Human Vitae’s golden anniversary

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Two wedding rings rest upon the cover of "The Art of Natural Family Planning" textbook. Photo by Gabriela McCausland.

This year is the 50th anniversary of Pope Paul VI’s encyclical “Humanae Vitae,” issued on July 29, 1968. “Humanae Vitae” defines the Catholic views on the morality of sexuality in marriage.

The document shows that birth control is not in accord with the Church’s teachings because it undermines the divinely bestowed procreative power and duty of the marital act; thereby setting up an obstacle to the gift of life. The topic is especially relevant now  during this time of sexual scandal within the Church.

Two years ago, several Catholic scholars published a statement reaffirming “Humanae Vitae.” This statement was specifically written and supported by academic professionals, including 17 University of Dallas faculty members. Various UD professors voiced their opinions about the encyclical in its relationship to their lives, the university, the Church and the world at large. As a leading Catholic institution of higher education, the university should discuss this subject of “Humanae Vitae.”

“The point of a university is to have a meeting of minds for the purpose of examining, really everything,” said Dr. David Andrews, Associate Dean of Constantine College. “The beautiful aspect of the Catholic university is that within it, all avenues, all paths to truth, are opened through informed discussion.”

Andrews believes that the university should approach the teachings of “Humanae Vitae”  through intellectual debate and dialogue because these interactions serve to better reveal truth. As Andrews pointed out, the university is unique in that discussions about a document such as “Humanae Vitae,” which is difficult even for some Catholics to understand or accept, are possible and take place within our community.

Andrews thinks that the UD does not need to take an official position about “Humanae Vitae” because the truth is already clear.

“It is in the catechism, in the traditional teachings of the Church,” Andrews said. “We are faithful to these doctrines and are responsible for living them out.”

“Humanae Vitae” can be difficult to understand and accept because it contradicts the modern, self-interested culture’s ideas about love and sex.

“Humanae Vitae” is important “because it shows how to treat someone with real dignity instead of abusing them, even unknowingly, for selfish pleasure,” said Dr. Kathryn Rombs, a professor of philosophy. “The message of ‘Humanae Vitae’ is centered on the dignity of love and each individual human being. He or she deserves to never be objectified or used for another’s selfishness.”

“Things might have been different if priests and bishops had really assented to ‘Humanae Vitae,’ preached it, and helped lay persons accept it,” Mary Hasson, a prominent Catholic author who recently published a worldwide women’s petition to Pope Francis, wrote in an email.

It would be beneficial  for the clarity of the Faith to have a statement, such as the one signed by various UD faculty, published in the Universal Church today at this 50-year mark.  

If morality is to be preserved in the Catholic Church, all members, both clergy and laity, ought to take the truths presented in “Humanae Vitae” to mind and heart. It is only through the living out of these ideals by Catholics that the Church will be revitalized and freed from the shame of the recent scandals.

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