”Responsible men can become more deeply convinced of the truth of the doctrine laid down by the Church on this issue if they reflect on the consequences of methods and plans for artificial birth control. 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. Not much experience is needed to be fully aware of human weakness and to understand that human beings—and especially the young, who are so exposed to temptation—need incentives to keep the moral law, and it is an evil thing to make it easy for them to break that law. 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 whom he should surround with care and affection.” 1
“It is to be anticipated that perhaps not everyone will easily accept this particular teaching. There is too much clamorous outcry against the voice of the Church, and this is intensified by modern means of communication. But it comes as no surprise to the Church that she, no less than her divine Founder, is destined to be a “sign of contradiction.” (22) 2 She does not, because of this, evade the duty imposed on her of proclaiming humbly but firmly the entire moral law, both natural and evangelical.
“Since the Church did not make either of these laws, she cannot be their arbiter—only their guardian and interpreter. It could never be right for her to declare lawful what is in fact unlawful, since that, by its very nature, is always opposed to the true good of man.”3
These are excerpts from Pope Paul VI’s encyclical, Humanae Vitae (Latin for “Of Human Life”), issued in 1968. (It should be noted that the writing style unfamiliar to many is a result of having a translation from a Latin text. The Romance languages, especially those in a classical style, are different from modern, informal American English.) This was written at the dawn of the “free love” era. Secular news media and even some clergy and bishops felt that his message was flawed or at least doomed to being disregarded by those claiming to be Catholic.
Despite the opposition to his message, this pope’s steadfast courage to be truthful has been vindicated. Recent revelations of countless inappropriate sexual advances and impositions of men toward women in the workplace and other relationships over the last few decades make it clear: the promise of “safe sex” through use of condoms and chemical means of birth control have reduced the dignity of women to become mere sex objects.
Men are demonstrating decreased moral responsibility in caring for the children they cause to be conceived. U.S. births to all unmarried women were just 5% in 1960, and had risen to 40% across all demographics in 2016 (29% for non-Hispanic whites, 53% for Hispanics and 70% for non-Hispanic blacks). 4
True, some of the increase is due to government policies which indirectly discourage marriage and also the popular belief among some that women don’t need a husband to have a child, only a “sperm donor.” 5
Nevertheless, the consequences have been obvious. We would be wise to heed the words of Pope Paul VI. He may have died forty years ago, but his understanding of human nature is timeless.
1 – Excerpt from section II, topic 17 of Pope Paul’s encyclical, Humanae Vitae, dated July 25, 1968. https://w2.vatican.va/content/paul-vi/en/encyclicals/documents/hf_p-vi_enc_25071968_humanae-vitae.html
2 – Referred to Luke 2:34 (“and Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, ‘Behold, this child is destined for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be contradicted…’”) Taken from The Catholic Study Bible, third edition, containing The New American Bible, revised edition, Oxford University Press, 2015.
3 – Excerpt from section II, topic 18 of Pope Paul’s encyclical, Humanae Vitae, dated July 25, 1968. https://w2.vatican.va/content/paul-vi/en/encyclicals/documents/hf_p-vi_enc_25071968_humanae-vitae.html
4 – “Trend in births to unmarried women,” https://www.childtrends.org/indicators/births-to-unmarried-women, 9/24/2018.
5 – “Why Women Don’t Need Husbands, by a Husband,” by Tom Burns, https://goodmenproject.com/featured-content/why-women-dont-need-husbands-written-by-a-husband-hesaid/, 11/26/2013.