VATICAN CITY (CNS) — In the long process of drafting a document on the regulation of births, St. Paul VI rejected a version that “was limited to a rigorous reaffirmation of doctrine to which Christians and all people were asked to adhere docilely and without reservation,” said Cardinal Pietro Parolin.
In conjunction with the canonization Oct. 14 of St. Paul VI and the 50th anniversary of his encyclical, “Humanae Vitae” (“Of Human Life”), Cardinal Parolin spoke at an event Oct. 18 at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
The event focused on the book, “The Birth of an Encyclical: ‘Humanae Vitae’ in the Light of the Vatican Archives.” Pope Francis gave Msgr. Gilfredo Marengo, a professor at Rome’s Pontifical John Paul II Theological Institute for Marriage and Family Sciences, access to still-closed archives to study the development of the encyclical and publish the book.
The volume documents the consultation process that went into the encyclical’s formulation and Pope Paul’s insistence that couples who would struggle to follow the teaching be listened to, welcomed and treated with mercy, Msgr. Marengo said.
The “debates and opposition” that followed the encyclical’s publication in 1968, Cardinal Parolin said, made it impossible for many people to see its accent on mercy, notice the lengths it goes to understand the modern problems facing families, and discover Pope Paul’s support for “the emancipation of women.”
The polemics were born “of a difficult season in the life of the church that now belongs to the past,” he said, although still today some Catholics engage in “polemics that could be avoided” and that distract people’s focus from the intent of church teaching.
Father Angelo Maffeis, president of the Paul VI Institute in Brescia, Italy, said the story of the document’s development and its reception “resembles a battlefield.”
A common misunderstanding, he said, is how the pope dealt with the majority and minority reports of the commission charged with studying the question. The majority report said there was nothing “intrinsically evil” with artificial contraception. The minority urged the pope not to change church teaching at all.
But “Humanae Vitae,” while insisting artificial contraception breaks the essential link between married love and procreation, marked a real change in church teaching on marriage, Father Maffeis said.
Until then, the church considered procreation to be the sole purpose of marriage, he said. But “Humanae Vitae” defined marriage as a sacrament that united a man and woman in love and opened them to the gift of having children.
Calling the encyclical “prophetic,” Cardinal Parolin asked, “If the love of spouses is the place where the Creator generates new lives, how can we not question ourselves about the way in which often, too often, children are considered either ‘an additional problem’ for a couple or, on the other hand, almost like an ‘object’ that is desired at any price?”
In a time to build, CatholicPhilly.com connects people and communities
As society emerges from the loss and separation of the pandemic, CatholicPhilly.com works to strengthen the connections between people, families and communities every day by delivering the news people need to know about the Catholic Church, especially in the Philadelphia region, and the world in which we live.
By your donation in any amount, you join in our mission to inform, form in the Catholic faith and inspire the thousands of readers who visit every month.
Here is how you can help:
- A $100 gift allows us to present award-winning photos of Catholic life in our neighborhoods.
- A $50 gift enables us to cover a news event in a local parish, school or Catholic institution.
- A $20 gift lets us obtain solid faith formation resources that can deepen your spirituality and knowledge of the faith.
- A small, automated monthly donation means you can support us continually and easily.
Won't you consider making a gift today?
Please join in the church's vital mission of communications by offering a gift in whatever amount that you can ― a single gift of $40, $50, $100, or more, or a monthly donation. Your gift will strengthen the fabric of our entire Catholic community.
Make your donation by credit card here:
Or make your donation by check:
222 N. 17th Street
Philadelphia, PA 19103