Friday, 11 May 2007

In the wake of Humae Vitae As we come closer and closer to the end of this year's Theology of the Body course, we were led by Fr. Anthony Doe tonight to look at its immediate context: Humae Vitae. Written by Pope Paul VI in 1968 as a definitive statement regarding the Church's teaching against contraception, it came as a shock to many inside and outside the Church who had thought of Pope Paul as a liberal-minded pontiff. Fr. Anthony said he could remember a culture of dissent at the time, in which laypeople stopped practicing, and priests and religious left the Church. Bishops and catechists fell silent on the topic and refused to get tangled up in it. At the end of the day, Fr. Anthony said, all our present conflicts in the Church revolve around this short encyclical. Yet the work is prophetic because 'it spoke the truth out of season.' It foresaw the increase in marriage breakdowns and the sexualization of the young. It perceived that behind the contraceptive mentality was a desire to control: '[man is] endeavouring to extend his control over every aspect of his own life.' Fr. Anthony pointed out two consequences of contraception that we might not immediately consider:
  • The loss of a sense of fatherhood. Instead of the instinctive masculine drive being united to an awareness of responsibility, men are encouraged to remain highly sexualized adolescents. Their actions have no consequences. For this reason Fr. Anthony suggested that men are the biggest victims of the contraceptive mentality.
  • The failure to comprehend the mystery of the Eucharist, the mystery of Christ's death and Resurrection. People are no longer open to or dependent on God, and they can't relate to a nuptial meaning of the Passion in which Christ gives himself to us totally, as man and woman give one another totally in a non-contracepting relationship.
Working also as a psychotherapist, Fr. Anthony said that the deepest yearning of the human heart (which he has seen manifest time and time again) is to be chosen in love. For this reason Christ's words to his disciples in the Last Supper are fundamental to Christianity: 'You have not chosen me, I have chosen you.' Contraception removes the vulnerability and openness in which we can receive God's love and allow him to choose us. It was a wonderful and thought-provoking talk, well-attended too, and we are grateful that Fr. Anthony could come. The last Theology of the Body talk is on May 25th, given by Edmund Adamus also on Humanae Vitae. Please come along if you can!

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