Tuesday, July 22, 2008

40th Anniversary of Humanae Vitae


Now, we priests had a note saying we shouldn't cause scandal by criticising the bishops on the net a few weeks ago, our bishop graciously pointed out that this had nothing to do with priests in his diocese.

I am afraid this is a bit of gentle criticism. We are rapidly approaching the 40th anniversary of Humanae Vitae, in fact it is on the Feast of Sts Anne and Joachim, there has been nothing marking this important anniversary from the Bishop's Conference at all.

I can understand that for many older bishops and priests the publication of this document recalls painful memories. The Church in the English speaking world was riven apart by it, so many priests and religious left not only their ministry but left the Church too. Personally I think Humanae Vitae is a very inferior document compared to JPII's Evangellium Vitae, and it was perhaps unfortunate that Paul VI published it in the "silly season" when in the UK at least "Pope bans Pill" stories ran and ran for weeks and were often written by people who hadn't even read the document. In the Church in England and Wales, it made dissidence and dissidents popular and gave birth to the then new, Tabletista Catholic, and the concept of "loyal disobedience". Even amongst those who had no problem with the teaching, judged the document itself as inopportune. It became for many a focus for all types of expressions of dissatisfaction with both the pre and post Concilliar Church.

That being said Paul VI's teaching about the evils of a "contraceptive society" have proved themselves prophetic, as he said the basic structures of society have been mortally wounded. Sex has become something without responisibilities, the family is no longer seen as essentially part of society, children are not seen as the consequence of human love, and are often seen as a burden rather than a gift. The contraceptive industry, with its even uglier siblings the abortion and pornography industry, have framed today's society.

This is why I was delighted to see this, from the US Bishops, if only our own bishops would overcome their timidity and take up similar initiatives.

Most Catholics are unaware of the Churches teaching on contraception, and certainly unaware of why the Church teaches as it does. Increasingly as we are looking for "green alternatives" here the Church has a great deal to offer.

In my last parish a couple of vegan, non-Catholic bikers, were about the only people who came knocking on my door asking for information on Natural Family Planning, the last I heard they had become Catholics. A couple of friends had difficulty conceiving took up NFP after trying unsuccessfully for a baby and because the got in touch with their bodies' rhythms are now the happy parents of two children and looking forward to the delivery of a third.

3 comments:

bernadette said...

Until we grasp HV and start to believe and live it, we will have even less of a grasp of what God's Love means for us and why we were created. Artificial contraception is putting conditions on love and on self-giving, remaining closed to the utter fullness of God's love. HV was a prophetic teaching, but a younger generation is now becoming open to its message, partly in thanks to JP2, and the Theology of the Body. Many are starting to realize that there is truth in this. (Your examples of non-Catholics bearing this out, is very interesting, Fr - people know instinctively what is right, I think)

The lead may not be coming from those to whom we look for a lead... but what does it matter, if enough people are willing to stand up and say "This is the truth". We all have to help eachother see and understand. I think, personally, the lead on living and understanding HV is coming from the under 30s. I use the word "exciting" too much, but it really is exciting to see the change of direction.

Henry said...

The ill-effects of contraceptive chemicals go well beyond their immediate ones. The stuff finds its way into the environment where it has been found to interfere with the breeding of fish. It is also thought to be a cause of reduced sperm counts in humans.

I was told this by a non-Catholic environmental scientist, and suggested that perhaps Humanae Vitae got it right after all. He was forced to agree, reluctantly.

gemoftheocean said...

Henry, so true. I did see ONE report of this in the secular news, regards those fish (and think of the ramifications in the food chain) - if it were ANYTHING ELSE political leaders et al would be up in arms about it. They didn't harp on it for weeks.

I'd say that the failure to support the teaching of HV (not the which were a number of priests undermining it) has torn asunder the church more than any other issue. It's not the NO (the Polish follow the NO and are very faithful) -- it's the "sex without responsibilites" and lack of courage from the pulpit that has done the most harm.

Karen