Humanae Vitae: 50 Years Later #HV50 #TOBtalk

HV50 Man CannotMy latest article for Catholic Mom:

In July of 1968,  I was a carefree nine-year-old enjoying summer vacation, still playing with dolls and pretending that I was the mother of ten children. I don’t remember watching news or hearing anyone talk about Humanae Vitae.

But I do recall my parents and their friends that summer having these sorts of conversations: “What does the pope expect we should do? Have 15 kids? Or not have sex? No way. We’re using birth control.” I didn’t think much about it except that in my naïve mindset, I didn’t know what sex or birth control were, but I remember thinking, shouldn’t moms and dads want to have lots of children?

Young-Ellie-outside-sm

Me at the age of nine, summer of ’68.

In 1968 and with many of the faithful expecting and hoping that the Church would “change” its teaching on artificial contraception, Blessed Pope Paul VI issued his encyclical, Humanae Vitae (On Human Life) which confirmed and proclaimed the 2000-year consistent teaching of the Church that artificial methods of contraception were immoral.

Within two days, dissident theologians led by Father Charles Curran issued this statement: “Spouses may responsibly decide according to their conscience that artificial contraception in some circumstances is permissible and indeed necessary to preserve and foster the value and sacredness of marriage,” thereby, leaving it up to individual Catholic couples’ “conscience” to decide. The problem was there was no indication from dissidents as to how couples should form their consciences (nor, in my opinion, did the dissidents care). Two months after HV, the “Winnipeg Statement” was issued by the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops stating that “those who cannot accept the teaching should not be considered shut off from the Catholic Church, and that individuals can in good conscience use contraception as long as they have made an honest attempt to accept the difficult directives of the encyclical.”

While many of the faithful were only focusing on their own personal situations, Pope Paul VI was warning the faithful that going against natural law and the 2000-year teaching of the Church would bring a “general lowering of moral standards.” (HV 17) Welcome to the world in which we live.

Fifty years later, I’m more mature. I understand that there are many good and serious reasons to postpone or prevent pregnancy. In fact, I’ve lived through serious situations that necessitated avoiding pregnancy. But I also believe that there are so many good reasons NOT to dissent from Church teaching on this issue.

Blessed Pope Paul VI affirmed the Church’s teachings but he also gave an alternative and moral option: Natural Family Planning, which in the ’60s was becoming more and more effective.

Blessed Pope Paul VI said (HV 17) that we needed to “consider how easily this course of action could open wide the way for marital infidelity and a general lowering of moral standards. Not much experience is needed to be fully aware of human weakness and to understand that human beings—and especially the young, who are so exposed to temptation—need incentives to keep the moral law, and it is an evil thing to make it easy for them to break that law.”

I remember as a teenager in the late ’70s when I heard of a young man and woman moving in together. I wasn’t surprised. I wasn’t shocked. In fact, in the ten years or so since I had heard the conversations between my parents and their friends, three things had become normalized: cohabitation, premarital sex, and contraception. In my formative years, I was taught by society that if everyone agrees something is okay, then it’s okay. Thus, I regarded a man and woman moving in together as simply an option rather than a moral choice.

Blessed Pope Paul VI went on to include another, very important, consequence for accepting contraception.

One “effect that gives cause for alarm is that a man who grows accustomed to the use of contraceptive methods may forget the reverence due to a woman, and, disregarding her physical and emotional equilibrium, reduce her to being a mere instrument for the satisfaction of his own desires, no longer considering her as his partner whom he should surround with care and affection.” (HV 17)

Well, we need only look to the recent scandals that have come to light in Hollywood and in other areas where men in power have been preying on young women. Why do large numbers of Christians and Catholics believe it’s completely acceptable to read the Fifty Shades books and to see the movies (and many defending their actions)? It is precisely because women themselves don’t reverence their own bodies. If they are contracepting (statistically, most Christians and Catholics use contraception openly), if they aren’t reverencing their own bodies, why should they expect their spouses to do so?

The sad effect in all of this is that the widespread dissent to Humanae Vitae and our society’s rejection of objective truth sent me in the wrong direction to the point that, when I began dating my husband in 1979, I was pro-choice, pro-premarital sex, and pro-contraception. I thank God every day that he gently led me back to the faith of my youth and to the truths of these beautiful teachings on sex and marriage.

Blessed Pope Paul VI was, indeed, a prophet. One need only look at the state of our world 50 years later to see that there is a general lowering of morals. Paul VI knew that the “Birth control commission” set up by his predecessor, Saint John XXIII, recommended that the Church “change” her stance on artificial contraception. However, guided by the Holy Spirit, he wrote Humanae Vitae. He probably suspected that his encyclical reiterating and confirming the Church’s 2000-year teaching on natural law would not be met with cheers and applause. We do need incentives to keep the moral law; otherwise, there are consequences.

I, for one, am grateful that Blessed Pope Paul VI embraced his mission to confirm and spread the truth. Now, we can clearly see his prophecies have come true — the morals of our world have changed greatly since 1968.

I’m 50 years older, but 50 years wiser. And very thankful to the Church for reaffirming the truth amidst pressures.


Copyright 2018 Ellen Gable Hrkach

 

CLICK TO TWEET

Advertisements

Celebrating 36 Years of #Marriage

“Love that leads to marriage is a gift from God and a great act of faith toward other human beings.” St. John Paul II

Today, my husband and I celebrate 36 years of marriage.

Happy anniversary to my husband, James, who has held my hand through the births of our five sons, cried with and consoled me through seven miscarriages, has been faithful to me through good times and in bad, in sickness and in health. He makes me laugh with his goofy impressions, and I am in awe of his amazing talents. I am truly blessed and honored to have him as my sacramental partner in life, and I will be forever grateful to God for bringing us together in the most unusual circumstances!

Wedding 14 sm

(1982) copyright Hrkach

 

And how do NFP couples celebrate their anniversary?

Here's to 20 yearssm

Image copyright 2013 James & Ellen Hrkach (please do not use without permission)

A Living Reflection

copyright Ellen Hrkach

copyright Ellen Hrkach

In this year of the 50th anniversary of Humanae Vitae, here is another reprint of mine from three years ago.

Thus the couple, while giving themselves to one another, give not just themselves but also the reality of children, who are a living reflection of their love, a permanent sign of conjugal unity and a living and inseparable synthesis of their being a father and a mother.” St. John Paul II, Familiaris Consortio (On the Role of the Christian Family in the Modern World)

Children are indeed a “living reflection…a living and inseparable synthesis” of a married couple’s love. This can be evident physically (as children often look like a combination of both parents), but is evident spiritually and emotionally as well.

It is also been said that the greatest gift you can give to your children is to love your spouse.

James and I have been blessed with five sons (now ages 19-30) but we have also faced the heartbreak of losing seven babies through miscarriage and ectopic pregnancy. Born or unborn, each of our 12 children is an unrepeatable and eternal sign, an outward expression, that we love one another.

This truth that children are a “living reflection” of a couple’s love was not something I fully appreciated until a trip to the beach many years ago.

It was a beautiful July evening and our sons (then ages 4-16) were running and playing in the sand, their laughter like sweet music to our ears. The sun was setting and the sky a brilliant pink and orange, reflecting off their bodies as they ran in the sand. Watching them, I had a ‘light bulb’ moment. “Those children exist because we love each other,” I whispered to my husband. James, ever wise, said, “And because God loves us. Pretty awesome, eh?”

Precisely because of the truth that “children are a living reflection of their love…a living and inseparable synthesis…” divorce can have a negative impact on the children (even adult children). While separation is sometimes a necessity if there is abuse, divorce is too often used because a couple “stops loving one another.” We all have a choice to love.

As a “permanent sign of conjugal unity,” a divorce can sometimes make a child feel like he is being torn in two directions. My husband, whose parents separated when he was 16, said that is exactly how it feels. So when we became engaged, James (only 18 at the time) said, “Ellie, are you sure you want to be married for the rest of your life? Because we will be together for life. We will never get a divorce. I do not want to put my kids through that.” Although we have experienced ups and downs, challenges and loss, we both know that divorce would never be an option.

A Catholic couple we know was facing divorce court. They had lived together before marriage and had used birth control for many years, eventually drifting apart. They had tried secular counseling, but it didn’t seem to work. Even before physical separation, some of their children had begun to show signs of depression and irritability. They agreed to sit down and speak with a priest. This priest urged them to try one more time, and he gave them books on Pope John Paul II’s Theology of the Body. While this is a simplification of their story, they eventually rediscovered their love for one another and are now happily married. They still face challenges, but their love for one another is evident in their relationship with each other and their children.

It is awesome to experience the gift and wonder of new life, as children are indeed the illustration and reflection of a married couple’s love. This love for one another is the greatest gift you can give to your children.

Smfamily photo2012

Hrkach Family 2012

My story of love, loss and conversion is the basis of my novel, Emily’s Hope, which is available on Kindle and in print.

Copyright 2015 Ellen Gable Hrkach

My Favorite Birthday Gift

Today is my youngest son’s 19th birthday. Years ago, when he was about 11, he was playing a numbers game out loud. “So when I’m 20, you’ll be how old?” I said, “Just add 40 to whatever age you are.” “Oh, right,” he replied. “So when I’m 40, you’ll be 80?” I nodded.

On May 3, 1999, I gave birth to Paul. It had been a difficult and challenging pregnancy but on that day, I was finally able to hold this beautiful baby boy in my arms. Two days later, May 5th, was my 40th birthday, but I remained in the hospital recuperating from a Cesarean section. My husband and older children visited me and brought me some small presents to open. James leaned down and whispered, “I feel badly that you have to be in the hospital on your birthday.” I shook my head and smiled. “No need to feel badly.” Then I kissed the beautiful, sleeping baby in my arms. “Because this is the best birthday present I could have ever received.”

My husband and I knew what we were getting into when we attempted pregnancy. Besides my history of miscarriages, we understood that I would be 40 years older than our youngest child. In many respects, I have been able to enjoy my youngest son more. Since he was my fifth child, I was comfortable with attachment parenting and didn’t feel the need to defend nursing my baby on demand and carrying him wherever I went.

My mother was 47 years old when she gave birth to my youngest sister. I remember the excitement in my mom’s voice when she showed me the “at home” pregnancy test. At the time, I was a rather cynical cafeteria Catholic, so I was a little taken aback with her positive reaction.

My youngest sister kept my mother “young” for years. As for me, I have never regretted the decision to be open to life at age 40. In fact, I have always thanked God for my “baby.”

Paul has remained my best birthday gift…ever!

copyright 2018 Ellen Gable Hrkach

An Open Book – May 2018

Open Book

I’m joining with Carolyn Astfalk and Catholic Mom for An Open Book.

Here’s what I’ve been reading during the past month!

St Faustina

St. Faustina Prayer Book for Adoration

Susan Tassone

Amazon Synopsis: For centuries adoration has been a devotion saints, popes, and countless men, women, and children not only loved but came to rely on. In St. Faustina Prayer Book for Adoration, best-selling and award-winning author Susan Tassone shows you how to deeply encounter God during your own times of adoration. Here you’ll find prayers for adoring the Lord before the Blessed Sacrament and for spiritual adoration at home. With St. Faustina as your guide, you’ll learn more about the graces God offers you, ways to pray with and without words, and the unique and amazing relationship God shares with you alone.

My review: Susan Tassone has done it again!  The “Purgatory Lady”  has written and compiled a beautiful book we can take to Adoration. All the reflections are based on St. Faustina’s Diary.  If you can only bring one book (other than the Bible, of course) to Adoration, I highly recommend this one.  Your Adoration time will be fuller, deeper and more fruitful.  Five out of five stars.

Swallowed

 Swallowed By Satan: How Our Lord Jesus Christ Saved Me From Pornography, Homosexuality and the Occult

Joseph Sciambra

Amazon Synopsis: At the height of the AIDS crises, I remember constantly hearing that the disease was killing the best and the brightest. While this was somewhat of an over-inflated slogan perpetuated by the homosexual leaning media, there were so many guys that I knew with extraordinary aptitudes for art, literature, music, dance, and design. They were truly gifted by God. I believe that this is why the devil often singles-out gay men for an enormously severe form of temptation and torture. For as gay men, we have often endured a suffering not unlike the Saints. From our earliest memories, we frequently harbor secretive pains of self-doubt and rejection. Later, we continually direct ourselves towards the highest possible focal point of all – encompassing beauty and love. Early on, the Blessed Saints recognize this as the image of God. Those who are corrupted and lose their way, find themselves in front of a very different deity. Their gifts are unwittingly squandered in his service, their life-force extracted in payment for a decaying feast of traitorous emptiness, then they are left to die alone and scared.

My review: Compelling, but very disturbing, book.  For adults only. I had to put it down many times when the author is describing his years in the gay community.  He also describes the defining incident which started him on the road to conversion.  I very much admire this author because it took tremendous courage to write and share his story.  Although there are a lot of editorial mistakes (commas and typos), it’s a book I can recommend (but only to those with a strong stomach).  Four out of five stars.

Rosary

26 Champions of the Rosary

Fr. Donald Calloway

Amazon Synopsis: Read this book and learn all about the greatest heroes of the rosary in Church history, prepare yourself to join their ranks, and respond to the challenges of the present age by taking up the spiritual sword of Heaven: the rosary!

Internationally known speaker and author Fr. Donald Calloway, MIC, loves Our Lady and her favorite devotion: the rosary. But he’s not the only one! Throughout the life of the Church, many men and women have become great saints and helped change the course of human history by the power of the rosary. In 26 Champions of the Rosary, Fr. Calloway presents the outstanding heroes whose trusting dependence on Our Lady and her rosary have brought peace and divine help to the world.

My review: I absolutely loved this book!  I received a signed copy at the Catholic Marketing Network Trade Show last year, but I only read it recently.  It is excellent and easy to read one or two stories at a time. This should be on all Catholics’ bookshelves.  Highly recommend. Five out of five stars.

Ashes

Prophecy of Ashes

John R. Monteith

Amazon Synopsis: Master your powers or become the next sacrifice. Dianne suspects she’s an empath, but when telepathic shocks, ghostly warnings, and secret books suggest an immortal is hunting her, she needs to embrace her full abilities–fast. A human wraith is seeking Dianne as a sacrifice, forcing her to partner with strange men who use modern technology and ancient magic to stop her potential murderer. Racing against time to learn her powers and defend herself, she must battle a relentless enemy, guide the efforts of her protectors, and prove her inner strength and empathic competency to survive. Clive Cussler Society Adventure Writer’s Competition Finalist and bestselling author of the Rogue Avenger series, John Monteith, brings you this supernatural thriller that blends metaphysical, occult, and paranormal elements in one page-turning adventure.

My review: This is on my “to read” bookshelf.

Unintended Cons

Unintended Consequences

Dan Walsh

Amazon Synopsis: Jack and Rachel leave Culpepper for their long-awaited honeymoon trip, a driving tour through New England. On day three, they stop at a little bay-side town in Cape Cod to visit Jack’s grandmother. After he gets called away to handle an emergency, Rachel stays and listens as Jack’s grandmother shares a remarkable story about how she and Jack’s grandfather met in the early days of World War 2. It’s a story filled with danger, decades-old family secrets, daring rescues and romance. Jack is named after his grandfather, and this story set the course and direction for Jack’s life to the present day. After hearing it, Rachel is amazed that anyone survived.

My review: Also on my “to read” bookshelf.

 

 

The Wonderful Benefits of NFP

In this year of the 50th anniversary of the encyclical Humanae Vitae (On Human Life) by Blessed Pope Paul VI, this is another reprint of an article I wrote seven years ago on the benefits of NFP.

Natural Family Planning (NFP) provides many benefits that not only promote healthy living, this remarkable method of birth regulation is also environmentally friendly and fosters authentic marital love.

NFP is safe
There are no harmful side effects for either the husband or wife. It is completely safe, 100 percent natural, and involves no potentially harmful devices or drugs.

NFP is healthy
There are no pills, invasive procedures or long-term drugs. Women who use NFP know more about their bodies and can discover health problems sooner.

NFP is effective
Used and taught properly, NFP can be 99 percent effective in avoiding pregnancy. In our experience as an NFP user couple, we have never had an unplanned pregnancy in over 30 years. NFP can also assist some couples in achieving much-wanted pregnancies without chemicals and operations.

NFP costs very little to use
In this economy, NFP is very cost effective. Other than the cost of the course, materials and the replacement of thermometers, NFP costs very little to use over a couple’s 20 or 30 years of fertility, compared to purchasing condoms, diaphragms, pills and other chemicals or operations.

NFP is environmentally friendly
NFP does no harm to the environment. Charts can be recycled and there are no chemicals or other devices used.

Here's to 20 yearssm

Image copyright James and Ellen Hrkach

NFP is marriage insurance
In a study done by the Couple to Couple League, couples who used NFP had a less than two percent risk of divorce compared to the national secular average of 50 percent.

NFP is morally acceptable
Married couples who use NFP are spiritually healthy because NFP fosters authentic marital love and allows a couple to love as Christ loves: freely, totally, faithfully and fruitfully.

NFP works with irregular cycles
NFP is not like the old rhythm method, which depended on regular cycles. NFP’s charting system works with a woman’s present signs of fertility.

For more information on NFP:
ccli.org
www.serena.ca
www.woomb.org
http://www.creightonmodel.com/

Text copyright 2011 Ellen Gable Hrkach
Cartoon copyright Full Quiver Publishing/James and Ellen Hrkach