As some of you may already be aware, I’ve decided to focus my upcoming blog posts on the issue of artificial contraception. This is not to focus on the HHS mandate or religious liberty but on the dignity of the human body and how our health physically, psychologically, and spiritually can be effected by artificial contraception. Today’s blog is the first in a series where I will look at the Catholic Church encyclical Humanae Vitae beginning with numbers *I Problems and Competency of the Magisterium and II Doctrinal Principles. . . *
Birth control – what’s the big deal?!
Here’s the thinking of the majority of people on a basic level when it comes to birth control: people should be able to have sex when they want, it’s not anyone else’s business. However, they shouldn’t get pregnant if they are not ready to take care of a kid; therefore, since we have the technology, it makes sense to have a means to control pregnancy so people are free to do what they want, especially if they are married.
It all makes sense, right? Let’s look at this a little more in depth. . .
As mentioned in my last blog, which discussed the pill and just a few of the impacts it has on the body, I will now dive into the well known encyclical Humanae Vitae taking it a section at a time to help us better understand what the Church teaches about artificial contraception by looking to what the Church has actually said since the beginning of the artificial contraception debate.
I Problems and Competency of the Magisterium
First, Humanae Vitae is a Catholic Church encyclical by Pope Paul VI in 1968 on the regulation of birth as new technologies were being widely developed and adopted to provide artificial means of controlling birth.
Although Humanae Vitae may have been written nearly fifty years ago, what the Church said is still relevant today – especially as we find ourselves in the middle of the big debate surrounding the HHS mandate.
Humanae Vitae begins by identifying some of the feared hardships the world faces:
Resources may not be able to catch up with the fast growing population in developing countries
Rapid growth across the world may have significant impact on unemployment while education and living are expensive
Having set the tone for the feared difficulties in the culture, the encyclical goes on to emphasize the importance of understanding women’s role in society and the married life in relationship to the “conjugal acts” of married love. Keep in mind the context and time in which the encyclical was introduced, women’s rights and the sexual revolution were prevailing ideas that were, and continue, shaping the culture.
From here Pope Paul VI begins to discuss the new developments where man was making “stupendous progress” in controlling and organizing forces of nature so that man was now able to control all aspects of his own body, mind, emotions, social life, “and even over the laws that regulate the transmission of life.”
As society continues to change and new difficulties are faced, there are important questions that must be asked surrounding norms in marriage. Especially those that are often taken to the point of being heroic acts on the part of the couple. Breaking it down: shouldn’t people have the option of birth control, especially within the marital love of man and wife where there may be risks due to health or financial/societal problems? Furthermore, would not the use of birth control to have a rationally planned out family make sense? (Means justifying the end.)
These questions beg for our Church, our moral compass, to answer them. We cannot just look at this case by case subjectively. Humanae Vitae was written because the Church recognized it had to take the time to dive deeper than before into the sacrament of marriage in order to understand the role artificial birth control plays.
This is part of the reason why we have the Church, so that questions which pose moral difficulties to the culture can be answered. Pope Paul VI wrote, “…that it is time to go to natural law and divine Revelation to find the answers.”
So then, when answering the questions of sexuality and our human control over it, the Church had to look at humanity and the mission man is called to. That is the natural human life on earth and the supernatural life that is to be sought in heaven.
II Doctrinal Principles
In a cultures where efforts are being made to justify artificial contraception there are two things which have to be looked at very carefully:
**1. Married life
- Responsible parenthood**
Now that we have looked at the feared challenges of modern culture, and recognize that many answers are needed from the Church surrounding sexuality and artificial contraception, we will next look at God’s loving design for marriage. This will help us understand why it is so important that we have an informed voice on the issue of artificial birth control. . .
Read Part 2