August 19, 2015

Humanae Vitae Forty-Seven Years Later: Pope Paul VI's Premonitions Have Become True

In the forty-seven years since the promulgation of Humanae Vitae (Of Human Life: On the Regulation of Birth), Pope Paul VI’s seventh and last encyclical, society — particularly in the West — has undergone seismic change. In addition to affirming the Church’s long held prohibition against artificial birth control; Pope Paul VI articulates a vision of marriage and responsible parenthood that underscores the immense dignity and divine calling of husband and wife. Accordingly, marriage properly understood, is the conjugal union of a man and woman for life, of exclusive and mutual fidelity, for the procreation and education of children.

In addition to discussing the joys and challenges of matrimony and the life-giving, self-donative love it requires, Pope Paul IV enumerates four predictions about the consequences should the Church's teaching on contraception be dismissed. They are:
  • Infidelity and Moral Decay
  • A Loss of Respect for Women by Men
  • The Abuse of Power
  • Unlimited Dominion — The Coercive Use of Reproductive Technologies by Governments
The text from Humanae Vitae addressing these predictions is from paragraph 17. The most relevant passages are highlighted in red.
Consequences of Artificial Methods
17. 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.
Limits to Man's Power
Consequently, unless we are willing that the responsibility of procreating life should be left to the arbitrary decision of men, we must accept that there are certain limits, beyond which it is wrong to go, to the power of man over his own body and its natural functions—limits, let it be said, which no one, whether as a private individual or as a public authority, can lawfully exceed. These limits are expressly imposed because of the reverence due to the whole human organism and its natural functions, in the light of the principles We stated earlier, and in accordance with a correct understanding of the "principle of totality" enunciated by Our predecessor Pope Pius XII. (21) ...

No comments :