In one year we will be celebrating the 50th anniversary of Humanae Vitae. This landmark encyclical has been one of the milestones in reaffirming and clarifying what the Church has always taught about human love and life.
However, despite much talk, debate, dissension and passion about this beautiful document, many have not read it, or at least not recently. So, in preparation for our upcoming celebration I wanted to highlight some of its beauty and challenge all of you to read it this year.
In Humanae Vitae, Pope Paul VI reviews the concerns couples have in planning their families as well as the repercussions that he prophetically outlined would occur if contraception became widespread. Marital infidelity would increase, the young would have greater temptation to act immorally. A man who becomes accustomed to contraception may forget the reverence due to a woman, reducing her to a mere instrument for the satisfaction of desire, no longer considering her as his partner whom he should surround with care and affection. Governments may enforce contraception to resolve problems facing a nation.
He realizes the struggle couples have and challenges us to find solutions. He calls scientists to study the natural rhythms to find a secure basis for the chaste spacing of children for responsible parenthood. He reiterates the Catholic Church’s teaching that there is not a contradiction between the laws that govern the transmission of life and which foster married love.
For Christian couples, he states “the Lord has entrusted to them the task of making visible to men and women the holiness and joy of the law which united inseparably their love for one another and the cooperation they give to God’s love, God who is the Author of human life.”
Healthcare providers must become “fully proficient in this difficult field of medical knowledge. For then, when married couples ask for their advice, they may be in a position to give them right counsel and to point them in the proper direction. Married couples have a right to expect this much from them.”
Pope Paul VI closes with “We are convinced that this truly great work will bring blessings both on the world and on the Church. For man cannot attain that true happiness for which he yearns with all the strength of his spirit, unless he keeps the laws which the Most High God has engraved in his very nature. These laws must be wisely and lovingly observed.”
Dive in and read this amazing document that challenges us to further understanding of our nature, to lead to true happiness. And, set your calendars now to join us in a year to celebrate the beauty of the document, to review the impact on our culture which our choices regarding love and life have made, and be renewed in our journey of advancing the science of our rhythms.
Lynn Keenan, MD, President of the Executive Board of the California Association of Natural Family Planning and Vice President of the International Institute for Restorative Reproductive Medicine, is a Clinical Professor at the UCSF/Fresno Internal Medicine Residency Program and Board Certified in Sleep and Internal Medicine. She earned her BSN at UCLA, her MD at Temple University School of Medicine, and completed her Residency in Internal Medicine at UCSF/Fresno