It was in 1968 that Pope Paul VI gave the world “Humanae Vitae,” his beautiful encyclical on human life: “The transmission of human life is a most serious role in which married people collaborate freely & responsibly with God the Creator…. 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 & plans for artificial birth control.
- “Let them first consider how easily this course of action could open wide the way for marital infidelity & a general lowering of moral standards….
- “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, & …reduce her to being a mere instrument for the satisfaction of his own desires….
- “Finally, careful consideration should be given to the danger of this power passing into the hands of those public authorities who care little for the precepts of the moral law. Who will blame a government which in its attempt to resolve the problems affecting an entire country resorts to the same measures as are regarded as lawful by married people in the solution of a particular family difficulty? ….Should they regard this as necessary, they may even impose their use on everyone”
Few doubt that there has indeed been “a general lowering of moral standards,” as well as a growing disrespect for women, in the past four decades. We also see affluent governments trying to impose contraceptive practices on less affluent governments! Yet, in spite of its proven prophetic nature, Humanae Vitae continues to meet with monumental resistance.
Before becoming pope, John Paul II prepared a masterful work, largely intended to lead the Church and the world to a better appreciation of Humanae Vitae. As he became pope before publication, he used his notes to address audiences at weekly catechetical sessions, over five years. Michael Waldstein has published an updated and magnificent translation of these “Theology of the Body” addresses, under the title: “Man & Woman He Created Them.” This magnificent and scholarly translation provides a lifestyle challenges, which does not seem to have been so elusive for people of past generations.
As per Pope John Paul II, “The whole of the catecheses…can be grasped under the title, ‘Human Love in the Divine Plan,” or with greater precision, ‘the Redemption of the body & the Sacramentality of Marriage’….The first part is devoted to the analysis of the words of Christ….The second part of the catechesis is devoted to the analysis of the sacrament based on Ephesians (Eph 5:22 - 23), which goes back to the biblical beginning of marriage expressed in the words of Genesis, ‘a man will leave his father and mother and unite with his wife, and the two will be one flesh’ (Gen 2:24)” (11/28/84).
“The reflections about the sacrament of Marriage were carried out in the consideration of the two dimensions essential to this sacrament, namely, the dimension of covenant and grace and the dimension of sign….The doctrine contained in…[Humanae Vitae] remains in organic relation both with the sacramentality of marriage and the whole biblical problematic of the theology of the body, which is centered on the ‘key words’ of Christ….all the reflections dealing with the ‘Redemption of the Body and the Sacramentality of Marriage’ seem to constitute an extensive commentary on the doctrine contained precisely in Humanae Vitae” (11/28/84).
Michael Waldstein has done a great service for the Church, the people of our generation, and the people of future generations.
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