The Anniversary of Humanae Vitae

Homily Series: Teaching Authority of the Church

Nothing is truly pastoral if it's not true.

This Wednesday is the 50thAnniversary of Humanae Vitae, the Encyclical Letter of His Holiness Paul VI on the regulation of birth. After that document was released there were almost no homilies on it. Many pastors remained mute. Many people were disappointed, however, because the Church did not change its teaching on artificial contraception.

Cardinal Kevin Farrell, prefect of the Vatican’s Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life, said recently that “priests are not the best people to train others for marriage… They have no credibility; they have never lived the experience; they may know moral theology, dogmatic theology in theory, but to go from there to putting it into practice every day....they don’t have the experience.” Fr. Steve refutes this statement by referring to the introduction to St. John Paul the Great’s book Love and Responsibility, where he asserts that although clerics may have no direct experience of marriage, they have a wealth of secondary experience and wisdom through their pastoral ministry.

Fr. Steve explains how that Vatican document came about as a response the Anglican Church’s Lambeth Conference of 1930, which allowed contraception under certain circumstances. The use of artificial contraception, as Fr. Steve explains, makes a couple more likely to choose convenience over virtue. He quotes extensively from Humanae Vitae on the consequences of the use of birth control, and the blessings of keeping to the moral law of God.

Fr. Steve mounts a robust defense of the Church’s teaching on sexual morality and in particular its teaching on artificial contraception, in the face of the worldly culture of: pleasure at all costs. Parenthood is a great good that is disparaged in our time. He also castigates as false shepherds priests and bishops who do not uphold the Church’s reaching on these matters.

In his post-communion comments, Fr. Steve reasserts the good news of the Lord’s plan for human sexuality. Jesus does not insist on this, except out of love for us.

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