“The #MeToo movement, emotional wreckage, sexual disease and date rape are the realities we’ve inherited from the sexual revolution. Paul VI would not be surprised,” said Archbishop Charles Chaput in a speech Wednesday.
“The Church in Humanae Vitae identified and rejected sexual exploitation of women years before that message entered the cultural mainstream,” said Chaput.
The Archbishop of Philadelphia spoke April 4 of the need to heal the wounds in human sexuality and marriage by embracing God’s vision for love and marriage. He was delivering the opening keynote for a symposium at the Catholic University of America celebrating the 50th anniversary of the publication of Humanae vitae.
The April 4-6 conference gathers scholars from across the US in Washington, D.C., to discuss the encyclical, from the philosophical underpinnings of the Church’s teaching on contraception to pastoral initiatives with natural family planning.
Chaput pointed out how prescient was Blessed Paul VI’s 1968 encyclical on the regulation of birth in its predictions of the societal effects of widespread use of contraception.
Humanae vitae predicted that the pill would contribute to increased objectification of women and conjugal infidelity.
“Turn on the radio or TV and see how this has played out … As late as the 1980s, much of our popular entertainment still showed casual sex as affectionate, healthy and fun, with few if any consequences,” explained Chaput.
“Today’s film and TV dramas are very different. They’re far more wounded and vastly more cynical. Lena Dunham’s cable series ‘Girls,’ and the short story ‘Cat Person’ published by New Yorker magazine and the media uproar it created, are just two of the most obvious examples,” he continued.
The encyclical also accurately predicted and warned that governments would implement birth control as a form of population control (ten years before China introduced its One Child Policy).
Bl. Paul VI expressed concern that contraception would “mislead human beings into thinking they had unlimited dominion over their own bodies, relentlessly turning the human person into the object of his or her own intrusive power,” said Chaput.
“Much of the moral conflict, broken family life, social unraveling, and gender confusion that seems so common today stems — directly or more subtly — from our disordered attitudes toward creation, and our appetite to master, reshape and even deform nature to our wills. We want the freedom to decide what reality is. And we insist on the power to make it so,” he said.
“Each of his [Paul VI’s] warnings has come true, in ways more tragic than he could imagine,” said Chaput.
In the face of the fulfillment of these predictions, “Our mission now, as always, is not to surrender to the world as it is, but to feed and ennoble the deepest yearnings of the world — and thereby to lead it to Jesus Christ, and his true freedom and joy,” affirmed Chaput.
“Men and women fall in love with each other because they see a reflection of God’s beauty and goodness in each other - body, mind, and soul. God is a communion of persons united in a love so fruitful that it overflows into the created world. That world gives glory to God and reflects his attributes, especially that crown of creation, human beings. We’re uniquely created in the image and likeness of God. God has therefore made our love fruitful, like his own, and called us to take part in the creation of new life,” he said.
“Humanae Vitae is remembered for the great ‘no’ that Paul VI uttered, and rightly so. But we often forget that his ‘no’ came only after an even more powerful ‘yes’ to the beauty of marital love,” explained the archbishop.
“Pope Paul begins Humanae Vitae by noting four key elements of married love. Married love is human. It’s an act of the free will by which a man and woman are joined, body and soul, in a communion of life. It’s also total, a gift of one’s whole life and self. It’s also faithful, a gift made exclusively to one person until death. And marriage is finally fruitful, overflowing to new life like the love of the God in whose image we are made,” Chaput continued.
Bl. Paul VI called us to lives of self-giving love and self-denial.
“The Church believes what she believes about human sexuality because of what she believes about the meaning and dignity of the human person as a whole. We care for the poor and work against injustices like human trafficking for the same reasons we believe that sexual love is reserved for marriages between men and women who are open to children,” explained Chaput.
He argued firmly against the popular narrative that Christian sexual morality is repressive, pointing out an irony that “beneath all of today’s enlightened talk about liberating human sexual behavior is a contempt for the weakness and inefficiency of the flesh.”
It is contraception that “presupposes that a woman’s body should work like a man’s in order for a woman to flourish and be free,” with its treatment of “her fertility and biological rhythms are problems and weaknesses; in effect, a disease that needs to be managed,” said Chaput.
“And yet it’s the Church — not the pharmaceutical industry with its profits and manufactured infertility, or the doctors who deal with the pill’s collateral health damage, or the abortion industry that cashes in lavishly on the failures of contraception, but the Church — that gets criticized as abnormal and intrusive. Nothing speaks more nakedly to the doublethink we now accept as the rhythm of our daily lives,” he said.
“Pope Francis warns that our desire for mastery and autonomy has created a human crisis similar to the crisis of our natural environment,” said Chaput.
He quoted Pope Francis’ article in the book “Not Just Good, but Beautiful: The Complementary Relationship between Man and Woman”, in which the Roman Pontiff wrote, “marriage and the family are in crisis. We now live in a culture of the temporary, in which more and more people are simply giving up on marriage as a public commitment. This revolution in manners and morals has often flown the flag of freedom, but in fact it has brought spiritual and material devastation to countless human beings, especially the poorest and most vulnerable.”