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Humanae Vitae 50 years on

Blessed Pope Paul VI used both Sacred Scripture and Catholic Tradition to write Humanae Vitae.

Fifty years ago on July 25, 1968, Catholics all over the world were shocked by the pope at that time, Paul VI. After much anticipation that the Catholic Church would finally change its rules about prohibiting Catholics from using contraception (artificial means to regulate births which became popular in the 1960s onwards) and become a modern Church with forward thinking about the family, the encyclical Humanae Vitae (Latin for ‘Of Human Life’) was released.

The now Blessed Pope Paul VI reiterated what the Church always said about the regulation of birth and all expectations of change disappeared. “How outdated is this Catholic Church?” remains the position of some to this date.

Blessed Pope Paul VI used both Sacred Scripture and Catholic Tradition to write Humanae Vitae (HV) which reveals more details on God’s Plan for married love ( Other than “Be fruitful and multiply” said by God in Genesis 1:28, direct teaching on married love can be seen in the Ten Commandments.

God is clear in the sixth and ninth commandments that He does not want sexual relations to occur outside of the Sacrament of Marriage (before marriage or in marriage with anyone else other than one’s spouse). Pope Paul VI expanded on these teachings by reminding us that marital relations are both unitive and procreative, that is, they are both about spousal union and parenthood (bonding and babies) at the same time.

“The fundamental nature of the marriage act, while uniting husband and wife in the closest intimacy, also renders them capable of generating new life—and this as a result of laws written into the actual nature of man and of woman. And if each of these essential qualities, the unitive and the procreative, is preserved, the use of marriage fully retains its sense of true mutual love and its ordination to the supreme responsibility of parenthood to which man is called” (HV 12).

Catholic Marriage vows include a “yes” to the question “Will you accept children lovingly from God and bring them up according to the law of Christ and His Church?” However, specifics on the size of the family are not given.

Some couples are able and willing to lovingly welcome many children into their marriage. Others find it necessary for economic, health, psychological or social reasons to plan carefully the birth of each child. Sufficient time, perhaps two or three years, is generally desired for the family adjusting to the gift of a new life.

Some need to permanently stop having children due to grave reasons such as serious illness.

How do couples reconcile with the Church’s teaching of being open to life and deal with these situations? Blessed Pope Paul VI invited couples to practise responsible parenthood. “In a word, the exercise of responsible parenthood requires that husband and wife, keeping a right order of priorities, recognise their own duties toward God, themselves, their families and human society” (HV 10).

He further explained “…the Church teaches that married people may then take advantage of the natural cycles immanent in the reproductive system and engage in marital intercourse only during those times that are infertile, thus controlling birth in a way which does not in the least offend the moral principles which we have just explained” (HV 16).

At BOMA-TT we teach couples how to control their family size and practically live out being responsible parents through their use of the highly effective Billings Ovulation Method of Natural Fertility Regulation.

Billings is not the Rhythm, Calendar or Counting Method known not to be highly effective. Added benefits of using Billings are achieving pregnancy and monitoring reproductive health.

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