Humanae Vitae, 50 years later

It’s been 50 years since Blessed Pope Paul VI released the papal encyclical Humanae Vitae. In 2018, we reflect on the prophetic message of Paul VI and God’s plan for marriage and sexuality.

At the time of its publication, views on artificial contraception and married love were changing. “This all sort of exploded in the 60s at the time of the sexual revolution and these promises that this would be freeing for women and that they would be free to be able to live their lives as they wish and basically, the idea that they could be as irresponsible as men when it comes to the whole realm of sexuality because they wouldn’t have to bear the consequences as they would have had to before,” said the Most Rev. Salvatore Cordileone, Archbishop of San Francisco, in an interview on Morning Air®.

But 50 years later, did it work out as planned? “The message of the sexual revolution was that sex was basically for pleasure and to be engaged in as one wishes, as long as they are consenting adults … but somehow, it hasn’t worked out that way. We see this Me Too movement happening now and story after story of women who have suffered sexual harassment from men and unwanted sexual advances,” explained Archbishop Cordileone. Sky-high divorce rates, abortion on demand, fatherless children and broken families—these things have resulted from widespread acceptance and use of contraception.

This cultural shift was predicted in Humanae Vitae. “Somehow that affects a woman differently than it does a man … Blessed, soon-to-be Saint, Paul VI saw that the lessening of these sort-of sexual morals in genders as a disrespect for women and women would just be used as a means to an end,” said Archbishop Cordileone. “So what Humanae Vitae calls us to do is recognize the design that God put into the body—God’s beautiful plan for marriage and complementarity between man and woman—and recognize how the design works and organize our lives around it. And that leads to love that is life-giving, both in terms of new life and giving birth but also in terms of abundance of life and love in the family.”

The message of Humanae Vitae was counter-cultural and many brushed aside the message of Blessed Paul VI, but after 50 years, we can see how accurate his predictions were. As society rejected the teachings of the Church in regards to married love and contraception, the family—the cornerstone of society—has broken apart and many abuses have taken place. The solution begins with you. The witness of strong, faithful married couples who are open to life and living God’s plan for their marriage can have an enormous impact on those around you.

To read and reflect on the words of Blessed Paul VI in Humanae Vitae, visit the Vatican website. Blessed Paul VI will be canonized in October of this year.

Lindsey is a wife, mother, and contributing author at Relevant Radio. She holds a degree in Journalism and Advertising from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Lindsey enjoys writing, baking, and liturgical living with her young family.