of self to one person forever, without rescinding and re-gifting, is unpopular because it generally has very little immediate payoff and it requires basically everything from you.  Forever.  And let’s face it, when immersed in a self-perpetuating market of immediately breakable and obsolete products, it can be difficult to see why we should view relationships any differently than we do our culture of disposable products.

After all, if Beyonce is right, and people are replaceable “in a minute” (“Irreplaceable” sat at #1 for ten weeks in its day), then where does JPII’s idea that we are all “unique and unrepeatable” fit in?  The foot in the door is the fact that, beneath all our scrambling to “find new ways to fall apart” (Fun.’s “We Are Young“, currently #15) and become “wide awake”(Katy Perry at #2) to the apparent futility of relationships, we’re actually just putting bandages on the wounds that are a direct result from trying to live contrary to our created nature. Life becomes an endless chug-fest of Pepto-Bismol because of a 3-meal-a-day McDonald’s habit or daily blister care because you bought too-small shoes on the clearance rack.

If JPII and PVI are right, then each of us bears an intrinsic desire for faithfulness and we should be able to infuse healing and understanding into our culture by speaking to the illness, not merely the symptoms.  What would that speech sound like?  In some cursory ways, it would look like Jason Mraz’s current hit “I won’t give up” (chillin’ at #23), with statements like “I’m giving you all my love” and “I don’t wanna be someone who walks away so easily” and, yes, “I won’t give up”.  On a slightly deeper level, this would sound like a resounding “YES”–fiat–an answer to the cries for fidelity found in Kelly Clarkson’s “Dark Side“(#40 in the UK):

“Will you stay/ Even if it hurts/ Even if I try to push you out/ Will you return?/ And remind me who I really am/ Please remind me who I really am.”

Later in the song, she pleads:

“Don’t run away/ Don’t run away/ Just tell me that you will stay/ Promise me you will stay”

Picture this: you, Jesus’ wounded and terrified Bride, kneeling next to Him in the Garden of Gethsemane, echoing the same words, pleading with Him not to run away; and, because real love is always faithful, He stays.  He takes the whips, thorns, splinters, nails, and tomb out of love.  It is in Christ’s choice to be faithful and to never leave or forsake, that we may see the deepest root of the illness we’re facing: we’ve forgotten–or haven’t been told–whose beloved we really, truly are.

The fraudulent love that media and mediocrity seeks may tell us who we should be (even offering us helpful “Steps to Keep Your Partner Happy and Satisfied!” suggestions) but these are always merely conjecture and bravado.  The culture of lust says you’re only worthwhile as long as your desirable attributes last, which JPII tells us, “casts a permanent shadow over the relationship”; those lies shake people to their core with doubts as to their own dignity and worth.

So, instead of enjoying “She Likes Me For Me“(Blessed Union of Soul’s #8 hit in 1999), we now get “Somebody That I Used to Know“(Gotye at #6).  All the while our Groom quietly and resolutely reveals to us who we are through His unwavering faithfulness.  His true love says to each of us, “I created no one else like you and you are forever worthy of my life and death.”

It is love of this high nature that we are called to; we have in our hands as Christians the responsibility to inform each soul that they are “someone willed by the Creator ‘for his own sake'” and that they are “unique and unrepeatable, someone chosen by eternal Love” (Theology of the Body lectures, 15:4).

In marriage, we have the opportunity to freely and totally give ourselves to a singular someone, who cannot be rivaled, thereby proclaiming the faithfulness of God to the world .  This fidelity can be glimpsed in Journey’s “Faithfully”, Mraz’s “I Won’t Give Up”, and yes, even in Bieber’s new “As Long As You Love Me” (#30, UK).  This, however, does not fully seize upon the highest, deepest, and truest degree of love in the Eucharist and our Lord’s words: given up for you, shed for you.

For you.

It is in His eternal sacrifice, ever-available to us, that we see our real worth, for He deems us worthy of His flesh and blood at each Mass, regardless of our estimation of ourselves.

Brothers and sisters, may we as bearers of the Good News, fix our eyes on Him and begin to harmonize His truest of love songs in our every breath and by our every action.  He taught us the melody very clearly when He said, “As I have loved you, so you also should love one another” (John 13:34). Get plenty of rest, treat your vocal cords well, and work on breathing from the diaphragm, because we have quite the concert to give.  As one great conductor wrote in his most famous encyclical Humanae Vitae, “…fidelity…can sometimes be difficult, but is always possible, always noble… [and] is a source of profound and lasting happiness.”

Take a deep breath.  The curtain is rising.

Me and Humanae Vitae

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.


* 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’]http://www.ignitumtoday.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/10/Amanda-e1319548807143.jpg[/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]