Just when you thought the HV anniversary rituals were over... For those who missed Peter Steinfels's excellent column in the New York Times yesterday, give it a read.
Often lost in these anniversary rituals is exactly what Humanae Vitae was about.It was not, for example, an analysis and prescient warning about the sexual revolution. Only a few sentences mentioned what was already obvious by 1968: effective and easily available contraception reduced the shame and suffering (incentives to keep the moral law was the papal phrase) that violating sexual norms had traditionally entailed.Nor was Humanae Vitae simply an argument for openness to having children in marriage, although the encyclical certainly includes eloquent language about that. Nor was it a general argument that human sexual bonding should never be totally sundered from the procreative dimension that is its biological base and a natural outcome.The central point of Humanae Vitae was that each and every act of sexual intercourse had to be free of any deliberate effort to prevent conception.It was here that Pope Paul VI rejected the recommendation of his own papal commission. After extended study and debate, the commission, though heavily weighted with conservative churchmen, concluded that the inseparability of the bonding and procreating aspects of human sexuality had to be respected over the course of a marriage but not necessarily in every instance of sexual intimacy.The pope endorsed responsible parenthood; but unlike his advisory commission, he believed that the poor couple who had six children or a disabled child had no more leeway in choosing the means for being responsible than the affluent couple with no children.
You can find the rest right here.
Please email comments to [email protected] and join the conversation on our Facebook page.