Friday, October 29, 2010

Humanae Vitae

Pope Paul VI’s great Encyclical Humanae Vitae [1968] caused much controversy both when it was first published, and ever since that time, for the simple reason that it did not say what many people wanted it to say – that is, it confirmed Catholic teaching that the practise contraception is sinful.

Pope Paul was criticised by the world’s media as well as by many of his own bishops and by ordinary lay Catholics, for his faithful adherence to Catholic teaching on the sacredness of all human life. During his General Audience on the Wednesday following publication of the Encyclical, the Pope spoke of his ‘grave responsibility’ to teach the truth. On his decision to do so, he said:
‘The first conviction was that of a grave responsibility. It led Us into, and sustained Us in, the very heart of the problem during the four years devoted to the study of this Encyclical. We confide to you that this conviction caused Us much spiritual suffering. Never before have We felt so heavily as in this situation the burden of Our office. We studied, read, and discussed, as much as we could, and We also prayed very much about it … Imploring the light of the Holy Spirit, we placed Our conscience at the free and full disposal of the voice of Truth. We sought to interpret the divine law that flows from the very nature of human love, from the essential structure of married life, from the personal dignity of husband and wife, from their mission of service to life as well as from the sanctity of Christian marriage. We reflected on the firm principles of the traditional doctrine in force in the Church, and especially on the recent Council. We pondered on the consequences of one or other decision, and We had no doubt about Our duty to give Our decision in terms expressed in the Encyclical.’