Of the encyclicals that have come out this is the most talked about today as it deals with as Pope Benedict points out is so controversial, yet so crucial for humanity’s future. It has become “a sign of contradiction but also of continuity of the Church’s doctrine and tradition… What was true yesterday is still true today.
Speaking of Encyclicals I read that Benedict XVI and Pope Francis will be finishing up work on the Faith encyclical that and Francis will also have a post-synodal exhortation on the new evangelization will be ready to be released before this Year of Faith is over on November 24.
So on with the Encyclical: This one is a bit rougher than the last but it’s a whole different topic.
Humanae Vitae starts off nicely with a whole this is why we are here talking about this. At one point this was going to be a part of the Vatican II teachings but it did not get approved. Humanae Vitae subtitled On the Regulation of Birth is divided into three main sections and it re-affirms many of the churches teachings.
Of Human Life begins with a beautiful definition of the topic of the Encyclical. It states that the creation of human life is the most serious role which married people collaborate with God the Creator. It’s been a source of great joy to married people, even though it sometimes leads to many difficulties and hardships. The fulfillment of this duty has always posed problems to the conscience of married people, but the recent course of human society and the concomitant changes have provoked new questions. The Church cannot ignore these questions, for they concern matters intimately connected with the life and happiness of human beings. This leads us into the problems and the Church’s solutions. It begins with the three main problems that were currently in the world 1) overpopulation with some emphasis on living wages 2) women and 3) man’s control over nature and then two secondary “new problems” that we face 1) in face of moral laws 2) should life be regulated by their intelligence and will rather than through the specific rhythms of their own bodies.
Now they go into a bit about how the document was formed as it was worked on during Vatican II but nothing got approved and the evidence and opinions were left on the table and they went over them again. George Weigel argues that it Karol Wojtyla had been able to travel to help write this it might have been better received as the John Paul II had already written a book about it Love and Responsibility in it he wrote “Marriage is an act of will that signifies and involves a mutual gift, which unites the spouses and binds them to their eventual souls, with whom they make up a sole family – a domestic church.” Many of these ideas were not ultimately used in the Encyclical. After this we move into a deeper understanding of love. It is described as a consequence, husband and wife, through that mutual gift of themselves, which is specific and exclusive to them alone, develop that union of two persons in which they perfect one another, cooperating with God in the generation and rearing of new lives. I like the following example the best as love is described as “a very special form of personal friendship in which husband and wife share everything. Real love is someone who loves his partner loves not only for what he receives, but loves that partner for the partner’s own sake, content to be able to enrich the other with the gift of oneself”
The Church makes a big deal about how marriage equals procreation and no one should do anything to try to prevent this, however they do allow anyone to “game the system” with Natural Family Planning by having relations when it is impossible to get pregnant. As for using artificial contraceptives it is argued that they may forget the reverence due to a woman, and, disregarding her physical and emotional equilibrium, reduce her to being a mere instrument for the satisfaction of his own desires, no longer considering her as his partner whom he should surround with care and affection. From here it goes into advice from the Church. They note that from time to time couples need to be chaste and abstain from time to time so that giving oneself become more of a human experience. There is also some talk about how we need to create an atmosphere favorable to the growth of chastity. I think this is the most important aspect of this Encyclical, as it seems that sex is everywhere you look today and having it everywhere encourages low moral standards.