Don’t Be Fooled by Those Who Are “Re-interpreting” Humanae Vitae #HV50

By Christopher West

This July 25 marks 50 years since Pope Paul VI shocked the world when he issued his encyclical letter Humanae Vitae (Of Human Life) reaffirming the traditional Christian teaching against contraception. Although he was mocked and scorned globally – both from outside and, sadly, from within the Church – his words were prescient. He warned that a contracepting world becomes a world of rampant infidelity; a world where women and childbearing are degraded; a world in which governments trample on the rights and needs of the family; and a world in which human beings believe they can manipulate their bodies at will (see HV 17).

Is there any doubt that this is the world we live in now?

We will never climb out of the sexual confusion and gender chaos in which we are now immersed until we recognize that the modern disorientation of sex and the eclipse of the very meaning of gender began when we started rendering our genitals unable to generate. Based on its Greek root, the very word gender means “the manner in which one generates.” We see the same root in words like genesisgenerousgenitalsprogenygenes, and genealogy. We no longer see the gender-generation connection today because we are viewing ourselves through condom-colored glasses: erase the manner in which one generates from the sexual equation and the very meaning of gender is eventually erased.

In a 1984 interview, the future Pope Benedict XVI predicted that we will atone in our day for “the consequences of a sexuality which is no longer linked to … procreation. It logically follows from this that every form of [genital activity] is equivalent. … No longer having an objective reason to justify it, sex seeks the subjective reason in the gratification of the desire, in the most ‘satisfying’ answer for the individual.” In turn, he observed that everyone becomes “free to give to his personal libido the content considered suitable for himself. Hence, it naturally follows that all forms of sexual gratification are transformed into the ‘rights’ of the individual.” From there, he concluded that people end up demanding the right of “escaping from the ‘slavery of nature,’ demanding the right to be male or female at one’s will or pleasure” (The Ratzinger Report, pp. 85, 95).

Again, is there any doubt that this is the world we now live in?

Tragically, there are people in high places of the Church who have not been paying attention to the painful lessons of history – nor to the extensive and gloriously illuminating reflections of Saint John Paul II on the theology of the human body. As the 50th anniversary of Paul VI’s lifesaving encyclical approaches, they are raising their voices in a new wave of attacks against it. The operative language is that of “re-interpreting” Paul VI’s encyclical in order to keep it “dynamic” and “applicable” to “new realities.” But that is code for dissenting from it.

Perhaps you heard about a widely reported speech given by Father Maurizio Chiodi, a newly appointed member of the Pontifical Academy for Life, at a conference at the Gregorian University in Rome at the end of last year. Therein he argued that a proper development of Paul VI’s teaching on “responsible parenthood” can actually obligate a couple to use contraception. There are cases, he argued, that make the practice of natural family planning “impossible or impractical” and, hence, “other forms of responsibility must be found” that require “other methods of birth control.”

If we consider the teaching of Humanae Vitae only as a precept to be imposed on people’s weakness, we are, indeed, placing an “impossible” and “impractical” burden on people. As Saint John Paul II insisted, “Love and life according to the Gospel cannot be thought of first and foremost as a kind of precept, because what they demand is beyond man’s abilities. They are possible only as a result of a gift of God who heals, restores, and transforms the human heart by his grace.” Living according to the demands of the Gospel, then, is “a possibility opened to man exclusively by grace, by the gift of God, by his love” (Veritatis Splendor 23, 24).

The Church does not only lay down the demands of God’s law and then leave men and women to their own resources in attempting to carry it out. As Pope Paul VI stated very clearly in Humanae Vitae, the Church “also announces the good news of salvation, and by means of the sacraments flings wide open the channels of grace, which makes man a new creature, capable of following the design of his Creator … with love and true freedom, finding the yoke of Christ to be sweet” (HV 25).

Yes, human beings are weak and must contend with the strong pull of concupiscence (the disordering of our passions that resulted from original sin). As human experience attests, this makes following God’s law a real struggle. But it is precisely that struggle that urges the heart to cry out for God’s grace, and God’s grace is sufficient for us (see 2 Cor 12:9)! As Saint Augustine put it in a wonderful turn of phrase: “The law was given so that grace might be sought; and grace was given that the law might be fulfilled.”

“Re-interpreting” Humanae Vitae in light of human weakness may seem like the “kind” or “pastoral” thing to do, but in the end it empties the Cross of its power. Instead of saying, “By the power of Christ, come higher,” those who are re-interpreting Humanae Vitae are actually saying, “Sorry, Christ’s power is not available to you, so stay lower.” Instead of saying, “God’s grace is sufficient for you to fulfill his law,” those who are re-interpreting Humanae Vitae are saying, “In your case, we need to adjust God’s law according to your concrete possibilities.”

“But what are ‘the concrete possibilities of man’?” asks Saint John Paul II. “And of which man are we speaking? Of man dominated by lust or of man redeemed by Christ?” He continues:

This is what is at stake: the reality of Christ’s redemption. Christ has redeemed us! This means he has given us the possibility of realizing the entire truth of our being; he has set our freedom free from the domination of concupiscence. And if redeemed man still sins, this is not due to an imperfection of Christ’s redemptive act, but to man’s will not to avail himself of the grace which flows from that act. God’s command is of course proportioned to man’s capabilities; but to the capabilities of the man to whom the Holy Spirit has been given; of the man who, though he has fallen into sin, can always obtain pardon and enjoy the presence of the Holy Spirit. (Veritatis Splendor 103)

This is one of the most potent proclamations of the power of the Gospel I’ve ever heard. And thanks be to God that I heard it! Thanks be to God that Saint John Paul II was bold enough to proclaim it!

We serve no one by watering down the truth. In fact, we keep people in their chains. What’s needed is not a re-interpretation of Humanae Vitae. What’s needed, as Pope Paul VI himself said, is a “total vision of man and of his vocation” in order to understand this teaching in all of its beauty and fullness (HV 7). And this is precisely what Saint John Paul II gave us in his marvelous Theology of the Body. If you want to be equipped to address today’s sexual chaos and gender confusion with clarity, insight, and compassion, take up a study of it. You will not be disappointed.

The Cor Project exists to help men and women learn, live, and share the Theology of the Body. To learn more, watch Christopher West’s short film here.

Christopher West, is a lecturer, best-selling writer and author of multiple audio and video programs which have made him the world’s most recognized teacher of John Paul II’s “Theology of the Body.” He is founder and president of The Cor Project, a global membership and outreach organization devoted to helping men and women learn, live, and share the Theology of the Body in compelling, life-transforming ways.


Exciting News for Stealing Jenny

Stealing Jenny

My fourth book and third novel, Stealing Jenny, will soon be available on Audible as an audio-book.  The producer/narrator is currently working on it and is scheduled to have it ready for May 5.

Also, Stealing Jenny is in the process of being translated into Portuguese through Babelcube.  That will also be completed by the beginning of May.

Stealing Jenny (as well as Angela’s Song) will also be translated into Lithuanian through a Lithuanian Catholic publisher.  Both books should be available soon.

And last — but certainly not least — as many of my followers also know, my husband and I have written a script for Stealing Jenny and a Christian Hollywood producer has expressed interest in financing and producing it.  He’s had the script for several years,  but we’ve been told that sometimes in Hollywood, projects can take many years to finance and produce. We’ll see where that goes!


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?


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




A Subtle Grace #FREE on #Kindle Feb 7-9

A Subtle Grace front cover Nov2013For the next three days, A Subtle Grace (Kindle edition) will be FREE (February 7-9, 2018) on Kindle!

FINALIST: 2015 IAN Book of the Year, Historical and Romance   “The plot tugs at the heart and gets the heart racing. Reading ‘A Subtle Grace’ was like riding a Victorian-era wooden roller coaster: a luscious historical setting that provides a tantalizingly dangerous thrill ride.” Erin McCole Cupp, author, Don’t You Forget About Me 
Synopsis: 1896, Philadelphia. In this stand alone sequel to “In Name Only” (2009, FQP), “A Subtle Grace” continues the story of the wealthy and unconventional O’Donovan Family as they approach the dawn of a new century. At 19, Kathleen (oldest daughter) is unmarried with no prospects. Fearing the lonely fate of an old maid, her impatience leads to an infatuation with the first man who shows interest. The suave, handsome son of the local police chief seems a perfect match. But will her impulsive manner prevent her from recognizing her true love? A disturbing turn of events brings a dark shadow that threatens the life-long happiness she desires.

Dr. Luke Peterson (the family’s new physician) also makes quite an impression on Kathleen. His affection for her leads him to startling revelations: about Kathleen, about his practice and, most importantly, about himself.

Will (oldest son) believes God may be calling him to a religious vocation. Eventually, he discovers the hidden circumstances of his humble beginnings compelling him to embark on a pilgrimage to Rome.


“This is one of my favorite contemporary works of Catholic fiction. The storytelling is masterful, the characters fascinating, and the writing is of high literary quality. People are imperfect—past, present, and future—but each is given the opportunity to grow, change, learn, and be redeemed. In this story it’s shown how the greatest mistake of our lives can be turned into one of the most amazing blessings and even be a source of hope for others. A Subtle Grace has all of the elements that good Catholic fiction should.” Trisha Niermeyer Potter, Prints of Grace

“In A Subtle Grace, Gable shows us through her characters, what happens when an individual lives his/her life based on principles rather than on passions. She clearly conveys the differences between love as a feeling vs. love as a choice, illustrating the consequences of each. Themes of redemption, forgiveness, discerning one’s vocation, healing, hope, and joy, all contribute to make this a story that tugs at the heart. A sequel to In Name Only, A Subtle Grace works well as an independent, stand-alone novel. You will definitely want to read both. A Subtle Grace is excellent read for historical romance fans. Those who enjoy Christian romance and suspense novels will find this story particularly enjoyable. This is a winner!”  Jean Heimann, author, blogger

A Subtle Grace is the sequel to the lovely book In Name Only, yet A Subtle Grace can be enjoyed independently. Of course, readers of the first book won’t want to miss this one! The story kept me so interested that I hardly realized this was, in fact, a lengthy book. A Subtle Grace is a novel to stir your heart, your emotions, and your soul. I highly recommend it!” Therese Heckenkamp, author, Frozen Footprints

Click here to read an excerpt and more reviews.

To download the book for FREE click here.


Pope Paul VI – Prophet #HumanaeVitae50

Pope Paul VI, author of Humanae Vitae, On Human Life, was criticized when he released his controversial encyclical back in July of 1968.  He stated that artificial birth control was “intrinsically evil.”  He also foresaw the events that are happening in our world today. The video below from Bishop Robert Barron shares some of most interesting prophecies from Pope Paul VI.


Donkey Bells (Advent and Christmas) by Catherine Doherty

Donkey Bells
One of my favorite Advent books and one that I read every year at this time is a book by Catherine Doherty called “Donkey Bells,” published by Madonna House Publications. I love to read this inspiring book curled up in a comfortable chair by the wood stove, a hot chocolate or apple cider beside me, Advent and Christmas music playing quietly in the background. This lovely book is filled with heartwarming stories, customs and traditions (such as the Advent wreath, baking, the blessing of the Christmas tree) and moving reflections for the season. It is a beautiful way for children, teens and adults to prepare their hearts for Christmas.

I love this story from Donkey Bells: Advent and Christmas by Catherine Doherty
(Available as a paperback and e-book)

Donkey Bells (by Catherine Doherty)

It came to me, during these days of Advent, that I should share with you a custom which is not necessarily liturgical but which adds to the enjoyment of this lovely season. It has deep spiritual connotations; at least it did for our family, and for many others I knew when I was a young child.

When I was a little girl, my mother used to tell me that if I was good during this holy season of Advent, and offered my little acts of charity and obedience throughout Advent to the little Christ Child for a gift on his birthday, then sometime during Advent, at first very faintly and then quite clearly, I would hear bells. As she put it, the first church bells.

These were the bells around the neck of the little donkey that carried Our Lady. For mother explained that Our Lady carried Our Lord. She was the temple of the Holy Spirit, the first ‘church’ as it were, since Christ reposed in her. And the donkey, carrying Our Lady and sounding his bells as he walked, wore the first church bells.

Around the second week of Advent, mother wore a little bracelet that had tinkling bells. As she moved her hand I could hear them tinkle, and I got excited because I associated them with the donkey’s bells.

As young as I was, my imagination would build up a lot of little stories about the trip of Our Lady from Nazareth to Bethlehem — stories which I would share with my mother, and which would spur me on to further good deeds and little sacrifices.

During the third week of Advent, mother’s bracelet miraculously got many more bells on it. The sound grew louder and louder as Christmas approached. It was wonderful.

My brother and I used to listen. Mother’s bells were first around her wrist and then around her knee too. Then more bells, as it got closer to Christmas. We were really excited about them.

I introduced this little custom in Madonna House. During Advent, I wear a kind of bracelet that can be heard as I walk or move, in whatever room of the house I may be. The members of our family tell me that it spurs them on, even as it did me when I was a child, to meditate more profoundly on the mystery of Advent.

Here at Madonna House, we have begun in these last few years to make a collection of miniature donkeys — of wood, glass, ceramics, rope — you name it. And we have an album of Christmas cards (which we save from the many we receive) that depict the donkey in the manger scene.

The presence of the donkey and the ox in Scripture is symbolic of the prophets who foretold the Incarnation. And also of the fact that “the ox and ass know their Master’s voice, but Israel doesn’t know the voice of God” (Isaiah 1:3). So, you see, there is some spiritual foundation for my love for the donkey which brings such great joy to my heart.

I’m sure that, as a child, Christ rode on a donkey many times. And also as a man, of course. In Scripture we know of only two times: one was when the donkey carried Our Lady, who in turn carried God, from Nazareth to Bethlehem. The other was when the donkey carried Christ into Jerusalem as the people laid palm branches before Him, proclaiming him king.

Let us think for a moment: What kind of animal is a donkey? It is a beast of burden, the animal of the poor. Once again, the immense theme of poverty is illustrated in an animal. God chose the humblest, the smallest in status, because among the animals the donkey is considered very low. So God is teaching us a lesson here — a lesson of humility, of poverty, and of simplicity.

Have you ever seen a newborn donkey? Well, every donkey has a black cross on its gray fur, a marking which is especially noticeable just after it is born from its mother’s womb. It gets less clear as the donkey matures, but still is visible. I share this fact with you to teach you to open your heart to the bells of the donkey that carried Our Lady and also God.

The breath of the donkey and the ox made the stable warm. So we meditate on several things at once: the poverty and humility of the donkey God chose, and which should be our poverty and humility; and the breath of our love, which should warm God in our neighbor constantly.

Let us remember that the donkey also had no room at the inn. Neither woman, nor man, nor donkey had a place at the inn. So they went to live in a poor stable that wasn’t too well prepared for animals, let alone as a decent habitation for human beings.

Now, another meditation comes to us. Think of the millions of people who are left homeless on our streets. Tragic is this situation. We, as apostles, must be very careful that we do not exclude anyone from the inn of our heart.

I pray that our heart, our soul, our ears will hear very clearly ‘the bells of the donkey,’ not only in Advent but throughout the year. For whoever who is pure of heart and childlike shall hear the bells of the donkey ring in their life.

(Creative Commons Licence Pass It On by Madonna House Publications is free to re-publish under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 2.5 Canada License.)

If you have a favorite Christmas or Advent story, please feel free to share!


Cyber Monday Sale at Full Quiver Publishing!

The following Kindle editions by FQP authors are only .99!  Click on the cover photo to download!