PODCAzT 163: 25 July 2018 – 50th anniversary of promulgation of ‘Humanae vitae’

Here is an audio offering in which I read the post, here-under. Hopefully this will allow more people to absorb a few of my poor thoughts on this important anniversary. Let’s start with a taste of the text…  there’s some mood setting music along the way, just to get the flavor of the times.


1. Humanae vitae tradendae munus gravissimum, ex quo coniuges liberam et consciam Deo Creatori tribuunt operam, magnis semper ipsos affecit gaudiis, quae tamen aliquando non paucae difficultates et angustiae sunt secutae.

Quod munus sustinere si omni tempore coniugum conscientiae arduas facessivit quaestiones, at recens humanae societatis cursus eiusmodi mutationes invexit, ut novae quaestiones sint exortae, quas Ecclesiae ignorare non liceat, utpote quae cum rebus conectantur, tantopere ad hominum vitam et felicitatem pertinentibus.

The transmission of human life is a most serious role in which married people collaborate freely and responsibly with God the Creator. It has always been a source of great joy to them, even though it sometimes entails many difficulties and hardships.

The fulfillment of this duty has always posed problems to the conscience of married people, but the recent course of human society and the concomitant changes have provoked new questions. The Church cannot ignore these questions, for they concern matters intimately connected with the life and happiness of human beings.

Thusly, does Paul VI begin to teach in Humanae vitae.

As we close in on the 40th anniversary of the death of Pope Paul VI, 8 August 1978, we observe today, 25 July, the 50th anniversary of Paul’s seventh and last, his boldest and most controversial, encyclical Humanae vitae.

The Devil is at work in attacks on Humanae vitae. Be wary. When you read or hear someone undermining Humanae vitae you have encountered an agent of Hell. Be vigilant. The Enemy, like a roaring lion, is roaming about seeking whom he may devour. Resist the attacks of Hell, strong in our sure Faith. For those of you who struggle with the Church’s teaching, remember that through suffering you can come to glory, the glory to which Christ has called us. In your fidelity, Christ will strengthen you and ready you for heaven.

Some of you younger readers might not have the background on Humanae vitae even though you know that in this encyclical, Paul VI affirmed the Church’s teaching about artificial contraception for the purposes of avoiding (ending?) pregancy.  Remember that some contraceptives are really abortifacients.

In 1963 John XXIII assembled a commission to study the question of artificial contraception in the light of modern times, developments, and questions. Oral contraceptives (abortifacients?) appeared in 1960. He did not want the issue discussed at Vatican II, even though the somewhat overly optimistic and rather too anthropocentric Gaudium et spes included a section on marriage. John died in 1963 and Paul was elected. He expanded the commission to 72, including physicians, women, bishops, cardinals, theologians. In 1966 the commission issued a majority report (64 of 69 voting members) and a minority report. The majority suggested to Paul that artificial birth control is NOT intrinsically evil and that couples could make their own decisions about using it. The minority included Americans, a Jesuit, Fr John Ford, and lay theologian Germain Grisez. Their report read in part:

If contraception were declared not intrinsically evil, in honesty it would have to be acknowledged that the Holy Spirit in 1930, in 1951 and 1958, assisted Protestant churches, and that for half a century Pius XI, Pius XII and a great part of the Catholic hierarchy did not protect against a very serious error, one most pernicious to souls; for it would thus be suggested that they condemned most imprudently, under the pain of eternal punishment, thousands upon thousands of human acts which are now approved. Indeed, it must be neither denied nor ignored that these acts would be approved for the same fundamental reasons which Protestantism alleged and which they (Catholics) condemned or at least did not recognize. Therefore one must very cautiously inquire whether the change which is proposed would not bring along with it a definitive depreciation of the teaching and the moral direction of the hierarchy of the Church and whether several very grave doubts would not be opened up about the very history of Christianity.

Remember that Anglicans had allowed contraception in 1930 and other Protestant groups permitted it thereafter.

Also note that the reports did not discuss natural family planning.

Moreover, note that that quote from the minority report stressed the fact that a change of teaching in this important matter would erode the entire body of the Church’s teaching and the truth claims of Christianity.  That’s how Hell works, from the serpent in the garden ever after: “Did God really tell you that?”

The majority of the commission wrote also a rebuttal to the minority report. In 1967 the reports and rebuttal were leaked to the press, which unleashed a hurricane of speculation that Paul was going to reverse the Church’s teaching that artificial birth control for avoiding (ending) pregnancy is intrinsically evil. Thus, the leaks – the work surely of some agent of the Devil – fueled an expectation that the Church was going to cave.

Far and wide priests started telling people that they could use artificial contraception. Perhaps some of them were well-meaning. All of them, however, like the serpent, told an objective lie.  But it was, in effect, too late for the truth in that decade of upheaval.  Remember what was going on in the 1960’s.

The Vietnam War was ongoing. Vatican II had closed in 1965, and those who hijacked the Council’s interpretation were spreading lies about its meaning and implications. The Jerusalem Bible was published in English. The Consilium, in the name of the Council, had wrecked havoc with our liturgical worship, thus cementing in people’s minds the impression that if Mass could change, anything could change, including any moral teaching. In 1966 in San Francisco, the Church of Satan was founded. The Index was abolished. In 1967, Vietnam protests are increasing. In the UK homosexuality is decriminalized. The Naked Ape is published. The Cambodian Civil war starts up. The “Be In” takes place in San Francisco’s Golden State Park, which heralds in the so-called “Summer of Love”. Pope Paul issued Populorum progressio. The Beatles released Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Heart’s Club Band. Later in the 1967 they produce Magical Mystery Tour. The Six Days War takes place. Thurgood Marshall is appointed to the Supreme Court. Karol Wojtyla is made Cardinal. So-called “race riots” take place, for example in my home city of Minneapolis. I got personal reports on that from my mother, the first woman on the department. The musical Hair opens on Broadway. Nicolae Ceaucescu becomes dictator of Romania. Gabriel García Márquez’s novel One Hundred Years of Solitude is published. In 1968… oh my 1968 – all hell breaks loose. This is a year marked by protest for good and for evil. The Prague Spring starts. North Korea seizes the Pueblo and in Vietnam the Tet Offensive starts. The movies 2001 and Planet of the Apes and Rosemary’s Baby come out. Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy are assassinated. And, on 25 July, Paul issues Humanae vitae.

Against this background, Paul rejected the commission’s majority report which had effectively approved contraception. Paul began work on an encyclical with the help especially of the Pontifical Theologian, Mario Luigi Ciappi, OP, later a cardinal. It is said that Paul wanted Archbp. Karol Wojtyla to participate, but the Communists wouldn’t left him leave Poland. Hence, Wojtyla’s approach found in his important 1960 Love and Responsibility was not reflected in the encyclical. UPDATE: [Perhaps that needs to be revised in light of what I found today, after making the podcast, at LifeSite. HERE ““These three essential facts,” reported by Marengo, “contradict his interpretation that Wojtyla had little influence on the preparation of the encyclical,” Melina said.” ]

The encyclical upheld the Church’s traditional teaching. The liberal world – inside and outside of the Church – is still going bananas because of Paul’s bold teaching.

There was a war of open dissent on Paul’s teaching. Theologians and even bishops abandoned Paul.

Resistance to Paul’s encyclical was dramatic and organized in both the secular and ecclesial worlds. It has continued ever since to this day. These days you usually hear from the Enemy’s agents that what the Church taught in Paul’s encyclical is not binding because it has not been “received”. The idea being that if the majority of people don’t want to accept a teaching, then it isn’t really an official teaching.   They invoke the sensus fidelium, or sense of the faithful against the teaching on contraception, saying that since so many Catholics use contraception, and since the Church has to repeatedly issue the teaching, then it isn’t really a teaching or it is a teaching that can be changed. The problem with that argument is that the key to understanding the sensus fidelium is that you have to be fidelis, faithful, to have it.   The mere fact of being baptized Catholic doesn’t mean you have a Catholic sense of things.  Were one to inquire among the truly faithful, instead of simply polling those who are nominally Catholic, one would obtain a different result.

In any event, in 2017 Pope Francis allowed some scholars to look into the archives of the drafts, etc., that produced Humanae vitae, to reconstruct how it was eventually produced. Their work will be instrumentalized by dissenters to undermine the encyclical’s authority rather than support it. They will try to deconstruct the teaching, disassociate it from Paul’s own thought by showing that the teachings were someone else’s thought. That would be specious, of course. If a Pope puts his signature on a document it becomes his document, in every word. Libs should keep in mind that if they can do that to Humanae vitae, then that same process can be worked upon the documents which they support. Thus, the entire body of the Church’s teachings on faith and morals would be undermined, attacking the very fabric of the Church herself.

Today is the 50th anniversary of promulgation of Humanae vitae.

To my mind, Paul’s decision to reject the majority report and to promulgate Humanae vitae was an example of the intervention of the Holy Spirit. Paul was in many respects less than strong when it came to matters of the world’s influence on the Church. To do such a thing suggests that something more, something uncharacteristic, something supernatural was at work in Paul. Consider that Sr. Lucy, the last of the seers of Fatima, wrote to Card. Caffarra that ‘The final battle between the Lord and the kingdom of Satan will be about marriage and the family.’ Indeed, as we examine all the problems that beset us today, ultimately erosion of marriage and the family are at their core.

I’ll repeat what I offered at the beginning.  I am compelled to say that the Devil is at work in attacks on Humanae vitae. Be wary. When you read or hear someone undermining Humanae vitae you have encountered an agent of Hell. Be vigilant. The Enemy, like a roaring lion, is roaming about seeking whom he may devour. Resist the attacks of Hell, strong in our sure Faith. For those of you who struggle with the Church’s teaching, remember that through suffering you can come to glory, the glory to which Christ has called us. In your fidelity, Christ will strengthen you and ready you for heaven.


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  1. Lurker 59 says:

    On the subject of marriage and the family, a certain problem exists that the education of young persons, and especially those who are going about the process of getting married, has little to no focus on preparing and encouraging spouses to have kids and many of them. In fact, the opposite.

    It seems that the goal is to have a “responsible number of offspring”, where responsible often means 1 or 2 and is dependent on economic factors and the general wellbeing and self-fulfilment of the individual spouses. This can also be given short-shrift as the focus is largely on the unitive aspect and goals of marriage as the primary concern, where this is often largely understood as that which enables each individual to be actualized as an individual person within the context of the marriage bond. (With such a focus, no wonder divorce is so high!) When we look at the ends of marriage, pre/ post-Vatican II, we see a shift within official documents that places the unitive ends of marriage above or equal to the procreative ends, which had previously been the most important end by a large stress.

    So we have this foundation that exists that encourages the acceptance of contraception, perhaps at first as a necessary evil to achieve the unitive ends of marriage and the mutuality of the spouse (let us face it, raising kids more often than not get in the way of growing the unitive bond between spouses.)

    Getting rid of contraception really requires a refocus on the procreative ends of marriage. The focus on the unitive ends of marriage has not prevented Catholics from seeking divorce, which is the other side of the coin in this discussion. Acceptance of divorce and contraception amongst Catholics is too high, which indicates that the approach that has been undertaken for these last few decades doesn’t work.

    Trying to support Humanae vitae, or rather the core principle that contraception is intrinsically evil, is very difficult because, in practice, it is treated as a pastoral/personal decision that is chosen to further the unitive ends of marriage.

  2. hwriggles4 says:

    Fr Z:

    I wonder what this was like in 1968. I was just a baby, but I have heard and read stories about:

    1. Many priests who met at a college and signed statements of dissent (I think it was a Catholic college in Baltimore)

    2. The Winnepeg Statement (which I think newer Canadian bishops repealed circa 2005)

    3. Priests advising in the confessional “follow your conscience”

    4. Married couples with 4, 5, or 6 children asking priests for advice, and a priest saying “you have done your duty”

    5. The resignation of a popular auxiliary bishop of St. Paul – Minneapolis in 1968 over Humanae Vitae

    6. The resignation of a large group of religious sisters in Los Angeles circa 1971 – many who taught in Catholic schools there (I lived in Los Angeles until 1974, but I attended public school)

    7. Some seminarians between 1962 and 1970 were being told in some places that celibacy was going to be relaxed, so seminarians could date. (I don’t think this was widespread, and I heard dating was allowed for some high school seminarians. I also heard some priests were dating, but I do think the percentage was small, if any)

    I have been told that No. 3 and No.4 were fairly normal responses in the 70s and 80s. I am glad there were only three networks in 1968.

  3. AA Cunningham says:

    “1. Many priests who met at a college and signed statements of dissent (I think it was a Catholic college in Baltimore)”

    Ten years ago Francis Cardinal Stafford wrote the following recollection of that event:

    The Year of the Peirasmòs – 1968

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