Humanae Vitae: The Conversion Value of Natural Family Planning

Ever since the publication of Humanae Vitae on July 25, 1968, a great fear has cast a sickly hue over the pastoral work of the Church.  This malady is simple to diagnose but difficult to cure.  It can be stated this way:  “We fear that if we teach that it is immoral to use unnatural forms of birth control, our parishioners will vote with their feet, the pews will be emptied, and how will we pay the bills?”

There are two primary reasons why that fear can be realistic.  First of all, in recent years the educational ministries within the Church have generally failed to build faith in the Church as the Body of Christ.  All too many Catholics have a liberal Protestant view of the Church as just a religious organization in which I feel comfortable.  If it starts to preach something I find uncomfortable, I simply shop around for another church.  And no matter what my church says officially, I can interpret my Bible to mean whatever I think it means.

Catholic belief in the Church is simultaneously more demanding and more liberating.  It is more demanding because it requires the believer to believe all that the Church teaches because it has been revealed by God Who can neither deceive nor be deceived.  It is more liberating because it frees the conscientious person from endlessly trying to figure out his own interpretation of the Bible or which of contradicting interpretations he thinks is correct.

And why should a person believe that the Catholic Church teaches with the authority of God—especially today?  He needs to understand what Jesus Himself did to ensure that his teachings—including the divine truth about human love—would endure till He returns.  So the question is really this.  Why should a person believe that Christ Himself continues to teach in and through the Catholic Church that He established?  The answer starts in the Bible including some very important teachings at the Last Supper. (Jn 14:15-26; 15:26-27; 16:12-15)  And the rest is history, as they say.

Truth attracts people of good will.  The fear that teaching the fullness of the truth will lose parishioners is realistic only when the local church fails to teach the saving truth that it is Christ Himself who teaches in and through the Catholic Church, regardless of the sins of those who do not follow that teaching.  The answer is simple: correct preaching and catechesis.

Next week’s blog: the second reason for fearing the teaching of Humanae Vitae.
John F. Kippley
Sex and the Marriage Covenant

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