Humanae Vitae

Your Excellency, Bishop Malloy,

It was with great interest that I read your recent two-part article on Humanae Vitae.  I thought the balance you showed in your caring attention to the challenges faced by each person and yet at the same time sharing the truth of the encyclical was excellent.  Your article was inspirational to me in writing my reflections on Humanae Vitae. Thank you so much!

Jeffrey Galush, President
John Paul II Renewal Center

For some strange reason, I can remember back 50 years ago when I was 11 years old on summer vacation, and the announcement was made that the Pope had come out against contraception for Catholics.  The criticism of the Pope on the three TV networks and in the print media was immediate and intense. Of course, I didn’t even know what contraception was, but I remember thinking why couldn’t our Pope get it right?

July 25, 2018 is the 50-year anniversary of Pope Paul VI release of his encyclical “Humanae Vitae” which means “Of Human Life” and it landed like a bomb in the Catholic Church and the world at large. In the fifty years since the publication of his encyclical, our world is quite a different place.  During those 50 years, we have progressed from the sexual revolution in the 1960’s and 1970’s, to abortion on demand, to no fault divorce, to the hookup culture, to same sex marriage and now the most destructive development yet, “moral relativism.” The big question is whether these lifestyle changes have brought us greater happiness and satisfaction with life or more personal destruction.  If you read our June Newsletter which discussed the tremendous increase in suicide in our country, especially among teenagers and adult women, you have to have serious doubt if we are happier.

Our greatest source of happiness in life comes from who we love and who loves us.  When we have a great love of God we can more easily and more fully offer our love to our spouse and our children.  For most of us, the greatest means to sharing love is the sacrificial love we share within a lifelong commitment in marriage.

Today it is not so easy to find someone willing to make a lifelong commitment to marriage and a family.  More and more young people are simply putting off marriage and family and instead choosing to live together, which most often fails to provide the long-term happiness and satisfaction they desire.

In Humanae Vitae, Pope Paul VI made four prophetic predictions (all of which have come to pass) of what would occur should artificial conception become an accepted practice.  The Pope was gravely concerned how artificial conception could greatly undermine marriage and the family. In the third prophecy of Humanae Vitae, the pope expressed his “alarm” that “a man who grows accustomed to the use of contraceptive methods may forget the reverence due to a woman.”  Instead, he warned, by disregarding her physical and emotional equilibrium” a man might reduce a woman “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.”

I don’t think anyone who reasonably studies our culture over the past 50 years could seriously disagree with this prediction.  It can easily be seen in our high divorce rate, the high usage of antidepressant drugs, especially by adult women, and the precipitous decline in the life-long commitment to marriage.  Bishop Malloy writes about it in his recent article in the Observer. He says, “In essence, Humanae Vitae reminds us that the great commandment we have been given is to love one another.  The love between husband and wife, rooted in a lifetime commitment and open to new life, is an exceptional embodiment of that commandment.” A Reflection on Humanae Vitae by Bishop David J Malloy

So, when I think back to the 50 years since Humanae Vitae was published, I am so thankful that our Church got it right.  I know it is not a popular truth, and I know that we are scared to share the truth in Humanae Vitae because we don’t want to upset anyone; but I know that eventually our Church will embrace that truth for one reason and that is because it reflects the truth of how God created us and it will bring us the greatest happiness and satisfaction in life!

Many times (too many) when I was younger I heard the phrase, “tell the Catholic Church to stay out of my bedroom.”  At the time, I can’t say that I disagreed with that notion, but now after many years and much reflection, when I think about that comment, I think “hey wait a minute, the bedroom is the very place that you would want the Author of Love, God himself, to be present.”  I only wish I understood that wisdom many years ago as I would have found the great love and happiness in my marriage and family much sooner and with a lot less pain.