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.

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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

 

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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.

Theology of the Body in a Nutshell – #NFPAwarenessWeek

So why NFP (or Natural Family Planning)? NFP is safe, healthy and effective. Most importantly, it is a morally acceptable way to avoid and achieve pregnancy.

If we look at the four components of God’s love for us (free, total, faithful, fruitful) and compare God’s love to marital love, we can discover how to live the Sacrament of marriage as the ultimate expression of spousal love.

Free: We need to be able love our spouse freely. If we ask for conditions, that’s not love. If we force our spouse to do something, that’s not love. If we cannot say no to our sexual urges, then we are not free.

Total: The love for our spouse must be total. We can’t say, “Well, I’ll give you everything, honey, except for my fertility.” Total means total. (Re: CCC 1643).

Faithful: Obviously, faithfulness means we must only have intercourse with our spouse and no other. But if we want to be truly faithful to our spouse, we must be faithful in word, action and thought.

Fruitful: Marital relations must be fruitful, open to children, each and every time. That doesn’t mean we will conceive (or want to conceive) a child with every marital embrace. It just means we need to be open.

Birth control, in fact, destroys all four of the essential components (free, total, faithful, fruitful). Birth control violates not only God’s plan in fruitfulness, but it also encourages an “I can’t say no” mentality to sex. When an action, device, medication or operation is purposefully used to remove fertility, a couple cannot give themselves totally, no matter how much they love each other. Contraception says, “I give all of myself to my spouse – except my fertility.”

Natural Family Planning allows a couple to love each other as God loves: freely, totally, faithfully and fruitfully. Couples using NFP chart the wife’s cycle and, if avoiding pregnancy, they abstain in the fertile time. If they are planning a pregnancy, they engage in relations during the fertile time. They are not using devices; they are fully giving of themselves and they are open to children with each and every act of marital relations.

NFP allows us to love our spouse as God loves us: freely, with no reservation, faithfully and open to children. Marriage can be a holy vocation when a couple loves as God loves: freely, totally, faithfully and fruitfully.

Want to live the highest expression of your marital love? Use NFP and be open to life.

For more information about the Theology of the Body:
http://thetheologyofthebody.com

For more information on NFP:
www.ccli.org
www.woomb.org
www.creightonmodel.com

Favorite Marriage Quotes 2017 – #NFPAwarenessWeek

The theme for NFP Awareness Week is It’s Time: Say Yes to God’s Plan for Married Love. Since NFP definitely says yes to God’s plan for married love, and since today is the 38th anniversary of when my husband and I first met, I’d like to share seven of my favorite quotes on marriage.

1. “Intense love does not measure; it just gives.” (Blessed Teresa of Calcutta) This quote so perfectly illustrates the sacrificial love of marriage and, indeed, of any relationship. I see this illustrated every day when my husband goes above and beyond to sacrifice for our family. I try to live this quote: every morning I wake up and think, “What can I do to make my husband’s life easier today?”

2. “Marriage is an act of will that signifies and involves a mutual gift, which unites the spouses and binds them to their eventual souls, with whom they make up a sole family – a domestic church. ” (Saint John Paul II). Love is not merely a feeling; it is a choice. Every day I have an opportunity to choose to love my spouse. Sometimes it isn’t easy, but it’s always worthwhile.

3. “Be not afraid.” (Saint John Paul II) As shown in the photo below, I certainly wasn’t afraid of what the future would hold for us. I was too happy at that moment to think of future difficulties and challenges. I had no idea what the next 35 years would bring. All married couples will face hardships and challenges. But they will also experience great joy to balance any hardships. Of course, couples who enter into a sacramental marriage (and who live their faith) have the additional graces to assist them in handling any challenges and hardships.

4. “The two shall become one.” (Genesis 2:24) There’s no better illustration of our unity and oneness than our children who are the walking “representations of our love.” (cr Saint John Paul II).

 

October 22, 2016
photo courtesy Two Trees Photography

5. “Be fruitful; multiply.” (Genesis 1:28)

6. “How can I ever express the happiness of the marriage that is joined together by the Church strengthened by an offering, sealed by a blessing, announced by angels and ratified by the Father? …How wonderful the bond between two believers with a single hope, a single desire, a single observance, a single service! They are both brethren and both fellow-servants; there is no separation between them in spirit or flesh; in fact they are truly two in one flesh and where the flesh is one, one is the spirit.”(24) Tertullian (cr Familiaris Consortio Saint John Paul II)

I love this quote from Tertullian, who exquisitely describes the spiritual and physical joys of the one flesh experience of Christian marriage.

7. “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. (Romans 4:6) Prayer is such an important part of a sacramental marriage. But having people pray for you is also essential. In that regard, I’d like to share one of my favorite anniversary gifts: a beautiful card that was lovingly made for us by Dominican Novices back in 2012 when we were celebrating our 30th anniversary. Each sister signed her name to one day in May with a note below saying that “In honor of this occasion, we will offer 30 days (plus one) of prayer with a different sister praying for you each day this month.” Wow.

Text and photos copyright 2012/2017 Ellen Gable Hrkach

Theology of the Body Fiction – #NFPAwarenessWeek

Since this is “NFP Awareness Week,” I’d like to share some of my favorite Theology of the Body fiction!

(Pardon the shameless self-promotion of my own books in this list!)

Emily’s Hope (Ellen Gable, 2005, FQ Publishing)

Passport (Christopher Blunt, 2008, Pelican Crossing Press)

Midnight Dancers (Regina Doman, 2008, Chesterton Press)

In Name Only (Ellen Gable, 2009, FQ Publishing, 2010 IPPY Gold Medal Winner)

Stealing Jenny (Ellen Gable, 2011, FQ Publishing)

Finding Grace (Laura Pearl, 2012, Bezalel Books)

Angela’s Song (AnnMarie Creedon, 2012, FQ Publishing)

Rapunzel Let Down (Regina Doman, 2013, Chesterton Press)

Vingede (Friar Tobe #2) (Krisi Keley, 2013, S & H Publishing)

Don’t You Forget About Me (Erin McCole Cupp, 2013, FQ Publishing)

A Subtle Grace (Ellen Gable, 2014, FQ Publishing)

The Lion’s Heart (Dena Hunt, 2014, FQ Publishing, 2016 CALA Award Winner)

A World Such as Heaven Intended (Amanda Lauer, 2014, FQ Publishing)

Working Mother (Erin McCole Cupp, 2014, FQ Publishing)

Stay With Me (Carolyn Astfalk, 2015, FQ Publishing)

Dying for Revenge (Barbara Golder, 2016, FQ Publishing, Finalist Next Generation Indie Book Awards)

Dying for Compassion (Barbara Golder, 2017, FQ Publishing)

Discovery (Karina Fabian, 2016, FQ Publishing)

Image and Likeness: Literary Reflections on the Theology of the Body (Cupp and Gable, editors, 2016, FQ Publishing)

Rightfully Ours (Carolyn Astfalk, 2017, FQ Publishing)

To check out many of these books, go to the Full Quiver Publishing website!

NFP Awareness Week: NFP Cartoons #NFPAwarenessWeek

Natural Family Planning Awareness Week begins next week. A great way to start the celebration is with humor!

Image copyright 2013 James and Ellen Hrkach (Please do not use without permission)

Image copyright 2013 James and Ellen Hrkach (Please do not use without permission)

copyright 2013 James and Ellen Hrkach (Please do not use without permission)

copyright 2013 James and Ellen Hrkach (Please do not use without permission)

Image copyright James and Ellen Hrkach

Image copyright James and Ellen Hrkach

Intimate Sharing

Cartoon copyright James & Ellen Hrkach/Full Quiver Publishing

Cartoon copyright James & Ellen Hrkach/Full Quiver Publishing

Image copyright James and Ellen Hrkach Please do not use without permission

Image copyright James and Ellen Hrkach Please do not use without permission

Copyright James and Ellen Hrkach Please do not use without permission

Copyright James and Ellen Hrkach Please do not use without permission

All images are copyright by James and Ellen Hrkach. Please do not use without permission.