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Pope Paul VI, Humanae Vitae, and the Synod

October 14, AD2015 26 Comments


family, modesty, veil, veiling, respect,

Our Holy Father, Pope Francis, has had the presence of mind to call two synods on the family to develop pastoral consensus on the urgent concerns surrounding the devastating state of the modern family. The broken or irregular home has gone from being the exception to the rule. The Catholic Church loves all sinners and takes in all sinners, but she can never change the nature of family or of marriage.

The family is the building block upon which all secular and Christian civilization is built; and the gold standard is the Holy Family. Marriage is a divine and natural institution perfectly portrayed by Christ the bridegroom and Holy Mother Church the bride. Though the world has been trying to change both, we find ourselves with a chasm between how the world sees family and marriage and what the Church knows about them, thus we have the Synods to attempt to bridge the gap.

The Synod’s Documentary Background

The Fourteenth General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops will take place from October 4 to October 25, 2015, in Vatican City. There are two documents to which we can refer for background. One is the Lineamenta (literally, “features” or “designs”), “The Vocation and Mission of the Family in the Church and Contemporary World”, which came out in December 2014 as the Extraordinary Synod of 2014’s final report (Relatio Synodi). The other is  the June 2015  Instrumentum Laboris (working document), “The Pastoral Challenges of the Family in the Context of Evangelization”; this is the Relatio accompanied by responses and questions concerning the remaining issues. It is “the Discernment of the Vocation of the Family” and “The Mission of the Family Today” that concern the Ordinary Synod, which has the “intention of offering to the Church and the contemporary world pastoral incentives to spur renewed efforts in evangelization.”

While it is a wonderful thing that the Church fathers are striving to develop pastoral solutions to the overwhelming problems we face as a global society concerning marriage and family, it may be helpful to seek out and understand the very roots of the problems that plague us. If we untangle modern ideology on both topics we will discover that the problem lies in the contraceptive mindset.

A Root Cause of the Family Crisis: Contraception

After his amazingly successful work of separating rights from duties by the spirit of rebellion and revolution, Satan’s most profound work in this dissolute age was to separate the marital act from its primary ends of procreation and unity. It is a diabolical inversion of reality that the tertiary end of the marital act, that of the pleasure that flows from the marital act, has been deemed by the modern world to be the “new” primary end. This makes God’s primary end of procreation an inhibition to seekers of the new false primary end, and therefore something to be eliminated by technique or technology. The modern world has taken to that vile task in a prolific fashion.

The fact that contraception is at the root of our family crises in the modern age has been much obscured by the modern ethos flowing from the sexual revolution. In 1968, when Pope Paul VI published his encyclical Humanae Vitae, the world was expecting a change in Church teaching, much like many are expecting changes in Church teaching from the Synod. The Church’s teaching on contraception is immutable, because the law against it is divine and natural. It is demonstrated from the beginning, through the episode of Onan (Genesis 38:8-10) through the Apostle’s first catechism (the Didache), and re-stated in every catechism put forth from the immutable laws expressed by Holy Mother Church.

Humanae Vitae came out in perfect harmony with the perennial teaching of the Church from its inception until the end of time, for as Jesus said “For truly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the law until all is accomplished” (Matthew 5:18). When Humanae Vitae did come out reinforcing the prohibition, Pope Paul VI went so far as to predict certain and grave outcomes that would damage society if we were to have widespread use of contraceptives. Paul VI made four alarming predictions about the use of contraceptives that have come to devastating fruition in the decades between the publication of his encyclical and now.

Pope Paul VI’s Warnings

  1. The Church has always taught that contraception is a serious evil and with serious evil comes grave consequences. Pope Paul VI’s first warning was that contraception use would “lead to conjugal infidelity and the general lowering of morality.” These two things go hand in hand; one not need look further than the dramatic increase in divorce, abortion, and disease since 1968 to see the vivid accuracy of Paul’s warning. Sexual morality in this age has reached an all-time low and the root cause is contraception.
  2. The Pope’s second warning is that man may lose “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.” And indeed, women have become increasingly treated as objects; because the pleasure derived from the marital act, disconnected from its primary ends by contraception, reduces it to the egocentric quest for self-gratification. Notice the exponential increase in the objectification of woman by the explosion in pornography, declining media standards, and popular cultural icons who sell the sexual objectification of women and men alike.
  3. The Pope predicted greater abuses of power by the extended use of contraception when “this power passing into the hands of those public authorities who care little for the precepts of the moral law” is wielded as it is by our federal government today. The highest powers in this land encourage the use of contraceptives and thereby immoral and disordered sex acts that further degrade our society. We are almost powerless to protect our children from contraception’s deadly ideology, ubiquitous use and destructive outcomes.
  4. The Pope’s final warning is that by the use of contraceptives, man would come to believe that he has unlimited dominion over his body and sexuality. The Pope asserts this point by saying that “just as man does not have unlimited dominion over his body in general, so also, and with more particular reason, he has no such dominion over his specifically sexual faculties.” The contraceptive mentality has led man to the false notion that he is his own creator and can be and do whatever he wants sexually, the transgender and in vitro movements illustrate this false notion as clearly as can be.

We Are Not Our Own Creators

We did not make ourselves; we are creatures created in the image and likeness of God. This fact calls us to recognize that we are bound to the rules of the Creator, who has revealed divine law to us by His Most Holy Word.

The Synod has been called to discover pastoral solutions which may help us evangelize those who have been taken in by the ideology of this age, who suffer from the traumatic effects of a progressively more contraceptive society. This is an important and noble endeavor. However, until we come to fully recognize and acknowledge the destructive nature of the contraceptive movement, we will continue to decline as a society, and the Body of Christ will also weaken as a result. As we reach out to those afflicted by the falsehoods of our day, let us always remember the perennial prohibition against contraception as we embrace God’s plan for life.

Photography: See our Photographers page.

About the Author:

Steven Jonathan Rummelsburg is a Catholic convert, husband, father, Catholic writer and speaker on matters of Faith, culture, and education. He teaches, theology, philosophy and Church history at Holy Spirit Prep in Atlanta. Steven is a member of the Teacher Advisory Board and writer of curriculum at the Sophia Institute for Teachers, a contributor to the Integrated Catholic Life, Crisis Magazine, The Civilized Reader, The Standard Bearers, The Imaginative Conservative and Catholic Exchange.

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