“The problem we face is not that our society is obsessed with sex. Rather, it is afraid of it.”
These are the words of Father Frank Pavone, the National Director of Priests For Life. He made this observation in his reflection on the famous papal encyclical, Humanae Vitae (Of Human Life), written by Pope Paul VI in 1968.
For those unfamiliar, the Pope Paul VI made three predictions, or prophesies about what would occur, if the world accepted widespread use of contraception. His words proved true.
SETTING THE SCENE
As Father Pavone points out, the encyclical lays out the problems to be addressed early in the work. At the end of his short list, he identifies this as being the most critical issue:
“But the most remarkable development of all is to be seen in man’s stupendous progress in the domination and rational organization of the forces of nature to the point that he is endeavoring to extend this control over every aspect of his own life—over his body, over his mind and emotions, over his social life, and even over the laws that regulate the transmission of life” (#2).
The pope goes on to describe what married love is and what constitutes moral and immoral regulations of births.
He also makes clear that artificial means of preventing children from being conceived are always immoral and can never be condoned, even if done for what appear to be good reasons:
“Similarly excluded is any action which either before, at the moment of, or after sexual intercourse, is specifically intended to prevent procreation—whether as an end or as a means” (#14, emphasis added).
Pope Pius XI lays out three severe consequences to the widespread use of contraception that he saw ramping up in his day. They are contained in section 17 of the encyclical:
1. Marital Infidelity and a Lowering of Morality
“Let them first consider how easily this course of action could open wide the way for marital infidelity and a general lowering of moral standards.”
I cannot imagine it would take much convincing to prove our culture is guilty as charged. Divorce rates have skyrocketed since the 1950’s and early ‘60s. And think you would have to have lived under a rock not to have realized the cultural decline in the general morality of our society.
2. Disrespect for Women
“Another effect that gives cause for alarm is that a man who grows accustomed to the use of contraceptive methods may forget the reverence due to a woman, and, disregarding her physical and emotional equilibrium, reduce her to being a mere instrument for the satisfaction of his own desires, no longer considering her as his partner whom he should surround with care and affection.”
A woman possesses an incredible power: she can bear children. This ability is recognized a something special in every culture, as it is woven in the natural law of man to protect the transmission of life. The ability to bear children God even recognizes as efficacious and capable of saving a woman to Heaven.
Yet, contraception intends to render every sexual act as sterile. Therefore, contraception intends to remove the procreative power from women (and men), making sex merely a means for physical pleasure. In a nutshell, it renders women (as well as men) as sexual objects for the pleasure of the other.
As a result, as I have discussed previously, once sex and babies are separated in the conjugal act, society doesn’t have far to go before promiscuity, homosexuality, adultery, pornography, abortion, IVF, and even euthanasia are right around the corner. In short, it results in a loss of the recognition of the dignity of human life.
3. The Government Would Decide Who Gets to Have Children
“It could well happen, therefore, that when people, either individually or in family or social life, experience the inherent difficulties of the divine law and are determined to avoid them, they may give into the hands of public authorities the power to intervene in the most personal and intimate responsibility of husband and wife.”
I imagine we are all aware of the One-Child Policy in China. But for those who support contraception use, it becomes harder to object to the government of China’s forceful regulation of births. Once a culture admits that anything MUST BE regulated (such as births), then it follows government may be formed to exert that control.
In other words, once you take the management of who gets to be born away from God and place it in humans, as contraception intends, then some people will presume to know better than others how many children the latter are allowed to have.
Don’t think for a second this third prophesy has come true only in China. Other examples abound, but I will point out a couple recent ones in the US:
(1) This year a Virginia man agreed to get a vasectomy in exchange for a lighter jail sentence.
(2) In California, without their consent, 148 female inmates were sterilized between 2006 and 2010.
(3) An estimated 7,500 people in Virginia were sterilized without their knowing between 1924 and 1979.
I could go on and on, but this just proves the Holy Father correct in his 1968 prophecy. Contraception has been wielded by the state as a tool to regulate births. It is not a unique phenomenon occurring only after 1968, but it sure became easier to rationalize, once society accepted that births MUST BE regulated.
In case you were unaware, now you know how prophetic Pope Paul VI’s 1968 encyclical, Humanae Vitae turned out to be.
To rephrase Father Pavone’s thought, it is not that our society loves sex and cannot get enough of it. Rather, our culture has seen the awesome power sex has (to create new life), and seeks to protects itself from it out of fear.
If sex means babies, then we would have to admit where that power came from. It would mean yielding to God’s will. It would mean giving up control over one’s life.
Surrendering is what we must do as a culture, to restore moral order, to recognize female dignity, and to stop playing god.
So, I would like to hear your thoughts on Pope Paul VI’s predictions, especially if you were unaware of them before.
Where do you think our culture stands and how do we correct it?
Please sound off below!