Blog Post

Humanae Vitae 40 Years Later

By Susan Brinkmann, OCDS Staff Writer   Since issuing the encyclical, Humanae Vitae on July 25, 1968, the Church’s stance against artificial birth control has been called everything from puritanical to completely out-of-touch. But one thing it’s rarely called is exactly what it turned out to be - the truth. The use of artificial contraception ultimately separates the marital act from its purpose of human reproduction and this is where the danger lies, says not only the Church, but many scientists and scholars as well.  For instance, in his 1935 book, “A General Introduction to Psycho-Analysis,” Sigmund Freud wrote: “This is actually the criterion by which we judge whether a sexual activity is perverse - if it departs from reproduction as its aim and pursues the attainment of gratification independently.” One of the inventors of the birth control pill, Dr. Robert Kistner of Harvard, eventually came to the same conclusion. “For years, I thought the pill would not lead to promiscuity but I’ve changed my mind. I think it probably has.” Other religions agree. Mahatma Ghandi once said, “Divorce of the sexual act from its natural consequences must lead to a hideous promiscuity and to condoning if not endorsing natural vice.” Pope Paul VI made four major predictions about what would happen to individuals, families and nations if we allowed the widespread use of artificial contraception. First, he wrote: “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.” This one is hard to argue with. Marital fidelity is at an all-time low. According to Duquesne University’s Family Institute, in 1960, the percent of marriages ending in divorce was 25 percent. By 2006, it had leaped to 48 percent. However, many people don’t even bother to marry today. The U.S. Census Bureau says that between 1960 and 2004, there was a 1200 percent increase in the number of people cohabitating - from 439,000 to 5.08 million. That our moral standards have lowered is beyond dispute. One of the best indicators of moral collapse is the number of unwed births. In this area, the numbers are staggering. Between 1960 and the year 2000, the U.S. Census Bureau reports a 600 percent increase in unwed childbearing. Forty years ago, almost half of all 19 year old women and a quarter of men of the same age were virgins. Today, 62 percent of America’s youth have had sex before they finish high school, according to a recent Gallup poll. Another prediction the Pope made was 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.” According to the United Nations Study on the Status of Women, 2000, somewhere in America a woman is battered, usually by her intimate partner, every 15 seconds. Physical violence is estimated to occur in four to six million relationships every year in the United States. Sixty-four percent of women who report being raped, assaulted or stalked since the age of 18 were victimized by a current or former husband, cohabitating partner, boyfriend or date. Much of this violence is sexual and according to the experts, it’s unprecedented. “The level of sexual violence in our society is at epidemic proportions,” wrote Dr. Mary Anne Layden, Director of Education, Center for Cognitive Therapy, Dept. Of  Psychiatry, University of Pennsylvania. “We are experiencing a sexual holocaust. One in eight women are raped, 50 percent of females will be sexually harassed on their jobs. By the time a female in this country is 18 years old, 38 percent have been sexually molested. We are the most sexually violent nation on earth.”  Pope Paul VI also warned about allowing the power of preventing birth to fall into the hands of the state. “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. . . . Should they regard this as necessary, they may even impose their use on everyone.” China’s draconian one-child policy, which limits families to producing no more than one child,  is the most glaring example of this prophecy’s realization. According to Harry Wu, a Chinese human rights activist now living in the United States, this policy mandates that all women use an intrauterine device. Those who disobey are either sterilized or, if pregnant, forced to have an abortion. Disobedient families are fined, their property destroyed, and their “illegal” children sometimes killed. The World Fertility Report states that nearly half of the world's governments want to further reduce the fertility of their citizens, and almost all governments now support family planning programs and the distribution of contraceptives. Finally, Pope Paul predicted that “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 . . . .” Evidence of this hubris is everywhere. Today’s biotechnology has replaced human reproduction with in vitro fertilization, cloning, creating hybrid organisms, experimenting on human embryos, etc. While the widespread use of artificial contraception is not totally to blame for all these ills, the promiscuity it encourages certainly is.  “In teaching that contraception is intrinsically immoral, the Church is not imposing a disciplinary law on Catholics,” wrote Professor Janet Smith, Ph.D., a Consultor to the Pontifical Council for the Family, in “Humanae Vitae: A Challenge to Love.” “She is preaching only what nature and the gospel preach. By now we should have learned – the hard way – that to defy and overindulge our sexual nature, to go against the laws of nature and God, is to inflict terrible damage on ourselves as individuals and our society as a whole.”   © All Rights Reserved, Living His Life Abundantly/Women of Grace.