When Pope Paul VI wrote Humanae Vitae in 1968, he began with the reflection that the moral norms regarding married love can only be observed with the gravest difficulty, sometimes heroic effort, and it was time to review these norms in light of the conditions of life at the time. Could anyone argue that the effort today is any less?
Although natural forms of family planning have advanced, only a small percentage of couples today seek out these methods, and those who do, know they are counter cultural.
Although most immediately think of the ban on contraception when they hear of Humanae Vitae, the gift of this document is its vision of marriage as a beautiful treasure, designed by God.
Pope Paul VI states that the question of human procreation involves more than disciplines like biology or sociology—it involves the whole man and the mission to which we are all called, both the earthly as well as the supernatural, eternal aspects. The true nature and nobility of married love originates from God, who is love.
He goes on to describe married love as fully human, both sense and spirit. “It is also, and above all, an act of the free will, whose trust is such that it is meant not only to survive the joys and sorrows of daily life, but also to grow, so that husband and wife become in a way one heart and one soul, and together attain their human fulfillment.”
“It is a love which is total—that very special form of personal friendship in which husband and wife generously share everything, allowing no unreasonable exceptions and not thinking solely of their own convenience. Whoever really loves his partner loves not only for what he receives, but loves that partner for the partner’s own sake, content to be able to enrich the other with the gift of himself.”
The pope also discusses the right ordering of priorities for couples: God first, then themselves, followed by their family and human society. Studying the design God wove into our bodies makes the will of the Creator known.
Our culture has lost the vision of marriage as noble, enduring, and beautiful. We need to be reminded of that. It is why Humanae Vitae is important today, and it needs to be read, understood, and lived.
We are excited about our preparations for the 2018 conference celebration for the 50th anniversary of Humanae Vitae. Save the date, and join us, as we explore the many dimensions of this document, and how to support the culture to see its true beauty.
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.