Friday, June 22, 2012

A Look at the Issues Addressed by Humanae Vitae

The reason that Pope Paul VI wrote Humanae Vitae was to address the fact that there have been some changes in society in the recent years (remember, this was 1968 when he wrote it), and the changes led to new questions.

1) Rapid increase in population leading to questions about availability of resources, especially in developing countries.
2) Greater demands in economic and educational fields make it more difficult to provide properly for a larger family.
3) A new understanding of the dignity of a woman and her place in society.
4) A new understanding of the value of conjugal love in marriage and the relationship of conjugal acts to this love.
5) Huge progress in man's ability to control all aspects of life, including body, mind and emotions, social life and laws that regulate the transmission of life.

New Questions:
1) Given the above, shouldn't now be the time to review the moral norms that have been in force previous to these changes and see if they still apply? Especially since these moral norms can only be observed with the gravest difficulty and sometimes only by heroic effort?
2) Is it possible that procreation in marriage can refer to the openness to life within the course of the entire marriage and not in each and every single marital act?
3) Because people today are more conscious of their responsibilities, should the transmission of life be regulated more by intelligence and will rather than the specific rhythms of their bodies?

Maybe it's just me, but I almost found it surprising to read about the considerations that were going into the document in the first place. I think maybe I've just gotten too caught up in the common perception (the Church is holding on to Tradition; granted, I thought it was because this particular Tradition was true, and not because the Church was too staid to move on) to realize what all went into the formation of this document. It's not that they ignored these issues; it's because they were studying these problems that this document was written!

The other thing that Pope Paul mentions is the commissions that studied this topic prior to the writing of the document.  I did know that there was a commission (it sounds like there were at least two). It included married couples and laywomen as well as bishops and theologians.  There was not a consensus of opinion, though I believe that the majority of the commission was okay with contraception. Pope Paul believed that he could not totally rely on those findings (especially with the lack of consensus). Some may be frustrated by the direction he went, but me? I see the Holy Spirit at work, baby!

I would love to say more about this, but I have a whole laundry list of things that I should be doing right now... Laundry is on the list, and blogging really isn't, so I guess I'd better go make an attempt to take care of business!


  1. This is very interesting, CM! Great posts so far!

  2. I'm glad Pope Paul VI wrote Humane Vitae. Such an amazing groundwork even now ... almost 45 years later. Wow!