A. What is it?
Humanae vitae is an encyclical issued by Pope Paul VI on July 25, 1968 (We are nearing the Golden Jubilee Anniversary of this Encyclical)
“Humanae Vitae” means “Of Human Life”
The Encyclical is subtitled as “Regulation of Birth”
In the wake of the sexual revolution of the 1960s, Humanae Vitae was presented to the world, and today it is considered as a “Prophetic Literature”.
This is especially in the light of how, over the next decades, there has been an increase in the sexualization of culture, increased legalized abortion, the growing tensions in marital relations, and thus has led to deep wounds to the concept of family life.
The Encyclical clearly affirms that the Church “does not… evade the duty imposed on her of proclaiming humbly but firmly the entire moral law, both natural and evangelical.” And so, like Christ, the Church “is destined to be a ‘sign of contradiction.'”
B. What does it speak of?
Pope Paul VI in Humanae Vitae re-affirmed the Church’s prohibition of artificial contraception, gave the approval on natural family-planning (NFP) methods, and upheld the Church’s teaching on conjugal love and responsible parenthood.
Drawing from Sacred Scripture and Holy Tradition, the Encyclical exhorts how God Himself has designed the nature of married love – it is “total, faithful and exclusive”. The marriage act has both unitive and procreative aspects- which cannot be separated (Thus, artificial contraception is immoral).
Every marriage act is a participation in the Divine Act of “giving life”. Hence, it belongs in the context of committed love (sealed by marriage) and openness to life.
The Encyclical very powerfully demonstrates that Human life came from God, belongs to God, and goes back to God (“You are not your own” – 1 Cor 6:19). This is in direct opposition to the modern-day dictum: “This is my life, my body, my choice!”
C. Pointers for Reflections
- The Encyclical re-affirms the Church’s uncompromising stance with respect to morals and faith – upholding Sacred Scripture and Holy Tradition.
As a Christian, am I ready to be a “sign of contradiction” in standing for the Gospel Virtues, even if it means, facing isolation and rejection, unpopularity and being branded as “traditional and old-fashioned”?
- Humanae Vitae stands in direct contradiction to the “easy and free” trends of looking at sex, marriage and family life.
Am I aware of the “Preciousness of my body” and how, all what I do with my body, ought to be “life-giving” and giving sole glory to God? Any contrary that I do, is a sin, and so I need to let go any “habits or tendencies” that is harmful to the body, which is “… a Temple of the Holy Spirit” (1 Cor 3:16),
D. What virtues/points can we pick up from the “Humanae Vitae” for this Season of Lent?
- Become aware that Life belongs to God and that Love is Sacred
- Growing in the conviction that I need to be uncompromising to the Teachings of the Church, despite the “comfortable trends” around us
E. Tips to practice these virtues
- Pray to be faithful to the Virtue of Chastity and to always do actions that “promote and nurture life”
- Read Articles 2331-2400 from the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) to get a better understanding of the Church’s position on sexuality.
May this Lent and the familiarity with “Humanae Vitae” help us to grow in our acclamation: “Eureka – I have found the Lord”
God Bless! Live Jesus!
(Click the following link to read the full text of “HUMANAE VITAE”: https://www.vatican.va/content/paul-vi/en/encyclicals/documents/hf_p-vi_enc_25071968_humanae-vitae.html)