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Humanae Vitae and the Great Peirasmos

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It was I think in the year 1985 when I first heard about “Humanae Vitae”.  I was in first year theology then taking up Moral Theology.  In one lesson under the section Family and Marriage, the professor, a Spanish Dominican discussing the Church’s teaching on contraception mentioned Paul VI’s “Humanae Vitae” as a controversial document of the Church.  When he discussed the contents of the document, I remember wondering to myself how it was that Humanae Vitae became controversial.  Now in its fortieth year, and after I have seen how the teachings in “Humanae Vitae” have been continuously reaffirmed by the Church here in the Philippines in the face of Congress and by Catholics directly involved in two UN Population Congresses (1994 and 1996), I no longer wonder why.  The population issue is an issue linked to the world’s natural resources, and when a group decides to have all those resources for themselves, the rest of humanity will have to stop — or be made to stop — from being “fruitful and multiply.”

It is still interesting to read about the history of a Church document though, especially through the memories of those who first received it.  Here are two I found this morning:

James Cardinal Stafford 

The summer of 1968 is a record of God’s hottest hour. The memories are not forgotten; they are painful. They remain vivid like a tornado in the plains of Colorado. They inhabit the whirlwind where God’s wrath dwells. In 1968, something terrible happened in the Church. Within the ministerial priesthood, ruptures developed everywhere among friends which never healed. And the wounds continue to affect the whole Church. The dissent, together with the leaders’ manipulation of the anger they fomented, became a supreme test. It changed fundamental relationships within the Church. It was a Peirasmòs for many.  (1968 and the Great Peirasmos)

Bishop Peter J. Elliot

When the encyclical appeared on July 25 1968, I was in an Oxford students’ pilgrimage at Lourdes. This fresh convert was amazed at the uproar among young women in our group. But they had been primed up to expect the very opposite to the Pope’s teaching…

On the day the encyclical was released it was undermined in Rome. Mgr Lambruschini told the media that the teaching was “not infallible”, a signal to ignore it. Later, studying the exact authority of the papal teaching, I came to the opposite conclusion. But in 1968 I did not know enough theology to understand that when a Pope repeats and elucidates constant Church teaching, this is the infallible teaching of the Ordinary Magisterium. Humanae Vitae did not have to be proclaimed with a public ceremony, like a dogma defined by the Extraordinary Magisterium.

What most of us did not know at the time was how a young Polish cardinal influenced the way Paul VI presented the teaching. Karol Woytyla had written Love and Responsibility back in 1958. As Pope John Paul II he would develop and enrich Humanae Vitae.  (Memories of an Encyclical)

See this related post:  Contraception and Humanae Vitae

Originally posted 2008-08-08 02:56:15. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

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