Humanae Vitae: The Story Behind the Ban on Contraception
2018 Issue 1, By Conscience
Posted Apr 29, 2018
Fifty Years Ago, Pope Paul VI Slammed The Door On Catholics’ use of modern contraceptives with the encyclical Humanae Vitae and its fateful words: “The Church…in urging men to the observance of the precepts of the natural law, which it interprets by its constant doctrine, teaches that each and every marital act must of necessity retain its intrinsic relationship to the procreation of human life.” 1
Humanae Vitae marked a turning point for the Catholic church, as Pope Paul rejected the theologically sound findings of his own Papal Birth Control Commission in favor of a turn to rigid orthodoxy. Having missed the chance to craft a modern, compassionate sexual ethic based on the individual consciences of Catholics, the church found itself largely ignored on matters of sex by its own faithful, which left it grasping for other ways to enforce its teachings. It was also a historic moment for the rest of the world, as Humanae Vitae would come to dominate the hierarchy’s stance on public health challenges like the spread of HIV/ AIDS and access to birth control in the developing world.