Humanae Vitae Fallout

I’ve been away from blogging over the past several days.  Don’t know why, but I just don’t have the stomach for it at the moment.  Just enjoying the kids and summer time.  However, I thought I’d excerpt a few stories surrounding the 40th anniversary of Humanae Vitae.  They are all worth the read… 

1) Cardinal’s Stafford’s account…

“Lead us not into temptation” is the sixth petition of the Our Father.  Πειρασμός (Peirasmòs), the Greek word used in this passage for ‘temptation.’, means a trial or test.  Disciples petition God to be protected against the supreme test of ungodly powers. The trial is related to Jesus’s cup in Gethsemane, the same cup which his disciples would also taste (Mk 10: 35-45). The dark side of the interior of the cup is an abyss. It reveals the awful consequences of God’s judgment upon sinful humanity.  In August, 1968, the weight of the evangelical Πειρασμός fell on many priests, including myself.

It was the year of the bad war, of complex innocence that sanctified the shedding of blood.  English historian Paul Johnson dubs 1968 as the year of “America’s Suicide Attempt.”  It included the Tet offensive in Vietnam with its tsunami-like effects in American life and politics, the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in Memphis, Tennessee; the tumult in American cities on Palm Sunday weekend; and the June assassination of Senator Robert F. Kennedy in southern California. It was also the year in which Pope Paul VI issued his encyclical letter on transmitting human life, Humanae Vitae (HV). He met immediate, premeditated, and unprecedented opposition from some American theologians and pastors. By any measure 1968 was a bitter cup.

On the fortieth anniversary of Humanae Vitae, I have been asked to reflect on one event of that year, the doctrinal dissent among some priests and theologians in an American Archdiocese on the occasion of its publication. It is not an easy or welcome task. But since it may help some followers of Jesus to live what Pope Paul VI called a more “disciplined” life (HV 21), I will explore that event.

The summer of 1968 is a record of God’s hottest hour.  The memories are not forgotten; they are painful. They remain vivid like a tornado in the plains of Colorado. They inhabit the whirlwind where God’s wrath dwells. In 1968 something terrible happened in the Church. Within the ministerial priesthood ruptures developed everywhere among friends which never healed. And the wounds continue to affect the whole Church. The dissent, together with the leaders’ manipulation of the anger they fomented, became a supreme test. It changed fundamental relationships within the Church. It was a Πειρασμός for many…(Source)

2) Unearthed: 1968 Vatican Letter to Bishops Sent with Pre-Release Copy of Humanae Vitae called for Unity

OTTAWA, July 29, 2008 ( – During the tumultuous years of the 1960’s Pope Paul VI published a controversial encyclical, Humanae Vitae, which addressed the issue of birth control in light of the arrival of the birth control pill.

Today is publishing a recently unearthed letter which was sent to Bishops with a pre-release copy of the encyclical.  The letter, dated July 19, 1968, is signed by the late Amleto Giovanni Cardinal Cicognani, who was then-Secretary of the Vatican Secretariat of State. 

The outright defiance of many priests and even bishops to Pope Paul VI’s encyclical – which restated and reinforced the Church’s long-time opposition to artificial birth control – is even graver in light of the carefully worded letter the bishops received specifically pointing to the urgent need for unity on the matter… 

3) 15 Filipino Bishops Lead 12,000 in Prayer Rally Celebrating 40th Anniversary of Controversial Humanae Vitae Encyclical

MANILA, Philippines, July 28, 2008 ( – A Mass and vigil was held on Friday at the University of Santo Tomas to mark the 40th anniversary of the encyclical letter of Pope John Paul VI on human life, Humanae Vitae. One goal of the rally was to pressure lawmakers into abandoning the proposed Reproductive Health and Population Development Act, which has passed the committee level in the Philippine House of Representatives.

The Act would create a new agency called the Commission on Population (POPCOM) which would “encourage” families to have only two children, and promote the use of a variety of abortifacient drugs, including the IUD and the pill.

In a massive gathering of pro-life supporters, leaders from the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), members of the Christian charismatic group El Shaddai, politicians, personalities, students, professionals and laborers massed at the university parade grounds to the peel of hundreds of church bells throughout the city….

4) Vatican Cardinal: Damage to the Church from the Dissent on Paul VI Contraception Doc Continues Today

VATICAN, July 25, 2008 ( – Today, on the 40th anniversary of the signing of Pope Paul VI’s encyclical Humanae Vitae (HV), one of the highest ranking Americans in the Vatican has written an eye-opening and deeply personal retrospective on the world-shaking events which took place in the wake of the document’s publication. 

The deadliest thing to hit the Catholic in the last 40 years, he says, was not the encyclical which reiterated the Church’s stand against contraception – but the dissent from it. 

Cardinal James F. Stafford, Major Penitentiary of the Apostolic Penitentiary – the head of the Vatican arm that deals with indulgences – writes in the Vatican’s official newspaper that he was a priest in the Archdiocese of Baltimore at the time HV was published. 

Stafford, who hosted World Youth Day in Denver in 1993 as the then-Archbishop, recounts, “The summer of 1968 is a record of God’s hottest hour.” 

“The memories are not forgotten; they are painful . . . They inhabit the whirlwind where God’s wrath dwells. In 1968 something terrible happened in the Church. Within the ministerial priesthood ruptures developed everywhere among friends which never healed. And the wounds continue to affect the whole Church. The dissent, together with the leaders’ manipulation of the anger they fomented, became a supreme test. It changed fundamental relationships within the Church.”…

5) One Last Time – Canada’s Greatest Defender of Humanae Vitae Calls on Bishops to Reject Dissenting Document

TORONTO, July 25, 2008 ( – In the upcoming edition of Catholic Insight magazine, Canada’s greatest defender of the Pope Paul VI’s encyclical Humanae Vitae – 92-year-old Monsignor Vincent Foy – concludes his lifelong championship of the papal position on birth control.  Released today, on the 40th anniversary of the encyclical, Monsignor Foy calls on the Bishops of Canada to revoke their “Winnipeg Statement”, which he says is an unacceptable document of dissent.

Humanae Vitae presents the teaching against contraception as stemming from the law of God, not the Church, and thus as universally applicable not merely to Catholics.  However, Msgr. Foy points to a devastating letter sent by the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops to politicians which permits even Catholic legislators to support the legalization of contraception.

Msgr. Foy writes: “On Sept. 9, 1966, the CCCB addressed a document To the House of Commons Standing Committee on Health and Welfare: on Change in the Law of Contraception. The bishops said in part: ‘We consider Article 150, which forbids giving information about contraception, as well as the sale or distribution of contraception an inadequate law today…A large number of our fellow citizens believe that this law violates their rights to be informed and helped towards responsible parenthood in accordance with their personal beliefs.'”

The CCCB letter added: “We do not conceive it our duty to oppose appropriate changes in Article 150 of the Criminal Code. Indeed, we could easily envisage an active co-operation and even leadership on the part of lay Catholics to change a law which under present conditions they might well judge to be harmful to public order and the common good.”

Msgr Foy commnets: “This incredible betrayal of Catholic teaching on the intrinsic evil of contraception was a factor in the passing of a bill by the Liberal government under Pierre Trudeau, legalizing contraception (June 27, 1969).”…

6) “Heaps of Empirical Evidence” Vindicate Pope Paul VI’s Dire Warnings 40 Years Ago About Contraceptive Culture

July 25, 2008 ( – A lengthy article appearing in the most recent edition of First Things, reevaluates Pope Paul VI’s controversial encyclical Humanae Vitae (the 40th anniversary of the publication of which takes place today) in terms of the empirical evidence supporting the Pontiff’s prophetic predictions about the consequences of the widespread acceptance of artificial contraception.

“To many people,” writes author Mary Eberstadt, the idea of opposing the use of contraception, “simply defies understanding. Consenting adults, told not to use birth control? Preposterous. Third World parents deprived access to contraception and abortion? Positively criminal. A ban on condoms when there’s a risk of contracting AIDS? Beneath contempt.”

Indeed, “if there’s anything on earth that unites the Church’s adversaries…the teaching against contraception is probably it.”

And yet, writes Eberstadt, for all of the contempt that is poured upon Humanae Vitae and the Church’s continued official defense of Paul VI’s teaching, the 40 intervening years since its publication have done nothing if not provided heaps of empirical data validating the Pope’s dire warnings about a contraceptive culture.

“Four decades later, not only have the document’s signature predictions been ratified in empirical force,” says Eberstadt, “but they have been ratified as few predictions ever are: in ways its authors could not possibly have foreseen, including by information that did not exist when the document was written, by scholars and others with no interest whatever in its teaching, and indeed even inadvertently, and in more ways than one, by many proud public adversaries of the Church.”

This is the great irony, says Eberstadt – that the evidence marshaled forth in condemnation of a contraceptive culture has been provided almost entirely by secular or explicitly anti-Catholic researchers, men and women who are “honest social scientists willing to follow the data wherever it may lead.”

Consider, she suggests, the work of Nobel Prize-winning economist Geroge Akerlof, who, in a well-known 1996 article, “explained in the language of modern economics why the sexual revolution…had led to an increase in both illegitimacy and abortion.”

Then there is the work of “maverick sociobiologist” Lionel Tiger, who has in the past described religion as “a toxic issue.” And yet, for all of that, Tiger has shown his ability to honestly “follow the data,” linking “contraception to the breakdown of families, female impoverishment, trouble in the relationship between the sexes, and single motherhood.”…

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