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A Leaven In The World… Celebrate The 50th Anniversary Of Humanae Vitae

July 23, 2018 Our Catholic Faith No Comments

By FR. KEVIN M. CUSICK

This year and this week mark the blessing of 50 years of the teaching of Humanae Vitae for the Church and the world. The challenge to live holy marriages in this prophetic and timeless encyclical, promulgated on July 25, 1968, is still not universally accepted even within the Church. It is still, half a century later, not only rejected by many, but even within the Church it is under attack by some who say it can be changed.
As a new priest, one year after my Ordination, I organized and led a conference to mark the 25th anniversary of Humanae Vitae in 1993 at St. Mark’s Parish in Hyattsville, Md. Hundreds came to better learn and spread the good news about greater openness to the gift of human life in our day through marriage. Mary Ellen Bork moderated, and Dr. John Haas and William E. May were among the speakers on the panel. Couple to Couple League International was represented by Bob and Gerry Laird, who work to better equip married couples to put the teaching into practical terms through the use of natural family planning.
The need for education and implementation continues. Last week Fr. Sean Connolly hosted a conference at his parish in the Archdiocese of New York to carry on the work of spreading the truth encapsulated by Humanae Vitae. The conference featured Peter Kreeft. It is good to see young priests today also continuing to celebrate and give more and more young people called to marriage and family life the truth about married love. Seminarians were invited also to the daylong event, so that they could better prepare to serve our families. I congratulate them on this initiative.
Discussion about the document is not limited to those who have read it. This does not seem to be an impediment for quite a few who are content merely to sum it up as a “ban” on contraception. That, essentially, is true. But to understand why all means of contraception are excluded by the Church, one must first grasp the Church’s vision of marriage.
As a sign that his intervention as primary teacher of faith and morals was needed, Blessed Paul VI pointed to the disagreement on the commission, a panel of theologians and married couples which he set up to study the question, when he intervened through the encyclical to reiterate timeless truths and provide clarity on the matter of the regulation of births:
“. . . Within the commission itself there was not complete agreement concerning the moral norms to be proposed, and especially because certain approaches and criteria for a solution had emerged which were at variance with the moral doctrine on marriage constantly taught by the magisterium of the Church” (Humanae Vitae, n. 6).
Availability of methods of contraception, which were so widely hailed and disseminated in the 1960s, led to a ferment within the Church about the possibility of its licit use by faithful Catholic couples. Could it coexist in married love together with childbearing without vitiating something integral to the marriage vocation itself? Some had proposed proportionalism, among other illicit innovations, in an attempt to support a theory about what were represented as limited conditions under which use of contraception might be said not to do so.
But in the one marital act God has joined both the unitive and the procreative, and “what God has joined man must not divide.” Paul VI addressed this necessary condition for a holy love within marriage as it shares in and spreads the love of the Creator.
“Married love particularly reveals its true nature and nobility when we realize that it takes its origin from God, who is ‘love,’ the Father ‘from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named’” (HV, n. 8).
As with all things Catholic and all matters of faith and morals, to include marriage, our starting point is God. Our Creator is the source of man and woman who join to become one flesh in love by means of holy matrimony. They not only embrace each other as a response to their attraction and desire, but, in doing so, mirror God and share in His creative power as their marital embrace is always open to procreation, with the potential of bringing a new life into the world.
Married love is always procreative only by also shunning contraception which it is never possible to use without an anti-life will. A stand against life in any way is a rejection of the heavenly Father and His love which we can now share fully in Jesus Christ. Husband and wife must seek always to share in this holy and life-giving love.
Husband and wife make “a mutual gift of themselves” to each other in the one marital act. If one aspect of marriage is “cut out” by the intentional use of contraception, then man and woman reject one essential aspect of their love and fail to fully embrace one another as blessed by God. One cannot say, “I love you but I hate your fertility.” Fertility is part of the person endowed so by a loving God.
Compassion is always necessary and an integral aspect of Humanae Vitae as well. There can be conditions under which husband and wife may space and even delay the birth of a child for an indefinite period. But the reason for doing so must be grave. This is for the reason that God’s call to husband and wife to share procreatively in His love is a grave obligation within marriage.
Recourse to the natural cycle for spacing births is foreseen as licit while grave reasons persist. Wonderfully, the natural methods are the most effective available as confirmed scientifically as well as being free and without side effects, unlike artificial methods. Some contraception functions as an abortifacient, compounding its gravity as a sin if used.
Letting go of prejudgments and prejudices, and reading the encyclical with an open mind and heart, is the grace which we should pray all our married couples receive. Implementation of natural family planning training for young people preparing for marriage better equips them for serenely living out a generous love should they become aware during marriage that grave reasons for spacing births exist.
The mission of serving holiness in marriage and family life is the greatest task of the Church each day as these make up the greater part of the Body of Christ. All of us play an integral role in supporting this apostolate for the human person, each of whom comes from the “horizon of the family” as John Paul II said.
A blessed Humanae Vitae fiftieth anniversary to you. Celebrate it by reading this encyclical and spreading the joy brought by the beautiful truth it teaches about married love as the source created and blessed by God for bringing every new life into the world.
Thank you for reading and praised be Jesus Christ, now and forever. @MCITLFrAphorism

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