Pope Paul VI made several predictions about the effects of contraception, among them the general lowering of morality and lessening of respect for women. CNS file photo

Pope had it right in ’68, conference on Humanae Vitae hears

  • June 5, 2018

OTTAWA – Humanae Vitae’s predictions of contraception’s effects proved far worse than Pope Paul VI’s prophetic vision, said speakers at an event marking the document’s 50th anniversary.

“Pope Paul VI got a lot of things right, but it’s gotten crazier than he thought,” said Professor Janet E. Smith, author of Humanae Vitae: A Generation Later and editor of Why Humanae Vitae was Right: a Reader.

The encyclical “more or less hit the world and the Church as a kind of explosive,” said Smith. “The Church has never been the same since 1968.”    

It ignited dissent within the Church because the Pope did not, as expected, endorse the birth control pill, Smith told the Catholic Organization for Life and Family’s (COLF) conference May 31-June 1 on The Joy of Marriage: Embracing God’s Vision: Humanae Vitae at 50.

The pill was expected to ensure sexual freedom, advance happiness, make for fewer unplanned pregnancies, fewer abortions and control overpopulation, a big fear at the time, said Smith. 

“Contraception has not done that,” Smith said. “It has done the opposite.”

“I don’t think the expectations were unrealistic. But if you want to control fertility, it has to be done morally.”

Pope Paul VI made several predictions about the effects of contraception, among them the general lowering of morality and lessening of respect for women. “Whoever thought we would have the scourge of pornography we have today,” Smith said.

“He predicted coercive control by governments over sexuality,” she said.  Since then, we have seen the one-child policy in China and forced sterilizations in others, where doctors sterilize women without their knowledge or consent because their government forces them to meet quotas.

“He predicted our bodies would become machines,” she said, noting the rise of reproductive technologies and infertility treatments.

“One of the biggest demands for reproductive technologies comes from same-sex couples,” she said, adding that no one even 25 years ago predicted same-sex marriage or the transgender phenomenon.

Pope Paul VI also had no idea about the higher incidence of breast cancer among women using hormonal contraception, she said. 

It’s bad for the health of women and it facilitates sex outside of marriage, she said. It also contributes to poverty and social breakdown. In Detroit, where she teaches at Sacred Heart Major Seminary, 80 per cent of babies are born outside of wedlock, she said. For the United States as a whole, the rate is 42 per cent. 

Children raised by single moms living on welfare — “on the edge, really impoverished” — is a “national disaster,” she said.

The pill also contributes to divorce, she said, noting rates doubled between 1960 and 1975.

Though people had sex before marriage prior to the pill, they had less, and they “knew having sex led to babies and babies needed married partners,” she said. “Now people have multiple sexual partners before marriage. They don’t make good choices and they don’t work on establishing a relationship before marriage.”

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