Why Humanae Vitae Got It Right

July-August 2018By John F. Kippley

John F. Kippley is President of Natural Family Planning International (NFPI) and the author or co-author of several books, including Sex and the Marriage Covenant: A Basis for Morality (Ignatius, 2005). He has been active in the NFP movement since 1971 and is available as a speaker regarding the truth and wisdom of Humanae Vitae. He can be contacted through www.NFPandMore.org, where NFPI’s Home Study Course can be ordered.

One of the most noteworthy passages in Humanae Vitae is section 17, in which Bl. Pope Paul VI predicted four negative consequences that would result from the widespread acceptance of contraception: (1) an easy road to infidelity, (2) a general lowering of morality, (3) loss of respect for women, and (4) the danger of putting birth control into the hands of the government. There is no question that the Pope was right about the harmful effects to society at large. But something greater is at work: These sociological disasters show that God loves us — that is, in His love for us, He commands us to avoid what is harmful to ourselves and others.

However, “fear of pregnancy” no longer works as well as it once did as a deterrent to fornication and adultery. To many, this potential negative consequence is simply a challenge — not a challenge to live the moral life but to avoid a pregnancy or abort an unexpected baby. Thus, we need beyond-the-pragmatic reasons to adhere to the moral teachings of the Church. It has been said that such reasons given in Humanae Vitae are abstract and difficult to understand. I beg to differ. The starting point is marriage.

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