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The Wisdom of Humanae Vitae: Time Has Proved Where Wisdom Lay

December 7, 2009

A generation has passed since the publication of the boldly pastoral and prophetic encyclical Humanae Vitae which upheld the ancient ban on the use of artificial contraception. Perhaps no teaching of the Church causes the worldly to scoff more than our teaching against artificial contraception. The eyes of so many, Catholics among them, roll and the scoffing begins: Unrealistic! Out of touch! Uncompassionate!  Silly! You’ve got to be kidding!

The Lord Jesus had an answer to those who ridiculed him in a similar way:

“To what can I compare this generation? They are like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling out to others: ” ‘We played the flute for you,  and you did not dance;  we sang a dirge and you did not mourn.’ For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon.’ The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and “sinners.” ‘ But time will prove where wisdom lies.”  (Matt 11:16-18)

Indeed, times DOES prove where wisdom lies. Some forty or more years after widespread acceptance of contraception set in how have we done? Perhaps it is best to review some of the “promises” that contraceptive advocates made, then review the prophecies of Paul VI. Then lets review the record, looking at the “fruits” of contraception.

The Promises of the Contraception Advocates:

  1. Happier Marriages and a lower divorce rates since couples could have all the sex they wanted without “fear” of preganancy.
  2. Lower abortion rates since there would be far fewer “unwanted” children.
  3. Greater dignity for women who will no longer be “bound” by their reproductive system.
  4. More recently contraceptive advocates have touted the medical benefits of preventing STDs and AIDS.

What were some of the concerns and predictions made by Pope Paul VI? (All of these are qutoes from Humanae Vitae)

  1. Consider how easily this course of action could open wide the way for marital infidelity (Humanae Vitae (HV) # 17)
  2. 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. (HV # 17)
  3. Another 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)
  4. Who will prevent public authorities from…impos[ing] their use on everyone. (HV # 17)

So, forty years later, who had the wisdom to see? The World or the Church? Well lets consider some of the data:

  1. The divorce rate did not decline. It skyrocketed. Divorce rates soared through the 1970s to to the 1990s to almost 50% of marriages failing. In recent years the divorce rate has dropped slightly but this may also be due to the fact that far fewer people get married in the first place, preferring to cohabitate and engage in a kind of serial polygamy drifting from relationship to relationship. The overall divorce rate despite its slight drop remains high, hovering in the low 40% range. Contraceptive advocates claim that divorce is a complicated matter. True enough. But they cannot have it both ways, claiming that contraception would be a “simple”  fix to make marriages happier and then,  when they are so horrifyingly wrong, claiming that divorce is “complicated.” Paul VI on the other predicted rough sailing for marriage in advent of contraception. Looks like the Pope was right.
  2. Abortion rates did not decrease. They too skyrocketed. Within five years the pressure to have more abortion available led to its “legalization” in 1973. It has been well argued that, far from decreasing the abortion rate, contraception actually fueled it. Since contraception routinely fails, abortion became the contraception of last recourse. Further, just as the Pope predicted sexual immorality became widespread and this too led to higher rates of abortion. It is hard to compare promiscuity rates between periods since people “lie” a lot when asked about such things. But one would have to be very myopic not to notice the huge increase in open promiscuity, cohabitation, pornography and the like. All of this bad behavior made more possible by contraceptives also fuels abortion rates. Chalk up another one for the Pope and the Church.
  3. The question of women’s dignity is hard to measure and different people have different measures. Women do have greater career choices. But is career or vocation the true source of one’s dignity? One’s dignity is surely more than their economic and utilitarian capacity. Sadly, motherhood has taken a real back seat in popular culture. And,  as the Pope predicted women have been hypersexualized as well. Their dignity as wives and mothers has been set aside in favor of the sexual pleasure they offer. As the Pope predicted many modern men, no longer bound by marriage for sexual satisfaction, use women and discard them on a regular basis. Men “get what they want” and it seems many women are willing to supply it rather freely. In this scenario men win. Women are often left with STDs, they are often left with children, and as they get older and “less attractive” they are often left alone. I am not sure this is dignity. But you decide who is right and if women really have won in the new morality that contraception helped usher in. I think the Pope wins this point as well.
  4. As for preventing STDs and AIDS, again, big failure. STDs did not decrease and were not prevented. Infection rates skyrocketed through the 1970s and 1980s. AIDS which appeared on the scene later continues to show horribly high rates. Where is the promised deliverance? Contraceptives it seems, do not prevent anything. Rather they encourage the spread of these diseases by encouraging the bad behavior that causes them. Here too it looks like the Church was right and the world was wrong.
  5. Add to this list the huge teenage pregnancy rates, the devastation of single parent families, broken hearts and even poverty. The link to poverty may seem obscure but the bottom line is that single motherhood is the chief cause of poverty in this country. Contraception encourages promiscuity. Promiscuity leads to teenage pregnancy. Teenage pregnancy leads to single motherhood (absent fatherhood).  Single motherhood leads to welfare and poverty. Currently in the inner city over 80% of homes are headed by single mothers. It is the single highest factor related to poverty.
  6. Declining birth rates are also having terrible effects on contracepting cultures. Europe as we have known it is simply going out of existence. I have written on that before HERE: Contraception is Cultural Suicide!  Europe’s future is Muslim. They have huge families. Likewise here in the USA white and African American communities are below replacement level. Thankfully our immigrants are largely Christian and share our American vision. But for the Church the declining birthrates are now resulting in closing schools, parishes, declining vocations and the like. We cannot sustain what we have on a population that is no longer replacing itself. Immigration has insulated us from this to some extent but low Mass attendance has eclipsed that growth and we are starting to shut down a lot of our operations.

Conclusion: Time will prove where wisdom lies.  What have we learned in in over forty years of contraception? First we have learned that it is a huge failure in meeting its promises. It has backfired. It has made things worse, not better. Marriage, families, children have all taken a huge hit. Bad behavior has been encouraged and all the bad consequences that flow from it are flourishing. Most people seem largely disinterested  in this data. Hearts have become numb and minds have gone to sleep. I hope you  are not among them and that you might consider this information well and share it with others. Time HAS proved where wisdom lay. It’s time to admit the obvious.

Comments (43)

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  1. Bender says:

    **The question of women’s dignity is hard to measure and different people have different measures.**

    Very good reflections, Monsignor, but I must note some disagreement with this point. Different people may very well have different measures, but there is only one measure with respect to the matter of the dignity of woman, and that is: truth (or, if you will, truth in love (which is really the same thing since the truth of woman includes love)).

    The dignity of woman is entirely grounded in the extent to which the matter at issue is consistent with the truth of woman. In this context, it is that woman is, by her very nature, a fertile, procreative being. The truth of woman is that she has the capacity to bring forth new life, to carry that life within her, and to give birth to a new human person.

    Contraception, being a lie that is against the truth of woman, a lie against the truth of her fertile and procreative nature, a lie that would have a woman deny her very womanhood, deny the truth of her being, deny the very thing that makes her uniquely woman and reduce her to a neutered quasi-male, not to mention an object of use (contrary to the truth that woman is a human person meant to love and be loved), is objectively and by its very nature, for these reasons, contrary to the dignity of woman by any measure. Contraception is likewise contrary to the truth of human sexuality, of which woman naturally plays a part, and contrary to the truth of love, and is again for those reasons contrary to the dignity of woman.

    There is no dignity in a lie, and contraception is a lie.

    • Well I agree with what you’ve said but my point in what you quoted was to admit that different people size up the question of dignity differently. It is less easy to measure. #s of abrotions divorces etc can be quantified “dignity” however is less measureable. I do agree with your observations however I think the dignity is less and the notion that a normal fertile woman should be treated as “diseased” and thus medicated by doctors is an indignity.

  2. Bender says:

    On this glorious day of Our Lady, we should thank her and the Lord for sending us a Pope such as Paul VI.

    So terribly misunderstood and abused during his life on earth, and such unfairness even continuing to his life in heaven, nevertheless, let us ask this good and faithful servant to remember us still from the Father’s house, and to continue to pray for us and the Holy Church he heroically dedicated his life to.

  3. Karl says:

    Contraception is merely a sign/symptom that contributes to the problem.

    The problem comes when WE violate the first commandment.

    “I am the Lord thy God, thou shalt not have strange Gods before me.”

    The problem is ME. Too much of ME.

    Abortion is a good example. The CHILD is the problem, not me. Did I use my sexuality for selfish satisfaction and now must the CHILD pay for my selfishness?

    In another blog I read, from time to time, “The Deacons Bench” the conclusion of WWJD and its meaning was that WWJD really, for most people, boils down to WWID. As Catholics, speaking now as a former Catholic(sadly but another story), we have abdicated OUR RESPONSIBILITY to foster our consciences as a faithful. personal reflection of what the Catholic Church teaches. Why? Because I(ME) do not want to bother to listen to anyone but ME.

    The problem with this is that the clergy have the same problems I(WE) do, regardless of their position in the hierarchy. They have become their own Gods and they use collegiality to defend their positions.

    It is still too much ME, whther that ME is, Karl, or that me is my bishop. Our clergy have become their own God.

    AND they will neither acknowledge this nor deal with it.

    • anon says:

      I am not saying that our clergy have become gods (in whoever’s mind), but I am curious about the heirachy of the church. It’s something I thought about before, but really struck me recently (at Confirmation), maybe because Bishop Holley is so big that his presence is a room is well noted. However, when a bishop is present, he is always attended by someone. Someone is always on hand to hold this or that, walk next to him (or behind him), but the thing that always causes me to pause is the kissing of his ring. I don’t mean to sound disrepectful, but I don’t understand the reverence. I don’t understand why one man of God is treated differently than others. Why is this so?

      • The kissing of a Bishop’s ring is an old and largely discontinued tradition. Mist bishop’s I know are uncomfortable with it and do not ask for it to be done. The purpose of this ptractice in the past was to venerate the Office of Bishop. It was more of a European custom that most Americans found rather foreign. In the Old Latin Mass there were also lots of “kisses” (THe hand of the priest was kissed any time he handed things back and forth to the deacon etc. As early as the 1940s there was a special indult in the USA to make such kisses optional. It was just so foreign to our culture. When I celebrate the Old Latin Mass today I do ask to apply that indult and ask that no one kiss my hand.

  4. Katherine G ERT says:

    My impression of dignity is one that I am still struggling to find. I don’t think I will be truly happy until I find a definition of this that satisfies me. I agree with your statements, and the Humanae Vitae, on contraception. I do think that contraception has made it far easier for people to be promiscuous. I think it does take away the dignity of a woman in many ways.

    Is a woman less dignified because she was raped? Because she had an abortion? Will men not want her because she is “tainted” and not pure? If she has more of a difficult past than another woman, does that make her less dignified than the other, more pure woman? These are questions I have about dignity.

    I think that reason why teenagers are having sex so young in life is because of how they are taught. Not necessarily by parents, or their school (though many schools promote the idea of using contraception), but by their peers. I remember when I was in 5th grade eons and eons ago (haha) in my “sex-ed” class we were taught about contraception. In every health class after that, we were taught that “protection is a good thing, and will protect you from unwanted pregnancies.” But sometimes it is peer influence that is the deciding factor for a teen (or anyone, really) to engage in risky stuff. Seeing or hearing of a friend doing something may make it seem “ok.” I think that this is where young adults need to have courage to talk with teens. We saw and dealt with all those decisions not too long ago, and we can tell them firsthand what a bad idea certain behaviors would be. It’s not easy telling underage friends about how drinking or doing this and that could land them in jail (or my ER heaven forbid), but if I didn’t do it, I know I would feel as if I could have done something to stop them from making a bad decision.

    That’s my 2 cents, sorry it’s so long. I had a lot I wanted to say 🙂

    • thanks for your experience that is worth more than 2 cents.

      • Katherine G ERT says:

        Thank you. I still have a lot of growing and learning to do. However, the experience I do have I want to share with and help others. I want people to learn from my mistakes instead of learning how I had to learn some things. Of course, with some of my underage friends, I could tell them ER stories about alcohol poisoning, even show them pictures of drunk driving wrecks, and they still wouldn’t get it until they end up in jail or the ER. They think they are invincible, that it can’t happen to them, and that is the same attitude I see among them regarding sex before marriage and contraception. I appreciate your responses, they tell me if I am on the right track or not with my comments, and if I am wrong, give me new insight and room for improvement.

  5. jan says:

    I hope this makes sense – I don’t believe that dignity is something that can be defined, per se, for it’s not a physical attribute but a state of being. Crimes against women don’t diminish women; abortion, on the other hand is very undignified because the end result is death, and the death of a child at the hand of its mother certainly diminishes the dignity of the mother. The same holds true for contraception and promiscuity – those behaviors are not, by their natures dignified; hence, behaving in such a fashion holds no dignity.

    I’ve been a mother for 25 years and I have 7 children. It’s been our experience that peer pressure among teens is not as powerful as some would like to make it – but…for the teen looking for it, it’s there. What is important, as Katherine says, is to talk with your kids, and, as we did, to set hard and fast rules and limits about what is acceptable. Keeping them home is the best defense – it’s worked well for us.

    The generation before me took the one thing from women that they had going for them – the desire to bear and raise children with one man. That was true power, and now it’s a shambles.

    • anon says:

      I do think peer pressure can play a role in an unsuspecting and developing teen, but I also think peer pressure is a lesser problem than what is now held up as the icon of a healthy, happy and free woman. The idea that God ordained men and women with unique and specific purposes is seen as an obstacle for women. Individual roles and identities have become so muddled that we now have generations of gender neutral people. (You should have heard the comments when I wouldn’t allow my son to get his food before all the women had taken their share at Thanksgiving!!)

      Modern leaders of feminism movement have claimed to seek to free women of oppression, thus have pushed a need for contraception, abortion and encouraged their view of sexual liberation. Traditional ideas have become synonymous with oppression. I’d wager a bet that, if one of my four daughters were asked what they wanted to be when they grew up, responded, “A wife and mother,” I’d be accused of suppressing gifts and talents.

      Jan, you’re right- things are in a shambles.

      • jan says:

        Oh! Thank you so much for some validation, anon – let me launch…I have 5 daughters; they all want to be wives and stay-at-home moms, especially the two eldest who are out in the world. My 5 year-old son, I kid you not, holds doors open for women; me, his teachers, people in stores. He opens the car door for me. This stuff he learned from his dad and his big brother.

        You know when we get the hairy eyeball most often? When we insist on our children referring to their elders as Mr. or Mrs. And I don’t like being referred to by my first name by kids, with very few exceptions.

        I admire that you are holding your son to a standard of manners that is almost non-existent now.

    • Thanks for insisting on being your kids mian influence. Too many parents allow TV and peers to be their Kids main source of influence.

  6. Nick says:

    Truth cannot contradict truth. 🙂

  7. CMAB says:

    I believe contraception allows a family to live in dignity. “Natural contraception” is bunk. If not, why were there so many Catholic families with 10-plus children in the 1950s and 1960s (we were one) and so few now. What happens when a father of 10 (all below the age of 16) loses his job? It’s a curse for a parent of any number of children, but it’s an especially crushing burden for a father of so many hungry mouths. Fortunately, in this case, the mother of 10 was able to work nights to keep food on the table and Sears was happy to carry our debt on their credit card. Contraception has allowed me to get an advanced degree, have a career and motherhood. My husband and I have a family the size we can manage. For us, contraception doesn’t have anything to do with promiscuity, abortion, or population control. It gives us the opportunity to bring up our children to love God and for all of us to use all the talents He has given us. Cerisse

    • anon says:

      CMAB-
      In a place in time where information is readily available, learning methods of NFP is something anyone with concerns about the size of their family can practice. Information was not as available in the time you referenced. Correctly practiced, NFP is accurate. Besides, there is something sweet about finding alternative ways to express there love and desire for one another during fertile times- it definitely requires more thought, and, to me at least, that is appealing.

      Look at the results of having an “on demand” culture. When we think we can have everything we want whenever we want, do we really appreciate what we have? While I think we’d all likely agree that contraception has contributed greatly to promiscuity in our culture, it isn’t the only reason a couple should see it as damaging.

      I once read that marital love is not expressed in words but in the “language of the body.”
      In my mind, contraception makes the act an incomplete conversation, when something is held back. Sexuality expressed within a marriage should be about total and complete commitment, and contraception effectively limits one another’s full potential to grow and live out God’s plan.

    • As a contrarian voice I might have hope you could have articulated your points in a less snide fort of way. Words like “bunk” and “10-plus Children” are not really to the point. However as regards what you call “Natural Contraception” (aka “NFP”) I did not write on the subject. However, I’ll say current methods are more effective if couples choose to use them. Most Catholic families were not as big as you describe. There were surely some, as there are today, but family size averaged in 4,5,6 range in those days.

      As for you, your testimony that you have been able to get an advanced degree have a career and motherhood seems to have worked for you. In the article I stepped back from judging where the question of dignity lay in all this. I do not claim to be able to define it for everyone. However, that said, I wonder in the big picture if children have really benefitted from mothers being able to “do it all.” I do not have enough info in your case. Perhaps you stayed home for your kids in their early formative years. But I wonder what all this juggling has done to kids in general. I also wish you hadn’t really described the whole thing as something to be “mangaged” I understand what you are getting at but one of our big problems in this whole contraception era is that trusting God has been largely replaced but the concept of keeping things “mangeable” and under our control. One thing about NFP that I’ll say, it combines a good balance between the couple’s legitimate concerns about family size and trust. In NFP there is the use of what God has designed along with trust that God’s grace is necessary to help the couple be firm in their decision. In other forms of contraception the trust is in drugs or barriers. Finally your statement that Contraception for you you isn’t about promiscuity, abortion or population control deserves two scrutines. First, moral issues are not just about us. In the big picture it sadly is about those things. In assessing the moral rectitude of something we cannot simply consider its effect on us but on others as well. Secondly, I would argue that your use of it IS about population control since your very purpose is to limit the existence of children in your family. You do want to control the population of your family.

      Anyway thanks for your response. I know your attitude and thought are common among many.But, as you might guess, I stand by the article and what I consider to be the inexorable conclusions of the article at tleast in terms of the big picture even though you claim to be an exception from some of those things.

    • Shari says:

      Cerisse, I know what your saying but as a couple who Practices Natural Family Planning, I have to say there are great practical advantages you miss out on by not. We talk about our sexual life a lot and communicate constantly about when is a good time to become open to life again. It also has made waiting for sex much like waiting in the last months before our wedding. I have friends who use contraceptive who complain about how little sex they have. I never would as that is not an issue here and I wouldn’t share that with friends because that’s between, me, Hubby and God. Sex is private and no one but the three of us be involved.

      As far as promiscuity goes logically to me it makes sense that it CAN make one more promiscuous. Of course no one would say it is the case in your marriage. Statiscally speaking however more and more people are having sex before marriage (in fact in many cases there is the opposite understanding that indeed not having sex before marriage is worse) more and more men and women are cheating on their spouses. Why? Because most people understand physical consequences more than emotional consequences. There is no way to void the emotional consequences of sleeping with someone you shouldn’t, except the futile attempt to dilute sex into something of little to no meaning. So you take away the obvious consequence of sex i.e. unplanned pregnancies and STD’s you take away the reason not to have sex outside of married life that people understand. Resulting into a society that gives into their impulses more and more.

  8. jan says:

    CMAB – I think the central tenet you are missing here is trusting in God. Artificial contraception does not allow for that.

    It’s true that your arguments are appealing – you are one who seems to have it all. I don’t know you and I don’t walk in your shoes, but I, too have a professional license in case I need to work to support my family, but I am able to stay home and raise my children – they don’t go to daycare. As the youngest of six in a good old Catholic family, I didn’t go to daycare either and my parents were not wealthy, but we had enough. Mostly we had fun, love for each other, and it wasn’t hard to make do. I wouldn’t be without a one of my 7, and I wish like anything that the 4 I lost were with us. They are all wonderfully unique, talented, smart and all have the opportunity to grow, develop their particular gifts, and share them with the world.

    As I approach my 50 birthday still fertile, you can bet there are times when I’m sweating razor blades – who wants to have a baby at this age? But, if God’s will says it must be so, then it will be so. I trust.

    • Bender says:

      This whole issue does cause one to wonder if dignity existed prior to the invention of the Pill? Prior to the 20th century, and all the modern conveniences that we have, was it possible to have dignity? Without all our possessions, without our pieces of paper from academia, without recreational sex (even marital recreational sex), could one really be dignified?

      Indeed, if a family were suddenly thrown back in time even to the age of Jan’s youth, could there be any real dignity in that? Back during the Depression, when the number of children in some families detracted from mom and dad’s lifestyle choices, or even when they fell into poverty, certainly dignity could not exist in such a life, could it? Would it not be nothing but wretchedness and misery?

      And yet, we read that happiness and dignity have indeed been possible throughout all of human history. Even when man was living in mud huts with animal skins for clothing, people found happiness and dignity. Even when people have starved, they have known joy and dignity.

      Life might be “harder” from a purely utilitarian perspective, but neither man nor dignity is measured by utility. They are both measured by love and by transcendent truth. Including the love of another that is a total giving of self, without placing any barriers between the two, either chemical, rubber, or emotional/mental, and including the love that fully accepts and welcomes the fruit of love, such as children, rather than seeing them as unwelcome burdens.

  9. Susan Peterson says:

    But, CMAB, you don’t have those other children you would have had. If you had known them, you would never have traded them for an advanced degree!
    But I know a mother of 11 who earned her masters degree while her children were still small, and she did not have a husband with a high income either.
    You seem to be equating dignity with comfort and financial security and having things all go according to your own plans. I think there was plenty of dignitiy in your mother’s struggle!
    I do know people who limited their families to as few as three children using only Natural Family Planning. All the people I know who were successful at this had serious medical reasons to avoid another pregnancy. If one doesn’t have such reasons, one is likely to decide, at the moment, that one’s plans to defer having another child are not so important after all, And that is a good thing! After all, each new child is a soul called to eternal joy with God.
    Children do pick up on our sins, especially our sustained and deliberate ones. ( I know this from my own sins, but not the same one. I write this as a fellow sinner.) I am not sure you can be bringing up your children to love God while you are giving them an example day after day and year after year of disobeying Him. Because when you disobey His Church, you are certainly disobeying Him.

    Susan Peterson

  10. Jacob says:

    I agree with your message, as will any true Catholic. However, as an argumentative piece, this article is useless with no citations for the sources of the figures used. Perhaps that’s the engineer in me speaking, but it is a lot harder to refute solidly-researched and -documented evidence on any point. This article would have at least a bit more traction in the secular world with rock-solid numbers in it.

    On a brighter note, thank you for spreading this wisdom. I pray that I will have the courage and fire needed to spread His message in every way throughout my entire time here.

    God bless,

    Jacob

    • Yes, you are right Jacob. At some point it will be good to go back in an cite data when I republish this article in the future. Two things limited me in this matter. First was time. Second, it is remarkably hard to get easy statistical data to compare 1968 with 2008. Even divorce rates are measure in so many different rates in different surveys (eg divorce per 1000; vs simple divorce rates). I thought a simple table would exist but some many of the links are wrong etc. Rates of promiscuity are also hard to simply compare. I din’t think anyone doubts that both divorce and promiscuity have skyrocketed it is just by how much, I think part of the data is intentionally murky since it is seems that statistics are often designer statistics today trying to get the desire results by the way questions are aked etc. But at some point I will document this as you say I should. The documentation that I must supply is who it was that was making claims for a better marriage, fewer abortions etc. The sources are largely from John Noonans comprehensive work: “Contraception” wherein he cites many many sources and arguments. But here too a truly scholarly article as opposed to a blog would sure require these. I’ll work it up for the next publicaiton.

  11. JonW says:

    Msgr. Pope, Why do so many Bishops feel uncomfortable about having their rings kissed? It’s not about them; it’s about God, and God’s Church.

  12. Susan Peterson says:

    Ring kissing was really off topic here. Someone didn’t like being told contraception was wrong, so he/she figured the best defense was a good offense. “The church says contraception is bad, but have you seen those bishops? someone does everything for them and people actually KISS their rings, they think they are big stuff, who do they think they are, having their rings kissed and telling me not to take the pill!”

    Of course Jon w is right; it is about God and the Church. It is about standing in the place of Our Lord.
    I was uncomfortable when I saw such actions on TV and didn’t think I would be able to participate. Then I encountered the same actions in Orthodoxy, only even more so. ( A son of mine became Orthodox so I have worshipped with them frequently.) After liturgy, kiss the cross and kiss the priest’s hand. Kiss the hem of his vestment during the Great Entrance. Since there is so much kissing of icons in Orthodoxy, it becomes very clear that the priest is being venerated as an icon of Christ. It isn’t about power and status at all.

    Susan Peterson

  13. c bolser says:

    I fail to see substantial evidence regarding cause and effect – I believe somehow that the issues you bring up are much more complicated and deal with a great number of cultural realities such as economics, jobs, education (or lack thereof), etc., etc. To find one and only one cause of the maladies of modern culture is a bit simplistic. It seems that you bring your conviction to the fore and then line up the evidence to prove your point rather than looking at the root causes of much of the suffering of humanity. When education is placed at the bottom of our national priorites while we spend huge amounts of money on war and the making of war; on prisons, and shipping our jobs out while providing huge amounts of money for paper pushers, there might be other factors that carry some weight.

    • You are right in stating that there are many factors at works here. But as I stated in the article, contraception is often presented as a “simple solution” and so I ask, where are and what are its results? I do not propose it as the only cause to a complicated social decline but I DO present it as an important factor, indeed a substantial factor in the demise of sexual morality, marriage etc. It is also possible that your reasoning is at the other pole from what you call “simplistic” maybe we can call it “byzantine” or hyper-pluralistic. What ever we call it, it is the tendency to assign everything to the “complicated” label as a kind of hand off attitude. SInce everything is “complicated” isolating certain factors and talking about them is “too simplistic” we are left really with nothing to say or do which is really, I suspect, the whole point of such thinking. I do not persoanlly accuse you of such motives, but I think such reasoning has that tendency.

      So agreed, there are other factors in our decline, but there is also a pretty definable connection between contraception and the results I have cited.

  14. John Pope says:

    Msgr.,

    Your last Humanae Vitae citation is crucial. “Who will prevent public authorities from…impos[ing] their use on everyone.” Who indeed!?

    For Pope Paul VI was vindicated in his warning here as well. China’s one child policy is probably the largest scale abuse of government power with regard to reproductive rights. Forced abortions and sterilizations are the norm there in China. But, our own country is replete with examples of government reproductive infringement as well. Steven Mosher, of the Population Research Institute (www.pop.org), tracks all the contraceptive abuse. He points out that all of our foreign aid is tied to in place population control campaigns. No national contraceptive program means no foreign aid for your country. Simple as that. Just one example, to keep this short. Did you know that our country funded the forced sterilization of 300,000 Andes women in the 1990’s? Mr. Mosher details all of the abuses on this December 4th Catholic Answers Live podcast found here:
    http://www.catholic.com/audio/podcast/ca091204a.mp3

    Blessed Advent,
    John

  15. Nancy de Flon says:

    Hello Msgr., I must say that as one of those who has always found Humanae Vitae to be “hopelessly out of touch,” your article really brought me up short and gave me something to think about. Wow. Thank you for writing it. I would like to have clarified your reference to women’s “dignity as wives and mothers.” Are you implying that women’s dignity is based exclusively on their role as wives and mothers? I would disagree with this. Many women are not wives or mothers, some by choice, some involuntarily. Rooting out the problem of the hypersexualization of women is a monumental challenge because this hypersexualization starts not with men’s attitudes but with parents who allow girls as young as five to have birthday parties where they are introduced to cosmetics and allowed to get, well to be honest, all tarted-up looking, to use a British phrase. Add to that the pernicious cult of the celebrity, in which the media keeps shoving at young girls such dubious role models as Miley Cyrus, Britney Spears, the Hiltons, etc., and the tide seems almost impossible to turn back.

    • Yes I agree there is more to a woman’s dignity than “wife and mother” my point was that those two things seems to have been diminished by the modern world, not that other aspects are to be set aside.

      Also, thanks for the observation about how many young girls are brought into this hyper-sexualization early. It is an important observation and one of the trends that is quite disturbing. Many women have also told me that here in America it is getting increasingly difficult to find modest clothes for their daughters in the local stores.

      • anon says:

        “Many women have also told me that here in America it is getting increasingly difficult to find modest clothes for their daughters in the local stores.”

        AMEN to that! I almost lost my mind finding a dress for Confirmation that wasn’t strappy or strapless and well above the knee.

  16. CMAB says:

    I’m sorry if I offended Monsignor. I guess I was a little too frank. But the advice from you and your readers seems to be to simply sit back and trust God. I think God wants me to be more proactive. He has given us all talents and expects us to serve Him by discovering those gifts and using them. Sitting back and letting nature take its course is a lazy approach to fulfilling God’s mission for us. I’m not saying that following some career path is necessarily God’s plan, but it might be. Cerisse

    • Thanks Cerisse. I doubt that most people who strive to trust God would ever pair the word “Trust” with the phrase “simply sit back” Trusting God is not a passive thing at all. It is an active cooperation with the will of God that engages ones freedom and will. It is not “lazy” neither is it failing to use all our gifts and talents. But it IS an appreciation that there are some limits necessary to our behavior. Just because we can do something does nto mean we should. do it. When one looks to the many “bad fruits” (pardon the pun) of contraception I would not describe it as “using our gifts and talents.” Rather perhaps I would describe it as us abusing them.

  17. MAM says:

    Monsignor, I am curious about your point #6, declining birth rates. The arguments you put forth (conserving European culture, maintaining institutions, and warning that Christianity may not be the dominant population in the future) seem to say that a reason for having children is to keep up the status quo, or to foster a vision of American Catholic life that, while admirable, may be better suited to previous generations. Is this really a good reason to have children? Are we really going to bring people to Jesus Christ merely by outnumbering them? Perhaps we should consider filling our empty parishes and schools by reaching out to the people who are already here. And how do we balance our fertility with our stewardship of the earth?

  18. Lara says:

    Msgr.,

    Your doing a great job reaching people about important issues on this blog!! Keep it up.

    Also, birth control sometimes acts as an abortifacient. How can some Christians be pro-life and contracept? I don’t get it.

  19. Gabriel Austin says:

    Chesterton wrote “Thousands of women proclaimed that they would not be dictated to, and promptly went out and took jobs as secretaries”.

    In her home, the woman is undoubtedly the boss. Of how many offices is this the case?

    How many women became nuns, a vocation now much mocked by feminists? But what great work was done by the nuns!

    That many women were bound down by large families [4 and 6 and 12 children] is an urban myth. But even Margaret Sanger was proud of her mother who bore 11 children.

    One of Rome’s greatest women, Cornelia Scipio Africanus, was mocked for her lack of jewelry. Pointing to her children, she replied “These are my jewels”. The “jewels” went on to become the great citizens of Rome, the Gracchi.

  20. anon says:

    “Just because we can do something does not mean we should do it.”

    That’s one of my most used phrases. God gives us many abilities, but he also gives us the most important one- choice. Discernment is often discraded.

  21. John Pope says:

    One final point Msgr,

    At another date and time, perhaps you can fold the Church’s teaching on Natural Family Planning into your insights here on Humane Vitae. It seems to me that the Church’s mission is primarily to preach the Good News of salvation. Most Catholics selectively hear the Church preach that contraceptives are sinful, and tune the rest out. “There the Church goes again spreading guilt, and telling us we’re all going to hell!”, they’ll say. Unfair? Yes.

    But if it’s true that only 4% of Catholics don’t use some form of contraception, then perhaps it’s time for the Church to retool it’s message delivery on this consequential topic. All prophetic credits to Pope Paul VI aside, what has the Church done to shepherd it’s flock to a better understanding of sex and sexuality? Encyclicals simply are not enough.

    I think we’re turning a corner here. I notice that Natural Family Planning is taught at our church as part of marriage preparation. And at the High School level, the ‘Theology of the Body’ is taught to hormone rich teenagers. But much more is needed.

    Since path is narrow, the Church must do a better job of lighting it. And we can all start by invoking the name of Jesus for the salvation of souls!

  22. Emo says:

    I really think so too=P I have been searching around the internet for a while this week, and its really hard to find anything good to read on blogs. Maybe thats because there are too much of those around =) But your place actually keeps catching my attention=P Great posts, and cool design ^__^. Ill be sure to give it more visits from now on .