This coming week is the 50th anniversary of the papal encyclical Humanae Vitae. Written on July 25, 1968 it was a time when many moral teachings about life, marriage, and sexuality, were being questioned and many different thoughts were being proposed. Amidst this Pope Paul VI provided this letter, beginning with the following words:
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.
While I was only four at the time and so I was not exactly aware of the reaction people were having to it, I have since heard from many who were older at the time and in different situations: young adults, newly married couples, not so newly married couples, priests of various generations. All had responses to this letter and I have been told how it affected them at the time. I and others who are younger can consider how it has affected us since and still is today.
I would encourage you to read or reread this encyclical. (http://w2.vatican.va/content/paul-vi/en/encyclicals/documents/hf_p-vi_enc_25071968_humanae-vitae.html) It isn’t that long and it addresses many topics that hopefully we still consider important to us today such as Marriage, Sex, Life, Children, and Respect for self, others, and God. On the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis’s website they make the following list of predictions Paul VI made about what not living up to the Church’s teachings may result in:
Infidelity and moral decline: He predicted that the widespread use of contraception would “lead to conjugal infidelity and the general lowering of morality.”
Loss of respect for women: Paul VI argued that “the man” will lose respect for “the woman” and “no longer (care) for her physical and psychological equilibrium” and will come to “the point of considering her a mere instrument of selfish enjoyment and no longer as his respected and beloved companion.”
Abuse of power: The Holy Father saw that the widespread use of contraception would place a “dangerous weapon…in the hands of those public authorities who take no heed of moral exigencies.”
Unlimited dominion: He warned that contraception would lead man to think he had unlimited dominion over his own body. (www.archspm.org/sections/50th-anniversaryhumanae-vitae/)
We need to recognize and respect all the incredible gifts God has given us, especially the gift of life.