Teaching Humanae Vitae in the “Front Trenches” — Where It Ultimately Counts


Late July, 1968; large-tiered classroom at a Jesuit university. New Testament scholar Max Zerwick, SJ, is expounding upon the prologue to John’s Gospel, word by word, pericope by pericope.

We graduate theology students, 150 strong (counting summer-program registrants), are soaking up as much as we can, as fast as we can. Seen through Fr. Zerwick’s eyes, the prologue is remarkable in its depth and breadth.

At one point, an administrative assistant comes in, privately conveys some information to our mentor and walks out. Fr. Zerwick apologizes for the interruption and announces that Pope Paul VI’s long-awaited encyclical, Humanae vitae, is just off the Vatican press. In short, he says, the contraceptive pill did not make the cut as a moral means of family planning.

The din is immediate, the disappointment and frustration palpable. In New Testament parlance, there’s weeping, gnashing, and rending. In the days that follow, a tsunami of dissent sweeps the country.

Although not married or engaged, I’m interested in the issue. A year or so before, I had picked up an issue of the Jesuit magazine America, wherein one of the authors laid out a philosophical case against artificial birth control.1 Since I’d had upper-division philosophy classes in a university Great Books program, the author’s reasoning made sense. My guess at the time was that the Pope, guarantor of faith and morals, would come up with something like Humanae vitae.

Teaching teenagers

That fall (1968), I begin teaching religion to senior girls at a Catholic high school, while continuing the master’s in theology. In my second year of instructing, I use parts of Mary Joyce’s new work, The Meaning of Contraception.2 Her pyscho-philosophical argument against contraception is intriguing: contracepting is akin to lying. (More of her thought shortly.)

A year later, I offer an elective called “Visions of the Human Person.” The aim is to study different authors’ visions of the human person and compare them with the Christian view of the person. Besides works like Albert Camus’ The Stranger, we extract Karl Marx’s view of man from his Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844.

The students realize that, with some guidance and encouragement, they can read someone like Marx, abstruse at best, and understand his main anthropological points and track his historical influence. From then on, I use primary material when teaching the Faith, regardless of audience age and background.

Teaching Natural Family Planning (NFP)

In early 1975, my wife Kathi and I (with two kids in diapers, her suffering toxemia, little income, etc.) establish the first NFP center in San Francisco out of St. Mary’s Hospital & Medical Center. In a two-year period, we teach over 200 couples, the vast majority of whom are referrals from Planned Parenthood and the San Francisco Health Department. Many of them “want off the Pill” for medical reasons — thrombosis is a major complaint.

A few Catholic couples register. By and large, engaged and married Catholics are discovering the world of contraception and hearkening to the counsel “follow your conscience.”

50 Years Hence

During 2018, academics and pundits revisit Paul VI’s Humanae vitae (HV), re-arguing the efficacy of the pope’s encyclical on human life. The flurry of articles from protagonists and antagonists (in response to HV’s 50th birthday) are a mix of sociology, philosophy, and theology. The authors, pro and con, are erudite. For academics and serious readers, it’s an intellectual and dialectical buffet. A taste:


Janet E. Smith — professor, author, editor, and long-time doyen in explaining and proffering Humanae vitae — delivers a sequel to her Why Humanae Vitae Was Right: A Reader, entitled Why Humanae Vitae Is Still Right.3 Again, Prof. Smith gives the reader an excellent and relevant selection of articles that explore and elucidate the concepts, statements, and propositions in Paul VI’s watershed encyclical.

Among the notable contributions in Why HV Is Still Right (including four from Smith herself) is a reprint of Mary Eberstadt’s “The Prophetic Power of Humanae vitae: Documenting the Realities of the Sexual Revolution.”4 The article is a follow-up to her classic “The Vindication of Humanae vitae,”5 wherein she uses research and statistics from secular sources to show that Paul VI’s prophetic statements did indeed come true.

One of the more polished gems in Why HV Is Still Right is professor Deborah Savage’s “Rethinking Humanae vitae.” Savage reminds one of Edith Stein, who pondered and questioned beyond traditional, comfortable boundaries. Savage, as well as the other contributors, knows the importance of truth. Her last paragraph sings with a bit of zing:

To those who would “rethink” Humanae vitae . . . I offer this fervent plea. Please, Your Excellencies — do not abandon us. Women and men are counting on you to become who you are meant to be: teachers of the truth. And the truths expressed here are not merely the dreaded abstractions you seem to fear. They begin in the lived experience of women everywhere. They were just waiting to be expressed, finally, in the language of our time.6


Fr. Charles E. Curran, leader of the American theological dissent after HV’s promulgation in 1968, continues his argument that the faithful should be able to weigh in authoritatively on a doctrinal matter that directly affects them; in this case, contraceptive use. The vast majority of those in the pews have spoken, the sensus fidelium (sense of the faithful) is clear: Humanae vitae — the norm for marriage and the transmission of human life — is no longer relevant, if it ever was.7

Jamie Manson, books editor for the National Catholic Reporter (NCR), sees Humanae vitae through a lens darkly. Indeed, she contends that the encyclical has caused untold suffering and death:

Those who believe that the church’s ban on artificial contraceptives does not matter need to hear this wake-up call: Untold numbers of women and children have died, will die, and are dying right now as a direct consequence of Humanae Vitae.

According to a 2016 report by the United Nations Population Fund . . . each year globally there are 290,000 maternal deaths, 74 million unintended pregnancies, and 3 million newborn deaths.

Adding to this catastrophic suffering, a 2016 [Lancet] study . . . found that nearly one in four pregnancies ends in abortion worldwide, with 90 percent of abortions occurring in developing countries where people have limited access to family planning services and contraceptives.8

In “The end of the affair? ‘Humanae Vitae’ at 50,” professors Michael G. Lawler and Todd A. Salzman of Creighton University offer a multi-faceted case against HV. One of their arguments, similar to Manson’s, targets the fruit of Paul VI’s tree of human life:

There is a serious disconnect between the universal teaching prohibiting artificial contraception and particular cultural experiences. . . . The bishops of Canada note . . . in their statement preceding the 1994 U.N. Conference on Population and Development in Cairo: “We are convinced that unchecked growth in population is a function of poverty.” There is substantial evidence indicating a strong correlation, if not a cause, in developing countries between population growth and extreme poverty leading to disease and early death. There is also evidence that family planning policies that include the use of contraceptives have reduced this unchecked growth in many developing countries by more than half . . . and it is arguable that not using artificial birth control in these countries is irresponsible and is contra-life. More than 20,000 people die every day because of extreme poverty. Artificial contraception could enable for them the good of life . . . not attack [life] as some traditionalist theologians claim.9

Concerning HV’s relevance, Lawler and Salzman echo Curran: besides bad fruit, the HV tree is withered, soon to die, and destined for the woodpile. They point out that, in 1963, more than 50 percent of Catholics believed in the Church’s teaching on contraception. Thirty years later, that approval percentage had dropped to 13 percent.10

Both Creighton academics take heart from Pope Francis and quote the pope’s exhortation Amoris laetitia (AL):

We also find it hard to make room for the consciences of the faithful, who often respond as best they can to the Gospel amid their limitations, and are capable of carrying out their own discernment in complex situations. We have been called to form consciences, not to replace them. (AL, 37)

They then answer their initial question: Does 2018 mark “the end of the affair?”

In conclusion, the affair Humanae Vitae introduced into the Catholic marital, ethical tradition in 1968 that “each and every marital act must . . . retain its intrinsic relationship to the procreation of human life,” has ended in 2018 with the conscientious and clear judgment of the people of God, instructed and validated by Pope Francis. The theological and cultural warriors can sheath their swords.11

A proposed “ride-along”

Protagonists like Janet Smith make it a point to know both con and pro arguments very well. On the dissenting side of the aisle, no one mentions arguments from a Smith, Eberstadt, Anscombe, Joyce, or Quay.

For starters, Curran, Lawler, and Salzman would do well to ponder Smith’s recent article “The Sensus Fidelium and Humanae vitae,”12 a piece far more layered and illuminating than Curran’s aforementioned piece with the same thrust.

Smith’s notion of the sensus fidei gregis parvi (the “sense of the faith of the small flock”) is more than germane to the argument. What makes the witness of the “small flock” so powerful, she says, is that its members “live the faith and also have an experience of the reality under question: they thus are in a position to have a nearly instinctual sense of what is or is not compatible with the faith” (my emphasis).13

Among others, Smith has just described NFP teachers and many NFP users. HV dissenters should consider going on a “ride-along” with an NFP teacher and/or an NFP user, especially one who has come off the Pill. In other words, attend an NFP teaching session or two, and dialogue with some of the clients.

Why do NFP teachers and their clients take the road least traveled? They are far from being “fundamentalists,” so why not go along with the majority? The answers are not found in academic premises and conclusions. Rather, they come from a Catholic faith enriched by the experience of living out that faith.

Moreover, Manson should read Obianuju Ekeocha’s “Population Control.” Nigerian Ekeocha, trained in microbiology, works in England as a specialist biomedical scientist. She has a totally different take than Manson on contraception and NFP vis-à-vis the African people:

Family planning should entail much love, understanding, generosity of spirit, humility, patience, self-control, fidelity, communication, care, and cooperation. All of these enrich the marital bond and strengthen the family-oriented culture of Nigeria. However, the [2014] family-planning conference in Abuja [sponsored and led by the Gates Foundation] had little, if anything, to do with self-control or fidelity or patience or even marriage! On the contrary, it promoted a hedonistic, individualistic, selfish view of sex.14

The Rarified Air of the Academy

Academics and pundits are called to proffer their best reasons for the positions they take. In that calling, they’re meant to argue and debate the issues across the aisles, trusting that their students will soak up the major points of what’s at stake.

But their dialectic is usually at a rarified level. Little, if any, of their work will trickle down to those sitting in the pews, those listening to marriage-prep talks, those taking RCIA classes. So, how does HV (and other encyclicals and exhortations) get to levels where it counts without being watered down?

An omnipresent problem: The temptation to dilute

A familiar, educational refrain: “We’ll lose them if we teach, preach, catechize, or evangelize over their heads.” Them refers to Catholics who haven’t had any college-level philosophy or theology, or master-level catechetics.

The goal is to ensure that every person in a diocesan-approved program understands the content and exits at a similar level of knowledge, with a comparable amount of self-esteem. Content that is academically challenging can cause a number of participants to bow out. That, in turn, can affect feedback.

So, for ordinary Catholics, a course on John Paul II’s thought, using primary materials, promises perplexity at best. Reading and discussing encyclicals, like Humanae vitae or Veritatis splendor, may portend elitism. Comparing the exhortations Familiaris consortio and Amoris laetitia is time wasted (since AL is the newer model). Offering a 3-unit course on the Catechism (complete with supplementary materials) is overkill. Studying the cardinal and theological virtues, à la Josef Pieper, is time-consuming and possibly divisive (when one notes, for example, that “social justice” has little to do with the classical virtue justice). Fathoming The Sources of Christian Ethics by Fr. Servais Pinckaers has to be mind-bending, if not mind-numbing. And so forth.

A “thumbs down” on such offerings occurs when someone foresees that the audience may become listless, even soporific. (“We’re confident that we know what they need and how much they need in order to keep them engaged.”) My rejoinder: What about those in the audience who want to read and discuss the actual documents, irrespective of formal academic training? A minority, certainly, but where and to whom can they turn?

Those who want to know, can know

The courses I teach include all the works above and more. They’re for late teens, young adults, and adults, most of whom have never taken a college theology or philosophy course.

The most repeated course — “Created out of Love . . . for Love: An Introduction to John Paul II’s Thought” — is eighteen hours long. Save for Michael Waldstein’s exceptional introduction to Man and Woman He Created Them: A Theology of the Body, we read and discuss primary material, including selections from:

  • Edith Stein’s “The Separate Vocations of Man and Woman According to Nature and Grace,” Essays on Woman;
  • Karol Wojtyla’s Love and Responsibility;
  • John Paul II’s Redemptor hominis, Theology of the Body (TOB), and Familiaris consortio (FC);
  • Paul VI’s Humanae vitae; and
  • Dietrich von Hildebrand’s Marriage: The Mystery of Faithful Love.

The course has been given 30+ times in the Sacramento area and taken on the road to Santa Clara, Oakland, Fresno, San Francisco, and Toronto, Canada. The demand continues because there will always be Catholics who want to know the Faith as clearly and thoroughly as possible, with nothing dumbed down. They will be well-prepared present and future witnesses, catechists, and evangelizers as the Church moves through the twenty-first century.

Humanae vitae in context

“Created out of Love . . .” unfolds in the order above and turns to HV only after forming a philosophical, theological, and historical foundation for Paul VI’s encyclical. That foundation comes mainly from part one of the TOB (The Words of Christ), part two of FC (God’s Plan for Marriage & Family), and two roles in FC’s part three (Forming a Community of Persons; Serving Life).

So, when John Paul II touts Humanae vitae as the “Church’s teaching and norm regarding marriage and the transmission of human life” (FC 29), we leave FC and look at two events that provide a crucial backdrop for HV, namely, Lambeth Conferences 1920 and 1930.15

The Anglican bishops at those conferences describe marriage in eloquent terms — language ahead of its time.16 But, at the 1930 conference, the bishops also open the door to contraception, albeit reluctantly, changing the future of Christianity and, indeed, the world.

After reading certain paragraphs from both conferences and looking at the game-changing sentence in Proposition 15 (“Nevertheless, in those cases where there is such a clearly-felt moral obligation to limit or avoid parenthood . . .”), we note that Pius XI, with his encyclical Casti connubii, bombards that 51-word sentence with 19,210 words of his own.

Then we look at three theological arguments that counter the message of HV:

  1. The Church’s stance is “physicalistic” — it leaves us at the mercy of our biology;
  2. Good is proportional to its end — generating life is a good that is clearly secondary to the personal good of uniting in sexual intercourse;
  3. The “principle of totality” should be our moral guide — there’s a great difference between a contraceptive mentality and individual acts of contraception.17

Finally we come to HV and soon notice that Paul VI is very aware of the “principle of totality” (HV 3). After examining HV’s major points and arguments, we return to FC (art. 30ff).

In academic circles, Humanae vitae stands or falls by itself. In a pastoral venue, the encyclical needs to stand, but continues to fall. However, when bolstered, developed, and enveloped by the TOB and FC, HV takes on new life and relevance.

At the end of the eighteen hours, each participant is more excited about the Catholic faith and more confident in his or her ability to read and understand original texts. Further, each person develops a broader and deeper appreciation of the Church’s vision of marriage and family, and from whence that vision comes.

Course content too difficult?

A few years ago, I was teaching “Created out of Love . . . for Love” to a group of 45 men and women, including a sixteen-year-old girl attending with her grandparents. At the conclusion of the course, I asked her whether she had understood a fair amount of the content (she had dutifully read all the assignments). Her quick, adamantine response: “I understood all of it.”

Arguing for Humanae vitae

There are two basic ways to argue for Paul VI’s encyclical on human life: from its effects (fruit) and from its truth (roots). If the fruit is good, then arguably the tree is good. If one examines the roots of the tree and tests the quality of the sap flowing through them, then one can predict the health of the tree’s heartwood, sapwood, branches, and fruit.

Arguing from the fruit

Mary Eberstadt argues that the HV tree gives life by showing that the fruit of the contraceptive tree (as predicted by Paul VI) is toxic. “Perhaps the most mocked of Humanae Vitae’s predictions,” she says, “was its claim that separating sex from procreation would deform relations between the sexes and ‘open wide the way for marital infidelity and a general lowering of moral standards.’” And yet, she continues, that’s exactly what feminists — from Betty Friedan to Naomi Wolf — are referring to when they decry the “unreliability and disrespect of men.”18

The effectiveness of such an approach hinges on whether the effects are clearly related to the stated cause. Does contraception engender disrespect for women? Feminists, who were avidly for contraceptive use, says Eberstadt, are now lamenting that men are proving to be unreliable and disrespectful.19

The fruit-to-the-tree approach is open to counter-claims. A woman on the Pill, for example, may testify that she’s never experienced unreliability or disrespect from a man. And someone, such as Manson, will argue that the bad effects of HV — poverty and death — certainly trump whatever good effects there may be.

From-the-fruit arguments will not persuade those who deem reputedly good fruit to be, in their assessment, bad. On the other hand, those with Eberstadt’s vision will never be persuaded that any fruit from Paul VI’s encyclical is poisonous for Third World people or anyone else.

Arguing from the roots

As mentioned, philosopher Mary Joyce compares contracepting to lying. For her, the two acts have a similar “ontological” structure. She juxtaposes the communicative act underlying coital intercourse and verbal dialogue:

Both forms of human intercourse are voluntary or personally chosen actions. Both result in conception. Coital intercourse is fruitful in the conception of a child. Verbal intercourse is fruitful in the conception of ideas and the development of these ideas in the womb of the mind. . . .

Each form of communication is both communal and conceptional in nature . . . contraception is like communicating words of love to one’s spouse while preventing the sound waves of these words from reaching the other person. . . .

Lying is an internal separation of a communicative act from its power to express . . . judgments truthfully. . . . [S]peaking is a sharing with another person who has a right to know. . . . When separation is offered under the guise of union . . . the lie comes into existence.20

After comparing verbal and coital communication in every conceivable way, Joyce concludes:

lying is an act which prevents the conception of truth right within the very act of presenting something as true. In coital communication, contraception is an act which prevents the conception of life right within the very act of presenting that which conceives life.21

Joyce is exploring what happens when one lies and when one contracepts. For her, there’s an analogous connection. If so, then the act of contraception is a physical “lie” that threatens to disconnect the embodied-spirit communion between husband and wife. (Eleven years later, John Paul II will make a similar claim in his exhortation on the role of the Christian family [cf. FC 32.4].)

In 1972, G.E.M. (Elizabeth) Anscombe, Cambridge philosopher and mother of seven, writes an essay called “Contraception and Chastity.”22 Like Joyce, Anscombe argues from the intrinsic nature of conjugal love. She warns, presciently, that skewing the inherent unitive-procreative makeup of coital intercourse will spawn non-marital, sexual memes.

Sexual acts that are true marriage acts, says Anscombe, are, by nature, open to the possibility of new life. Contraceptive intercourse is not immoral because the intention is to avoid a pregnancy (and thereby limit family size) but rather because the contraceptive act alters the “kind of act by which life is transmitted.” In other words, by contracepting, the conjugal act “is purposely rendered infertile, and so changed to another sort of act altogether.”23 She continues:

If contraceptive intercourse is permissible, then what objection could there be . . . to mutual masturbation, or copulation in vase indebito [in an undue manner] . . . ? But if such things are all right, it becomes perfectly impossible to see anything wrong with homosexual intercourse, for example. . . .

. . . [So,] if contraceptive intercourse is all right then so are all forms of sexual activity.24

The most recognizable argument “from the roots” is in HV, where Paul VI talks about the two inseparable aspects of conjugal love — the unitive and the procreative. Those two aspects are the warp and woof of the conjugal fabric. Separating them, he predicts, will cause problems. John Paul II hammers that point home in his exhortation on the family:

When couples, by means of contraception, separate these two meanings that God the creator has inscribed in the being of man and woman and in the dynamism of their sexual communion, they act as “arbiters” of the divine plan and they “manipulate” and degrade human sexuality . . . by altering its value of “total” self-giving. (FC 32)

Those who’ve taught and observed in the marriage and family arena, especially as NFP providers, know that the unitive and procreative factors, when separated, take on different attributes, if not meanings. When the procreative aspect is neutralized, for example, the unitive (love-giving) factor can become “recreative.” Recreative sex is inherently narcissistic; it does not promote bonding — quite the opposite. If, on the other hand, the unitive aspect is neutralized, then the procreative (life-giving) factor can become “reproductive,” with little, if any, sensitivity for the health and well-being of the wife and mother.

The more effective flow

“From-the-roots” arguments go from a thing’s nature to what happens when one meddles with that nature. Someone with even a slight philosophical bent can see why certain effects come from certain actions.

Given an audience that can mull to some degree, arguments “from the roots” are more effective than arguments “from the fruit” — certainly in the long term — since they rest on principles that illuminate and confirm the same truth, day in and day out. Those principles form the tap roots of healthy trees that produce life-giving fruit.

The Best “Roots” Argument Never Used

Over the past 50 years, I’ve taught Humanae vitae to high schoolers, undergraduates, graduates, engaged couples, and adults from all backgrounds. After the first thirteen years of actively advocating for HV, during which I stretched my imagination for ever-new analogies and similes to elucidate the unitive and procreative aspects of conjugal love, I was bone-tired despite being buoyed by the invaluable arguments and insights of Mary Joyce; Elizabeth Anscombe; Francis Canavan, SJ; William E. May; Paul Quay, SJ; et alia.

Unknowingly, I was seeking a comprehensive theological and philosophical background that spoke to the importance of marriage in relational terms. And, at the same time, I wanted a respite from the hostility directed at HV, and at me for being the messenger.

Then “something good this way came.” In late fall, 1981, Pope John Paul II promulgated his exhortation on the family, Familiaris consortio (FC). It was part of the background I’d been searching for, albeit subconsciously. And it pointed to what I’d been ignoring, namely, the unfolding of a theology of the body vis-à-vis John Paul II’s Wednesday-audience talks — a “re-reading of Humanae vitae.”

If the TOB were placed in a crucible and fired up to 1,948º F, one of the 24-karat nuggets remaining would be FC’s article eleven:

God created man in His own image and likeness: calling him to existence through love, He called him at the same time for love.

God is love and in himself he lives a mystery of personal loving communion. Creating the human race in his own image . . . God inscribed in the humanity of man and woman the . . . capacity and responsibility, of love and communion. Love is therefore the fundamental and innate vocation of every human being.

As an incarnate spirit, that is, a soul which expresses itself in a body and a body informed by an immortal spirit, man is called to love in his unified totality. Love includes the human body, and the body is made a sharer in spiritual love. . . .

Consequently, sexuality, by means of which man and woman give themselves to one another through the acts which are proper and exclusive to spouses, is by no means something purely biological, but concerns the innermost being of the human person as such. It is realized in a truly human way only if it is an integral part of the love by which a man and a woman commit themselves totally to one another until death. The total physical self-giving would be a lie if it were not the sign and fruit of a total personal self-giving, in which the whole person, including the temporal dimension, is present: if the person were to withhold something or reserve the possibility of deciding otherwise in the future, by this very fact he or she would not be giving totally. (FC 11, my emphasis)

There it is — a total physical self-giving would be a lie if it were not the sign and fruit of a total personal self-giving — the best “roots” argument ever conceived. Why a “total personal self-giving”? Because marriage is the earthly paradigm (the example) of the Exemplar of love and gift, the Trinity.25 Reserving a part of oneself has no place in human love because reservations do not exist in divine Love. Human love is designed to procreate because Trinitarian love creates.

The “no reservation” argument

In the mid-1970s, Redbook editors conducted a nationwide survey on sex and sexuality. As mentioned, Kathi and I were teaching NFP to couples with little connection to religious faith, so the secular take on how the “sexual revolution” was progressing intrigued me. I bought the survey issue, then waited for the results.

One of the survey questions leaped out: “When you’re making love with your partner, who are you thinking about, your partner or someone else?” The answer after tabulation: 48% of responding males said that they were thinking about someone else. (The correlating percentage for females was 28–30 points lower, if memory serves.)

When I relay that information, women in the audience have heightened interest. They now more thoroughly understand and appreciate what John Paul II means by “reservation.”

HV — ideal or norm?

John Paul II’s argument for HV and against contraception cannot be more relational, more fundamental, more theological, more comprehensive. The first earthly “communion of persons,” says John Paul II, imaged God more than the man did by himself or the woman by herself.26

Verily, Catholics in the pews are able to comprehend that divine-human analogy. And when they do, they are on the way to understanding why Humanae vitae is the norm, not the ideal (beyond reach) of married love.

  1. Author and title are not recollected, but the content was reminiscent of Paul Quay’s article “Contraception and Conjugal Love,” Theological Studies 22 (1961); reprinted in Janet Smith’s Why Humanae Vitae Was Right: A Reader (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1993), 19–45.
  2. Mary Rosera Joyce, “An Authentic Comparison,” in The Meaning of Contraception (New York: Alba House, 1970), 25–28.
  3. Ignatius Press published Smith’s A Reader in 1993 and her sequel in 2018.
  4. First published in First Things, April 2018.
  5. See First Things, August 2008.
  6. Deborah Savage, “Rethinking Humanae vitae,” in Why Humanae Vitae Is Still Right (hereafter WHVISR; San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2018), 47–62.
  7. Charles E. Curran, “‘Humanae Vitae’ and the sensus fidelium,” National Catholic Reporter (hereafter NCR), June 25, 2018.
  8. Jamie Manson, “Humanae Vitae’s ban on contraception causes suffering,” NCR, July 16, 2018.
  9. Michael G. Lawler and Todd A. Salzman, “The end of the affair? ‘Humanae Vitae’ at 50,” NCR, May 21, 2018.
  10. Lawler and Salzman, “End of the Affair?”
  11. Lawler and Salzman, “End of the Affair?”
  12. Janet E. Smith, “The Sensus Fidelium and Humanae vitae,” WHVISR, 264–94.
  13. Smith, “Sensus Fidelium,” 293.
  14. Obianuju Ekeocha, “Population Control,” WHVISR, 74.
  15. Lambeth Conferences 1867–1930 (London: SPCK, 1948), 29–30, 50–51, 150–51, 164–66.
  16. For critical paragraphs from those conferences, see my “From Lambeth to the Land of Nod,” Catholic World Report, May 22, 2015, catholicworldreport.com/2015/05/22/from-lambeth-to-the-land-of-nod/.
  17. See William E. May, Sex, Marriage, and Chastity (Chicago: Franciscan Herald Press, 1981).
  18. Mary Eberstadt, “The Vindication of Humanae Vitae,” First Things, August 2008, part four.
  19. Eberstadt, “Vindication,” part four.
  20. Joyce, Meaning of Contraception, 25–28.
  21. Joyce, Meaning of Contraception, 28.
  22. Elizabeth Anscombe, “Contraception and Chastity” (London: Catholic Truth Society, reprint, 1975).
  23. Anscombe, “Contraception and Chastity,” 18–19.
  24. Anscombe, “Contraception and Chastity,” 18–19.
  25. See Michael Waldstein’s introduction to Man and Woman He Created Them: A Theology of the Body (Boston: Pauline Books & Media, 2006), 23–24, 27–34.
  26. TOB 9:3; Man and Woman He Created Them, 162–64.
John S. Hamlon About John S. Hamlon

John S. Hamlon, MA, teaches theology and philosophy classes in the Sacramento area and in neighboring dioceses. He has an MA in theology from the University of San Francisco and did doctoral work in systematic theology at the Graduate Theological Union, Berkeley. Prior to being the associate director of the St. Ignatius Institute (1994–2001), he was the program director for national and international conferences on NFP, marriage, and family at St. John’s University, Collegeville, MN. He’s the author of A Call to Families: A Commentary and Study Guide for Familiaris Consortio (revised 2016) and several articles on marriage.


  1. The article in Theological Studies whose contents and author have been forgotten may have been mine. Titled “Continued Dissent: Is It Responsible Loyalty? (TS March, 1971) it analyzed the decision-making principles of Fr. Charles Curran and found that they could not say “No” even to spouse swapping. To the best of my knowledge, no one ever accused me of creating a straw man.
    Of interest to some may be my article in Janet Smith’s 1978 “Why Humanae Vitae Was Right.” Titled “A Covenant Theology of Human Sexuality” the concepts were previously published in “Covenant, Christ and Contraception (Alba House 1970) and later as “Birth Control and the Marriage Covenant” where Scott and Kimberly Hahn found it persuaded them to accept Catholic teaching birth control while they were still Protestants and to launch them on their journey to full union with the Catholic Church.