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Love and Responsibility

Part 1

Wednesday 16th April - Edmund Adamus. Director of Pastoral Affairs, Diocese of Westminster.

The Genesis of Humanae Vitae – Memory & Identity

Let us commend this series of lectures to the intercession of Pope John Paul II since it is very much in the light of his incredibly dynamic and visionary sense of the human person, which has given new impetus theologically and pastorally, as well as catechetically to love and responsibility. What does it mean to be masculine or feminine? What is human sexuality all about as a gift from God? 

So we pray:

O Holy Trinity,
we thank you for having given to the Church
Pope John Paul II,
and for having made him shine with your fatherly tenderness,
the glory of the Cross of Christ and the splendor of the Spirit of love

He, trusting completely in your infinite mercy
and in the maternal intercession of Mary, has shown himself
in the likeness of Jesus the Good Shepherd
and has pointed out to us holiness
as the path to reach eternal communion with You.

Grant us, through his intercession,
according to your will, the grace that we implore,
in the hope that he will soon be numbered among your saints.

The genesis of Humanae Vitae, with its sub-heading ‘Memory and Identity;’ is very appropriate in this fortieth anniversary year. July 25 1968 – the Feast of St James is the date when Pope Paul VI promulgated the encyclical itself. I have often thought that for the encyclical that has probably suffered most from rejection, misinterpretation, outright attack and ridicule; placing it under the heavenly protection of St. James was a stroke of Spirit-filled genius by Pope Paul. For it is precisely in the letter of St. James where in chapter 1 verses 19-20; 26  we read:

“Know this, my beloved brethren. Let every man be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger, for the anger of man does not work the righteousness of God.... If anyone thinks he is religious, and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this man’s religion is vain.

And later in chapter 3 verses 6 and 11

“And the tongue is a fire…But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge.”

How appropriate these words of Sacred Scripture are now as we reflect on the previous forty years and beyond that have fuelled the fire of controversy concerning this encyclical. Genesis is a really important word because we know that it is Pope John Paul II’s incisive catechetical exploration of creation in the book of Genesis that throws new light on so many of the themes that are deeply embedded in HumanaeVitae. Just as John Paul II invited us during the General Audiences of 1979-1984 to take a spiritual ‘memory trip’ (one might say) back to our spiritual beginnings by looking at the story of Genesis in order to begin to get an understanding of an adequate anthropology; then I think in a parallel fashion and hopefully bearing similar insightful fruits, it is good for us to go back to the beginning with the encyclical of Humane Vitae and even examine some key issues prior to 1968.  Looking back over forty years or more (yes with the gift of hindsight) but through the prism of a theology of the body, it becomes ever more possible to see the prophetic nature of Paul VI’s work. We engage in this exercise (albeit in a collective sense) precisely because the memory and all its attendant qualities for personal human growth and flourishing plays a hugely significant role in the process of healing.

The capacity for us as humans to remember, in a sense, makes us more human.  It would be interesting to know from zoology and experts in the field what other species of mammal or creature have in terms of memory but certainly as humans we are gifted and graced by God’s providence with the capacity to remember things. And not just to recall things but to act upon them, use them in some constructive way.  Memory and calling to memory things both good and bad plays a big part in how we understand ourselves and who we ought to be in the imago Dei... It helps shape our identity, a personal history – it is essential to what makes us who we are. After all we gather in the Name of the One who told us to “Do this in memory of me.” 

So as the Church and as a community; the Mystical Body of Christ, I think we have to collectively tap into our spiritual memory, back forty or fifty years, to have a new understanding of what is was that Pope Paul VI was trying to proclaim to a very confused generation, and indeed his successors and the Magisterium have tried to do ever since.  When we remember things [and for those of us who are Catholic, and have experienced the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation and received sacramental absolution at the hands of a priest; or those of us who are not Catholics but have experienced some kind of therapeutic healing by disclosing what it is that has burdened us] then what is vital about that remembering [good or bad] in the healing process is the humble art of doing it objectively with honesty and truth.  This brings about healing or at least sets one firmly on a course to deeper and lasting healing. There have been helpful reminders of what John Paul himself called the ‘purification of memory’1 through the work of secular bodies for example like the Truth and Reconciliation Commission set up after the fall of apartheid in South Africa.

To begin this process of recalling, imagine you are at a papal audience the week after the promulgation of the encyclical in 1968. Here the Pope is expressing from the heart the myriad of emotions he underwent in preparing the Letter as well as the complexity of the task the Church, and in some sense the whole world was waiting for him to complete. It is good to recall his words to get into the mind of the man and the spirit and heart of this very brave pastor.

“The first feeling was that of our own very grave responsibility, it brought Us into and sustained Us in the heart and call of the question for four years of study and planning that went into this encyclical.  We will confide to you that this feeling caused Us no small measure of mental anguish.  We never felt the weight of our office as much as in this situation; we studied, read and discussed all we could and we also prayed a great deal.”2.

He also then goes onto talk about the work of his predecessor Pope John XXIII and in particular the Papal Commission on Problems of Marriage and the Family (more popularly referred to as the “Papal Birth Control Commission”) set up by his predecessor to look into this question; particularly that of chemical contraception or the Pill. Paul VI talks about the voices that were clamouring all around him in the church, society and the media etc.

We knew of the heated, passionate and authoritative discussions on this very important subject; we heard the loud voices of public opinion and of the press; we listened to the softer voices that penetrated into our paternal hearts.  The voices of many people especially of highly respected women who were distressed by this difficult situation and we read the scientific reports on alarming population problems often supported by the studies of experts and by government programmes.  We received publications from all directions, some of them based on a study of particular scientific aspects of the problem, others on a realistic consideration of many grave sociological conditions and still others on the urgent demands arising from the changes have burst forth into all areas of modern living.”3

Here in the following lines, perhaps we should allow our hearts to go out to him retrospectively-speaking.

Many times we’ve felt as if we were being swamped by the wave of documents and many times humanly speaking we felt our own humble inadequacy in the face of the formidable apostolic task of having to speak out on this matter.  Many times we’ve trembled before the dilemma of giving in easily to current opinions or of making a decision that would be hard for modern society to accept although it might be arbitrarily too burdensome for married life.”4

He goes on to describe just how much he consulted widely and as variedly as he possibly could, for a long as he possibly could.  In conclusion he says:

“Finally a feeling of hope accompanied the labour of editing this document.  We hoped that it would be well received for its own merit and for its human truth. Despite the variety of opinions spread far and wide at the present time and despite the difficulty which the path traced out might present to those who intend to follow it faithfully.  Lastly we hoped that Christian married couples who understand our words however severe and hard they may seem are intended to express the genuineness of their love which is called upon to transfigure itself in imitation of Christ’s love for his mystical spouse of the Church.”5

The text of this audience allows us the briefest glimpse into the heart and mind of the Holy Father in 1968. How could anyone on hearing those words not be moved to pick up the actual encyclical and read the very text of Humanae Vitae itself and yet so many have not and do not. Indeed one could take this address of Pope Paul VI and then consult the more recent document: ‘The Family and Human Procreation’ which was issued by the Pontifical Council for the Family in 2006 with its up to date analysis of contemporary demographics and find it very hard not be moved to read Humanae Vitae with a fresh eye. 

The Encyclical (in the wake of Gaudium et Spes: The Dogmatic Constitution on the Church from Vatican II ) triggered forty years of magisterial pronouncements not just on the sacredness of human life but more urgently concerning the grave situations menacing marriage and the family as a result of social engineering arising from public policy, legislation, secular educational ideology and philosophy. Indeed as one highly respected adviser to John Paul II has called it, it is ‘the human face of terrorism.’6

Another interesting commentary at the time was from Pierre-Paul Grassé of the French Academy of Sciences who wrote in ‘Le Figaro’ newspaper in October 1968:

‘The Pope has spoken as defender of the individual and of the whole of mankind.  The encyclical Humanae Vitae ensures in an elevated way the maintenance of Christian doctrine and morality and also the development of true scientific humanism.  This encyclical is in harmony with the data of biology; it reminds doctors of their duties and starts man along a way in which his dignity both physical and moral will not undergo any aggression.  For us, that is the Academy, the controversy is closed.’

Interesting to note too that at the time of the encyclical a personal letter came from the Protestant theologian Karl Barth addressed to Paul VI, but it went via the Secretariat of State, [Cardinal Cicognani on November 28th 1968] congratulating the pope on his heroic and courageous stand on the issue of maintaining the link between the unitive and procreative aspects of married sexual love (which is the heart of the encyclical’s teaching) against pressure from all sides.7

So why has this particular magisterial teaching been met with such unprecedented  rejection, confusion, outright dissent or complete indifference? The heart of the answer to the question lies in the contraceptive mentality; which began to prevail long before the 1960s through key protagonists within the eugenics movement. The contraceptive mentality is not just about birth control and the various methods of birth control so much as a mind set which people suffer from in various degrees or forms. Indeed as the late Archbishop Fulton Sheen once said, those who advocate birth control neither appreciate birth nor understand control. The contraceptive mentality concerns prevailing anti-life attitudes to women and motherhood, men and fatherhood, children as burdens or problems instead of gifts, sexuality as recreational, reproduction without sex and love without responsibility.

Given the kind of culture we live in, which is sex-saturated, indeed one might describe it as hyper-sexualised, it is hard even for the most committed Christian not to be affected by it, which almost like a forest fire, draws oxygen away from the culture of life. To make an analogy here, it is rather like the effects on one’s health of passive smoking. Such a mentality creates a culture of fear – being afraid, afraid to love deeply, truly, honestly and transparently - especially in the relationship between man and woman; whether that be married or unmarried. There is a fear certainly when it comes to the struggle with human fragility and sexuality, interpersonal relationships but what exactly are people afraid of?

Deep down in the heart and soul is a fear of self-sacrifice. Our human nature, wounded, though not permanently damaged (as John Paul II would say) clings to a false self preservation, the satisfying of false self, the ego. Such understandable but disproportionate preservation of the self manifests itself in the often pathological fear of having more offspring [than one imagines one has the capacity to handle] or of having babies at all!

Pregnancy and fertility is often treated like an illness to be avoided, it is a pathology rather than gift and if it is contemplated then it is in the context of lifestyle choice rather than openness to life. 8 After all, one thing Paul VI could never have foreseen or predicted was that we would arrive (as a society) at the point where we now have babies without sex, (assisted reproduction) let alone sex without love and responsibility. As the Director of the Holy See Press Office put it:

"Certainly the logic of reciprocal welcoming, of self-mastery, of conjugal respect, of spirituality and responsibility, that characterizes this vision can seem light years away from the ostentatious separation of sexuality and responsibility, from that transformation of sexuality into a drug that attacks us from every corner of our streets and of our cities, from every TV and computer screen”9

Recently on the billboards on the Underground in London, there were two books advertised, entitled: “And God Created the Au Pair, We’d be perfect mothers if it weren’t for the children” and “Baby-Proofing Your Marriage.” The implication being of course that, children will deny your personality, take over your life, and stifle your freedom. Well, indeed they do but in a good sense – you find yourself if you lose yourself is the essence of Christ’s message.  Self sacrifice and unconditional love for others bring you fulfilment and if your call to marriage includes parenthood then that comes with a price but a price worth paying. So there’s a culture of fear underpinning the contraceptive mentality and that its unique expression within and outside of the Church in 1968 was sharply skewed by the alarmist Malthusian exaggerations about population levels. Hyperbole is always at risk of blurring the vision for truth, or as is commonly (albeit jokingly) known in journalism, ‘never let the truth get in the way of a good story.’

“But precisely for this reason ‘Humanae Vitae’ is forward looking, with the courage of hard words [said Fr. Lombardi] it reminds us of a truth and of the dignity of the person, of life and of love, that too often is forgotten. [He continued]

And the consequence of this forgetfulness is not greater happiness, but that 'asphyxiating circle of egoism' that, as the Pope says, always remains a trap.”10   


It’s important not to underestimate the power of this exaggeration which abounded in 1968 to confuse and abuse intellectual freedom and integrity over the family planning issue. Take for example the poster (as illustrated) from the USA at that time. Clearly we recognise it as a gross and disrespectful caricature of the Holy Father but apart from misrepresenting the overall message of the encyclical (as an ode to marital love), and homing in on paragraph 14 about artificial contraception, the tone of the picture is to be accusatory on the part of the Magisterium towards the lay faithful. As believing Christians we must always be alert to the language of accusation so that in testing the spirits we can be sure of the source from where such language springs which is not of the spirit of charity.11   

This is why the pre-history of the encyclical is so important, the build up as it were to the promulgation. The following list is by no means a comprehensive one but I hope a useful overview of the antagonistic influences against the Church’s teaching on marital love and an indication of the long pre-history to the Magisterium tackling this issue in the 1960s. I have emphasised those things which are of key significance in this pre-history to Humanae Vitae.

Marie Stopes  1880 –  1958

*         Helped form a birth-control clinic in London which became the British Family Planning Association a founding member of IPPF

*         In Radiant Motherhood (1920) she called for the "sterilization of those totally unfit for parenthood (to) be made an immediate possibility, indeed made compulsory."  “Society allows the diseased, the racially negligent, the thriftless, the careless and the feeble minded, the very lowest and worst members of the community to produce innumerable tens of thousands of stunted, warped inferior infants……..a large proportion….drain the resources of the classes above them ….The better classes, freed from the cost of institutions etc”

*         Even more controversially, her The Control of Parenthood (1920) declared that "utopia could be reached in my life time had I the power to issue inviolable edicts... (I would legislate compulsory sterilization of the insane, feebleminded)... revolutionaries... half-castes."

*          Stopes even cut her son Harry out of her will for marrying a near-sighted man

Margaret Sanger 18791966

*         early 1920s advocate of contraception and involuntary sterilisation.

1.      In 1923, she established the Clinical Research Bureau. It was the first legal birth control clinic in the U.S. (renamed Margaret Sanger Research Bureau in her honor in 1940). It received crucial grants from John D. Rockefeller, Jr.'s Bureau of Social Hygiene from 1924 onwards, which were made anonymously to avoid public exposure of the Rockefeller name to her cause. The family also consistently supported her ongoing efforts in regard to population control

2.      Foundress of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America

3.      Founded the International Planned Parenthood Federation in 1952.

4.      Founded the Margaret Sanger Research Bureau which financed the development of the oral contraceptive

*         Coined the slogan “Birth Control, to create a race of Thoroughbreds”

*         Drew up a Plan for Peace (1932), which included the following recommendations.

         To apply a stern and rigid policy of sterilisation and segregation to that grade of the population whose progeny were already tainted or whose inheritance is such that objectionable traits may be transmitted to their offspring…       “human weeds” the insane, mentally retarded, criminals, Slavs, Southern Mediterranean, Jews, black Catholics.

        “To apportion farmlands and homesteads for these segregated persons where they would be taught to work under competent instructors for the period of their entire lives.”

The eugenics movement were very influential behind the decision of the Anglican communion, at the Lambeth Conference in 1930, when the Church of England broke with millennia of Christian tradition and teaching on marriage by allowing recourse to contraception in marriage. There were 193 votes in favour to 67 ‘nos’ and 14 abstentions.12 Interesting to note that the date, August, when the vote was cast  (Vigil of the Feast of the Assumption) reminds us of the text in Genesis Chapter3:15

“I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; he shall bruise your head and you shall bruise his heel.”

The Lambeth decision was certainly a biblical event for the life of the Catholic Church and the world. Against this background a highly significant figure is that of Dr. John Rock. He was baptised in 1890 at the Church of the Immaculate Conception in Marlborough, Massachusetts, and married by Cardinal William O'Connell, of Boston. He had five children and nineteen grandchildren. During the 1930s at the Free Hospital for Women, in Brookline, he started the country's first rhythm clinic for educating Catholic couples in what later became known as ‘natural family planning’13. His friends would say that he was in love with his church. He was also one of the inventors of the birth-control pill, and it was his conviction that his faith and his vocation were perfectly compatible. Even when Monsignor Francis W. Carney, of Cleveland, called him a "moral rapist," and when Frederick Good, the longtime head of obstetrics at Boston City Hospital, went to Boston's Cardinal Richard Cushing to have Rock excommunicated, Rock was unmoved.’14

In the years immediately after the Pill was approved by the F.D.A. (Federal Drug Agency) in 1960, Rock was everywhere. He appeared in interviews and documentaries on CBS and NBC, in Time, Newsweek, Life, The Saturday Evening Post. He toured the country tirelessly. He wrote a widely discussed book, "The Time Has Come: A Catholic Doctor's Proposals to End the Battle Over Birth Control," which was translated into French, German, and Dutch. His mere association with the Pill helped make it seem respectable. "He was a man of great dignity," said Dr. Sheldon J. Segal, of Population Control.15   This close collusion between organisations such as Population Control, Planned Parenthood Federation and elements within the Church pushing for change on the Church’s teaching should not be underestimated. In his book “Clerical Error” Robert Blair Kaiser (Time magazine’s correspondent in Rome 1962-65) mentions a memo from Dr Robert Straus (Director of Planned Parenthood) to Kaiser himself giving an account of a meeting between Straus and Mgr Cardinale (who worked in the Vatican Secretariat of State) which took place inside the Vatican in February 1963. It was at this meeting according to the memo that Mgr. Cardinale specifically leaked the news to Planned Parenthood of the soon to be announced papal commission On Problems of Marriage and Family promising them information and collaboration, even though Straus himself exclaimed incredulity at this to Cardinale.16   

Throughout the 1950s in the USA, the Planned Parenthood Federation were pouring millions of dollars into the pharmaceutical trials of women on the pill. Rock was a pioneer in in-vitro fertilization and the freezing of sperm cells, and was the first to extract an intact fertilized egg. The Pill was his “crowning” achievement. His two collaborators, Gregory Pincus and Min- Cheuh Chang, worked out the mechanism but he shepherded the drug through its clinical trials which in spite of his Catholicism could only have been achieved with funds from Margaret Sanger’s foundation and others. But it was only after hundreds of deaths during trials that reducing the oestrogen levels in the drug, took place. So you can imagine the climate of pressure building up against the Church’s teaching and which predated the calling of the second Vatican Council and subsequently the papal commission which Pope John XXIII set up with only six people. By the beginning of 1965, the membership had expanded to 55 and finally to 71, (including the Archbishop of Krakow- Karol Wojtila). Aside from a wider range of academic and technical expertise, it now included three married couples. Finally, in February 1966, two months before it began its fifth and final session, sixteen cardinals and bishops were added: Cardinal Ottaviani was now President, with Cardinals Doepfner and Heenan as Vice-Presidents. It was now clear that the Commission was going to propose, with near unanimity, a significant change in Catholic teaching on birth regulation. "The Theological Report of the Commission", which Cardinal Doepfner and Henri de Riedmatten (General Secretary of the Commission), presented to Paul VI on 28 June 1966 advocated, by an overwhelming majority, a change in thinking. Cardinal Doepfner had said in l966:

"Casti connubii is not infallible. There would be no harm in saying for once the Church had been wrong. Having learned from married couples, especially women, the Church must change so that we do not impose on others sacrifices we know in our hearts are not necessary."17

Paul VI must surely have begun writing the encyclical at that time (albeit awaiting the outcome of the Commission) aligning his thought with the document Gaudium et Spes (Joy and Hope); from the recent Vatican Council. This document speaks beautifully about the human person, the call to holiness and particularly married life. It also restated the Church’s tradition about maintaining the unitive and the procreative aspect of conjugal love but it didn’t state anything definitive about birth control.

Such epochal events in the life of the Church at this time can only be understood in terms of their biblical significance. Take the so called “Majority Report” (which was the media spin at the time on the Commission’s official report) and compare it to the account from the Book of Numbers chapter 13:17-Chapter 14:36. There we see Moses on the threshold of entering the land of Canaan with the Host of Israel but very unsure of the ability to capture it (by God’s grace) so he sends in a team of men to spy out the land during forty days and to return with a report. Their ‘majority report’ upon their return is that they cannot enter the land, that the odds against them from achieving God’s purpose are too high. The passage ends with these chilling texts;

“According to the number of the days in which you spied out the land, forty days, for every day a year, you shall bear your iniquity, forty years and you shall know my displeasure…….And the men whom Moses sent to spy out the land, and who returned made all the congregation to murmur against him, by bringing up an evil report against the land..” Numbers 14: 34 and 36

Are there echoes of that same lack of trust and confidence in God’s power [with all due respect its authors] to achieve great things (through conjugal love) of the report to Paul VI in 1966 ?  Pope Paul continued to seek expert opinion on this issue for a further year and a half. One is reminded when Jesus at Caeseria Phillipi asked the disciples: ‘who do people say I am?’  that it was only Peter [inspired by the Holy Spirit] who spoke the actual truth. It is believed that Paul VI was until the eleventh hour swayed by the majority view not because he agreed in birth control per se, but because he was unsure (as many were at the time) about the side effects of the Pill and its abortifacient nature. Even his predecessor Pope Pius XII had stated that in certain circumstances use of hormonal contraceptives could be legitimate for therapeutic ends.18

Perhaps it took a visit from a married couple Alice and Dietrich von Hildebrand who discussed their concerns about the Second Vatican Council's outcomes with Pope Paul VI at a private audience in 1965, which may have had some spiritual influence upon the Holy Father's ongoing deliberations. 19 We will never know.

When considering such widespread resonance and acceptance of teachings in the Church, we cannot overlook the help of the Holy Spirit given personally to the Successor of Peter. This assistance is meant to prevent the Pastor from leading the flock astray. The pope is endowed with infallibility because he must direct the Church which Christ promised would be preserved from all error till the end of time. It is believed that Bishop Karol Wojtila came to Paul VI’s attention because of his work ‘Love and Responsibility’, published in 1960. It was a book far ahead of it’s time (one might say) which included a chapter on sexology. It must have been quite radical to see the writings of a young Polish bishop on sexual and emotional intimacy between husband and wife, reflecting the authentic teaching of the Church.

The problem with the period surrounding the papal commission was that someone of the magnitude of Bishop Wojtila’s intellectual influence was (at the eleventh hour) somewhat hampered because he couldn’t get in and out of Communist Poland with the regularity he needed, especially to attend the plenary sessions of the Commission in Rome. This is something that is referred to by George Weigel in his biography of John Paul II “Witness to Hope.”

“Archbishop Karol Wojtyla, well-known to the Pope as the author of Love and Responsibility, had been appointed by Paul VI to the Papal Commission, but had been unable to attend the June 1966 meeting at which the majority of the commission took the position later summarized in its memorandum. The Polish government had denied him a passport, on the excuse that he had waited too late to apply.”

Weigel goes on to explain that Wojtila set up his own diocesan commission completing its work in February 1968, with a memorandum of conclusions —- "The Foundations of the Church's Doctrine on the Principles of Conjugal Life" —- which were drawn up in French and sent to Paul VI by Cardinal Wojtila. Elements of the memorandum found their way in to Humanae Vitae but the richness of the Krakow text expounding a more personalist theology of conjugal morality, the equality of the spouses and a better explanation of why natural methods were more fitting to human dignity, particularly the dignity of women, left Humanae Vitae itself open to accusations of being legalistic and pastorally insensitive.20

For this reason many in the Church who have dissented from this teaching have done so on the basis that Humanae Vitae was more about ecclesial politics and the preservation of magisterial authority than an authentic Christocentric response to the social and moral issues of the day.  This prevailing climate of antagonisms is what some, including Weigel, have called the “Truce of ’68.” For example, immediately after the release of the encyclical Cardinal O’Boyle of Washington issued a very forthright and clear pastoral letter calling the Faithful of his Diocese to obey the Pope’s teaching and not to be afraid of the prevailing social trends around them opposing it. A lobby of about fifty five priests in Washington sent a letter to the ‘Washington Post’ declaring themselves open dissenters to the encyclical as did a number of priests in Britain in writing an open letter of dissent to the British press.

In Washington a fierce row erupted between Cardinal O’Boyle, and these priests.  He disciplined them and as happened in lots of cases they weren’t allowed to hear confessions or preach or teach in Catholic institutions. In 1972 the remaining fifteen dissenters took their case to Rome and an interesting thing happened. Instead of the Sacred Roman Rota who would normally handle a disciplinary case between a bishop and a priest handling the case Paul VI himself gave instructions for the appeal to be brought to the Congregation for Clergy to find a ‘pastoral’ solution.  In the end Cardinal O’Boyle had to back down from his disciplinary position and the priests were welcomed back. Such cases were replicated across the world and it created an atmosphere of a ‘truce’- a false peace in the pastoral life of the Church, whereby clergy would be aware of the Church’s teaching on this issue of contraception and although officially exhorted to teach according to moral norms, in fact [without threat of punitive measures] chose to ignore and in many situations actively discourage fidelity to it in preaching, teaching and catechetical ministry and worse still, the confessional. 21

Pastorally speaking we have suffered enormous ‘fall-out’ from this pastoral/doctrinal explosion in the 1960s. Germain Grisez, a leading theological adviser to Cardinal O’Boyle at the time knew that many Catholics were already flouting the Chruch’s teaching long before Humanae Vitae was promulgated. One could say that the discovery of the hormonal contraceptive pill causing the split between the unitive and procreative nature of the one flesh union had as profound an impact of the splitting of the atom. To draw an analogy of its effect on authentic married love and potential vitality, one could think of how the Catholic cathedral of Nagasaki at the hypocentre of the atomic explosion in 194523 in which two priests hearing confessions were killed; that there is equal supernatural devastation in the wake of the couple who wilfully contracept and render the reconciling power of their lovemaking lifeless. Such a union can be a harbinger of death not just physically by procuring the early killing of the newly conceived person after conception but spiritually-speaking the fruits of such lovemaking are in fact counterfeit versions of what is actually divinely intended. The atom bomb caused explosion, contraception triggers endless implosion.

Fundamentally, it concerns our capacity to love. The only way to discover our identity and the meaning of our lives and the truth about our masculinity and femininity, our male/female relationships - the communion of persons - is to seek and find the truth about it in Christ, what John Paul II refers to as the ‘deepest substratum of human ethics and culture’ i.e. the relationship between man and woman rediscovering that interior gaze which, before the Fall rendered our first parents, ‘naked without shame.’ (General Audience October 22nd 1980) Thus ‘human life is by its nature “co-educational” and its dignity as well as its balance depends at every moment of history and in every place of geographical longitude and latitude, on “who” she will be for him and he for her.’ (General Audience October 8th 1980)22.  To embrace this is to begin to fathom the profound nature of contraception not only on sex and sexuality, but upon marriage, family and the very nature of the Church herself as symbolised so beautifully in and through matrimony.

This is why our various crises of faith and life in the Church hinges on this fundamental question enshrined in Humanae Vitae. The splitting of anything comes with a price. That is the nature of the diabolic in contrast to the symbolic. The moral devastation of the last forty years proves this beyond all reasonable doubt. But there was always a pastoral alternative to the ‘truce of ’68.’ As Weigel states;

‘no one imagines that this is easy. But then no one should imagine that marriage is easy, either. The testimony of Catholics who faithfully live the truth about marital love and responsibility is that the rhythms of sexual love and sexual abstinence involved in natural family planning enhance relationships, deepen conversations, and enrich marriages humanly and spiritually.’

Much of this depends of course on the Church being able to raise to the level of universal appreciation, that the calling of every man is the dignity of every woman just as the vocation of every woman is the integrity of every man.

In the wake of the encyclical back in Krakow, and in order to assist married laity to embrace this teaching and live by it with complete fidelity, Archbishop Wojtila systematically set up a number of natural family planning instruction centres all around his Diocese so the people weren’t left to fend for themselves. He wanted to equip married couples with a knowledge of their fertility; fertility awareness. In addition to this he made a list of evangelical counsels or rather a rule based on the evangelical counsels for married couples. His idea was that couples who were faithfully living according to the Church’s teaching in their marriage would group together in support groups and develop (according to his way of thinking) not to any strict guidelines but a new vibrant and dynamic couple spirituality. When a person gets married one does not abandon one’s family but one leaves that family to create a new family, so this unique union and new identity edifies further still the domestic church. John Paul would maintain that every married couple has, like every priest, something to show the world of the image of God. (see appendix)

This rule is only six paragraphs long with the final paragraph urging couples to agree among themselves what spirituality is and how they sustain their spirituality and that they then must take on some kind of apostolic task. In other words, by its very sacramental nature, married love becomes a truly apostolic work defining spouses and if God wills (spouses as parents) to be the primary agents of evangelisation.

This why I mentioned the influence of Alice and Dietrich von Hildebrand on Pope Paul VI back in 1965 (limited though it may be) because I believe that primarily, though not exclusively, the vocation or renewed appreciation of the vocation of marriage; matrimonial love and couple spirituality is what the Church is desperately crying out for in abundance. To that end it is gratifying to see the beatification in October 2008 of the parents of St.Therese of Lisieux as a married couple with all that this implies for the Church. It is hoped that those who venerate the relics of this great Doctor of the Church when they arrive in Britain in 2009, will also be conscious of that same dynamic impact of the love of her parents on her soul and the life of the Church.  


1. n11. Incarnationis Mysterium  BULL OF INDICTION  OF THE GREAT JUBILEE OF THE YEAR 2000

2. The Pope Speaks Vol. 13, No. 3 (1968)

3. ibid

4. ibid

5. ibid

6. Mgr. Michel Schooyans,  Le Terrorisme à Visage Humain, De Guibert Publishers, Paris. 2006

7. John Paul II. see footnote 1 p. of Reflections on Humanae Vitae, Daughters of St. Paul 1984, f.1, pp. 74-76

8. “More importantly it’s to help people to see that the biological capacity to become a parent after careful prayer and discernment and in accordance with the Divine plan means that in using NFA, a couple can genuinely know and be grateful for learning that any pregnancy (even if unexpected, is never, ever truly unplanned because the couple know in their souls and bodies that they have entrusted everything to God in whose hands their marriage is most secure). This means that they are enjoying the gift of physical intimacy and sexuality within the marriage with absolute integrity.” 

‘Fertility Regulation, Naturally’ Zenit Interview  on launch of ‘Joy of God’s Plan’ DVD 18/04/07. E. Adamus http://www.zenit.org/article-19406?l=english

9. Fr. F. Lombardi SJ Director of Press Office of Holy See. Zenit interview. 18/05/08 www.zenit.org/article-22616?l=english

10. ibid

10a ‘ graphic digitally restored from an original poster, with "1968 Cabinet type shop" as the only identifying label.’

        http://www.vhemt.org/philrel.htm#worldview  extract from The Voluntary Human Extinction Movement.

        A body which promotes almost total annihilation of humanity in order to ‘save’ the planet.

11. Revelation 12:10 “…the accuser of our brethren has been thrown down.”

12. One hundred years ago the Lambeth Conference of 1908 affirmed its opposition to artificial contraception in words harsher than anything appearing in Humanae Vitae: "demoralizing to character and hostile to national welfare." 


13. "The term "Naturual Family Planning" or "NFP" was coined in 1971 at a joint meeting of federal public health officials [in USA] and international leaders of the nascent NFP Movement, and made its first appearance in print in 1973.  The implications of this verbal merger were not lost on the population control establishment, which was quick to publicize the idea that the Church had adopted the concept of "family planning" and that the only remaining area of disagreement was over methodology..."  “The Final Plague: Sex Education”  by Randy Engel . Pan Books 1993. footnote 400            

14. New Yorker Magazine March 10 2000 “Annals of Medicine”    http://www.gladwell.com/2000/2000_03_10_a_rock.htm 

15. ibid

16. Robert Blair Kaiser Clerical Error: A True Story. Continuum International Publishing Group, 2002

17. At the end of his life, Cardinal Doepfner realized the gravity of his mistake, and admitted it on German TV. On July 19, 1976, five days before his sudden death, he wrote to a friend, "the more I think about it, the more I am convinced that the pope was right after all"

18. If a woman takes such medicine, not to prevent conception, but only on the advice of a doctor as a necessary remedy because of the condition of the uterus or the organism, she produces indirect sterilization, which is permitted according to the general principles governing acts with a double effect. Pius XII, “Address to the Seventh Congress of the International Society of Hematology,” Sept. 12, 1958, in AAS 50 (958) 734–35;

19. It was on June 21, 1965. As soon as my husband started pleading with him to condemn the heresies that were rampant, the Pope interrupted him with the words, “Lo scriva, lo scriva.” (“Write it down.”) A few moments later, for the second time, my husband drew the gravity of the situation to the Pope’s attention. Same answer. His Holiness received us standing. It was clear that the Pope was feeling very uncomfortable. See http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/religion/723414/posts

20. The failure to explicate a personalist context for the Catholic sexual ethic, compounded by the politicization of the post-Humanae Vitae debate in the Church, had serious ramifications for the Church's effort to articulate a compelling Christian humanism in the modern world. In its first major post-Vatican II confrontation with the sexual revolution—the most potent manifestation of the notion of freedom as personal autonomy—the Church had been put squarely on the defensive. Had the Kraków commission's memorandum shaped the argumentation of Humanae Vitae more decisively, a more intelligent and sensitive debate might have ensued.  See “Witness to Hope” G. Weigel. 1999 Harper Collins.

21. See The Making of a Moral Theologian (Germain Grisez) by Russell Shaw. And also text of Cardinal Heenan’s Pastoral Letter to Clergy of Westminster Diocese published in the English edition of L’Osservatore Romano. 7 Nov 1968, page 3


22. Translation. M. Waldstein, Man and Woman He Created Them. P.301. 2007. Pauline Books

Part 2

This version: 22nd December 2010

Copyright ©; Edmund Adamus 2010

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