By Archbishop José H. Gomez
This week we are remembering the 50th anniversary of “Humanae Vitae” (“Of Human Life”), Blessed Pope Paul VI’s encyclical letter on human life and love.
Looking back, we can understand better how the world of 1968 was not ready for this document.
It was a time of new ideas about human freedom and love and new attitudes toward traditions and authority.
Catholics were trying to sort out the teachings of the historic Second Vatican Council (1962–1965) and what those teachings mean for how to live as Christians in the modern world.
Much has been written about “Humanae Vitae” and how it was received in the Church and in the wider society. We know now how much Blessed Pope Paul suffered because his message was misunderstood and misinterpreted.
The world of 1968 did not know how much it needed “Humanae Vitae.” Our world today needs it even more.
Of course, we can read “Humanae Vitae” as a prophecy.
Much of what Pope Paul warned of has come to pass — from rampant divorce, infidelity and pornography, to “test-tube” babies, widespread abortion, “demographic winter,” and the total confusion about gender, sexuality and the human person that we see in our society today.
But we should also read “Humanae Vitae” as a promise.
This is a letter about happiness and love. Blessed Pope Paul writes of “God’s loving design” — the path he sets before us that will lead us to find happiness. Married love is a part of that plan.
Blessed Pope Paul is a realist. He understands the Church’s teachings on marriage and sexuality are not easy, that following Jesus requires discipline and self-sacrifice. But he wants us to know that God travels with us on this journey. And he sets before us a destination for our lives that is both beautiful and true.
We are made by Love and we are made for love — to love and to be loved. And the blessed fruit of love in marriage is the miracle of new life, in which man and woman realize what it means to be made in the image of God who is the Author of Life.
Please see a message from Bishop Edward J. Burns on the Celebration of the 50th anniversary of “Humanae Vitae”.