“Humanae Vitae” and Sacred Scripture: A Missed Opportunity

While prophetic in many ways, the most controversial encyclical of the twentieth century might have been better received had a stronger biblical argument been made in its favor.

This July 2013 we commemorate the 45th anniversary of Pope Paul VI’s encyclical, Humanae Vitae (Of Human Life). The encyclical presented some important doctrinal principles (e.g., a total vision of man, four characteristics of love, responsible parenthood, respect for the nature and purpose of the conjugal act, the unitive and procreative dimensions of human sexuality) and offered some prophetic warnings to those who disregard the Church’s teachings in this area. It also issued some helpful pastoral directives to Church leaders, public authorities, married couples, doctors, and medical personnel. There is no question that Paul VI was right in his conclusion that artificial contraception is, and always has been, morally unacceptable. At that time, however, a change in the Church’s teaching regarding contraception was highly anticipated in many quarters.

Pope Paul’s birth control commission had issued a memorandum, dubbed a “Majority Report,” in 1966, which argued for the morality of contraception. If, the authors argued, a married couple was open to human life in the “totality” of their conjugal life, it was morally acceptable for them to use chemical or surgical techniques to prevent birth. This document was leaked the next year, causing widespread anticipation of a change in the Church’s moral stance. On the 19th centenary of the Apostle Paul’s death (1967), the Holy Father declared a “Year of Faith” and appealed for patient reflection on the matter. The outpouring of anger, scorn, and contempt when the encyclical was released in the summer of 1968 was tremendous. Part of the reason for the widespread rejection of the encyclical, especially in academic circles, could be that the Holy Father failed to make a more convincing case for the traditional teaching. This article presents some biblical passages that, if incorporated into the encyclical, would have made a stronger argument for natural fertility regulation.

There are two problems with the presentation of Humanae Vitae, in the author’s opinion. First, the long delay, between the release of the birth control pill and the release of the encyclical, created anticipation of a change in the Church’s position on birth control. This was a prudential error with serious consequences. The Anglican Church had already approved the use of artificial birth control on August 15, 1930. It was the first Christian denomination to do so. Other Christian denominations would follow the Anglican lead. Less than six months later, on December 31, 1930, Pope Pius XI released his encyclical letter on Christian marriage, Casti Cannubii. In it, the pope reiterated the Church’s constant teaching that only natural methods of fertility regulation were morally permissible. Pius discussed the indissolubility of the sacrament, the blessings of conjugal life (e.g., unity, chastity, charity, obedience), the evils of divorce, and the sacramental graces which assist couples in living out marital life. The pope reminded his readers that any rejection of offspring is also a rejection of the marital act and conjugal faith, since these twin blessings are inseparably linked. In contrast to the swiftness of the Church’s response to the Anglican decision, there was an eight-year hiatus between the Food and Drug Administration’s approval of the birth control pill on May 9, 1960 and the encyclical’s release on July 25, 1968.

Such a delay created anticipation of a change that did not take place. While Pope Paul’s supporters make the case that he took time to reflect and pray on the birth control commission’s recommendation, the fact remains that such a long delay allowed birth control proponents time to promote their cause. The fact that public dissent was issued hours before the encyclical’s official release indicates that pro-contraception forces were mobilized for the fight ahead. Perhaps, Pope Paul would not have faced such bitter opposition if he had released an encyclical by the end of 1963—before a climate of dissent took hold in the Church. Pius XI showed prudence in swiftly responding to the Anglican development. The world might be a different place if Paul VI had followed his example 30 years later. One can also speculate about the course of Church history if Pope John XXIII had followed the example of his predecessor, and reiterated the Church’s teaching by the end of 1960.

The second problem with the presentation of Humanae Vitae is the lack of a strong biblical argument for the Church’s teaching. This is a strange development in light of Vatican II’s emphasis on the study of sacred Scripture, particularly the Old Testament, and on ecumenism. A strong biblical argument in favor of natural fertility regulation exists, and such an argument would have been appealing to theologians (some of the strongest critics of Pope Paul) and non-Catholic Christians, who might have been persuaded to reconsider their own positions on this issue.

Humanae Vitae’s Biblical Case for Natural Fertility Regulation
What sources did Paul VI use in his encyclical? What was the basis for his argument? He mostly relied on papal encyclicals and allocutions of Popes Leo XIII, Pius XI, Pius XII, John XXIII, and himself. He cited Vatican II’s Lumen Gentium, Gaudium et Spes, Inter Mirifica, the Summa Theologiae of St. Thomas Aquinas, and the Catechism of the Council of Trent. One of the great omissions in the document, however, is any reference to the Church Fathers. Saints John Chrysostom and Augustine, for example, could have been powerful patristic sources for the liceity of periodic abstinence. The weak biblical case made in the encyclical is a more serious problem.

Let us begin with some comments about Humanae Vitae’s use of Scripture. There are 16 biblical references in the footnotes covering nine New Testament books (Matthew, 1 John, Ephesians, Romans, Luke, Hebrews, Titus, 1 Corinthians, and John). They are used in support of arguments for the competency of the Magisterium in the area of morality, the Church’s vision of the human person, illicit ways of regulating births, and exhortations to husbands, wives, and priests. The passages are brief and are designed to demonstrate biblical support for specific points of doctrine and morality. For example, in talking about the origin of conjugal love, the pope quotes the Letter to the Ephesians, which identifies “the Father, from whom every family in Heaven and earth is named” (Eph 3:15). In the exhortation to husbands and wives, he quotes Jesus, who calls his yoke “sweet” (Mt 11:30). And, in the exhortation to priests, he quotes Paul: “I appeal to you, brethren, by the name of Our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree and that there be no dissension among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment” (1 Cor 1:10). Many priests, sadly, refused to heed this apostolic exhortation. These passages make what I would characterize as a “minimal” case for the Church’s teaching on fertility regulation. They underscore specific points, rather than present a case for the Church’s vision of human reproduction and conjugal morality.

The pope uses no Old Testament passages in making his argument or presenting the Church’s teaching on birth control. Scripture, as used in Humanae Vitae, supports the argument for the Church as teacher and interpreter of natural law. The omission of pertinent biblical texts is unfortunate, especially in light of the fact that the heart of the controversy concerned article 11 (“the Church, calling men back to the observance of the norms of the natural law, as interpreted by its constant doctrine, teaches that each and every marriage act (quilibet matrimonii usus) must remain open to the transmission of life”) and article 14 (“Similarly excluded is every action which, either in anticipation of the conjugal act, or in its accomplishment, or in the development of its natural consequences, proposes, whether as an end or as a means, to render procreation impossible”). A clear biblical case could, and should, have been made for the Church’s teaching on conjugal love and human life. Instead, the Scripture is used to support the argument from authority. This is especially unfortunate considering the fact that Pope Paul spent several years studying the results of the papal commission before issuing his encyclical, which gave him time to make a convincing biblical and theological case.

One reason the pope may not have presented a stronger biblical argument is that his predecessor, Pius XI, had done so in Casti Cannubii. That encyclical contained 49 biblical references from 19 different books of the Old and New Testaments (e.g., Genesis, Matthew, Ephesians, Romans, Hebrews, James). Pius XI used Scripture to underscore the Church’s teaching on the indissolubility of marriage, the divine plan for the transmission of human life, and other points of doctrine. While most of the references are in the New Testament, the Holy Father also employed the books of Genesis, Exodus, and Deuteronomy. While Pope Pius had presented a strong biblical case against contraception, the development of the pill and the population control movement were an excellent opportunity to reinforce the Church’s constant moral tradition on the transmission of human life. Passages in Casti Cannubii could have been expanded and new light could have been thrown on the topic.

A Stronger Biblical Case for Natural Fertility Regulation
How could Pope Paul have made a stronger biblical case for Christian marriage, conjugal love, and the transmission of human life? What specific passages could have been employed? The following would have been a stronger case. First, Pope Paul could have reflected on the second creation account in Genesis 2. In it, the Lord settles man in a garden, gives him the authority to name the animals, casts a deep sleep on him, creates woman from the man’s rib, and inspires the words: “This one, at last, is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; This one shall be called ‘woman’ for out of ‘her man’ this one has been taken” (2:23). He could have explored the idea of the “one flesh” union of husband and wife, and shown how this implies total self-giving without artificial barriers. In addition, he could have reflected on the biblical command to “be fertile and multiply” (Gen 1:28; 9:1).

The pope could have examined various places in the Old Testament where the author identifies the Divine Presence as operative in the conjugal act. For example, Genesis 4:1 says: “The man had relations with his wife Eve, and she conceived and bore Cain, saying, ‘I have produced a man with the help of the LORD!’” And again, in verse 25: “Adam again had relations with his wife, and she gave birth to a son whom she called Seth. ‘God has granted me more offspring in place of Abel,’ she said, ‘because Cain slew him.’” In the Book of Ruth, we hear: “Boaz took Ruth. When they came together as man and wife, the LORD enabled her to conceive and she bore a son” (4:13). Here we see again the idea that God is part of human reproduction. Human life is a gift and blessing in which God has an active and essential role. In the second Book of Maccabees, the mother says: “I do not know how you came into existence in my womb; it was not I who gave you the breath of life, nor was it I who set in order the elements of which each of you is composed. Therefore, since it is the Creator of the universe who shapes each man’s beginning, as he brings about the origin of everything, he, in his mercy, will give you back both breath and life, because you now disregard yourselves for the sake of the law” (2 Mc 7:22-23).

The pope could have briefly addressed the separation of the unitive and procreative aspects of sexuality by reflecting on the incident concerning Onan in Genesis 38:8-10. This is a clear example of God’s displeasure with the abuse of the conjugal act.

In Scripture, children were welcomed as a blessing from God. For example, in exchange for hospitality to the three visitors, the Lord promised Sarah a son (Gen 18:10). In Exodus, Pharaoh’s daughter employed a wet nurse to nurture Moses (Ex 2:9). It has been suggested that nursing was an undignified activity best left to others, but it is also possible that ancient peoples understood that nursing decreased fertility. By employing a wet nurse, the daughter remained fertile and could continue to bear royal heirs. We see the blessing of fertility reflected in the restoration of Job’s family (cf. Job 1:2; 42:3). And we could cite many other examples.

Pope Paul could have contrasted the biblical attitude toward fertility, expressed in the words of God to Abraham, “I will make your descendants like the dust of the earth; if anyone could count the dust of the earth, your descendants too might be counted” (Gen 13:16), and “Look up at the sky and count the stars, if you can. Just so shall your descendants be” (Gen 15:5) with the mentality expressed in the words of the Egyptian Pharaoh: “Look how numerous and powerful the Israelite people are growing, more so than we ourselves! Come, let us deal shrewdly with them to stop their increase; otherwise, in time of war they too may join our enemies to fight against us, and so leave our country” (Ex 1:9-10). The notion of national leaders, surrounded by the darkness of error and unbelief, is ancient, as is the perceived need for “population control.”

In the New Testament, the Holy Father could have addressed our Lord’s attitude toward children by reflecting on the words: “‘Let the children come to me; do not prevent them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Amen, I say to you, whoever does not accept the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it.’ Then he embraced them and blessed them, placing his hands on them” (Mk 10:14-16). Our Lord used children to illustrate the virtues of the Kingdom (e.g., humility, simplicity, trust, openness). And his own attitude is expressed in his physical embrace of the little ones before him. Obedience to the Church’s norms on human sexuality and human life is a concrete expression of Christian discipleship.

Probably the clearest biblical reference to the issue at the heart of Humanae Vitae is found in the writings of St. Paul. Advice to married couples is contained in 1 Corinthians 7. He writes: “The husband should fulfill his duty toward his wife, and, likewise, the wife toward her husband. A wife does not have authority over her own body, but rather her husband, and similarly a husband does not have authority over his own body, but rather his wife.” He continues: “Do not deprive each other, except perhaps by mutual consent for a time, to be free for prayer, but then return to one another, so that Satan may not tempt you through your lack of self-control. This, I say, by way of concession, not as a command” (vv. 4-6). A reflection on this passage could be a central part of Pope Paul’s case.

First, the Apostle Paul underscores the importance of the conjugal duty. Husbands and wives have a duty to be mutually supportive toward each other. They owe each other conjugal happiness. The references to “authority” over each other reflect the idea that marriage involves mutual self-surrender of the body. Then, Paul urges spouses not to deprive one another of sexual pleasure. There is an exception to this rule. Under certain conditions, conjugal life can be interrupted: (1) by “mutual consent,” in other words, both parties must agree; (2) for “a time,” in other words, a specific period of time; (3) to be free for prayer, in other words, for a spiritual purpose; (4) to be followed by a return to each other in order to avoid temptations of the flesh. Finally, the Apostle characterizes his words as “concession” or advice, rather than command. His gentleness and sensitivity to this topic are worthy subjects of reflection.

While the Apostle Paul was not referring to natural family planning as we know it, he is referring to periodic abstinence. He showed an awareness of human sexuality, and an appreciation of marital chastity. This passage would have been a wonderful complement to the passages from Romans 5, and Ephesians 5, that are cited in article 25 of the encyclical. He could have talked specifically about how prayer, the Eucharist, and penance enables couples to abstain periodically, and how abstinence is a fulfillment of a specific biblical exhortation.

A clear biblical case can be made for the use of natural fertility regulation. The fact that such a case was not made in the eight years between the “birth” of the pill, and the release of the encyclical dealing with it, is a loss for the Church. If the teaching was not to be changed (and it should not have been changed), couldn’t a stronger biblical and theological argument have been presented? In addition, the encyclical’s reliance on consequentialist arguments, and arguments from authority, failed to make the case. Solid theological, biblical, and spiritual arguments could have been made. It might not have changed hearts, but it might have changed minds, and made it more difficult to argue against the document.

A Model for Consideration
Is there a model to follow? Is there an example one could point to which illustrates the value of a clear biblical and theological case on a moral topic? The answer is an unqualified “yes.” It is found in Blessed John Paul II’s encyclical letter, The Gospel of Life (Evangelium Vitae), issued on March 25, 1995. In it, Blessed John Paul makes a strong biblical argument against abortion, euthanasia, and in vitro fertilization. The Holy Father used 280 references from 38 books of the Bible (e.g., Genesis, Exodus, Wisdom, Sirach, Isaiah, Ezekiel, Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Revelation). Some of the powerful passages he employs include the killing of Abel in Genesis 4, the celebration of the gift of life in Psalm 139, the idea of the “Word of Life” in 1 John 2, the Gospel of Life and the Cross in John 19, and the motherhood of Mary in the Church in Revelation 12. John Paul breaks open the Scriptures, providing insight into the dignity of human life throughout the encyclical. He uses biblical accounts and metaphors in various encyclicals (e.g., St. Matthew’s account of our Lord’s encounter with the rich young man was employed in Veritatis Splendor) to illustrate points of doctrine and morality.

In addition to the Bible, John Paul concludes his writings, as well as his talks, with references to Our Lady. Sometimes, he provides a brief reflection on Mary’s relationship to the topic at hand, and at other times he simply invokes her maternal intercession. In contrast, Pope Paul’s encyclical contains no reference to Mary as exemplar of a Catholic attitude toward human life. This is unfortunate because Our Lady can offer a beautiful example to individuals and married couples. An invocation of her name would have been a fitting conclusion to Pope Paul’s encyclical.

In closing, I wish to emphasize that I completely agree with, adhere to, and promote, Pope Paul VI’s encyclical, Humanae Vitae. He was wise to study the issue in light of the development of the birth control pill, and in light of the population control movement, spreading across the globe. His insights into conjugal love as human, total, faithful, and exclusive are beautiful and profound; his connection of responsible parenthood to the objective moral order, and his emphasis on respect for the nature and purpose of the conjugal act, are wonderful contributions to the Church’s moral Tradition; his discussion of the grave consequences of contraceptive use is prophetic; his appeal to public authorities, scientists, husbands, wives, doctors, medical personnel, priests, and bishops reflects his concern that the message be understood and accepted by all. The problem was not the encyclical’s teaching per se, but rather the delay in issuing it (eight years) and the weak biblical and theological case presented when it was finally released.

I believe the debate over birth control would have been different if Paul VI had presented a clear, coherent, and substantive argument for the Church’s Tradition in this area. The reaction of academics might have been different if the Holy Father had delivered a richer portion of the Church’s moral heritage on this issue. While he deserves credit for his courageous stand on the issue of contraception, he could have made a stronger biblical argument. Hopefully, going forward we can teach the lessons of Humanae Vitae in a clear, convincing way to future generations, and help young people embrace the Church’s vision of human life and conjugal love.

Rev. Ray E. Atwood About Rev. Ray E. Atwood

Rev. Ray E. Atwood was ordained in 1994, and has been pastor of Prince of Peace Cluster (consisting of St. Paul's Parish, Traer; St. Mary's of Mt. Carmel Parish, Eagle Center; and Sacred Heart Parish, LaPorte City) in the Archdiocese of Dubuque, Iowa, since 2012. He earned an MDiv and an MA in Systematic Theology from the Pontifical College Josephinum in Columbus, Ohio. He is author of the book Masters of Preaching: The Most Poignant and Powerful Homilists in Church History (2011).


  1. Avatar Bill bannon says:

    What I love about this piece above by Rev. Atwood is that it breaks out of the predictable rut of most Catholic writing ie flattery ad nauseam of every encyclical that comes down the pike. What a breath of fresh air. Atwood agrees with Humanae Vitae but has constructive criticism for it. This is the first case of such honesty I’ve seen.
    There are problems though with the Fathers…three of them favored small families while opposing birth control ie Jerome, Chrysostom and Augustine. Seems contradictory but they all saw the end of the world as not imminent but not far off either. In “The Good of Marriage”, Augustine sees big families as Old Testament and Jewish in section 17: ” For there is not now necessity of begetting children, as there was then…section 19 ” For in these (married contemporaries of Augustine) the very desire of sons is carnal, but in those ( OT Patriarchs) it was spiritual, in that it was suited to the sacrament of that time.
    Forsooth now no one who is made perfect in piety seeks to have sons, save after a spiritual sense; but then it was the work of piety itself to beget sons…”
    Jerome was worse…far worse for any Pope to bring up which is why Rev. Atwood does not suggest him. Jerome writes in “Against Helvidius” section 21 that all the OT verses about be fruitful and multiply and the blessings of a quiverful of children were said under the curse of the Law and no longer applicable. And his motivation is I Cor.7:29 ” The time is shortened, henceforth those that have wives may be as though they had none.” Jerome saw couples abstaining long whereas I Cor. 7:5 warns against that very thing for many.
    Chrysostom like the two above saw ” be fruitful and multiply” as OT because again he thought ” the time is short”… Christ would soon be back.
    Another problem HV had was that it was addressing a Catholic audience that had been told a hundred times in Catholic school that ex cathedra was the cat’s meow of all encyclicals. When? In the 1950’s when nuns affirmed for every student the almost unique loftiness of the Assumption encyclical ( 1950) over and over and over as ex cathedra. That was the ex cathedra generation who had been shown the word formula which included the agreement of the faithful that had at least been checked on on that matter. Much unlike the Assumption, Humanae Vitae was introduced at its press conference by theologian Msgr. Lambrushini as “non infallible” but binding…and this was said to the ex cathedra generation that was using the highly inaccurate rythmn method not modern NFP. They were not ready for non infallible but binding. Go here for ewtn’s version of the press conference: http://www.ewtn.com/library/Theology/PRSSCNHV.HTM
    The further problem HV had was papal behaviour in the face of educated dissent. Fr. Bernard Haring was the most internationally known moral theology professor in Rome who dissented on Biblical grounds in that he saw the Church and HV making light of I Cor.7:5 about couples not separating too much sexually lest Satan enter into their situation. He was investigated by the CDF for months in 1969-70 but they did not charge him nor did they charge or censure the even more famous Karl Rahner.
    Yes Lumen Gentium 25 mandated ” religious submission of mind and will” in the serious oft repeated not clearly infallible…but all educated actors in the drama knew that Catholic moral theology tomes always admitted one exception to that pre LG25 and postdating LG25…. the sincere, prayerful, counseled, studious dissenter from the not clearly infallible ( see page 854 e.g. of Grisez’s ” Way of the Lord Jesus” vol.1). But dissenters were to remain silent in their dissent. Rahner and Haring broke that silence which they saw as not good in the situations they were seeing as to the rythmn method ( Haring enountered a woman having a breakdown). I suspect the Chinese situation also weighed on them as an international theologian…how does a Chinese after one permitted child then avoid prison if using the then rythmn method and if their wife’s bodily system was not too predictable. Would the wife become a living funeral casket as the government forcefully aborted her after each forbidden pregnancy. Rome is still silent on that radical dilemna. Most writing presumes the birth supportive Western governments.

    • What an old man you must be. Will you go on fighting the battles of 1968 till your dying day? The Church will teach the sexual morality of Humanae Vitae till the end of time, because it is true. The academic theologians you cite in opposition are not taken seriously even now. Nobody reads them. Nobody cares. Go over to America or Commonweal or the “non-Catholic” newspaper, The Reporter, and see if there’s any evidence of anyone paying attention to their work. It is utterly of the past. There will be no Austin Powers revival of their work because you can’t even make fun of it. The importance of these long gone people and events indicates that you are running out of time for repentance. Do it now, while you still can. Repent and embrace Catholic truth.

      • Avatar Bill bannon says:

        I can’t be that old. A thug broke into a second house of mine two years ago and I tracked and choked him out very quickly and got everything back including a lethal weapon (6’3″, 226, all ex gymnast muscle almost…fast boxing hands to boot). Young blacks who saw it beeped me later from their car and one asked if I wanted a pit bull in that house in case the thug returned. Most blacks don’t like black b and e thugs anymore than we do. So despite your unCatholic sin of derision of the aged, I have probably another ten years of self defense in me.
        No Pope talks like you. Fr. Entenauer did but no Pope did. No Pope excommunicates anyone on this issue because it might and might not be infallible in the universal ordinary magisterium. See canon 749-3. One can be heretical on abortion ( see infallble declaration in sect.62 of Evangelium Vitae) but not herein because there is reason to believe that early saints were at times mimicking the stoic position…Jerome admits it in Against Jovinianus but Clement and Lactantius and others evince it.
        Go here for Archbishop Amato, then second in command at the CDF, praising Karl
        Rahner at a 2004 Lateran international conference just on Rahner….the one you say is never discussed anymore…the article is by John Allen whom even Fr. Z likes:


        Fr. Entenauer connected this issue to heresy on tv but he was incorrect dogmatically. After EV of 1995, abortion clearly is matter for heresy but it is still not up to internet laity to prosecute. It’s up to the Bishops and Rome excepting latae sententiae cases.

      • Avatar Harvey B says:

        Bill — despite your dislike of Roger’s position, his is clearly the Catholic position. Sorry that you don’t like that. But don’t be offended when someone advises you to let the 1960s go. If nothing else, to follow such advice would be best for Church unity, yes?

        Also, you claim that “After EV of 1995, abortion clearly is matter for heresy.” That is quite untrue; to claim that murder of the innocent (which abortion clearly is, and was prior to 1995) is an acceptable practice would have been “heretical” in any decade.

      • Avatar Bill bannon says:

        Not even now does Rome prosecute Nancy Pilosi and they should after 1995 because canon 749-3 is now satisfied in this area ( online…requiring infallibility to be clearly manifest before claimed) but prior to 1995, a canon lawyer could point to both the later Jerome and the later Augustine who both corrected their earlier positions and said that the preborn had to be ” formed” for there to be murder. They based this on a mistake in the Septuagint version of an Exodus passage. The canon lawyer could also bring up Aquinas who also saw delayed ensoulment as did the section of Trent’s catechism on the Incarnation ( online). After 1995, those defenses vanish.

      • Providing arguments on support of baby killing, too, now. No surprise in view of everything else you’re said.

      • Avatar bill bannon says:

        Homiletic and Pastoral Review,
        Read my post on abortion and Roger’s senseless reaction. You need moderation as you employed last week on this topic. Roger just committed slander in broad Catholic daylight. Not good for the papacy to have such moments as being from their side.

  2. Part of the reason for the widespread rejection of the encyclical, especially in academic circles, could be that the Holy Father failed to make a more convincing case for the traditional teaching.

    While more scriptural references certainly could have improved HV, I doubt it would have made much of a difference. It seems academics and others wanted a change to “keep up” with the “Religious Joneses”, regardless of the soundness of HV. Perhaps the timing you mention could have had more influence (i.e., not waiting so long). But my impression of Paul VI was that he did not have the personality for vociferous confrontation, and perhaps hoped to put it off as long as possible. This is just a very removed impression, so I could be wrong.

  3. @ c matt: “While more scriptural references certainly could have improved HV, I doubt it would have made much of a difference.” I think you are right.

    The primary cultural necessity of modernism was to change the Church’s teaching on sexual morality. They succeeded in the Protestant realm, they failed in Catholicism.

    The acceptance of contraception was the foundational idea of modernism with respect to sexual morality. Change the Church’s teaching on contraception and everything other teaching in the sexual realm eventually falls. That is why the modernists were so enraged by HV.

    Paul VI understood this and his encyclical predicts what has happened to sexual ethics and practices due to the contraceptive mentality.

  4. If these events are important to you, you’re old. Healthy you may still be, but old. You have little time for splitting hairs. You act like your present health will allow you to live forever in this world. It won’t. Do you even convince yourself? A ten-year old conference reported in the “non-Catholic” newspaper, The Reporter, is evidence that anybody now studies the work of these men? That’s your best shot? Is this an admission that Haring has slipped into utter obscurity, remembered only by old men like you and me. I think I am doing better than the “thug” did in this dispute. The teaching of Humanae Vitae is infallible. It’s a necessary piece of the consistent sexual morality taught by the Church. I accused you of being stuck in 1968, and I appear to be more right than I knew. You didn’t even follow this dispute into the 1970s. I think it was more than 35 years ago that Ford and Grisez demonstrated that the teaching of Humanae Vitae is infallible. As with Father Atwood’s article here, modern Catholics simply assume the truth of Humanae Vitae, as well they should. There is no reason to rehearse 30 and 40 year old arguments for the benefit of old men. It would be like refuting the works of Arius every time a Catholic writer mentions the Trinity. Invincible ignorance only works when the ignorance is invincible. 1968 is dead and gone. Come into the present. Repent and embrace the truth.

    • Avatar Bill bannon says:

      Grisez actually in an interview (googlable online) stated that while he thought the issue solved in the universal ordinary magisterium, he nevertheless could understand the laity not agreeing with him because of the relative silence of the Bishops on it.
      Can you inform the readers when the last international conference on Grisez or Fr. Ford was held at the Lateran. ROFLOL.

      • That’s your argument? The “relative silence” of the bishops might give some people an invincible ignorance defense, but not you. The work of Ford and Grisez is read and used and cited by orthodox moral theologians working today. They did not get, and did not need, the posthumous award of a gold watch from a bunch of high-ranking old men. Why don’t you ask Jamie Manson what they taught her about Bernard Haring at Yale? A comment from some old man saying that his thought is not in line with Bernard Haring’s bothers Father Atwood not at all. Nor should it. If I had a citation stating that something he said had been contradicted by Father Ford or Germaine Grisez I believe he would be very concerned and look into whether I was right or wrong. I believe that it would cause a stir among the HPR editors, too. Father Atwood’s disagreement with Haring is a matter of indifference to all. I am trying to come up with a more polite way to say this, but failing: Repent. Embrace The full truth of the Church’s authoritative teaching.

  5. Avatar Bill bannon says:

    And still…no Pope sounds like you in histrionics…and I suspect you know little of the history on this prior to 1900.
    There were 266 Popes to date. Tell the readers how many Popes wrote on this matter throughout history. Footnote 4 of Humanae Vitae will help you. It skipped Pope Sixtus V though because the man was odd, wrote some embarassing things and introduced the castrati into the papal choirs and executed more criminals than a hundred Popes put together…but you can count him…even though Paul VI exercised prudence lest the media do research on him. How many Popes wrote on this topic at all out of 266 Popes.

    • This is a weird non-sequitur. You’ve stopped defending 1960s theologians, but you come up with this? You’ve stopped saying Humanae Vitae was wrong in itself but now you say not enough Popes wrote about the topic? Does that sound strange to you? Before 1930 there was universal agreement in the whole Christian world that contraception was wrong. You’re argument is exactly like an Arian demanding that his opponent show a papal condemnation of Arianism before the birth of Arius. The issue was not a live issue in any society where the people didn’t believe that reliable contraceptives were available, which pretty much covers the years 470 to 1870. No popes condemned Arianism before Arius showed up. For a guy unwilling to accept Humanae Vitae, you sure are an Ultramontanist. The united teaching of the Fathers means nothing to you because not enough popes have talked about it for you to take ithe teaching as authoritative? Ever hear of a theologian with the first name of Augustine? Didn’t this come up in Cast Canubii? That’s too recent for you? Wow. Even the Lefeberites accept the missal of 1962. You’re way more hidebound than them. You need a pre-1900 papal condemnation. No Christian took your position before 1930, but you can’t accept the teaching because none of the Thirteenth Century popes addressed the question? Doesn’t this seem stupid to you? What’s true is true and what’s false is false. Error is error, no matter what the trend seemed to be in 1968. Come into the present. If not the 21st Century, at least the 20th. Every pope to address the subject rejects your position. I imagine that the early popes condemned contraception during the Roman Empire, every Christian did, but the teaching was not notable enough to be preserved in writing. It appears that Steve is coming to your defense by citing some guy who calls himself the “Abbe de Nantes” of the CRC. (The initials are from the French.) Steve seems to want to show by example what happens when you reject just a little Catholic truth. Like I’ve been saying, no matter what things looked like in 1968 your hetorodox position has been rejected. You should be willing to accept the Church’s complete teaching on sexual morality.

      • Avatar bill bannon says:

        So it’s dawning on you that less than ten Popes wrote on this but the Fathers did write on this but you didn’t know what my first post showed that the three main ones were against contraception but also were against big families as being really proper to the Old Testament. But you forgot that part and you will forget it a month from now when you declare somewhere else that all the Fathers opposed contraception. You’ll leave out that they also favored small families because the time is short. The net result is that you leave people with the impression that the Fathers were wise in this area.
        Let’s read them:
        Lactantius contradicting I Cor. 7:5 which argues against long abstinence: ” Wherefore, if any one on any account of poverty shall be unable to bring up children, it is better to abstain from relations with his wife” (Divine Institutes6:20 [A.D. 307]). 
        Let’s read him as he copies Stoicism: ” the genital [’generating’] part of the body, as the name itself teaches, has been received by us for no other purpose than the generation of offspring” (ibid., 6:23:18).  Humanae Vitae et al contradict that Stoic view.

        Jerome: ” Does he imagine that we approve of any sexual intercourse except for the procreation of children?” (Against Jovinian 1:19 [A.D. 393]). 
        Stoicism via Seneca….totally rejected by the modern allowance of the infertile periods.

        Clement of Alexandria: ” To have coitus other than to procreate children is to do injury to nature” ” The Instructor of Children” 2:10:95:3. Perfect Stoicism…rejected by the theory of NFP etc.

        Augustine….it’s venial sin to ask for the debt but not to pay the debt if you do not intend children: ” For necessary sexual intercourse for begetting is free from blame, and itself is alone worthy of marriage. But that which goes beyond this necessity, no longer follows reason, but lust. And yet it pertains to the character of marriage, not to exact this, but to yield it to the partner, lest by fornication the other sin damnably. But, if both are set under such lust, they do what is plainly not matter of marriage. However, if in their intercourse they love what is honest more than what is dishonest, that is, what is matter of marriage more than what is not matter of marriage, this is allowed to them on the authority of the Apostle as matter of pardon…”. The Good of Marriage sect.11

        This is rejected by the modern Popes. Augustine saw no love. no affirming the other person.
        You either intended procreation or you lusted venially.
        Aquinas 700 years later copied it exactly in more succinct language: Aquinas.  Supplement question 49 art.5  Reply to Objection 2. 
            “If a man intends by the marriage act to prevent fornication in his wife, it is no sin, because this is a kind of payment of the debt that comes under the good of “faith.” But if he intends to avoid fornication in himself, then there is a certain superfluity, and accordingly there is a venial sin, nor
        was the sacrament instituted for that purpose, except by indulgence, which regards venial sins.”
        Again zero talk of affirming the other, loving the other. Here he is again: ” Supplement 49 art 5 I answer that:  “Consequently there are only two ways in which married persons can come together without any sin at all, namely in order to have offspring, and in order to pay the debt. otherwise it is always at least a venial sin.”. Paying the debt is guilt free….asking for the debt out of desire is venial sin if procreation not intended. The modern Popes reject this and it is quasi Stoicism in his and Augustine’s case. It is pure Stoicism in Jerome, Lactantius and Clement.

        Surely you’ll point these things out in your next debate….I’m sure.

  6. Regarding Humanae Vitae, the Abbe de Nantes had this to say on the CRC website:

    As for classifying Paul VI and John Paul II as though they were of the Right, that is a total error. They are of the Left because of what is closest to their heart, their utopia of a “civilization of love” to be promoted here and now, a utopia where all is limitless freedom, dignity, responsibility and self-expression “for every man and all men.” Such a utopia was bound to enjoin the highest moral demands, matching the grandeur of their idea of Man and no sparing of the horses!

    Paul VI, more a demagogue than a Utopian, posed himself the abstract question of whether artificial means of contraception were contrary to the natural moral law. At the end of three years, he was still none the wiser. He consulted masses of people, but all in vain. The yes and the no were so well balanced in his Hamlet-like mind that he remained totally undecided. When at last he was forced to answer, he pronounced that absolute condemnation, that terrible “no” which contradicted his years of uncertainty. The world was waiting for his oracle as people wait for the results of bets placed on Saturday afternoon. Heads or tails? It was heads, and so all the illusions cultivated about the Church, the Council and the Pope were shattered in one go. So much so that the whole of morality and religion were up for questioning.

    A proclamation via the media to millions of indifferent modern pagans that the pill was banned would make the entire planet bristle with hatred and contempt. And again, outside that context, such an announcement banning the pill made to lukewarm Catholics, incited by the conciliar Church to an intense, obsessive and totally unrestrained love life, could only provoke them to abandoning the sacraments, to indifference concerning the state of grace and, before long, to forgetting God altogether. The masses cannot be thrown into a state of perpetual lust without impunity. To incite their lust and then to forbid them the indispensable contraceptive or abortive complement is derisory. O foolish clergy! You cannot forbid the one without forbidding the other.

    Humanae Vitae was published on 25 July 1968, as though it were a law of such importance that it had to be placed on the highest level of his pastoral concern and had to be applied by each and everyone immediately without any other consideration. In a climate of relaxed morality and religious indifference, such a prohibition could not but appear shocking to all the recycled Christians, and crushing for them to put into practice without further ado.

    It would have been preferable that the Magisterium modulate the expression, the promulgation and application of this ban. For what is involved is none other than “casuistry”, that marvel of human and supernatural wisdom, thanks to which laws do not crush souls, but enlighten, strengthen and lead them there “with cords of humanity”. But do not ask Utopians and demagogues to condescend to casuistry!


  7. No Christian authority accepts contraception before 1930. No Pope ever wrote or said anything in favor of contraception. But contraception is OK because “modern Popes”? Again, does this make sense to you? Supporting the teaching of Humanae Vitae are Pius XI, Pius XII, Paul VI, John Paul II, Benedict XVI, and, soon enough, Francis. But Humanae Vitae is wrong because “modern popes”? Do you expect anyone to fall for this? You think the Fathers actually taught sex in marriage required a desire for children as the sole motive? I think the teaching is the the sexual act had to be open to children, not that its only purpose must be pregnancy. Some Fathers advised small families and supported continence for that purpose. Pius XII thought people who had reason to want small families could resort to periodic continence. I don’t see any glaring contradictions.
    In conclusion, I will give the argument that I believe you will have to admit is telling. On the side of Humanae Vitae I have the modern popes named above. On your side you have Sean Hannity, the renowned “Abbé de Nantes” and Steve. With that I rest my case.

    • Avatar bill bannon says:

      And 96% of Catholics according to the US Bishops’ website.
      No. The Fathers saw no love taking place in sex. They saw procreation or lust. Modern Popes siphon off one aspect of the Fathers ( no contraception) and wisely leave the core of their sexual beliefs in the dust bin. No married Catholics were consulted ever until modern times and once they spoke, modern Popes include love in the act of sex in their encyclicals. NFP is great. I think far into the future other things will be permitted and I hope Chinese Catholics whose very sanity and homelife is at stake, are reading Bernard Haring….the one the CDF investigated and didn’t charge with a thing.
      Because NFP can result in some…not all….some Chinese young marriages turning into a nightmare as children…numbers two through seven ….are murdered by the government in the wife’s body in the stricter provinces of China and the couple is fined three times their yearly salary per incident until the husband is put in jail.
      Adieu. You do not interact with eg the above patristic scholarship’s details. You rant past research with basically a con job of the simplifying mind. All ranters are studiously lower than their real IQ by design even when their IQ is higher than what they’re pretending. I’m saying…you’re smarter than your rant identity….Hannity does the same thing by the way from the position opposite you. He is a parody of seriousness…not real seriousness. He and you lose no sleep over any Chinese couple being crucified by this issue. I Corinthians 7:5 tells them not to separate from sex over long lest satan enter their marriage…Rome tells them barrier methods are evil….the government tells them to have only one child or be fined into destitution, then jail. And no Catholic writer in the West is losing sleep over them either.
      Their situation cannot satisfy those three demands.

      • You did nothing in this exchange but constantly move the goalposts. First you say that Paul VI was wrong. Then you can’t defend that so you say the teaching is not infallible. You can’t defend that, so you say that the bishops’ “relative silence” would justify an invincible ignorance defense. That’s obviously an indefensible position so you switch to claiming that not enough popes wrote on the topic to make the teaching binding. This cannot be defended so you switch to saying that the Fathers are in error about the value of what the theologians call the unitive value of sex, so their opinion on contraception must be disregarded because of “modern popes”! Indefensible, of course, so you switch to contraception is a great way to comply with the demands of a tyrannical government by Chinese Catholics, as if wrong became right because of government demands. Your counsel would not have been useful to St Thomas More in the Tower. Your claim that sin becomes good when the motive is doing as the government commands is indefensible as a matter of Catholic moral philosophy, but I have no doubt that you can respond by moving the goalposts another hundred yards down the field. Your hope that Chinese Catholics are reading Bernard Haring is empty. No one does. I will say, though, that in this dispute your style of argument shows that you are Haring’s faithful son. Give up this error. It is a great thing for the Church that what Father Z calls the biological solution is ridding it of liberal dissent like yours, but the biological solution is a bad thing for you personally. Repent. 1968 is part of the old dead past. The people who appeared to the world at that time to be great intellectuals have been shown to have been wrong. Give up this old-fashioned liberal dissent. That kind of thinking is fit for a period drama like Mad Men, not for someone still alive in the contemporary world. Accept the truth of Catholic teaching. You don’t like my style. I wish I had another to present you with. This is serious. Give up your error and accept the true teaching of the Church.

      • FYI on NFP and the Chinese–

        Studies that have shown NFP to be up to 99 percent effective for couples avoiding pregnancy.

        There are currently more than 4 million couples using NFP in China (with the government’s approval) to avoid pregnancy with an overall success rate of 98+ percent (this is as effective as the pill).

        Also, published in the Spanish magazine “Alba,” on the impact of NFP use by Chinese couples:

        “The use of natural family planning by four million Chinese women reduced the average percentage of abortions from 4.6% to 0.6%, and of 40,000 women who considered themselves unable to bear children, 39,000 achieved conception.”

        And this, from the research center involved in the NFP studies in China:

        “Chinese Government bodies responsible for population control are acknowledging the efficacy of the {NFP} Method and the obvious health and social benefits for women accompanying its use – not least the acceptability and high continuation rates reported.”

        Study analysts argue that “NFP represents a ‘different anthropology.’ It’s not an “alternative” to artificial birth control, but rather is “based on respect for the body, the biological rhythms, and above all, on the idea that we are cooperators with God.”

        So the argument that Chinese Catholics having no alternative but contraception in a country with a coercive, one-child only policy is not reality.

      • Avatar Bill bannon says:

        Some parts of China are totally different than other parts. In Beijing and some parts of the rural areas, they are allowed more than one child though I am in correspondence with a nun in Beijing and she never mentions anything Catholic in her emails so I’m not saying it’s a free city. But there are other parts of certain provinces which can be vicious and one need only read blogs where people talk truthfully about nfp like Jenny Fulwiler to know that some women need a creighton specialist as a personal assistant for nfp to have the high efficacy of 98%.
        Now pretend you are in a vicious province that does forceably abort and your bodily signals are not stable and you are mountains away from a Creighton specialist. It’s you Mary in that situation.
        Are NFP stats for other parts of China going to help you whereas a tubal ligation would end all the drama without the feeling that you are always a pregnancy away from being fined three times your yearly salary and you already are low income. 29 Popes from 1580 til 1878 cooperated proximately with castrating boys to be castrati in the papal churches because they raised church attendance. Leo XIII disagreed and stopped it in 1878 ( available in your public library in any well known encyclopedia while being unsearchable at new advent). Then in 1930, Pius XI calls sterilization ” mutilation” without ever mentioning the 29 Popes under whose administrations it took place. You picture a warm China. I’m in touch with the nun in
        beijing…a two child city…but the nun who saves babies who are rejected by parents with my and others money…she does not mention Christ at all or anything Catholic in her emails. So your picture of China working hand in hand with NFP and giving a perfectly round number of 40 million from a religion that has to hide let alone do professional data collection has a taste of some salesmanship at work.
        Sterilization alone ends the fear of those in rougher provinces. NFP obviously under duress leaves a person with fear. If you knew you had a two percent chance of a man breaking into your house this year and strangling you, I don’t think you’d be joy filled about that kind of life. Out in the far provinces away from copious doctors, I don’t think your picture is even taking place.

      • Avatar Bill bannon says:

        excuse me…4 million not 40 million.

      • “Cooperated proximately?” Really? You’re willing to go back to the manuals for technical language to support one of your sophistical arguments against Humanae Vitae. This argument is so weak, I don’t think you accept it as true. I think you believe that some readers may accept it, but you know that it makes no sense. Do the manuals say the pope is impeccable? If no one says the pope is impeccable, your argument is meaningless. You say thar out of 266 popes, 29 have “cooperated proximately” in a sin, so we all get a license to commit the same sin. These 29 proximate cooperators allow us to disregard the constant teaching of the Church. Earlier you said the teaching of Humanae Vitae wasn’t true because not enough popes had taught it. What is the magic number? Is it 29? 28 popes, meaningless. 29 popes, reliable authority. Just give up you sophistic arguments. Look for the truth and you may find it. Give up your futile attempt to re-fight the battles of that long-ago year of 1968. In 1968 what would you have thought of an old man who’s mind was stuck in 1923? Your attempt to have the Church deny the truth and embrace error is as futile as the work of all your predecessors at this task. Come into the present and look for the truth here.

  8. Avatar bill bannon says:

    The true teaching of the Church in 1520 AD was that you were excommunicated latae sententiae if you agreed with Luther that burning heretics was against the Holy Spirit ( Pope Leo X, Exsurge Domine, art.33 condemned as ” against the Catholic Faith”). Now John Paul’s ” Splendor of the Truth” sect.80 agrees with Luther as does Vatican II.
    Interest on a personal loan ( not extrinsic titles on a business loan) was forbidden as mortal sin for centuries until 1830 when Rome said those taking moderate interest “were not to be disturbed”. Poof…centuries of Catholics ranting against each other was over. In 1829 you sinned mortally for charging your brother interest on a personal loan and a year later you did the same thing and it was not even venial. Calvin’s position on this of 1545 was identical to what we believe now…don’t hurt the poor with interest but the affluent can pay moderate interest.
    Oops….the death penalty was always and everywhere affirmed due to Rom.13:4. We overcame that unanimity in the CCC by saying “yes…it’s good…but never use it because prisons are sufficient now” even though the two largest Catholic populations…Brazil and Mexico ( no death penalty) ..have murder rates 50 times that of shinto Japan which has the death penalty (UN figures available at wiki)…and the head of the Sinaloa cartel escaped maximum security imprisonment seemingly with
    bribes. Google the number of those killed in Mexico in the drug wars. It’s astounding and Mexico’s government says 60% of the prisons are partially controlled by the cartels and the writer of the catechism death penalty article hasn’t the faintest familiarity with the second largest Catholic
    population on earth.

    We’re done. No tears…no scenes…I want to remember you just as you are…albeit largely unread in dogmatic history.

    • The goalposts have again been moved 100 yards down the field and again I ask, this is your best shot? A total surrender on all issues of sexual morality and you trot out the old warhorses of religious freedom and usury? And again, your argument tracks that of the Lefebreites more or less exactly. I’m surprised you don’t trot out slavery here too, but maybe you’ve been burned on that issue when you tried it out on somebody else. Earlier in this exchange I would have done the research necessary to show you’re wrong here too. The Church has never authoritatively taught error. Certainly some Catholics at certain times have taught all interest is sinful. How they did that in light of how the New Testament deals with the issue is certainly beyond my present knowledge, but as with all of these topics, the answer is out there. It just has to be looked up. There is a sin of usury. One of the problems of Fillipino society is that it is often practiced against Fillipino farmers. About 25 or 30 years ago I was familiar enough with religious freedom issues to argue with you on that one. The religious freedom teaching of Vatican II does not contradict any authoritative teaching that came before, despite what you and Steve may say. All of the orthodox Catholic publications have addressed the issue at length. I bet HPR has published one or more useful articles on the topic in the last 30 years. But that’s what you’re left with? That’s your final position? The Church has erred in the past so we can make it up for ourselves and do whatever we think best? And you call yourself a Catholic? Error’s error and it’s bad, but hypocrisy is worse. Be a Catholic or don’t be a Catholic, but defending make it up as you go along morality while calling yourself Catholic is bad. Give up this Mad Med era moral theology and accept Catholic truth. You’re going to be needing it.

      • Sorry I skipped the death penalty. Pretend I put that in there too. Did you get that one from people like Steve or are the liberals using it now too?

  9. Avatar James Henning says:

    I have never used contraception in my entire life.
    Contraception is a defilement.
    I am 72 years of age happily married & the father of 7 children.
    This contraception wrangling is unseemly.
    There are none so blind as those who do not wish to see.
    I obey Almighty God.
    My opinion is set out below:

    Why do we obey the Law?

    The Law exists for the common good. It makes for stable, peaceful, prosperous social interaction. Everyone enjoys benefits.

    How does a law come about?

    A Lawgiving Institution with the necessary power and authority decides and declares and the Law comes about.

    Who can deny that God has both the power and the authority to lay down the Law?

    God the Father created us in his image and likeness.

    He gave us the freedom to choose.

    He wants us with Him forever.

    GOD loves us.

    Christ, our Redeemer was born of the Virgin Mary, lived and allowed Himself to be crucified to bring about His Church on Earth so that we might have a conduit for His Saving Grace.

    Our Lord set up the structure of His Church with St Peter and his successors at the helm to feed his sheep and lambs.

    He gave St Peter awesome delegated power to bind and loose, both here on Earth and in Heaven.

    He promised to be with His Church and His Vicar, St Peter, until the end of time.

    He ordered St Peter to confirm his brethren.

    GOD loves us.

    After the Resurrection and Ascension of Our Lord Jesus, the Holy Spirit came down to stay with and guide both His Vicar and His Church from error.

    GOD loves us.

    Our Triune God loves us.

    Who are we to argue with God? In any event, because He loves us His rules are sure to be for our benefit. What is the point of resisting His kind Wisdom?

    We should rather thank God on our knees that we have the continuing certain guidance of the Papacy.

    The Pope speaks with the authority of Almighty God – God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit.

    If I am a servant of God and have feely chosen to serve Him, then I hear and obey my Master. What else is there to do?

    Where there are two opposing views, both sides may be in error.

    However, should one of the two be correct, then logically, the other must be wrong.

    Given the knowledge and the certainty of the inspired Word of God and the unique position of St Peter and his successors, then “Humanae Vitae” cannot be ignored.

    The use of any contraception device is a serious sin against

    the Creator “of all that is, seen and unseen”.

    I purposely do not use the term “artificial” contraception because that might lead one to imagine that there must be a “natural” form of contraception.

    There is no such thing as natural contraception as opposed to artificial contraception..

    Contraception and contraceptives all involve purposefully unnatural interventions.

    Natural family planning (NFP) by its very nature is not contraceptive. There is always the possibility of conception.

    NFP unites the couple in mutual abstinence and discipline.

    Contraceptives like the Pill, a condom or an injection of a laboratory concoction are “quick fixes”.

    With contraception, discipline and mutual abstinence are absent and replaced by selfishness to a greater or lesser extent. One partner alone experiences the inconvenience of whatever device is used.

    NFP is nothing like vasectomy or any other form of permanent or temporary sterilization.

    Only by stretching the imagination can natural methods of spacing the conception of children be equated with contraception.

    My father was not a Catholic.

    When I was young, my father and I discussed sex, marriage, children and what was right and what wrong.

    My father considered any form of contraception or contraceptive device to be “brothel tricks” which were a lewd defilement. Such things were disgusting, made a perversion of sexual intimacy and accordingly debased the voluntary user.

    No man who truly loved his wife would insult her by contemplating the use of a contraceptive. My father firmly believed that women were not put on this earth merely for the sexual gratification of men. They are mothers, daughters, wives and sisters. They are to be respected and protected.

    These same opinions were apparently held by my paternal grandfather.

    I have passed on the same message on to my sons.

    Children are not a disease. They are gifts from Almighty God to be accepted and treasured.

    • Avatar bill bannon says:

      That was a beautiful picture. But it takes place in a western country I’ll bet.
      In the US last year, a family of 9 reduced their taxable income by $35,000+. I hope the poor one child couples who can’t even afford their one child (whose serious autism therapy bills indebt them for life)…I hope they too get a tax break from the other US tax payers for their indebtedness. I’m not sure though.
      But from mid 2011 til fall of 2012, things were awful for large families in northeast Africa where between 50,000 to 200,000 died of starvation…many after reaching camps in neighboring countries who were also not doing well. The press was filled with pictures of African moms carrying babies who had died days ago in the trek from southern Somalia.
      If a mother of four children loses her husband to a brain aneurism suddenly in the U.S., social security helps pay for the children each month. If that same situation happens in India, the woman
      gives her four children away to orphanges and tries to work near the orphanages. I know because I gave money for ten years to both one child and the mom.
      Worldwide 2.5 million children die each year wherein insufficient food is a factor. Indeed thank God for your seven children but also thank the developed country you live in and its tax payers who helped you. Four Catholic countries have a substantial problem of street waifs…children living on the street…Phillipines, Brazil, East Timor and Uruguay and the first two have a pronounced child sex trafficing problem connected to it.
      Your picture was beautiful because it took place in either the US, Canada, or Europe. In Catholic Latin America, a serial rapist and killer was able to rape and kill hundreds of very young girls which would not have been allowed in the US or Canada…when caught, he was given 14 years…currently whereabouts unknown…here is link ( check wiki too) go down to number four: http://mentalfloss.com/article/17392/monster-andes-meanest-man-america-and-7-other-prolific-serial-killers.
      So yes, having seven children in certain countries is relatively safe…and a beautiful picture…but not so much in some Catholic countries and Africa and India and China.

  10. Avatar wilte mckenna says:

    WOW this July presents another haunting of the 1960’s. How have we gone so far astray. How did we lose such a beautiful metaphysic–the real idea of having children…. a mutual cooperating in the beauty of existence, a bold exhibition of the truth of life’s ultimate meaning, a striving to attain the ultimate good— basically “Giving honor and glory to God” (for ever and ever–the immortal souls of all involved ).

    • Avatar Bill bannon says:

      According to the US Bishops in a document from two years ago, internal Catholic dissent on birth control was 96%.
      Let’s say it’s 93% instead. That is far more than in the sixties which years mostly preceded HV (1968).

      • Another awfully weak “argument.” Pretend I quoted Bishop Sheen here. Why is this issue so important to you? The Church is never going to abandon the truth.

      • Avatar bill bannon says:

        You’re like the heartbreak of psoriasis.

      • Avatar Harvey B says:

        Bill, what does 96% or 93% or whatever have to do with anything? I’m sorry that I’m jumping into the discussion late, but are you implying that the truths of morality are determined by how many people agree with something? That would indeed be laughable — but I await clarification on why such a statistic is even relevant.

      • Avatar Bill bannon says:

        No….Wilte was seeing the 60’s as filled with dissent and right now being less so….but the figures are the reverse of that. On infallibility, percent mattered to the Assumption encyclical which reads:
        ” This belief of the sacred pastors and of Christ’s faithful is universally manifested still more splendidly by the fact that, since ancient times, there have been both in the East and in the West solemn liturgical offices commemorating this privilege.” 16/ ” the holy Fathers and the great Doctors, in the homilies and sermons they gave the people on this feast day, did not draw their teaching from the feast itself as from a primary source, but rather they spoke of this doctrine as something already known and accepted by Christ’s faithful” sect.20.
        Percent mattered to John Paul II in his promotion of no death penalty here: ” 56. This is the context in which to place the problem of the death penalty. On this matter there is a growing tendency, both in the Church and in civil society, to demand that it be applied in a very limited way or even that it be abolished completely.”

        So that’s two Popes pointing to numbers or percents as relevant. Which is it…not relevant or is relevant. We can’t have it both ways.

      • Mr. Bannon, What you’re peddling here is sophistry. If 96% of American Catholics reject the Immaculate Conception, it’s still true. And if people who believed like you retained control of religious education I have no doubt that 96% would be in your reach. John Paul did not authoritatively teach that the death penalty cannot be used. Again, here’s where I am justified in calling another of your sophistic arguments sophistic. From your discussion of Evangelium Vitae we know you know something about the difference between a pope giving his opinion and a pope teaching with authority. John Paul the Great knew what he was doing when he discussed the death penalty. Your claim that his discussion amounted to him saying “Given my study of public opinion polls I authoritatively teach…” Is the purest sophistry.

  11. Avatar Mister H says:

    Yesterday marked the 45th anniversary of the publication of Pope Paul VI’s prophetic encyclical, “Humanae Vitae” (“Of Human Life”), which reaffirmed the Catholic Church’s opposition to artificial contraception.

    At the link, the reader will find helpful information and resources to help readers better understand this important teaching of the Catholic Church.

    Readers will also find information on Natural Family Planning which is an effective, healthy, and natural alternative to artificial contraception, an alternative that is, importantly, fully compatible with Catholic teaching, ethics, and morality.


  12. Thanks, Fr. Atwood. I, too, think that Humanae Vitae could have been much more persuasive.

    1. While the social encyclicals build upon previous encyclicals, Humanae Vitae gave almost no attention to Casti Connubii, relegating it to a footnote.

    2. The Pope had plenty of time to read the majority report as well as the response called the minority report. He could clearly see that from the way that the majority replied to the assertions raised by the minority that those who wanted to accept contraception had no logical way of saying “no” to any imagined behavior between consenting adults, and he should have spent some time on this. Certainly he must have known that Anglican bishop Charles Gore predicted that the acceptance of contraception would lead to the acceptance of sodomy. And so it has.

    3. Father Atwood’s article drew attention to the lack of scriptural argument and briefly mentioned the Onan account. I think the Pope should have used the Onan account to great advantage. I don’t know if the pro-contraceptionist scholars were already blowing it off as just selfishness, but the Pope certainly could have pointed out that three persons were guilty of violating the Levirate but only one got the death penalty. Besides, the punishment for that is spelled out in Deuteronomy, an embarrassment but not a death penalty.

    4. In 1967 Dr. G.K. Doering’s paper on the temperature-only method of NFP was published, showing a perfect-use effectiveness of 99.2% and an imperfect-use effectiveness of 96.9% including the pregnancies that were from marriage acts clearly in the fertile time. He concluded that it was competitive with the hormonal methods of birth control. We are led to think that the Vatican is a great listening place. Did they miss this one?

    I have more to say about this in my article that appeared in the July 25th issue of the Wanderer titled “A Catholic Case for Humanae Vitae.”

    • Avatar Bill bannon says:

      There’s no punishment at all in Jewish law for coitus interruptus or there is also light ( see Douay Rheims below) so the observation that the Liverate obligation had a light punishment is a moot point. There isn’t even a light punishment in the Law for coitus interruptus….unless the Douay Rheims below is partly about coitus interruptus. Spilled seed in the Law is supposed to land on leather or fabric…not dirt…see below.
      This was one offense…that it landed on dirt rather than leather or cloth as in Lev.15:17.
      The Douay Rheims following the Vulgate might be denoting in the following passage a very light
      punishment for coitus interruptus…Leviticus 15:16 “The man from whom the seed of copulation goeth out, shall wash all his body with water: and he shall be unclean until the evening. 17The garment or skin that he weareth, he shall wash with water, and it shall be unclean until the evening. 18The woman, with whom he copulateth, shall be washed with water, and shall be unclean until the evening.”

      The NAB differs and makes verse 18 look like it is not connected to the man and his emission but is a separate incident.
      Here is the NAB…same passage: Lev.15: 16
      * When a man has an emission of semen, he shall bathe his whole body in water and be unclean until evening.e
      Any piece of cloth or leather with semen on it shall be washed with water and be unclean until evening.
      If a man has sexual relations with a woman, they shall both bathe in water and be unclean until evening.”

      If the Douay Rheims is correct, there is a light punishment also for coitus interruptus…or coitus interruptus is not meant and is thus unpunished in the law. If the NAB is correct, there is no mention of coitus interruptus in the Law at all.

      The NAB has Onan not doing this once but ” whenever” he went in to Tamar which means he never intended to have any children ever. Why is this crucial?
      Because…Christ had to descend from the House of Judah which was four men: Er. Onan, Shelah or Judah. Are you seeing yet how Augustine under estimated this passage as being about a sexual sin. How does God get a descendant for Christ from these four men? Read the entire story to the end. Tamar and Judah both commit sexual sins and she gets pregnant and produces the ancestor of Christ, Perez who is listed in the longest gospel geneology as a forerunner of Christ. God does not kill Tamar for incest nor Judah for his whoring so why would He kill Onan for a lighter sexual sin. Do you see it yet? Onan was killed for not producing the ancestor of Christ. When God kills Onan, Tamar is then justified in moving to the next son, Shelah but he cowered away from her out of fear so she dressed as a harlot and seduced Judah…producing Perez the next in line in Christ’s geneology.
      Augustine had a past of sexual sin and when he got to the passage, he saw himself and missed the deepest meaning. Onan risked the non appearance of Christ. But God’s permissive will produced an ancestor to Christ anyway from the sins of Tamar and Judah…sexual sins for which they were not punished let alone killed. Trace all the intimate killings by God in the Bible. They are for sacrilege only ( advertent or inadvertent)…Uzzah for touching the ark, Achan for stealing gold dedicated to God, the 72 descendants of Jechoniah for not greeting the ark, the 42 boys for insulting Eliseus, Herod in Acts 12 for accepting the crowd calling him god, Ananias and Sapphira for lying to the Holy Spirit….Onan for risking the non appearance of Christ.

      • Bill,
        Your argument seems to assume that coitus interruptus was a common practice, and you seem to conclude that the absence of a specific prohibition implies either that it is acceptable behavior or a peccadillo. I submit that it is more plausible to read the Onan account as God’s judgment in fact. The fact remains that while Judah and Shelah were also guilty of violating the Levirate, the only one who received a death penalty was Onan who went through the motions of a covenantal act but defrauded it.

      • Avatar Bill bannon says:

        Let’s hope bestiality wasn’t common but it’s given a death penalty of stoning in the laws of God to the Jews. Let’s hope daughters of a Levitical priest rarely prostituted themselves but it was punished in the law with burning. John T. Noonan gives a list in ” Contraception” of a good number of Catholic theologians who were against contraception but never used Onan as a reason because perhaps they sensed something wasn’t answered by Augustine especially how Tamar and Judah were blessed rather than punished despite sexual sins….and how coitus interruptus is not even given a punishment in God’s law.

      • “John, John”? This nasty condescension is rather typical of the way you write. If you had confidence in you arguments you’d be less tempted to be so nasty.

      • Avatar Bill bannon says:

        Actually you’ll notice John is over John not right next to it. That mistake happens when a poster does a post in ipad ” notes” and then brings it over to the website forgetting that it includes John at the beginning so that the poster types in John unnecessarily.
        Point 2. If John were to tell me a passage I did in particular was sophistical as you did above, that is nowhere near the affront of calling a person a ” sophist” which defines everything a person has said. That’s why you never heard a Pope calling Karl Rahner or Bernard Haring what Fr. Entenauer called Hannity. It is the lower ranks of NFP who use name calling which defines a person as to all of who they are. The Popes never do it. Christ never mentions contraception or size of families but He did denounce name calling when he strictly forbade using ” fool” even though it is a constant concept in the proverbial OT books. His Holy family was small and they did not adopt probably because Joseph as an older carpenter was getting less and less work.

  13. One topic always missing in these discussions is God’s plan through natural mothering via ecological breastfeeding. Ecological breastfeeding is characterized by Seven Standards which are maternal behaviors associated with an extended amenorrhea. To go 1 year or more without menses after childbirth, in other words, to have an extended natural infertility after childbirth is nature’s norm. To have a period within 3 months after childbirth is the exception if you go by nature’s norm. Also Scripture speaks of natural child spacing in Hosea 1:8 in which the mother could not conceive until she weaned her child. It is time that the Church and her bishops and priests promote eco-breastfeeding. It has so many benefits for the mother, child and family as well as the poor. One benefit of this NFP option for many couples is that it requires no abstinence.

  14. Avatar Bill bannon says:

    A footnote to the Scripture discrepancies above. The New Vulgate departed from Jerome’s Latin and used the same manuscript(s) source(s) as the NAB which means…so much for St. Jerome and his original sources.
    Here is the Vulgate in verse 18 which is identical to the Douay Rheims and is arguably about coitus interruptus being a symbolic not moral offense:
    ” mulier cum qua coierit lavabitur aqua et inmunda erit usque ad vesperum.”
    “woman with whom he unites shall wash” etc.
    Now the New Vulgate:
    ” Si cum muliere coierit vir, lavabunt se aqua et immundi erunt usque ad vesperum.”
    ” If a man unites with a woman, they shall wash” etc.
    Jerome’s Vulgate had the real possibility of coitus interruptus as subject matter due to a continuous action by two people throughout three verses. The New Vulgate goes outside Jerome’s Bible to manuscript(s) used also by the NAB which has one man alone in the two first verses and a separate couple in verse 18. So much for the Vulgate and tradition in this case. A Protestant moral theologian might detect a priori thinking at hand in the New Vulgate translator in verse 18…and therefore conscious or unconscious manipulation away from Jerome’s Vulgate in the New Vulgate.

    • Father Atwood,
      Perhaps the treatment of Scripture given by Bill Bannon provides some insight as to why Pope Paul VI did not base his case on Scripture. His advisors may have told him that he would be nit-picked to death by sophists who would do everything possible to undermine the force of whatever passages he would quote.

      • Avatar Bill bannon says:

        We’ll see on judgement day whether God agrees with you that I’m a sophist. I think you just increased your Purgatory time unnecessarily also since it reflects badly on your group.

      • Bill,
        I did not directly call you a sophist but you correctly inferred that I was thinking of you when I wrote as I did. I was going to apologize but first went to my big Oxford dictionary where I found the following as the second definition: “A person who reasons adroitly and speciously but not soundly.” In my opinion, right or wrong, that seems to fit. Your dealing with what you think are references to coitus interruptus, and then your references to the punishments for other sins seem to me to be in the class of non sequiturs. I apologize if I am wrong. I generally try to avoid negative adjectives and nouns, but I didn’t think you were answering me.
        You may be more impressed than I am by the alleged authority of the biblical scholars of the Sixties and Seventies. My experience has left me unimpressed. Shortly after Humanae Vitae I asked a seminary professor of scripture for references to articles that would explain the changed interpretation of the Onan account from contraception to Levirate-only. He offered nothing and instead just said, “That just the way we DO things today.” That sounds to me like a decision prompted by the pro-contraception zeitgeist of the Sixties right within the Church, not a matter of reasoned research or new discoveries.
        On another occasion in 1966 or 1967, I heard Father Raymond Brown lecture to a huge class about the human knowledge of Christ. Though not committed to any position, it seemed that Fr. Brown was leaning very much to the position that the Lord did not have humanly expressible knowledge of his divinity until after his resurrection. He accepted written questions at the break so I asked him how such a position could explain the words of Institution of the Eucharist at the Last Supper. He told the class of maybe 300 that he had never thought about it. So he knew what all the scholars were saying, but even though he said those words at Mass every day, he never had thought about what they said about the consciousness of Jesus. That was an eye-opener about how scholars have to know what everybody else has said but can miss the point when it’s right in front of them.
        Peace. jfk

    • Mr. Bannon, Weren’t you arguing earlier in this thread that because you claim that Church erred on religion freedom and usury we are permitted to believe whatever we like on all moral issues? Give up this bizarre preoccupation with the tired arguments of 1968. It’s 45 years ago. The Church was right then. It’s right now. It will teach the truth of Humae Vitae till the end of time.

      • And “reflects badly on your group”? As you notice I’m not a big fan of yours. Nevertheless I would have put this type of cheap shot past you. Should we be wondering how your energetic use of sophistical arguments to attack Catholic truth reflects on organizations you are a part of? It seems to hurt your feelings but “sophistical” is an accurate description of your arguments. I may review the thread before I make a final pick, but I nominate “Proximately Cooperated” as your sophistical argument No. 1.

      • Avatar Bill bannon says:

        Search all your posts and notice that you are adding zero to this discussion as to data or saint quotes or Father quotes or Pope quotes. All your posts are personal and emotional and frequently talking before thinking as in the repetition of John mistake where you tried to find nastiness but one minute of thinking would have told you it was a notebook to website inadvertent mistake. The message silent young readers are getting is that decades of NFP have not turned you into a charitable model that they would like to be someday. You and the Entenauers of the world are staining your own movement by this enjoyment of the emotional personalizing of this issue. For your movement’s sake, do something here of a non personalizing nature…something knowledge based.

    • Avatar Bill bannon says:

      I read the entire Bible and memorized much. Anyone who does that …does not affirm Fr. Raymond Brown who is brilliant within certain parameters and dangerous in other areas as when he averred on c.page 343 of “Birth of the Messiah” that Mary never said the Magnificat but Luke got it from Palestinian Anawim and put it in Mary’s mouth to make the gospel similar to OT passages wherein women proclaimed poetic verses after receiving a mission. I threw it out in the garbage but kept his small
      ” Community of the Beloved Disciple” which is not dangerous nor is his ” Introduction to the New Testament”. Both John Paul II and then Cardinal Ratzinger had no problem having him on the Pontifical Biblical Commission and I certainly thought they were incorrect but both of them were liberal as to Old Testament violence themes which conflicted with their late life pacifism which Francis shares.
      Read Verbum Domini sect.42 where Benedict says that the prophets challenged ” every form of violence…individual or corporate”. Thoroughly bizarre. Elijah killed two groups of 51 men separately who sought his life by bring down lightning from heaven and then slit the throats of 450 prophets of Baal at Kishon.(I Kings 18:40). Eliseus cursed 42 boys who were then killed by bears. The prophet Samuel ” hacked Agag in pieces before the Lord in Gilgal” because Saul failed to do it as commanded by God. God had a mandate to Eliseus that he was to kill any of the house of Ahab that escaped the sword of Jehu…I Kings 19:17. Jeremiah a later and major prophet should be softer according to John Paul’s insight of an increasing pacifism as time went on EV sect.40. Not so. Here’s Jeremiah warning the Chaldeans to massacre the Moabites with perfection in Jer.48:10…” Cursed is he who does the work of the LORD with slackness; and cursed is he who keeps back his sword from bloodshed.”
      In short you have no confidence in Raymond Brown. I have no Old Testament confidence in recent Popes or in Raymond Brown. I neither acribe to Onan as being about the liverate obligation or coitus interruptus. It’s neither. It’s the sacrilege of risking the non appearance of Christ…the largest sacrilege in the Bible. I got that from no one. I got that from reading the Bible from front to back after finishing 16 years of Catholic school. NFP is fine but the internet is filled with affluent people from tax supportive countries that can afford the internet plus 8 kids. They are irrelevant to the third world to which I have always been connected through alms. Do I think you increased your purgatory? Yes. I’ll see you there. I experienced it for three days when I was 21 and had to pray almost all waking minutes literally til the end if the third day. It’s one of the reasons I read the entire Bible afterwards and all the Summa T.. It is a severe state. Never uselessly increase it. I fear God. I don’t fear Popes if I see they are not reading exhaustively.

      • Thanks, Bill, for your forthrightness. As for my opinion of Raymond Brown, it’s not that I have no confidence in his work. It might be better to say that if he were on one side of a disputed point, I would want to see the merits of each side of the argument.

        What is especially strange about that evening lecture by Father Brown is that in the audience of some 300 of whom at least half were priests and another 25 percent were religious, no one else posed the question re the words of Institution. jfk

      • Avatar Bill bannon says:

        That’s because the culture of Catholicism ( not the pure core of Catholicism) cultivates too much conformity. One should have perfect conformity on the inerrant, the de fide, the clearly infallible.
        The outer culture of Catholicism goes far beyond that…witness how the religious submission clause in the last paragraph of the Profession of Faith repeats LG 25’s but is actually minus the stipulations of LG25 that required repetition etc. of papal positions for them to be binding. LG was defective in many opinions because it never noted the exception in the manuals and then the newer oath is thus more conformist and would have people, were there a time machine) obey Pope Nicholas V’s pure imperialism of Romanus Pontifex in 1454… which they did anyway and thus if you ever get mugged in Rio, you can thank Pope Nicholas V to a degree ( see mid 4th paragraph of RP). The anti slavery bull of 1537 was an attempt by Paul III to revoke
        Romanus Pontifex…one can see that in one telling sentence.

  15. Fr. Atwood,
    Thanks for an insightful article. Having lived through that period I was too lame to understand what was causing all the problems. The one thing we often heard was that “my priest says it is okay to use contraception.” We mostly thought the priest were too weak kneed to stand up to the Church’s teaching.

  16. Avatar Tom McGuire says:

    Born the oldest of 14, married the father of 2 children, grandparent of a step grand daughter and granddaughter, I am not convinced by the arguments of HV or those of Fr Atwood that contraception is per se evil. Not every act of intercourse leads to a possible pregnancy; from the point of view of logic I see no difference between NFP and use of various forms of contraception. The most important moral question is do the couple accept the gift of life as intrinsic to their relationship in marriage. For me, and I assume for most Catholic married people, the question is settled. Contraception is morally permissible.

    • All the popes are wrong. The constant teaching of the Church is wrong. The Church teaches one thing and you teach another. I wonder what the average age difference is between the people on this comment thread who accept Catholic truth and those dissenting from the Church’s teaching? I’m afraid that I will drag up the average age of the Catholics, but still, the only opponents of Catholic teaching here seem to be old men, with a emotional attachment to the dissenters of 1968, most of whom are no longer with us. Forty-five years is a long time.

      • Avatar Bill bannon says:

        The two most prominent dissenters are with all future generations because Fr. Karl Rahner was instrumental in the writing of Lumen Gentium (Vatican II) and Fr. Bernard Haring was instrumental in writing Gaudium et Spes ( Vatican II). The young millenial Catholics ( see Pew research) in general go to Mass less than any other generation and are dissenters in areas that are infallibly or inerrantly settled unlike contraception about which no Pope will use the wording ” infallibly settled”.
        Your posts need more thinking and reading and less raw assertions.

      • Avatar Bill bannon says:

        No early Pope until Pope Gregory wrote about sex at all and he said couples should do penance for immoderate pleasure within the act. Regis Scanlon defended that with a guess that Gregory meant doing it too many times which the text makes no mention of whatsoever. What Regis Scanlon does not tell you is that no Pope in the encyclical period has repeated what Gregory said .
        Pope Nicholas I wrote that couples should not do it on Sunday: ”
        ” You also ask if a husband is permitted to have intercourse or sleep with his wife in the daytime or night time on Sunday. To this we respond that if one should cease from all worldly labor on Sunday, as we taught above,[17] how much more should one beware of carnal pleasure and every sort of bodily pollution, especially since the name “the Lord’s day” shows clearly that the Christian should do nothing on this day except what is the Lord’s.”

        Obviously he continued the first mellenial mistake that sex equals concupiscence never unitive love. For virtually 1800 years sex was not love but once a century a saint might say that it engendered a feeling of love later fter it was over. There is no constant teaching except the rule…no contraception but that is illusory because in the first millenium the saints were against contraception as part of a bigger package taught by Stoics like Musonius Rufus who viewed any non procreative sex as wrong. I showed way above that Jerome, Clement, Augustine, Lactantius and later Aquinas were repeating the Stoic prejudice against non procreative sex…a position rejected by the NFP acceptance of the use of the infertile times. Only simplistically can there be said to be constant teaching because the deeper reason for no contraception changed radically from the Stoic reason to the modern papal reason which is the unitive cannot be separated from the procreative by man even though nature does so most of the month.

      • I imagine I’ll have more to say later about Mr. Bannon’s energetic and vociferous defense of error. Right now I’ll note that I’m disappointed but not surprised to see he has abandoned all defense of the sophistic “proximately cooperated” argument.

  17. I guess I was wrong.


  1. […] While prophetic in many ways, the most controversial encyclical of the twentieth century might have been better received had a stronger biblical argument been made in its favor. This July 2013 we commemorate the 45th anniversary of Pope Paul VI’s encyclical, Humanae Vitae (Of Human Life). The encyclical presented some …read more […]

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