Happy Birthday Humanae Vitae!

Steven Mosher
written by Christopher Manion
July 25, 2022
Reproduced with Permission
Population Research Institute

This week we celebrate the 54th anniversary of Humanae Vitae , the brave and beautiful encyclical of Saint Pope Paul VI promulgated on July 25, 1968.

Brave? Absolutely. This eloquent articulation of the teaching of the Church and the fundamentals of the Natural Law constituted a direct challenge to what Pope Benedict called "the spirit of the age." And the reaction of that decadent and resentful age demonstrates just how brave Humanae Vitae was. Francis Cardinal Stafford, a young Baltimore priest in 1968, describes the pain suffered by the defenders of the faith that year as "Gethsemane."

And beautiful? How could it not be? The gentle, clear, but firm unfolding of the mystery of Sacramental marriage and its role in God's plan for the family, the world, and salvation is central to the most beautiful story ever told. But the Dictators of Relativism are anything but relativists: they are devoted and hardened apostles of ugliness, sin, lies, and -- ultimately -- death.

Even before the encyclical was published, they plotted to destroy both the teaching and the Church that taught it.

And 54 years later they're still trying. After all, an attack on one Sacrament is an attack on all of them, as well as an attack on Christ who bestowed them on a sinful humanity to lead us to eternal life.

We learned -- before 1968 -- that a Sacrament is "an outward sign, instituted by Christ, to give grace." But the purveyors of the sordid culture of death, lifeless sex, and the grotesque abominations that call out to Heaven for justice -- they had "outward signs" of their own. "Universal abortion on demand, free and without apology!" "Sex on tap, free beer!" "Love the one you're with!" "Save the world, not that baby!" "I'll decide my gender, thank you!"

Gethsemane? Cardinal Stafford was not alone. Ten years ago, then-USCCB President Timothy Cardinal Dolan described the "tsunami of dissent" that followed the "flashpoint" of Humanae Vitae . Alas, the tsunami engulfed America's bishops (and Cardinal Dolan included himself): "We'd better never talk about that, because it's just too hot to handle" was their reaction, he told the Wall Street Journal (March 31, 2012).

That silence has prevailed since the 1960s. Did a generation of "Saint John Paul II bishops" recover their voice? Alas, no, the cardinal continued. The public revelation of the abuse-and-cover-up scandals in 2002 "intensified our laryngitis over speaking of chastity and sexual morality, because we thought, 'I'll blush if I do.... How will I have any credibility in speaking on that?'"

The good, the true, and the beautiful are simple, limpid, and loveable. The evil, the false, and the ugly debauch reality in a thousand ways. There is only one good, but there are countless ways to deny, defy, and defile it - all designed as preambles to its destruction.

The family was designed by God to reflect the mystery, unity, diversity, and perfection of the Trinity. Those who hate the designer will hate the design - including the design written on their own hearts.

The reluctance of many religious leaders to defend the truths contained in HV boggles the mind, given the massive evidence that they are true.

In fact, in view of that evidence, we can safely call Pope Paul's encyclical profoundly prophetic.

His successor, Pope Francis, confirmed it half a century later. On December 26, 2021, the Feast of the Holy Family, Pope Francis surveyed the damage:

"Speaking of families, I have a concern, a real concern, at least here in Italy: the demographic winter. It seems that many couples have lost the inspiration to have children and many couples prefer not to have children or to have only one child. Think about this. It is a tragedy."

Yet the teaching we are hearing from the Vatican is less than clear. In fact, a recent report from Family indicates that Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, president of the Pontifical Academy for Life, has raised new concerns about the adherence of the current Vatican authorities to key moral teachings of the Church. This news is especially troubling, given the reports long list of vague and unsettling statements by Pope Francis regarding Humanae Vitae .

Regarding that report, PRI President Steven Mosher recently observed that he was "not aware of a single robust defense of traditional sexual morality in recent years from the Vatican. Rather, all the energy seems to be in the direction of compromising with the world's increasing insanity where human sexuality is concerned."

It's time to penetrate the crescendo of silence on Humanae Vitae with the "robust defense of traditional sexual morality" that the faithful and the world are longing to hear.

Saint Paul VI was not naive. He understood the weakness of human nature, and he warned of the tragedy that would come to pass, should his message be ignored.

In coming weeks, we will address just how prophetic Humanae Vitae was, and how its magisterial teaching is as necessary today as it was fifty-four years ago. For now, we should offer prayers of thanksgiving for this beautiful defense of the Faith, and prayers of petition for the fortitude to rise to its defense.

Happy Birthday, Humanae Vitae!