By Melissa Dragon for Natural Family Planning Service Singapore
In Commemoration of the 50th Anniversary of Humanae Vitae
25 July 2018
It was 25 July 1968, a day in history where the Catholic Church offered a ray of light to a world wrought by disarray. On this day, the message of Blessed Paul VI’s last encyclical offered us a gift of liberating truth which is as crucial today as it was 50 years ago.
Looking at the cultural changes in the past decades since the popularization of contraceptive methods such the pill, it has led to the increase of extramarital affairs, alarming divorce rates, the number of children born out of wedlock, declining birthrates, disturbing abortion statistics and the spread of sexually transmitted diseases. In addition, the widespread use of the contraceptive methods such as the birth control pill has led to infertility and increased risk of cancer, among other things. Moreover, marriage and sex are increasingly perceived as a means of personal fulfilment and pleasure rather than a source of life and family.
In response to this backdrop, the encyclical Humanae Vitae affirms that married couples “are not free to act as they choose in the service of transmitting life, as if it were wholly up to them to decide what is the right course to follow. On the contrary, they are bound to ensure that what they do corresponds to the will of God the Creator.” (HV 10)
The document further reaffirms the Church’s teaching against the use of contraceptive birth control methods and sterilization. The document stated that every marital act must be both procreative and unitive (HV 12) and that it is a “serious error to think that a whole married life of otherwise normal relations can justify sexual intercourse which is deliberately contraceptive and so intrinsically wrong” (HV 14) in addition, this has to be balanced with the couple embracing responsible parenthood (HV 10)
“Humanae Vitae” promotes chastity and fidelity within marriage, and tells us that all means of contraception and abortion, even for medical reasons, are wrong. If a couple wishes to postpone pregnancy due to a grave reason, they are encouraged to use methods of natural family planning (NFP) and fertility awareness such as the Billing’s Ovulation Method as “God has wisely ordered laws of nature and the incidence of fertility in such a way that successive births are already naturally spaced through the inherent operation of these laws” (HV 12).
In NFP, the woman’s fertility is charted so that a couple can be aware of periods of fertility and infertility. During the fertile periods, a couple that does not desire to conceive would observe sexual abstinence and are encouraged to nurture their bond in non-sexual ways. In this way, the couple is able to journey as one and grow together in fidelity and unity.
Why is it wrong to use artificial contraception while NFP is not deemed wrong? Isn’t pregnancy being avoided in both cases? In the former, the couple seeks to “obstruct the natural development of the generative process” and makes the marital act conditional, whereas in the latter, “the married couple rightly use a faculty provided them by nature.
In this way, they use their married intimacy to express their mutual love and safeguard their fidelity toward one another. In doing this, they certainly give proof of a true and authentic love.” (HV 21)
“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.” (HV 22) 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.” – Humanae Vitae
Sadly, there has been an alarming increase in the acceptance of methods of contraception in our society today, the most prevalent of which being the use of the condom.
As God’s chosen and called, it is our social mission to embrace this message we have been entrusted. Let us learn it and use it to serve as beacons of light to eradicate ignorance and to restore the fullness of life and goodness in our society, here and now.
To read the full text of Humanae Vitae, refer to this link
Many Catholics do not have a clear idea or see the differences between contraceptive methods and natural family planning (NFP) methods such as the Billing’s Ovulation Method, follow this link to our pamphlet on this topic.
You can be part of the Humanae Vitae mission team by spreading the knowledge of its Good News of love and life.