In July 1968 Pope Paul VI issued an Encyclical Letter to the entire Roman Catholic Church called Humanae Vitae or in English “Of Human Life.” Prior to the issuance of Humanae Vitae beginning in 1963, the Church commissioned a study which included besides several experts in various disciplines, married couples, and members of the episcopate. Following the research conducted by these groups the Pope issued the Encyclical which addressed multiple issues being discussed in the world community. In citing his Papal authority on the infallible teaching authority of the Church Pope Paul VI issued Humanae Vitae in response to the societal changes effecting married couples and their mutual fidelity. The encyclical also addresses the use of birth control and abortion within the family unit, among persons in the single vocation and individuals in communities around the world.
Through not explicitly stated in this Encyclical the Church has always taught its members that the role of the individual in society; “is to known God, love God, and serve God, and be with him in this life and in the next.” The Encyclical foretold what happens in society when the removal of the spiritual nature of an individual is not in focus and the natural law (of GOD) is circumvented.
The natural law “is nothing other than the light of understanding placed in us by GOD, through it we know what we must do and what we must avoid.” (Catechism,1997, p. 475). Pope Paul wrote that the removal of the spiritual life from society will have an effect on the bonds of marriage. Individual will have a tendency to do what is easy and convenient rather than what is right and proper. By removing the spiritual aspect from a marriage “the bonds of conjugal love as found in marriage will become disordered – the husband and wife – will become objects toward each other. This is the exact opposite of the purpose of the marriage bond the strengthening of the possibility of love – procreation, the future generations, a family and at the same time the continual ripening of the relationship between two people in all areas of activity which conjugal life includes.”
The weakening of the marital bonds, Humanae Vitae explains will lead to a prevalent use of prophylactics and abortion, not just in families but in the different vocational states in life, such as the single life. On the consequences of artificial birth control the encyclical states . . . “how wide and easy a road would be opened up toward conjugal infidelity and the general lowering of morality. Not much experience is needed in order to known human weakness, and to understand that men – especially the young, who are so vulnerable on this point – have need of encouragement to be faithful to the moral law, so that they must not be offered some easy means of eluding its observance. It is also to be feared that the man, growing used to the employment of anti-conceptive practices may finally lose respect for the woman and, no longer caring for her physical and psychological equilibrium, may come to the point of considering her as a mere instrument of selfish enjoyment, and no longer as his respected and beloved companion.”
Over 40 years later, the Papal Encyclical Humanae Vitae can provide present day Catholics with answers to the questions on the role of married life, the use of birth control and abortion and how our community can return to a renewed society based on the natural law. The Rockland County Catholic Coalition recommends that Humanae Vitae be read in its entirety. Said document can be viewed in the EWTN website at http://www.ewtn.com/library/ENCYC/P6HUMANA.HTM.