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H.M. MagazineH.M. is a bi-monthly magazine published in English, Spanish and Italian. It includes articles of formation, values, and impacting testimonies and interviews of the faith.

Spiritual Life

Humanae Vitae: A Guardian in the Breach

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By Sr. Estela Morales, S.H.M.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Encyclical Humanae Vitae. Today, discordant voices seem to rise up once again against this prophetic document, whose author refused to give in to the demands of the sexual revolution and the contraception market originated in the United States.

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In the USA there was a strong campaign to promote birth control through the use of the pill. This should not surprise us, given the fact that the US government was already working on the Kissinger Report, also known as the National Security Study Memorandum. The report became known in 1974 and provided guidelines to realize a worldwide population control. The goal was to force the population growth rate to decline from the contemporary 2 percent to 1.1 percent and thus result in 3 billion fewer people by the year 2050.

Henry Kissinger, then Secretary of State, signed this document and recommended the executive branch of the US government to give top priority to population control in thirteen countries. He argued that the population growth in those countries would be a threat to US security. That very year, the US government created the Population Commission on Population Growth and the American Future, with John D. Rockefeller III at its head, a man whose family was extremely involved in the pharmaceutical industry.

Beginning in 1918, the Rockefeller family started investing in the pharmaceutical industry. To obtain profit, they reduced medical practice in the US to a pharmaceutical based practice alone, especially petroleum based pharmaceuticals. Rockefeller commissioned a medical investigation called the Flexner Report. The conclusions of this report totally destroyed traditional forms of medicine that were practiced at the time, arguing that they were useless and unscientific. This lie was also applied to natural methods of family planning through criticism and ridicule of the effectiveness of natural methods. Why? In order to promote the use of contraceptives which are also dependent upon the petrochemical industry.

The Origin of Humanae Vitae

The initiative of an encyclical on these issues was sparked after the United Nations invited the Holy See to participate in an International Population Conference. The UN hoped to gain the support of the Church to extend their field of action.

St. John XXIII created a Commission for this purpose in 1963 but died before the Commission met for the first time. The real beginning of the Commission was during the pontificate of Blessed Paul VI.

The United Nations asked Paul VI to respond to a questionnaire about which policies of population control were authorized by the Church. Paul VI gradually increased the number of members of the Commission so that they would be better able to carry out a multidisciplinary study on the methods of birth control. The commission was to assess the morality of contraceptive techniques, especially the use of the pill, which was becoming more and more widespread.

Eventually, the Commission moved away from its main objective. Instead of conducting an interdisciplinary study of the different techniques, the Commission focused on the possibility of changing the magisterial doctrine then in force. Part of the Commission seems to have been infected by the ideology of Thomas Hayes who understood the reproductive act as opposed to the singular sexual act. This was an attempt to discredit the Church’s moral doctrine on sexuality as based on natural law.

Frank Maurovich stated the above on the 45th anniversary of the Encyclical Humanae Vitae. In 1964, Maurovich received the visit of biophysicist Thomas Hayes from University of California, who insisted that he had the solution to the problem of birth control in the Church. It is not surprising, therefore, that when the final reports were presented to the Pope, the Biomedical Section of the Commission had not studied the Natural Family Planning (NFP) methods known at that time, such as the Billings or the Sympto- Thermal Methods, and simply criticized the Rhythm Method as if it were the only option. The final report highlighted the effectiveness of the pill without mentioning the serious health damages that derive from its consumption and the now proven suspicion of its abortive effect. Many brands such as Exluton, Nogestrel plus, Trinidol, Harmonet, Minulet, and Cilest among others, prevent nidation [implantation], causing alterations in the endometrium.

According to Father Francesco Di Felice, who worked in the Secretary of State during the time, “Paul VI took these two documents, one from the majority clearly in favor of contraception methods, and the other from the minority, who defended the doctrine of the Church. He brought them to his private chapel and spent the entire night in prayer asking what he should do for the good of souls. Then, in the first light of dawn, he was moved by a strong decision, an illumination, as if the Holy Spirit was comforting him, and he said, ‘This is what I should choose!’”

He chose natural methods, morally acceptable when there is a serious necessity to space the birth of new children.

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The Truth Suffers But Does Not Perish

Despite the atmosphere of ambiguity and half-truths, the Holy Spirit enlightened the Holy Father to confirm past magisterial doctrine on this subject. Humanæ Vitæ is in perfect continuity with the teaching of Tradition, of Casti Connubii (Pius XI, 1930) and the teachings of Pius XII. This doctrine was again endorsed, reinforced and enriched by the later papal documents of St. John Paul II in the post-synodal exhortation Familiaris Consortio (1981), Veritatis Splendor (1993) and the Catechism of the Catholic Church (1992). John Paul II himself affirmed, “What is being questioned by rejecting [the Church’s teaching on contraception] . . . is the very idea of the holiness of God” (1988). Wojtyla repeated the prohibition of artificial contraceptive methods, adding that there were many permitted methods of natural family planning. He contributed to a deeper understanding of Humanae Vitae through his catechesis on the Theology of the Body, (1979-1984) and his Encyclical “Veritatis Splendor” (1993).

Pope Francis recently approved the publication of Placuit Deo, a letter by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith that puts us on guard against neo-Gnosticism. Is this not perhaps the poison hidden in the so-called re-readings and updates of Humanae vitae? Can this not be applied to those who purport to capture the spirit that lies beyond the approved letter, arrogantly denying the relevance of norms, exalting vague and empty oracles about man’s nature, just to affirm “values” that can undergo a subjective interpretation depending on the circumstances?

What Does Humanae Vitae Say?

“It is to be anticipated that perhaps not everyone will easily accept this particular teaching. There is too much clamorous outcry against the voice of the Church, and this is intensified by modern means of communication” (HV 18).

Humanae Vitae highlights the greatness of human dignity and sees the exercise of the sexual act as a manifestation of this greatness, without dissociating it from its anthropological context. The sexual dimension of human nature must be lived out within the “true nature and nobility” of married love (HV 7-8). The encyclical cites St. John by pointing out that married love “takes its origin from God, who is love.” According to St. John, love must be “faithful and exclusive” (HV 9).

The encyclical defends “responsible parenthood”, which is obtained from a “right conscience.” For this to take place, “man’s reason and will must exert control over [his] innate drives and emotions” (HV 10). The encyclical asks all to respect the nature and purpose of the marital act, and introduces the principle that there is an “inseparable connection” between the unitive and procreative aspects of the marital act” (HV 12).

Paul VI points out that the use of contraceptives is lawful (HV 15) for therapeutic purposes, that is, if it is necessary to cure diseases. It is also licit to “engage in marital intercourse only during those times that are infertile,” and so control births, but the Church “condemns as always unlawful the use of means which directly prevent conception, even when the reasons given for the later practice may appear to be upright and serious” (HV 14).

At the same time, he asks “men of science” to contribute to “the welfare of marriage and the family and also peace of conscience” (HV 24, cfr. Gaudium et Spes 52) and encourages them to find favorable solutions to a proper regulation of births following the course and operation of human nature, given that “a true contradiction cannot exist between the divine laws pertaining to the transmission of life and those pertaining to authentic conjugal love” (HV 24, cfr. GS 51).

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A Prophetic Text

Paul VI predicted a series of disastrous consequences that would result from an anti-life mentality and the use of contraceptives.

1 – In the first place, Paul VI affirmed that the use of contraception would open the path to “conjugal infidelity,” leading to the destruction of the family.

2 – Its use would also lead to the objectification of women, reducing her to “a mere instrument for the satisfaction of his own desires” (HV 17).

3 – Paul VI also posed this question: “Who will prevent public authorities from favoring those contraceptive methods which they consider more effective?” (HV 17).

After a glance at our current drama, it is easy to see that these prophecies have been fulfilled. In reality, our present time is even more devastating than could have been expected. Brutal policies of compulsory birth control have been introduced in many countries. The West is experiencing a demographic collapse. Serious diseases due to the use of contraceptives are becoming more numerous.

According to its financial report for shareholders in 2014, Bayer, a company whose motto is “science for a better life,” paid around two billion dollars in non-court agreements for complaints of damages caused by their oral contraceptives Yasmin, Yaz, Ocella, and Gianvi, in the United States.

A prestigious doctor named Jokin de Irala affirms that “the best epidemiological study to date on the relationship between the Pill and breast cancer was conducted on 1.8 million women in Denmark. The conclusion of the study was that the use of contraceptives raises the risk of breast cancer enormously (The New England Journal of Medicine, 2017). Its consumption can also cause liver and cervix cancer. On the other hand, the contraceptives currently in use raise the risk of heart attack and stroke by 60%.”

In the last two years, JAMA Psychiatry and the American Journal of Psychiatry published scientific studies that confirmed an increased risk of depression and suicides or suicide attempts related to the use of contraceptives.

People have adopted a mentality that is in opposition to human life and their behavior follows suit. Many consider conceiving new life repugnant. Now that so many accept the use of contraceptives and take up an anti-life position, it is much easier to resort to abortion, as has been amply demonstrated by our current society in which each year more than 50 million human beings are eliminated.

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Reasons For Hope

In spite of everything, something new is emerging. After the publication of the encyclical, countless groups have formed to accompany marriages and help them understand the gift of parenthood. Many marriages have discovered the beauty of conjugal love as expressed by Humanae Vitae: a love that is fully human, in our corporal and spiritual dimensions, free because it implies the will and not the subjection to instinct or feelings, and fruitful because it goes beyond oneself, giving rise to new lives.

Many have understood that the responsible choice to become parents presupposes the formation of the conscience. “The responsible choice of fatherhood presupposes the formation of the conscience, which is “the most secret core and sanctuary of a man. There he is alone with God, Whose voice echoes in his depths” (Gaudium et Spes 16). Many have learned about natural methods: “These methods respect the bodies of the spouses, encourage tenderness between them, and favor the education of an authentic freedom” (Catechism of the Catholic Church 2370). Many have experienced that children are a wonderful gift of God, a joy for parents and for the Church. Through them the Lord renews the world” (Final Report of the Synod of Bishops 2014, 63).

Many have understood that the responsible choice to become parents presupposes the formation of the conscience. “The responsible choice of fatherhood presupposes the formation of the conscience, which is “the most secret core and sanctuary of a man. There he is alone with God, Whose voice echoes in his depths” (Gaudium et Spes 16). Many have learned about natural methods: “These methods respect the bodies of the spouses, encourage tenderness between them, and favor the education of an authentic freedom” (Catechism of the Catholic Church 2370). Many have experienced that children are a wonderful gift of God, a joy for parents and for the Church. Through them the Lord renews the world” (Final Report of the Synod of Bishops 2014, 63).

©HM Magazine; nº203 July-August 2018

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