By FR. ROLANDO V. DELA ROSA, O.P.
Next month, the Church will declare Pope Paul VI as a saint. Fifty years ago, he issued the encyclical Humanae Vitae wherein he prophesied the inevitable lethal effects of contraception on marriage, family, the individual, and society. But it was a Cassandra prophecy: fated to be right, but never heeded.
Pope Paul VI warned about the prevalence of divorce and family breakdown, unmitigated premarital and extramarital sex, the lowering of moral standards among the youth, and the phenomenal increase in the number of children born out of wedlock. He foresaw that contraception would become a dangerous weapon in the hands of those government authorities who,without regard for the moral law,would legalize abortion. He rightly predicted that once we disregard the life of the unborn, we would eventually lose respect for the sick, the aged, and the disabled, giving rise to various forms of mercy killing.
These prophecies have come true. Nearly all couples in contraceptive-minded countries believe that their marriage is viable only as long as they have no children. Divorce has become the new normal in marital relationship. Abortion is so rampant that the disposal of aborted fetal tissues has become a problem. Also, many men and women now treat sex as a piston-like activity solely for pleasure. This has caused the alarming increase in the number of teenage pregnancy and unwed mothers (by choice).
The proliferation of birth control pills and gadgets made consequence-less sex a fad among the youth because it does not entail any responsibility or commitment. In many countries, old people, the sick, and disabled are consigned to institutions where they are rendered invisible.
Sex without procreation gave way to its corollary: procreation without sex. Sexless procreation is in vogue now: test-tube babies, artificial placentas, surrogate mothers, artificial insemination, etc. An additional push for these unnatural means of procreation is provided by various forms of “marital unions.”
Drumbeaters for contraception have recently found another potent way of advertising it: scaring people with the dangers of AIDS and the doomsday scenarios of overpopulation and climate change, and linking contraception with women’s reproductive health.
Before Humanae Vitae was published, people speculated that it would contain a modernized, streamlined, less demanding doctrine on birth regulation. Many hoped that perhaps the Church had reconsidered its traditional stand, and would come up with a more lenient position.To their dismay, the Church defied all predictions and reaffirmed instead her traditional teaching on marriage, sex, and the value of human life.
Undoubtedly, Humanae Vitae destroyed the peace that many couples cherished — a peace based on the belief that whatever is legal is also moral, or that the easiest and most convenient solution to a problem is the best solution.
Through the years, the Church has refused to reduce Christ’s teaching into a soft, convenient, and comfortable gospel. Yes, the Church continuously adapts her life to the exigencies of modern times, but she never does thisby way of compromise. To his credit, Pope Paul VI had courageously proven that the Church does not conform to the majority opinion but to the Word of God, and the Pope must proclaim the truth even when it contradicts the current of the times.