Beginning Sunday, July 22, we celebrate Natural Family Planning Awareness Week, a national educational campaign of the US Bishops to celebrate God’s design for married love, the gift of life and to raise awareness of Natural Family Planning (NFP) methods. This year’s theme is “Generations of Love: Humanae vitae (1968-2018).” This year marks the 50th anniversary of Blessed Pope Paul VI’s encyclical, Humanae vitae, “On Human Life,” in which he articulates the Church’s teaching about human sexuality, conjugal love and responsible parenthood.
Many rejected this document in 1968 and many continue to do so today. The encyclical reaffirms 2,000 years of Church teaching about human life. Fifty years after its publication, its signature predictions by Pope Paul VI have come true. In article 17 of the encyclical, Blessed Paul VI noted the “consequences of methods and plans for artificial birth control” if it became widespread.
The Holy Father wrote that it “could open wide the way for marital infidelity and a general lowering of moral standards.” He also observed that “a man who grows accustomed to the use of contraceptive methods may forget the reverence due to a woman, and, disregarding her physical and emotional equilibrium, reduce her to being a mere instrument for the satisfaction of his own desires, no longer considering her as his partner whom he should surround with care and affection.”
Blessed Paul VI also expressed concern about the danger of this power in the hands of public authority, who would favor those contraceptive methods they consider more effective, or “…impose their use on everyone,” or “…intervene in the most personal and intimate responsibility of husband and wife.”
These predictions have come about in ways that could not have been known in 1968. Additional consequences have also become apparent through ongoing studies. The encyclical is prophetic resisting the false claims of the sexual revolution, which did not bring freedom but tragedy. The encyclical offers hope to believers who trust in God’s ways and God’s plans. It is Saint John Paul II’s Theology of the Body, which gives further explanation and deeper understanding to this plan of God for human love.
I encourage you to read this short encyclical yourself and to pick up any of the extensive resources available on the Theology of the Body, which offers so much more detail and understanding on this great mystery of our being made in the image and likeness of God.
Let me end with this witness from a married couple concerning Natural Family Planning. “Many will tell you that the responsibility of being permanently faithful to one person is too great and that being open to life is too much of a burden. They say contraception brings with it freedom and life; however, we have found that it is in openness to God, to each other, and to new life that true freedom is obtained. This is what living Natural Family Planning can help couples to experience.” (Michael and Alysha Chambers, “NFP, The Theology of the Body, and Our Marriage,” available at: www.usccb.org/nfp/what-is-nfp/couples-stories/upload/Chambers-NFP-TOB-and-our-Marriage.pdf)
God bless you, God love you,