Humanae Vitae and the Dissenters

The dissent position can’t say NO to any imaginable sexual activity between two consenting adults.

My impression is that the primary criticism of the dissent position and positive support of Humanae Vitae has come from the laity.  I’m thinking of people such as Germain Grisez, Mary and Robert Joyce, William E. May, Ralph McInerney, and Janet Smith over the years.  More recently we have seen good things from Mary Eberstadt and George Weigel and others.  Then there are all the leaders in the natural family planning movement.  Sheila and I have had our part in this effort, both theological and practical with publications and other efforts, starting before Humanae Vitae.  And, of course, all of laity who have been public in our support for HV have also been supported intellectually, spiritually and emotionally supported by believing Catholic priests.

Germany plays a special role in all of this.  It was in a German medical journal in February of 1930 that the article of Kyusaku Ogino was published concerning the fertile time and explaining his calculations of the infertile time—the beginnings of Calendar Rhythm.  When folks properly understood it, they could practice it with great effectiveness.  Our landlord in 1964 told us that he and his wife had practiced the Ogino-Knaus method with 100% effectiveness and only three children in the Thirties and Forties.  I have long wondered if the Anglicans were informed about it in 1930.  About six months after its publication, the offered only two options for couples who did not want more children: either complete abstinence or contraception.  Sad.

It was also in Germany that a Catholic priest in the early thirties put together the rhythm calculations with medical information about a post-ovulation temperature shift to give birth to the more effective Calendar-Temperature system.

In 1967, just after the conclusion of the initial birth control commission documents but before Humanae Vitae, the study of Dr. G. K. Doering was published in a German medical journal.  It showed a 99% percent level of effectiveness among those who followed the post-ovulation rules of his temperature-only system, and a 97% effectiveness among those couples who also engaged in the marriage act during the time of pre-ovulation infertility and some who had relations at the most fertile time.  We have that study at the NFPI website.  My question:  is it possible that the German bishops were completely ignorant about this ground-breaking 1967 study?  Did they then share that information with Pope Paul VI?  Or were they so moved by the already widespread contraceptive mentality of the mid-Sixties that they did not so inform the Pope?

John Kippley
NFPI President and Volunteer

 

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