It was July 25, 2008, the Feast of St. James the Apostle. I expected, not hoped, that by now the news media would have carried dozens of stories about a brave and holy man’s wisdom and vision of the future.
I looked for the story in a number of the nation’s leading newspapers and it wasn’t there. It was such an obvious story, that I couldn’t imagine its absence. It ought to have a headline something like this:
Pope Paul VI was right: visionary leader predicted moral consequences of birth control
Yes, it was 40 years ago that the Holy Father issued his much-maligned and often-misunderstood encyclical, Humanae Vitae.
While the rest of the Christian world was caving to the sexual revolution, Pope Paul said we Catholics would continue to support God’s plan. And the Pope foretold the consequences of birth control:
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.
All that he predicted has come to pass: the breakdown of marriage, rampant infidelity, government-mandated birth control in some nations, a view of women as sexual playthings, the loss of the understanding that love, marriage, sex and parenthood are a wonderful mix that God gave us to cooperate with him in creating life.
The encyclical is relatively brief, simple to read and free: http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/paul_vi/encyclicals/documents/hf_p-vi_enc_25071968_humanae-vitae_en.html
And if the news media can tear themselves away from tracking Brittney Spear’s love life and checking which pins the various presidential candidates are wearing on their lapels today, they might want to investigate the record of Popes for being right on issues of morality and the public good.
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