Wednesday 1 October 2008

Let's hope Canadian bishops' strong endorsement of Humanae Vitae marks turning of tide

A few weeks after the promulgation of Humanae Vitae, Pope Paul VI's 1968 encyclical on birth regulation, the Canadian Catholic bishops expressed their dissent from it. The same body has now contradicted the position of the so-called Winnipeg statement with a pastoral letter which calls the encyclical prophetic and laments the modern contraceptive mentality which it warned about. The Rosarium group wants the Winnipeg statement formally retracted but concedes that Liberating Potential, the recent letter, effectively does so.

The pastoral letter urges Catholics to study the encyclical and expresses concern at the state of marriage and family. Humanae Vitae is: "a major reflection on God's design for human love," the bishops say. They also praise Pope John Paul II's theology of the body. They write: "it is urgent to remember the importance of the connection that exists between conjugal love, sexuality and fruitfulness." Humanae Vitae and the theology of the body are challenges to the world, the bishops say. The married vocation is "great and difficult", and the Canadian bishops offer couples their support.

Pope John Paul II warned of the close connection between contraception and abortion. In part 13 of his 1995 Evangelium Vitae, he laments the liberal supply of abortifacient birth control through the same channels as contraceptives. In February, I blogged about how pupils in a Catholic school as young as 13 were given information on how to get abortions and abortifacient birth control.

It is sad when a doom-laden prophecy is proved to be true. "I told you so," sounds as if the person rejoices when things go wrong for others – what German-speakers call Schadenfreude. However, Humanae Vitae is being proved right before our very eyes, and we take no pleasure in observing this. Sexuality is cheapened, families collapse, innocent human life is deliberately destroyed, and "measures regarded as lawful by married people in the solution of a particular family difficulty" are imposed on entire countries (even with the co-operation of Catholic authorities [in England]) as Humanae Vitae, 17, predicted.

While the Canadian bishops' de facto retraction of their misguided 1968 statement is long overdue, let us hope it is a turning of the tide. Once the Catholic church again speaks with one voice on the prophetic truth of Humanae Vitae there will be a sound foundation laid, both within the Catholic community and amongst those who agree with its teaching on this matter, for building a culture of life.