Homily for the Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time: Sunday, July 29th, 2018:
On July 25th, Holy Mother Church celebrated the Feast of St. James the Apostle. He was the brother of St. John the Evangelist and a martyr for the Church. But July 25th also marked the 50th anniversary of Pope Paul VI’s issuance of the papal encyclical Humanae Vitae. Pope Paul VI addressed “the regulation of birth” in his encyclical letter. Here is the first sentence of Humanae Vitae: “The transmission of human life is a most serious role in which married people collaborate freely and responsibly with God the Creator.” Pope Paul VI wrote this encyclical to answer “new questions,” the biggest of which is “man’s stupendous progress in the domination and rational organization of the forces of nature to the point that he is endeavoring to extend this control over every aspect of his own life-over his body, over his mind and emotions, over his social life, and even over the laws that regulate the transmission of life.” Pope Paul VI wrote Humanae Vitae to reflect more deeply on the moral teaching of marriage in the Catholic Church. Pope Paul VI wrote that human procreation involves the whole man and the whole mission to which God calls him, not just biology, psychology, physiology, et cetera. God created married love when He created Adam and Eve. God wants men and women to marry and have children. A husband and wife are to cooperate with God in the generation and rearing of new lives. Married love is fully human, a compound of sense and spirit, faithful and exclusive until death, and is fertile. It generates new life in the world. Pope Paul VI wrote that responsible parenthood recognizes and respects its proper functions. Man’s reason and will must control his and her instincts, urges, and emotions. Every conjugal act of marriage must be open to human life because it is part of God’s natural law. The act of marriage is unitive and procreative. It is reasonable. He wrote that a husband and wife can exercise God’s marital design but cannot alter it. Therefore, “man’s act to interrupt the life-giving process of the marital act, (to include artificial contraception and direct abortion) is unlawful and disobeys God’s design and intention.” Pope Paul VI then reflected on the consequences of artificial methods of birth control. He said “Let them first consider how easily this course of action could open wide the way for marital infidelity and a general lowering of moral standards….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 who he should surround with care and affection. Finally, careful consideration should be given to the danger of this power passing into the hands of those public authorities who care little for the precepts of the moral law.” Think about Communist China and its one-child policy. Finally, Pope Paul VI wrote that “we must accept that there are certain limits, beyond which it is wrong to go, to the power of man over his own body and its natural functions-limits…which no one, whether as a private individual or as a public authority, can lawfully exceed.” Pope Paul VI’s words were prophetic. 50 years later, look around you. What do you see? You expect me to “toe the corporate line” and I do. But let me read to you these quotes about Pope Paul VI’s encyclical Humanae Vitae. “…I believe that Protestants have done themselves a disservice by ignoring Humanae Vitae’s substantial statement on human anthropology and sexuality. Our distaste for things Roman Catholic,…has deprived us of a wealth of theological wisdom on some very important ethical challenges. Protestants would be well-served to study Paul VI’s encyclical and take heed of its warnings. Our acceptance of most forms of birth control is not helping us teach the next generation about sex and sexuality. It is time for us to reconsider our stance.” The person who wrote that is Evan Lenow, associate professor of ethics at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. Here’s another one: “If we leave out individual intentions and assess nothing but uncontroversial facts, it is transparently clear that the increased use of contraception has also increased abortion….Rates of contraception usage, abortion, and out-of-control wedlock births all exploded simultaneously…contraception has led to more pregnancy and more abortion because it eroded the idea that men had equal responsibility in case of an unplanned pregnancy. Contraception…sharply reduced the incentive for men to marry….In the new, post-pill order, pregnancy became the woman’s responsibility-and if birth control ‘failed,’ that was not the man’s problem.” …and…”Whatever the anxieties of the moment, however prominent or widespread the disgruntlement, the ever-growing empirical record continues to vindicate Paul VI’s encyclical.” These last two quotes come from senior research fellow Mary Eberstadt, of the Faith and Reason Institute. She is a Catholic author. Listen to this quote: “…we should look closely at the Catholic moral argument as found in Humanae Vitae. Evangelicals will find themselves in surprising agreement with much of the encyclical’s argument. As the Pope warned, widespread use of the Pill has led to ‘serious consequences’ including marital infidelity and rampant sexual immorality. In reality, the Pill allowed a near-total abandonment of Christian sexual morality in the larger culture. Once the sex act was severed from the likelihood of childbearing, the traditional structure of sexual morality collapsed.” That quote is from Doctor Albert Mohler, President of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. And finally this quote: “I urge the advocates of artificial methods (of birth control) to consider the consequences. Any large use of the methods is likely to result in the dissolution of the marriage bond and in free love.”….”There is hope for a decent life only so long as the sexual act is definitely related to the conception of precious life” (as Pope Paul VI advocated in Humanae Vitae). The person who said that was Mahatma Gandhi.
Pope Paul VI’s encyclical has stood the test of time. Humanae Vitae has been prophetic. Pope Paul VI’s vision of what would happen has been prophetic. Holy Mother Church asks everyone who opposes the teachings of the encyclical to reconsider in light of the evidence. If we don’t, what will this world look like 100 years after Humanae Vitae?
February 12, 2017
October 23, 2016
October 2, 2016