Building the culture of life

Column: Encyclical’s anniversary offers teaching opportunity

by Ron Kelsey

This year marks the 40th anniversary of “Humane Vitae” (“Of Human Life”), the papal encyclical of Pope Paul VI that primarily ad- dresses the transmission of human life and contraceptives.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has decided to highlight this encyclical in 2008 to help educate Catholics on the issues it covers. Archbishop Naumann emphasized the need for this education in his column in early 2007, “Forty years later, ‘Humanae Vitae’ proves prophetic.”

Many Catholics do not understand the church’s teaching regarding contraception, in part because they have not been exposed to a convincing presentation on its rationale. Such teaching needs to be done with the love and gentleness of Christ, particularly in light of the sensitivity and controversy that may be involved, and such teaching must also be factual and truthful.

Pope Paul VI opens his encyclical recognizing the joys and difficulties involved in the transmission of life: “The most serious duty of transmitting human life, for which married persons are the free and responsible collaborators of God the Creator, has always been a source of great joys to them, even if sometimes accompanied by not a few difficulties and by distress.” Being completely open to life in the marital act means that couples are completely open to God’s will, while the use of contraception attempts to put man in control and effect man’s will.

However, natural family planning (NFP) provides a way to regulate birth in accordance with God’s will and is therefore morally acceptable.

“Humanae Vitae” presents contraception as another very important issue to understand. Although contraception poses many serious problems, for this article let’s consider only one.

Many Catholics do not understand that some so-called contraceptives can actually kill the newly conceived child. For example, one way “the pill” may function is to render the womb inhospitable so that the child, who is only a few days old, is unable to implant. The child is thereby effectively discarded, resulting in its death. The intrauterine device (IUD) works primarily to prevent implantation of the child in the womb, resulting in the child’s death.

Tragically, marketers of these so-called contraceptives do not make these dire consequences well known.

There will be many opportunities in 2008 to enhance our knowledge of “Humane Vitae” and the issues it addresses. On April 12, both Kansas City dioceses will be sponsoring a pro-life conference at St. Thomas Aquinas High School in Overland Park, and some of these topics will be addressed. Please mark you calendars and watch for more details.

Also, you may wish to subscribe to the archdiocesan monthly pro-life e-newsletter, which will also cover these topics in 2008. To subscribe, go to the pro-life office Web site at: www.


About the author

Ron Kelsey

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