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William E. May, Emeritus Michael J. McGivney Professor of Moral

Theology, Pontifical John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family at

The Catholic University of America and Senior Fellow, Culture of Life Foundation

Historical background: Preparing for Humanae Vitae; Teaching of Vatican Council II

For the five years before publishing Humanae Vitae on July 25, 1968, Pope Paul VI made a careful review of various questions related to the regulation of birth.. He entrusted some of that review to a special commission popularly known as the “birth control commission” (its formal name was the Pontifical Commission on Population, Family, and Birthrate). Blessed John XXIII established that commission April 27, 1963, six months after the start of the Second Vatican Council. Its purpose was not to consider whether the Church should change its teaching on contraception, but rather to assist the Holy See prepare for an upcoming conference sponsored by the United Nations and the World Health Organization and to advise the Holy Father on the recently developed anovulant pill.

Pope Paul VI was keenly aware of the problem posed by the Western world’s acceptance of contraception. Catholics were increasingly using contraception and theologians were beginning to challenge the received teaching in scholarly journals. He judged that the issue needed serious consideration, but thought that the Vatican Council, now in its second year, was not the proper place to undertake it. He thus decided to expand the Commission’s membership and did so on June 23, 1964, adding physicians, psychiatrists, demographers, sociologists, economists and married couples. But he did not specify in detail to the newly expanded Commission its precise mandate. Thus its members went ahead and defined it on their own: to re-examine the content and status of the received teaching in the Catholic Church on the use of birth control. Because it was a confidential commission, many details related to its inner workings have never been made known. But a year before Humanae Vitae was published, in the spring of 1967, four commission documents were leaked to the press and published in English, in the National Catholic Reporter, and in French, in Le Monde. They revealed that a majority of the members wanted to overturn the traditional teaching on contraception and recommended this to the Pope. 1

Some theologians, pre-eminently Louis Janssens, professor of moral theology at the Universitet de Louvain in Belgium (he later became one of the most strident dissenters from Humanae Vitae and a leading proponent of the proportionalist method of making moral judgments that Blessed John  Paul II repudiated as incompatible with Catholic teaching) claimed that the new birth control pill was not contraceptive because unlike barrier methods it did not interfere with the biological act of genital coition. Pius XII issued the only magisterial statement on this matter in the final address of his long papacy. This was his address on September 12, 1958, a month before his death, to doctors at the 7th International Congress on Hematology in Rome. 2

Vatican Council II condemned contraception (if one takes the care to read what the Council Fathers actually taught). The Council did so in Gaudium et Spes in a paragraph explicitly concerned with the morality of contraception and in a very important official footnote (no. 14) at the end of this paragraph and the documents to which that footnote refers. In Gaudium et Spes, the Council Fathers had declared: “Relying on these principles [“objective standards… based on the nature of the human person and his acts”], children of the Church may not undertake methods of birth control which are found blameworthy by the teaching authority of the Church in its unfolding of the divine law” (no. 51, emphasis added). In the official footnote 14 for this passage the Council Fathers instruct readers to see the following magisterial documents: “Pius XI, encyclical letter Casti Connubii: AAS 22 (1930): Denz.-Schoen. 3716-3718, Pius XII, Allocutio Conventui Unionis Italicae inter Obstetrices, Oct. 29, 1951: AAS 43 (1951), pp. 835-854, Paul VI, address to a group of cardinals, June 23 1964: AAS 56 (1964), pp. 581-589.”

At the precise page of Casti Connubii to which footnote 14 refers Pius XI declared:

Since, therefore. ..openly departing from the uninterrupted Christian tradition some [he had in mind the Lambeth Conference of the Church of England in 1930] recently have judged it possible solemnly to declare another doctrine regarding this question, the Catholic Church, to whom God has entrusted the defense of the integrity and purity of morals, standing erect in the midst of the moral ruin which surrounds her, in order that she may preserve the chastity of the nuptial union from being defiled by this foul stain, raises her voice in token of her divine ambassadorship and through Our mouth proclaims anew: any use whatsoever of matrimony exercised in such a way that the act is deliberately frustrated in its natural power to generate life is an offense against the law of God and of nature, and those who indulge in such are branded with the guilt of a grave sin” (emphasis added).

In his famous Address to the Italian Union of Midwives in October 1951 (Allocutio Conventui Unionis Italicae inter Obstetrices) Pius XII affirmed:

Our Predecessor, Pius XI…in his Encyclical Casti Connubii… once again solemnly proclaimed the fundamental law of the conjugal act and conjugal relations: that every attempt of either husband or wife in the performance of the conjugal act or in the development of its natural consequences which aims at depriving it of its inherent force and hinders the procreation of new life is immoral; and that no ‘indication’ or need can convert an act which is intrinsically immoral into a moral and lawful one. This precept is in full force today, as it was in the past, and so it will be in the future also, and always, because it is not a simple human whim, but the expression of a natural and divine law (emphasis added).

In his address to the cardinals in 1964 Pope Paul VI explicitly said that the Church’s teaching on the grave immorality of contraception is not in doubt.

Note that Pius XII’s September 12, 1958 Address to the Congress of Hematology in which he said that the anovulant pill, if used deliberately to sterilize a woman, is contraceptive is not included among the magisterial documents to which footnote 14 refers. The footnote then continues by stating: “Certain questions which need further and more careful investigation have been handed over, at the command of the Supreme Pontiff, to a commission for the study of population, family, and births, in order that, after it fulfills its function, the Supreme Pontiff may pass judgment” (emphasis added). One of these questions was, “is the anovulant pill contraceptive or not.” 3

The Role of John C. Ford, S.J. and Germain Grisez in Helping Pope Paul VI Write Humanae Vitae 4

Father Ford and Germain Grisez had been friends since 1964, when Grisez wrote his first book, Contraception and the Natural Law. Grisez sent the manuscript to Father Ford, who made good suggestions for strengthening the work, and Grisez then sent it to the Bruce Publishing Company in Milwaukee where I was at that time working as an editor.

Pope Paul VI early in 1964 directed that bishops around the world prepare a confidential inquiry about developments regarding contraception in their territories, and about their own views. Cardinal Patrick A. O’Boyle of Washington, D.C., then president of the U.S. bishops’ conference, asked Ford to help prepare the report for the United States. On June 6 Ford, acting with O’Boyle’s authority, had the first of several private audiences with Paul VI. Paul was certain of the truth of the Church’s teaching on contraception and was also encouraged by the response he received from bishops throughout the world affirming that teaching.

But some advisers had suggested to him that Janssens’ claim that the new anovulant pill was not truly contraceptive because it did not interfere with the physical performance of the marital act might be true. As I noted earlier, there was only one magisterial statement on this matter, Pius XII’s in the final address of his pontificate in September 1958, a month before he died. Paul VI thus thought that a thorough study was needed to make sure that the Church would not ask more of faithful Catholic married couples than God did. He also thought that the Council was not the place to consider this matter and he therefore decided to enlarge the Papal Commission for the study on population, family, and births. He did this on June 23, 1964, but did not spell out his mandate although he called attention to Pius XII’s judgment.

In October, Paul VI appointed Ford to this Commission. Grisez congratulated him, and over the following months the two had telephone conversations about developments. But Ford, respecting the confidentiality of the Commission’s proceedings, did not share any of its documents or discuss his own work.

But John R. Cavanagh, a Washington, D.C. psychiatrist also appointed to the Commission, was less concerned about confidentiality.  In the summer of 1965 he discussed the Commission’s initial meeting at length with Grisez and others, and shared the official English translation of the Report on the Fourth Session of the Commission Set Up by the Holy See to Study the Problems of Population, Family, and Birth-rate with Grisez. After studying it, Grisez called Ford, and the two then freely discussed the Commission’s work.

De Riedmatten, the Commission’s Secretary General, skillfully managed the opening meeting of the enlarged Commission. He invited John T. Noonan, Jr., whose soon-to-be published book was a massive argument for the view that the teaching could change, to summarize his thesis favoring change. Instead of focusing on the question of the birth control pill or even on the truth of the Church’s constant and firm teaching, de Riedmatten urged that the Commission decide whether the teaching was “reformable” or “irreformable.” Twelve of the nineteen members of the theological section thought it could be changed. The other members of the Commission—physicians, demographers and sociologists, married couples, and pastoral workers—sat in on almost all the discussions of the theological section. Cavanagh said that as a result he and other non-theologians on the Committee  began to think, for the first time in their lives, that the Church might approve using contraceptives.

Ford was surprised to find the theologians so predisposed to change. In discussing Noonan’s book with Grisez, Ford raised questions about its historical accuracy, and Grisez’s research greatly impressed Ford who tried but failed to get Grisez appointed to the Pontifical Commission.  Ford when in the US lived in the Jesuit residence near the Catholic University, where he had been teaching and had resigned his professorship to work at the Council. Grisez often visited him at his residence and helped him prepare to see Pope Paul again.

Early in November Ford requested an audience with the Pope and was soon called to Rome. The section on marriage in the penultimate draft of Vatican II’s The Church in the Modern World (Gaudium et Spes) was not clear about contraception. Because he wanted the Council to reaffirm the teaching of Casti Connubii, Pope Paul put Bishop Carlo Colombo, his personal theological advisor, to work drafting amendments. On November 22, the Pope, having called Ford in for a private audience, asked him to work with Colombo and told him to return the next day with the draft amendments.

When Ford returned, Paul VI told him not to leave Rome as he had planned. Ford and some of the other theologians from the Commission were appointed theological advisors to the conciliar subcommission that would deal with the amendments. The subcommission did not welcome the Pope’s initiative. Wishing to avoid open conflict as the Council drew to a close, Paul VI allowed the subcommission to revise the amendments. The result was that the Council left “certain issues” about the morality of contraception to be resolved after the Commission on Population, Family, and Birth-rate completed its work. But at the Pope’s insistence, the celebrated footnote 14 in paragraph 51 was included in the final text of Gaudium et Spes; as I showed above, a careful reading of the text of GS, 51 and footnote 14 leads to the conclusion that the Council, which ended in December, 1967, taught that contraception is a gravely immoral act.

But most of the Council fathers and others thought that the Council itself left the issue of contraception’s morality unresolved and had entrusted it to the Pontifical Commission. This greatly increased both the importance and the urgency of the Commission’s work. Ford and Grisez thought Paul VI should more clearly define the questions to be addressed and should direct the Commission to deliver to him, as soon as possible, the strongest cases that could be made both for and against the propositions on which its members disagreed. Ford tried to put that idea across to Paul VI and also urged de Riedmatten to organize the Commission’s work in that way, though Ford had little hope that the Secretary General would do so without a direct order from Paul VI.

Although Ford’s plan was not adopted, the Pope reorganized the Commission, so that all its previous members became expert advisors to sixteen cardinals and other bishops, newly named to constitute the Commission. But as before, de Riedmatten managed everything. “The experts,” Grisez reports, “were to meet in Rome, beginning with the theologians April 19—29, 1966, continuing with various groups including a second session of the theologians May 23–28, and wrapping up with a plenary session of the experts June 5–8. The members—the sixteen prelates—were then to consider the disputed matters June 20–25, and to deliver their findings and advice to the Pope.”

Ford was discouraged by the meetings. Two of the seven members of the theological section who had held earlier that the Church’s teaching on contraception could not change were no longer meeting with the experts (one of these was Karol Cardinal Wojtyla, who was not given a visa by Communist controlled Poland to attend the meeting) and one other had switched sides. So Ford now found himself a member of a minority of four.

He had three good companions. Marcelino Zalba, S.J., and Jan Visser, C.Ss.R., were leading Catholic moral theologians who had published updated versions of multivolume manuals of the moral theology typical of their religious institutes. Stanislas de Lestapis, S.J., was not only a sociologist but also a truly compassionate pastor, who foresaw that Catholics who were abandoning the Church’s teachings on marriage, sex, and innocent life would experience the disastrous consequences already harming many non-Catholics who had embraced a secularist ethics.

Almost all the laypeople on the Commission now supported change. Patrick Crowley, a Chicago lawyer, and his wife, Patricia, who had founded the Catholic Family Movement, presented anecdotal data about birth regulation and faithful married couples disappointed by Church teaching gathered by methodologically questionable surveys.

De Riedmatten also appealed to certain responses Paul VI had received to questions he put in 1964 to the bishops of the world; when Ford challenged him to produce the documentation, de Riedmatten refused—and offered the excuse that it was confidential. One of the Commission’s most celebrated theological experts was Josef Fuchs, S.J., Professor of Moral Theology at the Gregorian University. In 1965 Fuchs declared that the Church had not taught on contraception in a way that precluded change. But although proponents of change had cast about for an argument that would win his support, he was unwilling then to say that the teaching was mistaken. But by the time of this meeting, Fuchs had found what he thought was a satisfying rationale for the moral acceptability of using contraceptives, and was prepared to say that the Church should change her teaching. The Commission’s other proponents of change, most of them not moral theologians, welcomed Fuchs’s new rationale.

Delighted with the emergence of what he called “substantial consensus”—fifteen members of the theological section denied that using contraceptives is in itself morally bad, while only four still held that position—de Riedmatten quickly recorded their votes (April 28). For the experts of the theological section, the May sessions were an anticlimax. However, a proposal was made to facilitate the work of the Commission’s members—the prelates who would meet in June—by preparing papers summarizing the opposing cases on the question: Is using contraceptives always gravely wrong? Convinced that the case for the Church’s teaching is far stronger than the case its opponents had developed, Ford and his colleagues accepted the proposal. The other side—the “majority”-- also agreed, and a date was set for delivering their papers.

Ford was principal author of the paper for his “minority” group; de Lestapis, Zalba, and Visser offered only minor amendments. De Lestapis also prepared a pastoral supplement, which his colleagues gladly included. On the agreed day, Ford delivered the completed paper, which was in Latin: Status Quaestionis: Doctrina Ecclesiae Eiusque Status. 5

Those on the other side gave an excuse for lateness and delivered their paper, also in Latin, a few days later: Documentum Syntheticum de Moralitate Regulationis Nativitatum.6 During those spring sessions, Ford had sent Grisez occasional letters, reporting developments and asking him to research a few things.

Contrary to later reports, Grisez was not  involved in the preparation of Status Quaestionis. He first learned of it and of Documentum Syntheticum when both documents arrived in his mail at Georgetown with Ford’s request for comments. Just finishing the spring semester at the time, Grisez went to work and sent pages of comments on both these papers. Ford received the first batch of comments as the final session of the experts (June 5–8) was about to begin. Most of the experts would leave after that session, but some, including ten of the theologians—seven from the majority and Visser, Zalba, and Ford from the minority—would remain to sit in on the session of the members (June 20–25). With little time and a lot to do to prepare for that session, Ford telephoned Grisez and asked him to fly to Rome to lend a hand.

Grisez arrived in Rome on June 8. Ford explained that the prospects for the coming Commission session were not bright. Karol WojtyBa, Archbishop of Kraków, would have been an able defender of the Church’s teaching, but harassment by the Polish authorities would keep him from coming. Five of the fifteen members who were coming—Cardinals Suenens, Döpfner, and Joseph Lefebvre (not to be confused with Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre); Archbishop Dearden; and Bishop Reuss—were known proponents of change. Cardinal Shehan and Bishop Dupuy of Albi probably shared their view. Cardinal Gracias from India, Archbishop Zoa from Cameroon, Archbishop Palido-Méndez from Venezuela, and Archbishop Morris from Ireland were unknown quantities.

Ford wanted to meet, if possible, with Heenan, Morris, and other prelates when they arrived in Rome and before their session was to begin eleven days later. They would have already received Status Quaestionis, but he wanted to present to tem the case against change, hoping it would not only firm up their thinking on the issue but make its way into de Riedmatten’s report, thus providing Pope Paul with a more rounded case than Ford had been able to present in Status Quaestionis.

Grisez proposed Ford make a case by formulating a series of questions and treating each in just one page, and Ford immediately accepted the idea. The two formulated thirteen questions and outlined the answers, and Grisez set to work drafting. As he completed each page, Ford worked on it. Then they revised the entire draft, which they titled: The Church and Contraception. They were able to meet and give this document to Heenan, Gracias, and Archbishop Morris. Heenan was noncommittal, Morris was anguished and considered himself unable to judge what Pope Paul should say about contraception, and Gracias welcomed what they had prepared, and at once began skimming it. He used a few of their pages during the members’ session.

Ford had heard that some of the theologians promoting change were working on a schema—that is, a draft—of a possible papal document promulgating what they expected to be the Church’s new doctrine. The plan seemed to be to put something before the fifteen prelates at their upcoming session. Ford did not know what he would do if that happened, but he thought he should have an alternative schema ready in case it was needed. So, he and Grisez developed an outline, and Grisez produced a draft that was scrapped after some severe criticism of it by Ford. Grisez’s next draft was close to what Ford had in mind, and the two worked together in correcting and polishing it. Pleased with the result, Ford translated it into Latin: Schema Quoddam Declarationis Pontificiae circa Anticonceptionem (A Draft of a Pontifical Declaration about Contraception). But Ford never found an appropriate moment to make use of it.

On Monday morning, June 20, Ford was among the theological experts sitting in as de Riedmatten began the session of the Commission’s members—the fifteen cardinals and bishops who were present—with a lengthy summary of the work of the Commission, from its foundation by John XXIII until the end of the recent experts’ sessions. This was De Riedmatten’s Relatio Generalis. The Commission had been asked in June, 1964 to examine the precise problem of the pill; in their most recent session all the theologians but one or two had agreed that it presented no special problem. However, de Riedmatten focused almost entirely on whether contraception is intrinsically evil. In his summary of the Commission’s work he suggested that the widespread use of contraception made pastoral acceptance of it virtually inevitable. He misrepresented the arguments set out by Ford and his colleagues in Status Quaestionis, while presenting those in Documentum Syntheticum at length and sympathetically.

The prelates at the meeting, with the exception of Ottavianni and Binz, who were silent, each offered an intervention. But there was little discussion, and no minds were changed. A formal vote was scheduled for Friday. A proposal to draft a schema for a document to be issued by the Holy Father announcing the Church’s new doctrine was accepted, and.theologians supporting change said they would deliver a draft the next morning, Thursday. Obviously prepared in advance, the draft—Schema Documenti de Responsabili Paternitate (Schema of a Document on Resonsible Parenthood) 7—was discussed for a day and a half and some changes were suggested. Bishop Dupuy wrote another document called Pastoral Indications, 8 which was well received by prelates who shared his position. The prelates left it to the theologians who supported change and to de Riedmatten to complete the revision of the schema for delivery to Pope Paul along with the rest of the Commission’s documents.

On Friday, the prelates voted on three questions: (1) "Whether it is the case that every contraceptive intervention—abortion and irreversible contraceptive sterilization excluded—is intrinsically illicit?" Nine voted no; three voted yes; and three abstained. (2) "Do the members hold that the licitness of a contraceptive intervention— in the terms described by the majority of the Commission’s theological experts—can be affirmed in continuity with the Church’s tradition and the supreme Magisterium’s declarations about the goods of matrimony?" Nine voted yes; five voted no; and one abstained.  (3) "Should the supreme Magisterium speak quite soon?" Fourteen voted yes, and one abstained.

The nine votes firmly favoring change were those of Cardinals Suenens, Döpfner, Lefebvre, and Shehan; Archbishops Dearden, Zoa, and Palido-Méndez; and Bishops Reuss and Dupuy. The three votes that firmly rejected change were those of Cardinals Gracias and Ottaviani and Archbishop Binz. Cardinal Heenan thought that a simple reaffirmation of the received teaching would not solve the existing problem, but he was not convinced that a new teaching along the lines supported by the majority of the theologians was possible. Archbishop Morris was the one persistent abstainer.

Ford was not surprised by these views. but he was surprised by the view of Paul VI’s personal theologian, Bishop Carlo Colombo. Colombo claimed that the Church had always condemned many methods of contraception, but he left open the possibility that the condemnation admitted exceptions in some cases. Although he thought the view of the majority theologians was not in conformity with past teachings, he also thought there might be contraceptive methods, presumably including the pill, compatible with it.

Cardinal Ottaviani, President of the Commission. realized that de Riedmatten’s final report to Pope Paul would be biased in favor of change. But he did not try to influence the Secretary General. But he called Ford aside and asked him to stay in Rome for another week or two, to prepare a response to de Riedmatten’s report. Ford told Ottaviani about Grisez, and the Cardinal agreed that he should help. On Saturday, June 25, the members left Rome. Six of the theologians who supported change and de Riedmatten put the finishing touches on their Schema Documenti de Responsabili Paternitate, which was to be the final part of the Secretary General’s Rapport Final, and he put the finishing touches on the Rapport as a whole.

After giving the document to Paul VI on Monday afternoon, June 27, de Riedmatten delivered a copy to Cardinal Ottaviani, who asked Ford and Grisez to meet with him immediately. Ford and Grisez spent the weekend planning the response they would put together for the Cardinal. Grisez had been thinking about the poor options the Holy Father now faced, and drafted a short paper on that matter to give Ottaviani on Monday. He finished it on Saturday, and an Italian friend had a translation ready on Monday: Quali Sono le Alternative che Rimangono Aperte per il S. Padre? (“What Alternatives Remain Open for the Holy Father?”).

Ottaviani wanted Ford and Grisez to finish their paper in a week to ten days and in it to answer a question he was sure the Holy Father would ask: How could all these good men have come to this conclusion? The Cardinal thought it would be very difficult for the Pope to disagree with the proponents of change unless he had a satisfying answer to that question.

Ford described the thirteen questions and answers he and Grisez had written, and proposed to include them in the response. He also proposed to make a few important points about the Rapport Final rather than undertake a systematic critique. Ottaviani agreed to both proposals, and discussed the second with Ford in some detail. After their conversation, Grisez gave both the memorandum about options he had drawn up, and the Cardinal, apparently sincerely interested, graciously thanked him.

Ford and Grisez were appalled but not surprised by how biased de Riedmatten’s report was. They thought that the section of Status Quaestionis with which Ford’s colleagues had not completely agreed touched on the question. Grisez proposed additional ideas; Ford questioned and developed them. Grisez took notes, and they soon had an outline. During the next week, Grisez spent almost all his time drafting and redrafting that document, while Ford spent almost all his time drafting general and specific observations on the Rapport Final and on the Schema Documenti—which, by putting it at the Rapport’s very end, de Riedmatten made out to be the consummation of the Commission’s entire work.

On Monday, July 4, Grisez and Ford finished their two documents, and Ford sent them  to Ottaviani along with a third consisting of the thirteen questions and answers, while promising delivery of a fourth part, consisting of specific observations, two days later. Ford wrote a covering letter but did not give the packet of materials a single title.

On Wednesday, Ford completed his work on part four. Thursday, July 7, Ford and Grisez flew together to New York, and there parted. Grisez headed home for a vacation with his family, and Ford went for health care and prepared to return to Rome to participate, from September 8 to November 17, in the second session of the thirty-first General Congregation of the Society of Jesus.

On October 29, 1966, just 124 days after de Riedmattten had delivered his Rapport Pope Paul gave an address to the Italian Society of Obstetrics and Gynecology on October 29, 1966. In it he said that the Commission’s conclusions, “it seems to me, cannot be considered definitive, because they have serious implications with respect to not a few weighty questions—questions of a doctrinal, pastoral and social order—which cannot be isolated and put to the side, but require a logical consideration in the context of the issues under study.” Reading the address in L’Osservatore Romano, Ford airmailed that page of the paper to Grisez with a jubilant note. About six months later, in the spring of 1967, translations of four Commission documents were leaked and published in English and French, obviously to put pressure on Pope Paul.

Paul VI finally concluded his conscientious study of birth regulation. He issued Humanae vitae on July 25, 1968, but released it for publication only on Monday, July 29. Ford thought its central teaching was entirely sound, precisely formulated, and complete. But he feared that the explanation of this teaching was not as clear or complete as it could be. I simply note this view here; Grisez and his colleagues later developed a much more comprehensive argument to show why it is always gravely wrong to contracept, 9 as did Pope John Paul II in his Theology of the Body. 10


1. Two books, fully supporting the “majority” position that called for repudiation of the Church traditional teaching are Robert McClory’s Turning Point: The Inside Story of the Papal Birth Control Commission and How Humanae Vitae Changed the Life of Patty Crowley and the Future of the Church (New York: Crossroad, 1995) and Robert Kaiser’s The Encyclical That Never Was: The Story of the Pontifical Commission  on Population and Birth (New York: (New York: Continuum, 1987). See also Kaiser’s The Politics of Sex and Religion: A Case History in the Development of Doctrine. (Kansas City, MO: Leaven Press, a service of the National Catholic Reporter, 1985).

2. Acta Apostolicae Sedis, Vol. XXV, No. 14-15, pp. 732-740. See also http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/pius_xii/speeches/1958/documents/hf_p-xii_spe_19580912_ematologia_sp.html. This source gives Pius XII’s entire address but in Spanish, not English. Pius declared that the anovulant pill, if taken precisely to cause her to be sterile so that she could not conceive, is definitely contraceptive. If could perhaps be taken for some other purpose, for instance, to cure a blood clot in the brain, and if so the sterilizing effect could be accepted an unintended side-effect and justified by the principle of double effect. But Pius’s statement was the only magisterial teaching on this matter because the anovulant pill was developed only in the mid 1950s.

3. On this see Francisco Gil Hellin, Constitutio Pastoralis de Ecclesia in Mundo Huius Temporis, Vol 2,  Pars II: De Dignitate Matrimonii et Familiae Fovenda (Pamplona, Espana: EUNSA, 1993). In this remarkable volume the author in the first part provides the annotated text of the different and final redactions of the Schema on this Pastoral Constitution (Gaudium et Spes), and the notes for this section refer to and cite the different modi suggested by different Council Fathers, the responses of the Commission charged with accepting, rejecting, or modifying the modi, and relevant sections from the official Acta of the Council. A second part includes all the relevant Acta, and a third all the speeches given by different Fathers in debates about  this document. The relevant responses of the Commission and the official Acta explicitly state that the first major question that the Papal Commission on Population, the Family, and Birth was asked to discuss was whether the anovulant pill, taken deliberately to make a woman sterile so that she could not conceive, is or is not contraceptive. This question was quickly answered in the affirmative.

4. In this section I summarize the long account given by Germain Grisez on his website,  http://www.twotlj.org/Ford.html.

5. This was published in English under the title, “State of the Question: A Conservative View,” in The Birth-Control Debate: Interim History in the National Catholic Reporter, ed. Robert Hoyt (Kansas City, MO: National Catholic Reporter, 1969 (this book included the text of Humanae Vitae and the 4 papers presented to the Papal Commission and leaked to the press [to the National Catholic Reporter in the U.S. and Le Monde in France] in 1967 to put pressure on Pope Paul VI to change Church teaching on contraception. Hoyt at that time was editor of the National Catholic Reporter.

6. This was published in English under the title, “The Question Is Not Closed: The Liberals Reply” in Hoyt.

7. Hoyt gave this document the English title, “On Responsible Parenthood: The Final Report.” It is popularly referred to as the “Majority Paper.”

8. Hoyt called this “Pastoral Approaches.” Dupuy had actually written it in French with the title  “Indications Pastorals.”

9. See Germain Grisez, Joseph A. Boyle, Jr., John Finnis, and  William E. May, "'Every Marital Act Ought to Be Open to New Life': Toward a Clearer Understanding," The Thomist 52.3 (1988) 365-426; published in Italian under the title, "'Ogni atto coniugale deve essere aperto a uno nuova vita': verso una comprensione più precisa," in Anthropotes: Rivista di Studi sulla Persona e la Famiglia 4.1 (May 1988) 73-122.

10. On this see Pope John Paul II, Man and Woman He Created Them: A Theology of the Body, translation, Introduction, and Index by Michael Waldstein (Boston: Pauline Books & Media, 2006), p. 662. There we read the following: “The catecheses devoted to Humanae Vitae constitute only one small part, the final part, of those that dealt with the redemption of the body and the sacramentality of marriage. If I draw particular attention to these final catecheses, I do so not only because the topic discussed by them is more closely connected with our present age, but first of all because it is from this topic that the questions spring that run in some way through the whole of our reflections. It follows that this final part is not artificially added to the whole but is organically and homogeneously united with it. In some sense, that part, which in overall disposition is located at the end, is at the same time found at the beginning of that whole. This is important from the point of view of structure and method.

Copyright ©; William E. May 2011

Version: 22nd July 2011

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