In a speech marking the 40th anniversary of Pope Paul VI's 1968 encyclical Humanae vitae ("On Human Life"), Pope Benedict XVI re-affirmed Pope Paul VI’s message laid out in that document.
While acknowledging that "The teaching laid out in the 'Humanae vitae' encyclical isn't easy," Benedict XVI went on to say;
"What was true yesterday remains true even today. 'The truth expressed in 'Humane vitae' doesn't change; on the contrary, in the light of new scientific discoveries it is ever more up to date.
"Forty years after its publication, that teaching not only shows itself to be unchanged in its truth, but it reveals the farsightedness with which the problem was tackled."
What does Humanae vitae teach?
1. Artificial birth control is banned. This means that young couples must give up all reliable methods of controlling the size of their families and thus the course of their lives. (The highly unreliable “rhythm method” is allowed, however.) I think of the constant fear of an unwanted pregnancy that was the norm for young people prior to “the pill.” The liberation from that fear and uncertainty engendered by birth control allowed young people to plan their futures with much more confidence. Think of what an end to artificial birth control would now do to young children starved for stimulative activities or teen-agers whose college plans would go up in smoke because of the financial burden forced on their parents’ by unplanned pregnancies.
2. Abortion is banned, even if the health and life of the mother is in danger. With very few exceptions, even today’s most ardent opponents of abortion make exception in this case (as well as in the cases of rape or incest). Yet, as Ayn Rand said at an address at The Ford Hall Forum in Boston in 1968, “After extolling the virtue of motherhood, as a woman’s highest duty, as her ‘eternal vocation,’ the encyclical attaches a special risk of death to the performance of that duty- an unnecessary death, in the presence of doctors forbidden to save her, as if a woman were only a screaming huddle of infected flesh who must not be permitted to imagine that she has the right to live” (From The Voice of Reason, page 58. Rand was referring to the Encyclical’s commandment that “the direct interruption of the generative process already begun and, above all, all direct abortion, even for therapeutic reasons, are to be absolutely excluded…” [emphasis added] ). And think of the victims of incest or rape who, having been violated in a most inhuman fashion, must then be denied the choice of terminating that pregnancy...their future thus being allowed to have been snatched away by a brutal act of violence.
3. Artificial conception is banned. Humanae vitae was written before such advances as invitro-fertilization became reality, but Benedict XVI has declared that the intent of Paul VI is clear…human intervention in the procreation process is forbidden even in this area. “[I]n the light of new scientific discoveries it [the encyclical] is ever more up to date," he said, referring to what he called “mechanical means”…i.e., invitro. I think of my granddaughter Kayla, a product of invitro fertilization, who would never have had a chance at life. I think of my daughter Susan and son-in-law Jerome… their dreams of having children crushed. I think of all of the other Kaylas, and of the children born to now-adult products of artificial (i.e., scientific) methods of procreation. I think of all of the humanity that would not be, courtesy of the "significant gesture of courage" of Paul VI. Invitro, you see, “offend[s] the dignity of life.”
What makes Pope Benedict’s comments significant is that these doctrines are not merely confined to the religious sphere, as the Church advocates their political (i.e., coercive) implementation on everyone, not just Catholics. States the Encyclical, “We wish to speak to rulers of nations. To you most of all is committed the responsibility of safeguarding the common good. You can contribute so much to the preservation of morals. We beg of you, never allow the morals of your peoples to be undermined. The family is the primary unit in the state; do not tolerate any legislation which would introduce into the family those practices which are opposed to the natural law of God.” (emphasis added)
The Catholic Church's position is brutally clear. It would force unwanted and unplanned children on some, deny children to others desperately wanting them, and sentence expectant mothers to unnecessary suffering and death. Why? No rational reason is given, just the usual cop-out that this is “God’s will.” The common denominator under attack by these three commandments is…the application of human intelligence to the problems of human procreation…the application of which the encyclical explicitly forbids. One must ask Benedict XVI; is not human intelligence part of man…the same man created by God? If so, then is it not “God’s will” for him to use it? Apparently not, in the Church’s view, which has previously opposed the advance of medical progress on many fronts, including the dissection of human corpses and the use of anesthesia.
On these and a whole host of issues, the Catholic Church is deeply split between the Vatican and the rank and file. My late uncle, for example, was threatened with ex-communication from the Church if he married my aunt, a divorcee. He married her anyway, and was indeed ex-communicated. This, despite his being a devout Catholic! The brutal doctrines of the Catholic Church are such that very few of its practitioners actually live by them…at least by my observation. Who can live by them?
Yet, the Pope speaks of defending “not only the true concept of life but above all, the dignity of the very person”!
The Catholic Church claims to be “pro-life.”
In fact, it clings to doctrines that are relics of the Dark Ages.