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The Impact of Humanae Vitae

The Impact of Humanae Vitae

John Mahoney,

First published in The Making of Moral Theology, A Study of the Roman Catholic Tradition
The Martin D’Arcy Memorial Lectures 1981-2
published by the Clarendon Press. Oxford (1989)

In the course of this study of the making of moral theology we have had occasion to consider the importance of outstanding thinkers such as Augustine and Aquinas; the currents and developments of thought such as Stoicism and voluntarism; the sway of ideas such as ‘natural’ and ‘supernatural’; and the influence of Councils such as Trent and
Vatican I. The scope and the purpose of our study have not permitted detailed consideration of any one event, although in the concluding chapter particular attention will be given to the Second Vatican Council and to the fresh brief which it gave to the discipline of moral theology. Of individual historical occurrences, however, which have contributed to the present state of moral theology in almost all its aspects none can rival, it can be argued, the letter which Pope Paul VI addressed to the Roman Catholic Church in July 1968. The letter was Humanae Vitae and its subject was contraception. This chapter is not, however, on the topic of contraception nor even on Pope Paul’s encyclical letter. It is a study of the impact of, or the events brought about in the Church and in moral theology by, Humanae Vitae. After a brief narrative of events leading to the issuing of the encyclical, it will offer an analysis of the impact of the letter and some theological reflections on the whole phenomenon.

Events Preceding the Encyclical

It was the major chemical innovation in the 1950s in the control of female fertility which so dramatically opened up to scrutiny the Traditional Roman Catholic moral condemnation of contraception.(1)This had been most vehemently summed up a generation previously by Pope Pius XI in his encyclical letter, Casti Connubii, which was directed at both the surgical operation of sterilization and any interference with the act of intercourse itself.(2) Now it was possible, in effect, to regulate fertility for shorter or longer periods without affecting the act of intercourse and without the surgical intervention condemned as self-mutilation. This medical development was to lead moral theologians, and Pope Pius XII, into a series of casuistical considerations about morally permissible or morally forbidden recourse to the anovulant pill for a variety of reasons on the part of married and unmarried women.(3) Despite papal rejection in 1958 of the use of ‘the pill’ for contraceptive purposes on the ground that it brought about a direct sterilization, even if only temporary, the debate waxed into the 1960s, particularly with contributions from the Louvain theologian, Professor L. Janssens, and from the study of the American gynaeocologist, Dr John Rock, entitled The Time Has Come. (4) With the publicizing of these and other contributions debate became widespread among Roman Catholics on the validity of the Church’s official teaching, and ranged from the difficulties experienced by married couples and their families to the growing international debate on the population explosion and the economic and ecological consequences of world over-population. (5)

In 1963, shortly before his death, Pope John XXIII set up a small and confidential international commission to consider the threat of over-population, and in the following year and on subsequent later occasions this papal commission was considerably enlarged as it became clear that the underlying basic issue was the Church’s whole stance on marital sexuality.(6) In 1964 Pope Paul VI referred to the findings of the commission to date and promised that its conclusions would soon be delivered. ‘Meanwhile,’ he observed,

We say frankly that so far we do not have sufficient reason to consider the norms given by Pope Pius XII on this matter as out of date and therefore as not binding. They must be considered as valid, at least until We feel obliged in conscience to change them, in a matter of such seriousness it seems well that Catholics should wish to follow one single law, that which the Church puts forward with authority. It therefore seems opportune to recommend that, for the present, no one take it upon himself to make pronouncements in terms which differ from the prevailing norms.(7)

This papal statement, of course, only fuelled the debate. The very fact that a papal commission did not consider the matter open and shut confirmed suspicion and surmise on the subject, to the extent that the traditional law might be considered doubtful and therefore subject to ‘probabilism’, with not only considerable arguments being marshalled against it but also the authority of numerous theologians of international repute.(8) In the circumstances it was not in the least surprising that the view gained ground that individuals might in good conscience act contrary to the traditional teaching. In 1963 the Dutch hierarchy had expressed a hope that when the Second Vatican Council, first convened by Pope John XXIII, resumed its work it would be able to consider questions about use of the contraceptive pill ‘in a broader context’.(9) And in 1964, in London, Archbishop Thomas Roberts, the Jesuit retired Archbishop of Bombay, also looked forward to the Council’s third session, ‘where, it is expected, this question will be raised’, since for him it was only the Church’s authority and not its arguments from natural law which carried weight at present.(10) ‘We certainly may and must press for the acceptance by the General Council of the “challenge” to justify by reason our own challenge to the world made in the name of reason.’(11) A different expectation of the Council was expressed by Cardinal Heenan and the English hierarchy, namely, that it would ‘reassure and comfort those bewildered by current attacks on the traditional teaching about Christian marriage’.(12) The suggestions that the Council might produce a change in teaching were irresponsible, for the teaching traditional since Augustine and restated by Popes Pius XI and XII was ‘the plain teaching of Christ’ who warns against false leaders and ‘calls for sacrifice and self-denial’.(13)

When it did meet, however, for its third session the Council was not to debate the subject, far less decide on it, except to conclude in the most general terms that in harmonizing married love with respect for human life married people could not depend simply on sincerity and a weighing of motives, but must assess their conduct on ‘objective criteria, drawn from the nature of the person and his acts’. Nor was it permissible for children of the Church to take measures for controlling birth which were condemned by the Church’s Magisterium.(14) The reason for this conciliar silence on contraception, as the Council Fathers explained in their general teaching on marriage and responsible parenthood, was that ‘some questions which require further and more detailed investigation have been entrusted at the command of the Supreme Pontiff to a commission for the study of population, family, and childbirth, so that when it completes its task the Supreme Pontiff may deliver judgement. With the teaching of the Magisterium in this state, this holy Synod does not intend immediately to propose specific solutions’.(15)

Pope Paul had, in fact, informed the Council of his wish that the problem of contraception be left to the papal commission which was still in session, but this did not prevent several of the Bishops from expressing strong views on the subject.(16) Cardinal Leger, Archbishop of Montreal, publicly referred to a ‘fear with regard to conjugal love which has paralysed our theology for such a long time’, and Cardinal Suenens of Malines—Brussels offered some observations for the benefit of the papal commission, although his suggestion that a commission be also appointed by the Council to collaborate with the Pope’s commission was not taken up.(17) Later, Pope Paul enlarged the fifty-strong membership of the commission to include a body of sixteen cardinals, archbishops, and bishops, with Cardinal Ottaviani as president and Cardinal Heenan of Westminster as vice-president.(18) From remarks of the Pope later that year it appears that he was at the time personally conscious of his responsibility to make a final decision, but unclear as to what it should be.(19) In a public address the following year (October 1966),in the course of a eulogy on woman, he repeated what he had said more than two years previously, and commented that the conciliar teaching on parenthood was ‘most useful’ but did not alter the ‘substantial elements’ of Catholic doctrine on the regulation of births.(20)

Eventually, in 1966, Pope Paul informed the world that the ‘broad, varied, and extremely skilled international commission’ had now presented its findings, but, he added, ‘they cannot be considered definitive’ without consideration of their serious doctrinal and pastoral implications. On this the Pope was now engaged, and would be ‘for some time yet’. In the meantime, he continued, the traditional norm ‘cannot be considered as not binding, as if the magisterium of the Church were in a state of doubt at the present time, whereas it is rather in a moment of study and reflection concerning matters which have been placed before it as worthy of the most attentive consideration’.(21) What followed almost inevitably, was widespread debate on when a state of doubt is not a state of doubt, with all the probabilist implications of that term, but only a state of study and reflection which could not therefore be pointed to as a basis for a legitimate variety of practical solutions.(22)

The situation could only be exacerbated when the final report of the papal commission was unofficially made public, and it also became known that ‘the four theologians of the minority group acknowledged they could not demonstrate the intrinsic evil of contraception on the basis of natural law and so rested their case on Authority and the fear of possible consequences of change both to Authority and to sexual morality’.(23) In its final report, comprising eight short chapters, the papal commission distinguished between a selfish and sinful ‘contraceptive mentality’, and intervention in physiological processes as an application of objective moral criteria; and it concluded ‘it is impossible to determine exhaustively by a general judgement and ahead of time for each individual case what these objective criteria will demand in the concrete situation of a couple’. The cardinals and bishops of the papal commission prefaced the technical report with a pastoral introduction in which the Church’s magisterium was described as ‘in evolution’ on the subject. This approach was unacceptable to the small number of dissentients in the commission, whose views were expressed in a document immediately dubbed the ’Minority Report’ by the media, but which had in fact been a position paper produced for the commission and arguing in favour of retaining the Church’s traditional doctrine.(25) It claimed to uphold ‘a teaching which until the present decade was constantly and authentically taught by the Church’, and it observed that ‘for the Church to have erred so gravely in its grave responsibility of leading souls would be tantamount to seriously suggesting that the assistance of the Holy Spirit was lacking to her’.(26) After exploring various lines of philosophical argument the paper concludes that ‘the question is not merely or principally philosophical. It depends on the nature of human life and human sexuality, as understood theologically by the Church.’(27) The magisterium and its authority are being viewed by some in modern times as providing broad clarifications and not specific edicts issued once for all. But the Holy See has never viewed matters in this manner.(28)

Eventually, five years after the original small commission had been appointed by Pope John XXIII, four years after Pope Paul VI had predicted that the commission’s results would soon be forthcoming, and two years after it had finally submitted its report, Pope Paul VI issued, on 25 July 1968, his encyclical letter ‘on the right ordering of propagating human offspring’.(29) Its message (in extremely summary form) was that the conclusions of the papal commission did not exonerate the Pope from a personal examination of the whole matter. Those conclusions had not been unanimous, and in particular certain approaches and arguments had emerged which deviated from the Church’s firm traditional teaching.(29) After careful reflection and prayer Pope Paul himself concluded that the Church’s traditional rejection of contraception and sterilization must be upheld as following from the basic principles of the human and Christian doctrine of marriage and as part of God’s moral law. He closed by recalling his reliance on ‘the firm doctrine of the Church which the Successor of Peter faithfully guards and interprets along with his brothers in the Catholic episcopate’, and he repeated the need for man, if he is to attain to the true happiness for which he longs, to observe the laws which God has built into his nature to be wisely and lovingly respected.(31)

Six days after the publication of Humanae Vitae, at his weekly summer audience at Castelgandolfo, Pope Paul reflected on his encyclical and disclosed his own tortured feelings in the course of its preparation and in the making of his final decision. First and foremost was the continual awareness of the weight of his enormous responsibility, which had caused him great spiritual suffering, to respond to the Church and to all humanity against the background of tradition and the teaching of his immediate predecessors, as well as of the Council. He was predisposed to accept so far as he could the conclusions and the consultative nature of the papal commission, but at the same time to act prudently. He was fully aware of the impassioned discussions going on, of the media and of public opinion, and of the appeals of countless less powerful troubled individuals. He had frequently felt submerged in a sea of documents, and humanly overwhelmed at the apostolic duty of pronouncing on them all. Often he had trembled before the dilemma of simply yielding to current opinion or of delivering a judgement which would be ill received by contemporary society or might be an arbitrary imposition on married couples.

He had, Pope Paul continued, consulted many experts. He had prayed for light from the Holy Spirit and placed his conscience at the full disposal of the voice of truth, seeking to interpret the divine rule he saw emerging from the interior demand of authentic human love, from the essential structures of the institution of marriage, from the personal dignity of married people, from their mission to serve life, and from the holiness of Christian marriage. He had reflected on the factors established by the traditional doctrine of the Church, and especially on the teaching of the Council. He had weighed the consequences of one decision and the other. And he had had no further doubt on his duty to speak as he had done.

Throughout all this concern, he had been continually also guided by a second feeling, that of love and pastoral sensitivity for married people. He had been happy to follow the Council’s personalist approach to marriage, thus giving first place ‘in the subjective evaluation of marriage’ to the love which creates and nourishes a marriage. And this had led him to accept all the pastoral, medical, and educational suggestions which would ease the observance of the ruling which he had reaffirmed.

The Pope’s final feeling in preparing the encyclical had been one of hope. In spite of the diversity of widespread opinions and in spite of the difficulties which the way he had indicated would entail for those who wished to commit themselves faithfully to it, as for those who ought to teach it, his hope was that the encyclical would be well received for its own force and its human truth, and that educated people especially would be able to discover in it its connection with the Christian view of life which authorized the Pope to make his own St Paul’s statement, ‘we have the mind of Christ’ (1 Cor. 2: 16). He also hoped that Christian couples would understand that, however severe and hard his words could appear, they were aimed at interpreting the genuineness of their love which was called to be transfigured in the love of Christ for his mystical spouse, the Church. His final wish to his audience was that, as he had attempted to deal with the subject truthfully and lovingly, so they would consider Humanae Vitae with respect and in the light of the Christian life.(32)

A more technical official commentary on the encyclical had been presented by Monsignor Lambruschini to the world’s press on the occasion of its publication. He was professor of moral theology at Rome’s Lateran University, and as well as being chosen as official spokesman of the Vatican on this occasion he had been a member of the commission and was obviously familiar with the whole debate and its history.(33) He described how the commission had worked as four interconnected groups of experts in various fields: doctors and research scientists; demographers: married couples, mostly doctors; and theologians. This last group had a certain prominence and guiding role, while the others provided expertise from their various fields of competence. ‘In fact the conclusions of the commission were proposed by the theologians who, nevertheless, had not reached a full concordance of judgements concerning the norms to be proposed. While the theologians of the minority found a common platform in the line of the preceding magisterium, those of the majority were not unanimous in their attempt at explaining up to what point of the renewal of that magisterium its continuity would be compromised. And it was not just a matter of shades of meaning but of rather profound dissent’.(34)

The most important point which Lambruschini had to make in his lengthy background statement concerned the status of Pope Paul’s encyclical as a teaching document of the papal magisterium. After observing that study of the encyclical did not suggest that it was an infallible statement, but that nevertheless its authenticity was reinforced by its continuing the teaching of the Church’s magisterium, he went into the question of how it was to be received.

The pronouncement has come. It is not infallible, but it does not leave the questions concerning birth regulation in a condition of vague problematics. Assent of theological faith is due only to definitions properly so-called, but there is owed also loyal and full assent, interior and not only exterior, to an authentic pronouncement of the magisterium, in proportion to the level of the authority from which it emanates — which in this case is the supreme authority of the Supreme Pontiff — and to its object, which is most weighty, since it is a matter of the tormented question of the regulation of births. In particular, it can and must be said that the authentic pronouncement of the Humanae Vitae encyclical prevents the forming of a probable opinion, that is to say an opinion acting on the moral plane in contrast with the pronouncement itself, whatever the number and the hierarchical, scientific, and theological authority of those who considered in the past few years that they could form it for themselves. The pretext of a presumed doubt in the Church because of the Pope’s long silence has no substance and is in conflict with the renewed pontifical and conciliar appeals to observe previous and always valid directives of the magisterium

Reactions to the Encyclical

One thing at least, then, seemed clear, and that was that Pope Paul’s teaching on contraception did not claim to be given infallibly, although a press conference may be considered a strange, almost casual, way of informing the Church on such a matter. But events were to demonstrate that little else appeared clear or settled. The hopes which Pope Paul had expressed about the reception of his encyclical were to be sadly disappointed in the completely unprecedented and violent reactions which it aroused, both outside and within the Roman Catholic Church. One of the signatories to the final commission report described the immediate aftermath of the encyclicals appearance as ‘the month of theological anger’.(36)

One French periodical commented that ‘the first reactions, ranging from enthusiasm through indifference and stupefaction to outright rejection, highlight the place of the contraception controversy in the postconciliar Church and also how much interest the encyclical has aroused outside the Church’.(37) And it was in a context of conflicting reactions within the Church, from individuals, lay, clerical, and scientific, including members of the papal commission, and from professional groups as well as from innumerable periodicals, that the next major development took place—the gradual responses of all the regional and national hierarchies throughout the world to the papal teaching on contraception. In a preliminary letter to all the bishops of the Church, Pope Paul had requested them to present the encyclical in its true ‘positive and beneficent aspect’,(38) and in the encyclical itself he also requested that bishops discharge their most important responsibility and give a lead to their clergy and people in safeguarding the sanctity of marriage.(39) In the more than thirty episcopal statements which resulted from these two requests we thus have a body of widely-based literature which views Humanae Vitae from the standpoint of local churches and is also in a position to comment on the widespread critical reactions to the encyclical.

It is of interest to note that although no local hierarchy took public issue with the substantial teaching of the encyclical, some more than others are to be seen struggling with it in an attempt to explain it and to bring its general teaching closer to the real lives, difficulties, and anxieties of their own people. Thus the feature most common to many of these episcopal statements is a sympathetic attempt to help married couples to come to terms with Humanae Vitae in the intimacy of their family lives and personal circumstances, and particularly in the light of preoccupations and characteristics peculiar to various regions, countries, and localities.

The diversity of the Church is witnessed to, for instance, in the crises of population growth and widespread poverty in underdeveloped countries noted by the hierarchies of Ceylon and Puerto Rico,(41) or in the fact of being a small minority in an almost completely secular sophisticated society as evidenced in the Scandinavian statement.(42) The confident historical tradition of German and Belgian theological reflection may be sensed in the pronouncements of these hierarchies,(43) and may be contrasted with the stress on tradition and conservation contained in others. (44) The blend of speculation and pragmatism in the context of France(45) may be interestingly compared with the recognition of individual conscience and of the emergence of an articulate laity in England, the land of John Henry Newman,(46) or with the awareness of a powerful theological establishment in the Universities and Colleges of the United States.(47) And the frank and participatory character of the Dutch Pastoral Council, including its nine bishops, is evident in its finding the arguments unconvincing,(48) in marked contrast to several episcopal statements elsewhere in the Church which stress the traditional religious values of self-mistrust and the need for authoritative guidance.(49)

(1) Cf. A. Valsecchi, Controversy: The Birth-control Debate 1958-1968 (London, 1968), pp.1-8.

(2) The asseveration of the traditional teaching, from which the Lambeth Conference of the Anglican Communion had recently and partially retreated, occupies only a few paragraphs of the papal disquisition on the many contemporary attacks on the institution of ‘Chaste Marriage’ (cf. supra, p. 59): ‘De prole sit sermo, quam multi molestum connubii onus vocare audent, quamque a coniugibus, non per honestam continentiam (etiam in matrimonio, utroque consentiente coniuge, permissam), sed vitiando naturae actum, studiose arcendam praecipiunt.... At nulla profecto ratio, ne gravissima quidem, efficere potest, ut, quod intrinsece est contra naturam, id cum natura congruens et honestum fiat. Cum autem actus coniiugii suapte natura proli generandae sit destinatus, qui, in eo exercendo, naturali hac eum vi atque virtute de industria destituunt, contra naturam agunt et turpe quid atque intrinsece inhonestum operantur .... Cum igitur quidam, a christiana doctrina iam inde ab initio tradita neque umquam intermissa manifesto recedentes, aliam nuper de hoc agendi modo doctrinam sollemniter praedicandam censuerint, Ecclesia Catholica, cui ipse Deus morum integritatem honestatemque docendam et defendendam commisit, in media hac morum ruina posita, ut nuptialis foederis castimoniam a turpi hac labe immunem servet, in signum legationis suae divinae, altam per Nostrum extollit vocem atque denuo promulgat: quemlibet matrimonii usum, in quo exercendo, actus, de industria hominum, naturali sua vitae procreandae vi destituatur, Dei et naturae legem infringere, et eos qui tale quid commiserint gravis noxae labe commaculari’, AAS 22 (1930), pp. 559—60. The claim to a doctrine ‘passed on from the beginning’ rests on Augustine’s exegesis of Gen. 38: 8—10 (ibid.). This and the denunciatory language, as well as the Tridentine teaching on the possibility of obeying the commandments (supra, p. 54}, are not to be found in Humanae Vitae, but the basic arguments and terminology are repeated. The teaching of Pius XI on sterilisation occurs in the context of eugenics and of the move in some quarters to prevent certain individuals from marrying, or to sterilize them whether they be willing or not. Genetic counselling might often be called for, the Pope judged, but no more. As for sterilization, ‘publici vero magistratus in subditorum membra directam potestatem habent nullam; ipsam igitur corporis integritatem, ubi nulla intercesserit culpa nullaque adsit cruentae poenae causa, directo laedere et attingere nec eugenicis nec ullis aliis de causis possunt unquam .... Ceterum, quod ipsi privati homines in sui corporis membra dominatum alium non habeant quam qui ad eorum naturales fines pertineat, nec possint ea destruere aut mutilare aut alia via ad naturales functiones se ineptos reddere, nisi quando bono totius corporis aliter provideri nequeat, id christiana doctrina statuit atque ex ipso humanae rationis lumine omnino constat’, ibid., pp. 564-5. Thus was enunciated the ‘principle of totality’, which Pope Pius XII was later to deploy against organ transplantation from living donors but whose extension he was to reject when applied to the ‘totality’ of the person, or even of a marriage, in justification of contraceptive sterilization, whether of a surgical nature or of a temporary and medically induced nature. Pius XI’s teaching on sterilization as a contraceptive measure was spelled out some years later by the Holy Office, DS 3760-5

(3) Cf. Valsecchi, pp.1-8.

(4) Pope Pius XII, AAS 50 (1958), p. 734. For reactions to his interventions, cf. Valsecchi, pp. 9-26. Janssens had first written in 1958 and continued to contribute to the debate, Valsecchi, pp. 4, 24, 38-41. Rock’s The Time Has Come (London, 1963) was important as a contribution from a layman and an expert in human fertility studies. An impressive study by the distinguished American Jesuit moralists, John C. Ford and Gerald Kelly, attempted to combine fidelity to the papal magìsterìum with delicate moral analysis presented ‘in a way which will be useful to priests, theologians, theological students, and others who have a professional interest in the problems chosen for discussion’, Contemporary Moral Theology, Vol. ii; Marriage Questions (Cork, 1963), p. [v].

(5) Contribution to the debate on the part of married couples was typified by M. Novak (ed.), The Experience of Marriage, (London, 1965). On population and economic considerations, cf., e.g., Rock, pp. 3-27. On the debate in Britain prior to Humanae Vitae, much useful documentation is to be found in Leo Pyle (ed.), The Pill and Birth Regulation (London, 1964).

(6) Cf. Peter Harris et al., On Human Life (London, 1968), pp. l0-11. See Informations catholiques internationales, Suppl. au No. 3 17-18 (August 1968), pp. iii-vi, for a brief history of the Vatican II debate and the papal commission.

(7) ‘La questione è allo studio, quanto più largo e profundo possibile, cioè quanto più grave ed onesto dev’essere in materia di tanto rilievo. È allo studio, diciamo, che speriamo presto concludere con la collaborazione di molti ed insigni studiosi. Ne daremo percanto presto le conclusioni nella forma che sarà ritenuta più adeguata all’oggetto trattato e allo scopo da conseguire. Ma diciamo intanto francamente che non abbiamo finora motivo sufficiente per retinere superate e perciò non obbliganti le norme date da Papa Pio XII a tale riguardo; esse devono perciò retinersi valide, almeno finché non Ci sentiamo in coscienza obbligati a modificarle. In tema di tanta gravità sembra bene che i Cattolici vogliano seguire un‘unica legge, quale la Chiesa autorevolmente propone; e sembra pertanto opportuno raccomandare che nessuno per ora si arroghi di pronunciarsi in termini difformi dalla norma vigente’, AAS 56 (1964), pp. 588-9. The diplomatic tone of the last sentence, ‘recommending’ that at present no one make a statement diverging from the traditional teaching, may be explained by the context of a papal address to Cardinals and by the awareness that a number of bishops and cardinals, including the Dutch hierarchy, felt the need for some flexibility in the matter. Cf. Pyle, pp. 32-4. It may also be noted that Archbishop Roberts’s article expressing his disquiet about the Church’s teaching had appeared only a few weeks previously. Cf. the further documentation contained in Leo Pyle (ed.), Pope and Pill (London, 1968), pp. 8-12.

(8) Cf. Pyle, The Pill pp. 221-4, Pope and Pill, pp. 24-6. On the repercussions caused in England by statements of the highly popular Redemptorist moralist, Bernard Häring, cf. Pyle, The PilI, pp. 150-64. (On probabilism, cf. supra, pp. 227-9)

(9) Ibid., p. 33.

(10) Ibid., pp. 86-7.

(11) Ibid., p. 90.

(12) Ibid., p. 96.

(13) Ibid.

(14) ‘Moralis igitur indoles rationis agendi, ubi de componendo amore coniugali cum responsabili vitae transmissione agitur, non a sola sincera intentione et aestimatione motivorum pendet, sed obiectivis criteriis, ex personae eiusdemque actuum natura desumptis, determinari debet quae integrum sensum mutuae donationis ac humanae procreationis in contextu veri amoris observant; quod fieri nequit nisi virtus castitatis coniugalis sincere animo colatur. Filiis Ecclesiae, his principiis innixi, in procreatione regulanda, vias inire non licet, quae a Magisterio, in lege divina explicanda, improbantur’, Gaudium et spes, no. 51; AAS 68 (1966), p.1072.

(15) ‘Quaedam quaestiones quae aliis ac diligentioribus investigationibus indigent, iussu Summi Pontificis, Commissioni pro studio populationis, familiae et natalitatis traditae sunt, ut postquam illa munus suum expleverit, Summus Pontifex iudicium ferat. Sic stante doctrina Magisterii, S. Synodus solutiones concretas immediate proponere non intendit’, ibid., note 14; AAS, p. 1073. On various unsuccessful attempts to influence the Council to endorse the teaching of Casti connubii and to perpetuate the reference to procreation as the ‘primary end’ of marriage, cf. Pyle, Pope and Pill, pp. 41-8, 68-70; Harris, op. cit., pp. 16-18. This occasioned what Informations catholiques, ibid., pp. iii-iv, termed ‘une des batailles les plus rudes du concile’. In the event, the Conciliar footnote 14 (supra) simply referred the reader to Casti connubii, the address of Pius XII to Midwives (October 1951), and the allocution of Pope Paul to the College of Cardinals (supra, n. 7).

(16) Cf. Harris, pp. 11-13; Pyle, Pope, pp. 27-34.

(17) Pyle, ibid., p.29; Harris, p.13.

(18) Harris, p.14; Inf. cath., ibid., p. iv.

(19)Addressing a conference of Italian women on 12. February 1966, Pope Paul described how the recent Council had given a ‘synthetic view’ of the problems concerning the family, and continued, ‘Non è stata possibile in sede conciliare una trattazione esauriente della materia, specialmente circa il grave e complesso problema sulle norme relative alia natalità. Non è ancora possibile sciolgere la riserva enunciata nel Nostro discorso del giugno 1964; ma in attesa di poter dare più precisi insegnamenti, crediamo opportuno da parte Nostra dire in proposito una parola di esortazione pastorale .... Non tutti i problemi, dicevamo, sui quali gli sposi e i genitori cristiani attendono e desiderano una parola, hanno potuto essere affrontati: alcuni di essi, per la loro complessità e delicatezza, non potevano venire discussi facilmente in una assemblea numerosa; altri richiedevano e richiedono studi approfonditi, per i quali è stata costituita, com’è noto, una speciale Commissione pontificia, la quale e scata incaricata di approfondire lo studio di questi problemi nei loro varî aspetti: scientifici, storici, sociologici e dottrinali, avvalendosi anche di larghissime consultazioni di Vescovi e di esperti. Noi invitiamo ad attendere i risultati di questi studi, accompagnandoli con la preghiera: il Magistero della Chiesa non può proporre norme morali, se non quando è certo di interpretare il volere di Dio; e per raggiungere questa certezza la Chiesa non è dispensata dalle ricerche, né dall’esame delle molte questioni da ogni parte del mondo proposte alla sua considerazione: operazioni queste talvolta lunghe e non facili’, AAS 58 (1966), pp. 218-19. Pyle, Pope and Pill, p.59, records an interview of Pope Paul which appeared in Corriere della Sera (4 October, 1965), and in which he is reported as saying, ‘The world is wondering what we think and we must give an answer. But what? The Church has never in her history confronted such a problem .... There is a good deal of study going on; but we have to make the decision. This is our responsibility alone. Deciding is not as easy as studying. But we must say something. What? . . . God must truly enlighten us.

(20) ‘Ricorderemo qui soltanto ciò che abbiamo esposto nel Nostro discorso del 23 giugno 1964; e cioè: il pensiero e la norma della Chiesa non sono cambiati; sono quelli vigenti nell’insegnamento tradizionale della Chiesa. Il Concilio Ecumenico, testé celebrato, ha apportato alcuni elementi di guidizio, utilissimi ad integrare la dottrina cattolica su questo importantissimo tema, ma non tali da cambiarne i termini sostanziali .... Con ciò la nuova parola, che si attende dalla Chiesa, sul problema della regolazione delle nascite, non è ancora pronunciata, per il fatto che Noi stessi, avendola promessa e a Noi riservata, abbiamo voluto prendere in attento esame le istanze dottrinali e pastorali, che su tale problema sono sorte in questi ultimi anni . . . .’ AAS 58 (1966), pp. 1168—9

(21) ‘Ciò è parso essere Nostro dovere; e abbiamo cercato di compierlo nel modo migliore, incaricando un’ampia, varia, versatissima Cornmissione internazionale; la quale, nelle sue diverse sezioni e con lunghe discussioni, ha compiuto un grande lavoro, ed ha a Noi rimesso le sue conclusioni. Le quali, tuttavia, a Noi sembra, non possono essere considerate definitive, per il fatto ch’esse presentano gravi implicazioni con altre non poche e non lievi questioni, sia d’ordine dottrinale, che pastorale e sociale, le quali non possono essere isolate e acantonate, ma esignono una logica considerazione nel contesto di quella posta allo studio. Questo fatto... impone alla Nostra responsabilità un supplemento di studio... E questo il motivo che ha ritardato il Nostro responso, e che lo dovrà differire ancora per qualche tempo. Intanto, come già dicemmo nel citato discorso, la norma finora insegnata dalla Chiesa , integrata dalle sagge istruzioni del Concilio, reclama fedele e generosa osservanza; né può essere considerata non vincolante, quasi che il magistera della Chiesa fosse ora in stato di dubbio, mentre è in un momento di studio e di riflessione su quanto è stato prospettato come meritevole di attentissima considerazione’, ibid., pp.1169-70

(22) Cf. Pyle, Pope, pp. 71-73.

(23) Dr.John Marshall, a member of the Papal Commission from its first appointment, in a letter to The Times, 3 August 1968 (Pyle, Pope, pp. 83-5).

(24) Pyle, pp. 263, 266

(25) Cf. Harris, pp. 20, n. 19; 165; Pyle, pp. 193-4, recording the statement of Cardinal Heenan with reference to ‘the minority report which, although I presided at many meetings of the Pontifical Commission, I had not seen before it appeared in The Tablet, It was not signed by any of the cardinals or bishops. I assume that the priests who signed sent their views privately to the Pope. This does not constitute what in England we would call an official minority report’ In giving the text of the document, Pyle, p. 271, reports that the four theologians who signed it were Frs Ford, Visser, Zalba, and de Lestapis. For the contrary ‘position paper’ arguing for ‘evolution’ in Church teaching, and submitted by Frs Fuchs and Sigmond and Canon Delhaye to be ‘approved by a majority of the theologians on the commission,’ cf. Pyle, pp. 296-306.

(26) Pyle, pp. 276, 296.

(27) Ibid., p. 280.

(28) Ibid., pp. 282-4.

(29) Litterae Encyclicae . . . de propagatione humanae prolis recte ordinanda, AAS 60 (1968), pp. 481-503. In accordance with custom the letter is referred to by its opening words, ‘Humanae vitae tradendae munus gravissimum . . .’.

(30) ‘Attamen conclusiones, ad quas Coetus pervenerat, a Nobis tales existimari non poterant, quae vim iudicii certi ac definiti prae se ferrent quaeque Nos officio liberarent, tam gravis momenti quaestionem per Nosmetipsos considerationeä expendendi; his vel etiam de causis, quod in Coetu plena sententiarum consensio de normis moralibus proponendis afuerat, quodque praesertim quaedam quaestionis dissolvendae viae rationesque exstiterant, a doctrina morali de matrimonio, a Magisterio Ecclesiae firma constantia proposita, discendentes’, ibid., no. 6; pp. 484-5.

(31) ‘Verumtamen Ecclesia, dum homines commonet de observandis praeceptis legis naturalis, quam constanti sua doctrina interpretatur, id docet necessarium esse, ut quilibet matrimonii usus ad vitam humanam procreandam per se destinatus permaneat’, ibid., no. n; p. 488. ‘Quare primariis hisce principiis humanae et christianae doctrinae de matrirnonio nixi, iterum debemus dicere, . . .’, no. 14; p. 490. ‘Ecclesia autem . . . non idcirco iniunctum sibi praetermittit officium, totam legem moralem, cum naturalem tum evangelicam, humiliter ac firmiter praedicandi. Cum Ecclesia utramque hanc legem non condiderit, eiusdem non arbitra, sed tantummodo custos atque interpres esse potest, eique numquam fas erit licitum declarare, quod revera illicitum est, cum id suapte natura germane hominis bono semper repugnet’, ibid., no. 18; p. 494. ‘Vos . . . nunc advocamus, firmissima freti Ecclesiae doctrina, quam Petri Successor, una cum catholici episcopatus Fratribus, fideliter custodit atque interpretatur . . . siquidem homo ad veram felicitatem, quam totis sui animi viribus affectat, pervenire nequit, nisi leges observat, a summo Deo in ipsius natura insculptas, quae sunt prudenter amanterque colendae’, ibid., no. 31; pp. 501-3.

(32) Unusually, the text of this allocution was subsequently printed in AAS 60 (1968), pp. 527—30. One interesting feature is that reference is made (p. 528, n. 1) to the study Amour conjugal et renouveau conciliare of the French Jesuit theologian, G. Martelet, whom many considered a prominent collaborator in the composing of Humanae Vitae. As a candid baring of the soul, the allocution is a remarkable event. ‘A voi diremo semplicitamente qualche parole non tanto sul documento in questione, quanto su alcuni Nostri sentimenti, che hanno riempito il Nostro animo nel periodo non breve della sua preparazione. Il primo sentimento e stato quello d’una Nostra gravissima responsabilità . Non mai abiamo sentito come in questo congiuntura il peso del Nostro ufficio’ (p. 528). . . ‘Quante volte abbiamo avuto 1’impressione di essere quasi soverchiati da questo cumulo di documentazione’ (p. 529). ... ‘E finalmente un sentimento di speranza ha accompagnato la laboriosa redazione di questo documento; la speranza ch’esso, quasi per virtù propria, per la sua umana verità sarà bene accolto, nonostante la diversità di opinioni oggi largamente diffusa . . .’ (p. 530)

(33) On Lambruschini’s membership of the commission from its inception, cf. Harris, p. 260. Harris also reports (p. 166) that Lambruschini declined in the course of the final plenary meeting of the commission to participate in drafting a theological report, ‘although earlier he had seemed to favour the majority view’. The text of his press statement is reproduced in part in Pyle, pp. 101-5.

(34) Pyle, p. 102.

(35) Ibid., p. 104.

(36) After the August holidays, ‘Septembre, par contre, fut le mois de la "colère théologique" ‘, Philippe Delhaye (ed.), Pour relire Humanae Vitae (Gembloux, ), P. 9. On Delhaye’s position in the papal commission, cf. supra, n. 25.

(37) Information cath. intern., p. xiii. In its editorial the French periodical commented that the encyclical raised the question, not of faith in Christ and its formulation, but of ‘some great moral truths’. This was the value of the ‘debate’ which Humanae Vitae was inaugurating, ibid., p. i.

(38) E. Hamel, ‘Conferentiae episcopales et Encyclica "Humanae Vitae" ’, Periodica 58 (1969), p. 327; John Horgan, Humanae Vitae and the Bishops (Ireland, 1972.), p. 112. Horgan’s work and that of Delhaye (supra, n. 36) are valuable for providing collections of the various episcopal statements, as well as for their comments and background explanations. Hamel’s is a useful factual and theological analysis of the statements.

(39) Humanae Vitae, no. 30; AAS, ibid., p. 502. Hamel points out that the Belgian hierarchy also referred to the encyclical’s statement (no. 28; p. 501) on ‘the light of the Holy Spirit enjoyed especially by the Church’s pastors in explaining the truth’, art. cit., p. 328.

(40) Pyle, Pope and Pill, pp. 105 ff., provides much general and editorial reaction, mainly in Britain. Although it reprints a few statements of individual bishops the work evidently went to press before the ‘Statement of the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales’ was issued in September 1968. (For this, cf. Horgan, op. cit., pp. 112-18). It may also be noted that the translation of the encyclical in Pyle, pp. 239-56 (and in Valsecchi) reproduces the Vatican English version, in which, as the author pointed out in the Tablet at the time, the final two sentences of paragraph 29 of the encyclical had been omitted. Cf. Pyle, p. 255, Valsecchi, p. 228, with AAS, ibid., p. 502 (infra, n. 59).

(41) Cf. Horgan, pp. 88-9, 231-3.

(42) Cf. the remarks of Horgan, pp. 26-8, on the Scandinavian Church.

(43) The West German Bishops issued two statements (Morgan, pp. 303-4, 305-12) in a Church where public reaction to the encyclical ‘was extraordinarily vocal’ (ibid., p. 14), and were also in the enviable position of being able to refer to a Letter which they had issued the previous year on ‘the necessity and the degree of obligation of decisions of the Church on moral questions’ (ibid., p. 304). For the Belgian text, cf. Delhaye, pp. 123-7.

(44) E.g., Italy (Horgan, pp. 163-8), Spain (246-52.), India (130-1), Scotland (242-5), Ireland (138-9, 140—62,).

(45) French text, adopted ’à la quasi-unanimité, in Delhaye, pp. 149-57, with commentary of Cardinal Renard, pp. 158-61.

(46) ‘It must be stressed that the primacy of conscience is not in dispute . . . ’, Horgan, pp. 112-8 at p.116.

(47) Horgan, pp. 262-3, 264-302., with extensive quotation from Cardinal Newman (p. 273), and reference to other issues which were disquieting American Catholics, including abortion, the arms race, and the Vietnam War. On this last, the hierarchy wrote positively on the role of dissenting conscience and observed that ‘the war in Vietnam typifies the issues which present and future generations will be less willing to leave entirely to the normal political and bureacratic processes of national decision-making’ (p. 299).

(48) Horgan, pp. 191, 192.. ‘The assembly considers that the encyclical’s total rejection of contraceptive methods is not convincing on the basis of the arguments put forward’ (192).

(49) E.g., Columbia (Horgan, pp. 92-4), Portugal (pp. 220-9), Yugoslavia {pp. 313-32)


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