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Humanae Vitae, the most debated encyclical in modern history

2014-07-25

Paul VI published seven encyclicals in his 15-year pontificate. 

The last one was Humanae Vitae, perhaps one of the most debated documents in the recent history of the Church. 

FR. ROBERTO REGOLI
Pontifical Gregorian University
"For him, the intense debate over this document was so shocking that from 1968 until his death, he never published another encyclical. He wrote other documents, apostolic exhortations, letters, constitutions, but never an encyclical.”

In 1968, the United States and much of the Western World were undergoing dramatic changes in their cultural and social landscape.

The newer generations of students from the late 1960's rebelled against their parents' values, especially in the areas of morality and sexuality.

FR. ROBERTO REGOLI
Pontifical Gregorian University
"Paul VI had to implement the changes of the Second Vatican Council in the middle of a wider crisis. It went beyond the Church, it was a social, political and cultural crisis.”

Paul VI decided to write Humanae Vitae. The document sheds light on responsible parenthood and addressed moral issues such as the use of contraceptives among Catholics. In it, the Pope wrote that the "unitive significance and the procreative significance are both inherent to the marriage act.” 

The Church expected opposition from non-Catholic sectors in society, but was astounded by the push back from many Catholics themselves.

FR. ROBERTO REGOLI
Pontifical Gregorian University
"Something like this had never happened within the Church. There was criticism of many encyclicals from the 1800's from liberal sectors, but never a widespread response from within the  Church. Theologians, the people of God, even bishops rejected his Magisterium.”

Paul VI warned about the possible consequences this new life style could have on the family. Consequences such as infidelity, a loss of respect towards women, and the use contraceptive methods as a state policy.  

In an interview published this past March, Pope Francis said that Humanae Vitae was prophetic and the Paul VI had the "courage to go against the majority,” and "defend moral discipline.”

The topic for the Pope's very first synod will precisely be the family. It's little surprise then that Paul VI will be beatified on October 19, the last day of the Synod.



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