I finally, FINALLY read the gem Humanae Vitae. This encyclical was “given” (how nice a turn of phrase! like a gift is given) on July 25, 1968 by Pope Paul VI. Annually, NFP Awareness Week is celebrated at this time to commemorate the anniversary of this life changing document. And yes, it is a gift.
Though I’ve mentioned this encyclical before, I actually had never read it–not all the way through. And now that I have? My, what a beautiful meditation on marriage and humanity. I particularly liked the sections on God’s design for marriage and married love (8 & 9). Those paragraphs should be inserted into every wedding liturgy homily.
Also wonderful? How Paul VI clearly communicates the Church’s authentic mercy for families. He and the Magisterium got it–all the way back in 1968–got how the world has its trials, how couples may have a serious or reasonable rationale for delaying or spacing pregnancy, and how it is okay to use God’s wonderful design to do just that! Of course, true mercy does not involve flouting morals, for how can you be merciful if you care so little for the soul? Further, he calls upon everyone to essentially fix the world so that family life can be improved.
His proscriptions for politicians, doctors, scientists, etc., show that the Church doesn’t want to just leave us hanging. And in the case of Catholic doctors and scientists in particular, some people have taken this message to heart. We have incredible advances in fertility awareness methods, as well as NaProTechnology. Section 15 does address use of certain elements strictly for therapeutic means–I bet he’s smiling in Heaven to know that doctors are continually working to treat and cure bodily diseases with God’s own design of the human body.
However, I am sure he is displeased that his predictions (17) have come true. I’d read about them before, but seeing how precisely he laid it out was humbling. One that stuck out to me that’s not mentioned as much was this: “There is too much clamorous outcry against the voice of the Church, and this is intensified by modern means of communication.” (18) Facebook or Twitter fights, amirite? I really feel like if we as a society could just take time to fully listen, to fully engage with such documents as this (and Pope St. John Paul II’s Love and Responsibility, whose philosophy on the human person can be traced to elements in HV), there’d be less clamor and less outcry. Another disappointment was in what solutions have not been fully realized. In particular, I feel that some priests have shirked their responsibility in answering the Vicar of Christ’s call to accompany couples as they live out these teachings. While some priests and bishops are quite vocal in their defense of the teachings of marriage, I’ve heard stories of others, who, especially when it comes to the beauty of the why of NFP, do not have “stamped in the heart and voice…the likeness of the voice and the love of our Redeemer.” (29).
But I am glad for Pope Paul VI’s message to the world, along with his calls to each of us sons and daughters of Christ. In particular, I favored this mission, one I’ve adopted through my writing for teens: “the need to create an atmosphere favorable to the growth of chastity so that true liberty may prevail over license and the norms of the moral law may be fully safeguarded.” (22)
That about sums it up. May we leave this week to “go and do likewise.”
Don’t forget! If you want to use a sympto-hormonal form of acceptable spacing births, Simcha Fisher is giving away ClearBlue fertility monitors!