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Pope Paul VI, Humanae Vitae, and the Synod

October 14, AD2015


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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  • KarenJo12

    So, nobody ever cheated before 1968? Men respected women before then? What evidence do you have to support those assertions?

    All of the things Paul VI warned about in Humanae Vitae existed before contraception, and in greater and more pernicious ways. For example, very few women went to college before 1970, and fewer owned or managed businesses. Wife-beating was blinked at where it wasn’t actually considered acceptable. Women are better educated, healthier, wealthier, and live longer in 2015 than we did in 1968. The ability to control our fertility caused most of those improvements.

    • Steven Jonathan

      KarenJo, some things are self-evident, what you say is little more then feminist propaganda. Christ would ask you “what good is it go gain the whole world if you lose your immortal soul?” How absurd is your claim that Pope Paul VI’s warnings were about things worse in earlier times? Do you really believe that?

    • KarenJo12

      So, what is self-evident about those assertions?

    • guest

      Who is talking about gaining the world? Who is talking about feminist propaganda? Control of fertility is about women being more fully human, more fully alive, more complete human beings. Women should be valued for all they can be, not only producers of babies, even as important as that is.

    • DeaconEdPeitler


    • linred

      Right On, KarenJo12 !!! Thank you for all those good words which need to be spoken more often on these blogs. It is very self-serving for any man to say women should not control their fertility. That would keep us out of public endeavors, no doubt. The ability to control fertility gives women the opportunity for a fuller life, to develop all their God given gifts and talents—–something God wants for women!

    • AugustaMia

      Truth in combox: my background is cradle Catholic, professional woman (financial management and marketing with global CPA firm), wife, mother, grandmother. As a modern woman I jumped on the contraceptive bandwagon. Did it work? Very well, no kids during the many yrs I was on the Pill. By modern standards I controlled my fertility, had an opportunity for a fuller life (materially we were very well off), and I certainly employed my God-given gifts and talents in the corporate world.

      But there was a price to pay: physical side effects. I suffered blood clots, TIAs, severe migraines, and have life-long stroke risk. By the time Pill was identified as culprit, it was too late to reverse its physical consequences.

      Psychological side effects: I carried huge resentment against spouse–my fertility had to be controlled, not his; I suffered side effects, not him. The kids I did have, though “wanted,” I saw as competitors for the time and efforts needed to reach my goal of fulfillment.

      My story is not unique. There are countless numbers of Catholic women who went down that same path. What we discovered at the end of the road is that we had devalued our self, our soul and our fertility. And–another side effect that is irreversible–we had unknowingly destroyed the children in our womb because the Pill is an abortifacient.

      By God’s grace and infinite mercy, my spouse and I found our way back to the incredible joy of listening to Mother Church who speaks for God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. I know what my life was like when I chose to do my will. And I know what it means in my life and marriage to submit to God’s will. God’s will is infintely better.

    • james

      So a question remains. Had you practiced natural family planning would your “wanted”
      children still be a product of (your the one mixed who mixed apples and oranges) the
      psychological kink that made you resentful of their needs ?

    • Steven Jonathan

      James, AugustaMia’s witness is honest and good and your query is prurient. The real question for you is how are you going to sort out your disagreements with Holy Mother Church? AugustaMia sorted our hers and her beautiful post is a road map for you, not an invitation to break open her psychology by a question I hope she will not dignify with a response. As long as you are guided by self-reference you will search in vain.

    • james

      Rhetorical questions need to be pondered not answered.
      It is interesting that you think I’m searching. You couldn’t be farther from truth.

    • Steven Jonathan

      And you know what Augustamia ought to ponder after the clarity and grace of her post? That is quite an arrogation.

      I thought you were Catholic? Are you trolling? If so, you are a kind for a troll.

    • james

      You’re breaking up Steven; must be a solar flare or something. Good luck.

    • guest

      I am very sorry you paid the prices you did. However, I paid no such prices for how I lived my childbearing years, nor did many women I know. This is a very individual thing. I have absolutely no regrets, am so grateful for my life as it was and is. I am so sorry you cannot say the same.

    • Steven Jonathan

      Guest, what a dreadfully sad commentary- you appear to be completely unaware of the price you have paid.
      Augustamia had an encounter with truth, she is authentically grateful, not for what she got away with, but for God’s infinite mercy- I am so sorry you cannot say the same.

  • james

    ” … reduce her to being a mere instrument for the satisfaction of his own desires.”

    Like she doesn’t have any desires of her own.

    • Steven Jonathan

      Quite right James, but for brevity’s sake I hope you got the point. Lust is a two way street and using people doesn’t belong exclusively to men, but considering the sins of Adam and the difference between men and women and the difference between the masculine and feminine virtues I thought the reduction here would serve to make the good point that using others sexually is always immoral.

    • james

      ” …that using others sexually is always immoral.

      And it always will be. However, you can’t toss around …innuendos that lust
      and usage are part of every intimate relationship.

    • Steven Jonathan

      These things are not present where there is chastity, but when people are not chaste, what is there? Lust and using. I will not defend the sexual revolution or any of its rotten fruit.

    • james

      but when people are not chaste, what is there?

      Consenting adults who just might love each other. And the ultimate irony
      and paradox are those who get married, then divorce as opposed to those who have premarital relations, then marry, and don’t get divorced.

    • Steven Jonathan

      James, I am talking about the teaching of the Holy Roman Catholic Church, it is not negotiable, sexual acts outside of marriage are sinful. I have the most solid grounds to claim it is not loving in the Catholic sense, you have no grounds to say otherwise, it is according to the Christian anthropology.

    • james

      Steven, please don’t preach “teaching”, the disciplines alone Catholicism
      defaulted on make it a sham – and you sidestepped my analogy altogether.

    • Steven Jonathan

      James, this article is about Church teaching, it is on a site called Catholic Stand- The Church doesn’t default on teaching and the only thing “sham” like in the Catholic Church are those of us who sin out of weakness and disobedience. If you judge the Church by those of us who fail to live up to its teaching, then of course you will conclude it a sham, but you are not judging Holy Mother Church, but only those of us who are unable to live up to perfect standards.

      Love, the way Holy Mother Church elucidates it, is not characteristic of the relationship you describe in your analogy. We don’t and cannot advocate “test driving” people even if you think by some scientific measure that leads to a lasting marriage- the analogy is steeped in licentiousness, not love, and not Catholic morality. Don’t try to tell me that immoral actions are ok, they are not according to the Church and I am a son of the Church. The analogy is silly unless you are trying to express your own opinion which is fine, but not in line with the Christian Anthropology or Church Teaching- it is not permissible to use people, and if one uses another, love is not present.

    • james

      ” Don’t try to tell me that immoral actions are ok,”,

      In ending, I can only conclude that under the right conditions they succeed, and that should not be the case for an intrinsic evil. But that is up to you to explain – I’m done, have a great day.


    • DeaconEdPeitler

      Let’s all offer a thanks that you’re “done.”

    • DeaconEdPeitler

      You are being faithful to the truth in what you say. Truth us not an idea; it is a person -Jesus Christ. Keep on telling it like it is

    • DeaconEdPeitler

      Sex outside of marriage between one man and one woman is selfish and contrary to love.