Humanae Vitae

Is Humanae Vitae a prophetic encyclical?

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Did the encyclical of Pope Paul VI predict what we suffer today in society?


Humanae Vitae is a prophetic encyclical for many reasons. It is prophetic in a broad sense, that is, it is a testimony of the Magisterium, of its commitment to the truth that does not unite itself with any political or economic expediency, even when this could bring about oppositions and the persecution of the world. The prophets, in their times, were considered spoilers.

Yet, either way it is prophetic because it contains prophecies, or, if one prefers, preannouncements. They are not prophecies because of the obscurity of the truths announced; on the contrary, any person with a clear-sighted mind would have been able to read, as Paul VI did, the effects of their causes. But, in fact, at the time of their publication, these statements were considered exaggerations and negative affirmations, even by prominent theologians.

And yet they have been fulfilled, as Paul VI said, contrary to his detractors.

The principle prophesies are in n. 17 of the encyclical: “Responsible men can become more deeply convinced of the truth of the doctrine laid down by the Church on this issue if they reflect on the consequences of methods and plans for artificial birth control. Let them first consider how easily this course of action could open wide the way for marital infidelity and a general lowering of moral standards. Not much experience is needed to be fully aware of human weakness and to understand that human beings—and especially the young, who are so exposed to temptation—need incentives to keep the moral law, and it is an evil thing to make it easy for them to break that law. Another effect that gives cause for alarm is that a man who grows accustomed to the use of contraceptive methods may forget the reverence due to 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.  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. It could well happen, therefore, that when people, either individually or in family or social life, experience the inherent difficulties of the divine law and are determined to avoid them, they may give into the hands of public authorities the power to intervene in the most personal and intimate responsibility of husband and wife.”

It is regarding, as we see, of four preannounced consequences stated by Paul VI, as cause of the diffusion of the contraceptive mentality. The four have been further verified.

The Path of Infidelity

“It would open a wide and easy path… for marital infidelity”. At this point in time, marital infidelity (i.e., adultery) has long been one of the most alarming marital dramas… which, unfortunately, has ceased to worry good men as it should. The newspaper La Nación, in its edition of March 19, 1997, under the title “Adultery: new rage over an old sin”, quotes the study conducted by Shere Hite using a questionnaire printed in “Penthouse and other adult magazines”, (bear in mind that this is a survey conducted among a liberal and adulterous public); according to this study, 66% of the men and 54% of the women consulted in the United States claimed to have had at least one adulterous affair. According to the poll that was carried out with more reliable sampling techniques by NORC (1994, also in the United States), showed that 21.2% of men and 11% of women had practiced adultery[1].

Although all the data that reaches us through the media should be taken not with tweezers but with pruning shears, we should not be surprised that these numbers are close to reality, since this is nothing more than the logical consequence of the cultural predicament in which we find ourselves. Among many causes, I would like to highlight two.

The first is the divorcee mentality that has submerged the matrimonial institution into a crisis that threatens to suffocate it. The experience of divorce in Argentina is eloquent: it has engendered more divorces and separations, fewer marriages, more cohabitations, fewer children per marriage, more children out of wedlock (a study established that in 1995, 45% of Argentines were born out of wedlock) and an aging population[2]. The situation of remarried divorced people, even though painful and pastorally deserving of special care by the Church[3], is, however, a situation of adultery; the fact that the phenomenon is becoming more and more widespread should be of serious concern to us.

The second cause is precisely, the misunderstandings of the teaching of Humanae Vitae, (cf. HV,12) regarding the indissolubility of the two dimensions of conjugal acts (sexual union and being open to new life), which we will address later on.  Maintaining the unity of both aspects is an essential condition for respecting the “totality” of a self-giving matrimony. Marriage is “one with one forever”, in order to “give in every sexual relation the totality of oneself, that is to say, even the procreative capacity”. When this second element becomes superfluous or is left to arbitrariness, the value of the first (fidelity) is ultimately no longer understood. Contraception (which voluntarily strips the sexual act of its procreative value) leads to understanding conjugal self-giving in a petty way, as a half-hearted love, a truncated gift. Those who become accustomed to this (partial) way of giving themselves may end up wondering what harm there is in reserving part of their feelings to share them with someone other than their legitimate spouse, at least in some passing affair without any desire to reach a definitive separation.

Moral Degradation

The general degrading of morality”

There is no need to be very clever to perceive the level of degradation that morality has reached in our times nor the link of causality that this situation guards regarding contraception.  The Cultural Revolution that has been going on since 1968, and that characterizes itself among other things through a devaluation of sex, has not been possible or sustainable without an easy access to an effective contraception.

Today, sexual desire is out of control and has no modesty whatsoever[4].  Even more, we live under what is called “the gay inquisition” which imposes homosexual ideology even in elementary school education[5].  Cultural areas no longer exist and now, there are no ages that are protected against the sexual debauchery.  It has come to the point that even the liberal journal “Il Corriere dell Sera”, announced in its edition of Dec. 10th, 2007, that “adolescents are each time more susceptible to hedonism”. The article presents the book of Feminist Carol Platt Liebau which has as a title “Mojigatas”.  This culture obsessed with sex harms young women.  That is the situation: obsession and submission to the sexual tyranny.

The plague of pornography and the growing phenomenon of sexual addictions and of acts in which sex corresponds with violence are eloquent testimonies of this drama. In addition to the explosion of sexual illnesses in the United States which affects one of every four girls. 

At the same time, contraception has opened the doors to abortion, bringing sexual disorders to the highest level: the assassination of an innocent fruit, due to the disorder of the parents.

It is undeniable that contraception facilitates sexual relations and even the kinds of attitudes and individual morals that most easily lead to abortion.

– The Loss of the Woman’s Dignity

“It could also be feared that man…will eventually lose respect for woman.” The Pope warned that the practice of contraception would lead men to lose respect for women and “no longer [care] for their physical and psychological well-being,” to the point of considering her “as a mere instrument of selfish enjoyment and not as their respected and beloved companion.”

Contraception, as Paul VI rightly saw, has not freed women but has transformed her into an instrument of pleasure. It bribes the service of the lustful consumers to whom it reaches through countless channels. The money that moves with the sexualized images of women (which is the major part of the pornographic industry) oscillates at the present time in the sixty billions of annual dollars. In the United States, 40% of all Internet users at least once a month dabble in this field. The rest of the world is not so different.

The exaggerated feminism has also actively conspired to the dehumanization of the woman.  Helen Alvare, a professor at the Catholic University of America in Washington, DC, had been the spokesperson of the United States Catholic Conference of Bishops, which was regarding questions related to human life. She said during the Vatican Congress on “Woman and Man, the Totality of humanism” (February, 2008), that “women have contributed to the promotion of consumerism that objectifies them”; pointing out as one of the most worrying aspects of the current situation, “the degree to which women, individually and through organized groups, have assumed their own objectification as articles of consumption… Women demean themselves by pursuing the belief that this will lead to union with a man”.  Not only does it completely fulfill the divine prophesy of Genesis, “Your desire shall be directed towards your husband and he shall rule over you”: Gen 3:16), but it has been far surpassed since women are today enslaved not by their husbands but by anonymous consumers of lust.

Politics and Demographics

“A dangerous weapon would be placed in the hands of public authorities unconcerned with moral requirements”. From the time these words were written to the present day, population control policies have become part of everyday life. There are numerous developing countries that condition whatever discussion about economic help or technical to the acceptance of his politics of demographic control, to the massive exportation of contraceptives and to the introduction of abortion and the sterilization in the local legislations.  They speak of “social regeneration”, which is today the implantation of an anti-Christian culture especially in the sexual material.  Demonstrations of this are in the pressure to impose the pro-homosexual ideology a sexual education that excludes the parents, the acceptance of the “Letter from the Earth”, which replaces the Ten Commandments, etc. 

Without doubt, Paul VI was right. 

There are very few, in our times, who take into consideration that this teaching of common sense has not only been defended by the Catholic Church, but also by a plethora of people.  Many of them are even away from the Catholic mentality and others even opposed to other topics. The following are some examples:

Theodore Roosevelt (1858-1919), president of the United States (1901-1909) and Noble Peace Prize winner of 1906, wrote: “Birth control is the sin that has as a penalty the death of the nation, the death of the human race; a sin which has no reparation. There is no vice that is worse, more debasing, or more destructive, than ordinary vice.”

Sigmund Freud- enemy of all religion because he considered it an obsessive neurological disorder said in his conference on the sexual life of human beings: “the abandonment of reproduction is a perverse characteristic. We describe sexual activity as perverse if it renounces the purpose of reproducing and if it follows the obtaining of pleasure as the independent end.  Therefore, the gap and turning point in the development of sexual life lies in its subordination to the purpose of reproduction. Everything that occurs prior to this turn of events, and equally everything that does not consider it and that aims exclusively at obtaining pleasure, receives the unflattering name of ‘perverse’ and as such is proscribed”.

Mahatma Ghandi, having an energetic impression of Margaret Sanger, the founder of Planned Parenthood, gave a summary of the damaging consequences of contraceptives saying: “The artificial methods (of contraception) are like the coronation of vice.  It makes men and women imprudent… The nature is cruel and it will have its great vengeance for each violation that infringes on its laws.  Moral results can only be produced by moral restraint. All other restraints defeat the very purposes for which they were intended. If artificial methods become the order of the day, the result will be nothing but moral degradation. A society that has already been weakened through a variety of causes will be further weakened by the adoption of artificial (birth control) methods…In this state of affairs, man has degraded woman enough through his lust, and artificial methods, no matter how well-intentioned their advocates, it will still further degrade her.”

Fr. Miguel A. Fuentes, IVE

[1] Cf. La Nación, 19/03/1997; p. 17.).

[2] See the study of Jorge Scala, Psychology of 10 years of divorce in Argentina in: Jorge Scala and in others, 12 years of divorce in Argentina, Bs. As. (1999); 119 ss.

[3] Cf. John Paul II, Familiaris consortio, n. 84.

[4] Cf. Miguel A. Fuentes, Pornography and sexuality, Diálogo 12 (1995), 131-158.

[5] (cf. Juan Bacigaluppi, “La inquisición gay”, en: Noticias Globales, Año VIII. Número 589, 25/05. Gacetilla n. 712. Buenos Aires, 7/05/2005).

Original Post: here

Other Post: Can there be a conflict of duties between the conscience of spouses and the doctrine of the Magisterium?

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