Thursday, June 21, 2012

Humanae Vitae

I was reading this post that sort of referenced Humanae Vitae by someone who clearly wasn't familiar with it at all, but was sure that it was wrong.  I have read it, but it's been a long time. If you are not just coming out from under your rock, you probably know that this is the decisive document that solidified the Church's teachings about contraception ("no"), but if you're like me and most people, you may not really know what it says and why.  Since this is the Fortnight for Freedom, I thought it might be a good time for me to read it and maybe discuss bits and pieces of it. You know, beyond the fact of the "no".

Pope Paul VI to the bishops of the Catholic Church (and by extension, to all Catholics):

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.

When I read that, do you know what I heard?

Uncle Ben to Peter Parker (aka Spiderman):

With great power, comes great responsibility.

So true, Uncle Ben. So true.

At the time that Ben and Peter had this discussion, Peter was just beginning to figure out what his powers were and how he could use them. His plan was to use them for his own monetary gain, and so he could maybe not get laughed at quite so much, and maybe so he could finally get the girl. He hadn't thought much beyond that. He never thought about what might happen if he didn't use his powers for the good.  Whether he used them for evil, or just plain neglected to use them at all, he didn't think about what would happen. And when Peter decided not to stop a bad guy, that bad guy ended up killing Uncle Ben.  Kind of a harsh way to learn that Uncle Ben was, in fact, correct. (If he hadn't died, he could've dropped a bomb of an "I told you so", but he probably wouldn't have. He's classier than me.)

From that time on, Spiderman took his responsibilities much more seriously.  It wasn't easy, and it sometimes cost him friends, jobs, and school. At one point, it was all too much and he tried to quit altogether. Problem is, though he didn't choose his incredible powers, he did have a responsibility to those that needed him to use his powers to save the world.*

Wait, were you hoping for an in depth, erudite discussion of Humanae Vitae? BWAHAHAHA! 

Ahem. I mean, excuse me. Umm, if this is not your first post at this blog, then you should probably know by now that I get a wee bit tangential at times. Although I admit that Humanae Vitae to "Spiderman" might be a new record (I'll let you be the judge of whether it is a record high or a record low).

The thing about procreation is that it is joining with God in the very creation of life. It is procreation, not mere recreation. It has eternal consequences. That's right, the very world can be changed by who is having sex with whom and how that may turn out. Mother Theresa, Hitler, Lincoln, anyone you can think of who changed the world or a part of the world have something in common. They all have parents who had sex and brought a new life into the world.

With great power, comes great responsibility.

It does not mean that every time people have sex, a child will result. Nor that it should. But it could, and for that reason, sex is not some mere toy to be played with without thought for what could be the result. When you have sex, and a child may result, and that child may be the fall or the rise of many. It is beautiful, awesome, and a heavy responsibility. Like Peter and his powers, we may not realize how big this power of procreation really is. There may be times where it is too much for us. There may be other times where it keeps us from other things that we may want to be doing. No one said it was easy, only that it is important.

Hmm, well.  Dunno how this is going to go. One post into looking at Humanae Vitae, and I've managed to make it two whole sentences into the encyclical and discussed Spiderman as long as I have the Pope's words.  Awesome.  Or something...

Okay, briefly about F4F (because I can no longer bear to keep typing out "fortnight"), just wanted to send you here for some awesome links.  My favorites are the virtual vigil and the bishops' statement on religious freedom (a fascinating read that brought up more issues than I was aware of, and which totally mentioned bloggers as a way to help spread education!)

*At least, any of the world that lives in a city.  Has anyone besides me spent time thinking about how lame Spiderman would be on a farm? No? Just me, then.  But he would be a bust of a superhero in the country! Climbing walls to the top of a silo or barn would not be too exciting, and he couldn't use the web for a mode of travel among the cornstalks...


  1. Every thing about this post = You are my hero

  2. Oh wow, he really would suck in the country! I never thought about that!
    Also? This was possibly the best comparison EVER!

  3. It is incredible that at any moment a child can be born that can or could change the world. But I think that potential has far more to do with the way that child is raised, and the care and love they receive than with their actual conception.

  4. Do you know if any of the bloggers had discussed the different definitions of "contraception" between the catholic church and modern health care? I was surprised to see the catechism defines it as that which would render procreation *impossible*, when most forms of birth control simple render it unlikely.


    1. Teshumai- While it's true that most forms of birth control render conception unlikely, but it's still considered contraception if you have sex but use some artificial means to try to keep the sperm from reaching the ovum.

    2. Thanks, Catholic Mutt. Is this definition of contraception in the Humanae Vitae? Does that "trump" the wording of the catechism? I know the catholic church is very logical in its reasoning, but I'm not sure where one can find the ultimate authority when things are contradicting between two of its teachings.

      Also, it's a pleasure to "meet" you- you're linked to some other blogs I read and I pop over here to read you occasionally but rarely comment on the blogs. Your starfish always made me smile.


    3. Teshumai- So glad you stopped by! I have to admit, I accidentally deleted the starfish, but now I kind of miss it. I'll have to see if I can find it again.

      Though the Catechism does use the word "impossible", it means the same thing as the encyclical and anything else that I've ever read of the Church's teaching. It means things that would render conception impossible if it worked 100% of the time like it was supposed to. There is no contradiction in the official Church teachings about contraception.

  5. You are a wealth of knowledge! Thank you for sharing. I am spending time this evening reading through these links and hopefully improving my simple understanding of all these topics.

  6. Good idea CM. I should go and read Humanae Vitae. I am a cradle Catholic who would love to see the HHS Mandate overturned but I do see the need for more knowledge of why the church teaches this doctrine. Thanks!

  7. Love this! Great responsibility indeed. I thought about the comment from Melissa above and I agree, but would take that a step farther. While a child's upbringing certainly matters, that upbringing will depend heavily on who the parents are. An important reason to "choose wisely" because once the conceiving is done, these are the most influential people in the child's life. I know too many women who "chose poorly" and now worry about the influences on their child every other weekend when the child goes to his/her father's house...or what bad or dangerous behavior she will have to work hard to reverse after the 3 weeks the child spends with daddy over the summer.

  8. I LOVE your comparison post with HV to Spiderman!!! Just LOVE it! I wasn't expecting that at all, but it makes total sense. Even about the country Spiderman. :-)
    My favorite line by far: "It is procreation, not mere recreation. It has eternal consequences." That is a good "one-liner" to include in some conversations. GREAT POST!!!