Wednesday, July 30, 2008

The Pope Versus the Pill: Humanae Vitae in the News

Jillian Tamaki

Forty years ago, Pope Paul VI issued an encyclical entitled "Humanae Vitae," which stated the Roman Church's position on Birth Control--an absolute no. The encyclical had its anniversary recently, and now is all over the news...or the "news that's fit to print," the New York Times, which an article here, and letters to the editor in response to the article here. This encyclical has not fared very well. In fact, according to the article, no papal decree has fared so poorly in public opinion and in actual practice:

Never before July 25, 1968, however, had opposition been so immediate, so public and so widespread. World-famous theologians called press conferences to rebut the pope’s reasoning. Conferences of Catholic bishops issued statements that all but licensed churchgoers to ignore the encyclical. Pastors openly criticized “Humanae Vitae” from the pulpit.
And ignore they have, for the most part. In the West, disagreement with and disregard for the papal decree exceeds 80% of the faithful, according to the article. Nonetheless, from the official level, the decree remains strong. I have a feeling that if this were a political issue (and luckily it isn't), Catholic politicians who supported the pill would be banned from the Eucharist just as they often are when they are pro-life. But the rift between the official line and the rank and file Catholic could barely be larger. The following response to the article caught my eye:

The encyclical “Humanae Vitae” suffers from a profound lack of humanity. Forty years ago, Pope Paul VI could and did choose to disregard the recommendations he solicited from Catholic couples and physicians — recommendations based on the real, human experience of marital love — in issuing his mechanistic prohibition.

That a group of celibate men can continue to leverage the faith to enforce this ban, and continue to cause needless anguish among decent people throughout the world who want to do right by their religious belief, is no accomplishment. Terrence R. Connelly

Palo Alto, Calif., July 27, 2008

The writer is a co-author of a book about the Vatican’s efforts to purge priest professors who published disagreement with “Humanae Vitae.”

I also find it quite odd that unmarried, celibate men think they can effectively discuss and define what is proper in marriage and sex, especially regarding a pill taken by women. Based upon what experience?

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