The Prophecy of Paul VI. The encyclical letter Humanae vitae (1968).

Serie: Journal of the Observatory/07
Publisher: Edizioni Cantagalli
Pages: 96
Price: €9.5

Forty years have passed since its promulgation and the Encyclical Letter Humanae Vitae continues to trigger deep felt reactions. At the end of a series of endless consultations and insistent pressure, Paul VI took a stand. This was back in 1968. Many were those who expected the Holy Father to follow the majority of experts and admit contraception for married couples. He, however, reaffirmed the need not to separate the two aims of conjugal union: fecundity and love. A current of opponents immediately declared the Encyclical unacceptable; dissent spread among some pastors; the pope was subjected to lynching by the mass media.  

The distance at which we now stand summons us to undertake a rereading of this highly timely text. Today we know that the information submitted by experts was often inconclusive and incomplete. All the better do we understand that concealed behind the issue of contraception are other important challenges: relativism and individualism in the sphere of morals, the right of public authorities to make decisions regarding demographic matters, the role of experts, the authority of the Holy Father, the possibility to revisit pontifical teachings, and the co-responsibility of the Church.

Unfortunately, most of those who denigrated Humanae Vitae not realize that justifying the position assumed by Paul VI is reason itself. The Encyclical already confirms the evident conclusions reached in a broad series of scientific disciplines: medicine, biology, psychology, economy, history, law, etc. In the expressions of evidence supplied by these disciplines, there is nary a shadow of revealed truth.  Anyone can challenge that. The Church takes note of the results stemming from the use of reason. Humanae Vitae may only be understood if enhanced is the role of reason in the quest for the ultimate sense of life and love.

Philosopher and theologian, Michel Schooyans is a priest of the diocese of Brussels and professor emeritus at the University of Louvain. He was a professor at the Catholic University of San Pablo and visiting professor at numerous universities in Latin America. He has published more than forty books and his research efforts delve into the areas of political philosophy, contemporary ideologies, demographic policies and social morals. In particular, he is a member of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences (Rome), the Pontifical Academy for Life (Rome), the Mexican Academy of Bioethics (Mexico), the Population Research Institute (Washington, D.C.), and the Institute of Political Demography (Paris).