“In 2,000 years of the Church’s history, there’s not a single official document which has been hated, despised, rejected and disobeyed by more Catholics than Humanae Vitae. That’s how important it is. So I think Humanae Vitae is almost to our times what the Nicene Creed was to the fourth century.”
So witnesses Peter Kreeft in the new film Sexual Revolution: 50 Years Since Humanae Vitae. It is the latest documentary, to be released July 25, from Daniel diSilva of Springtime Productions.
DiSilva focuses on the fallout of the “free-love” experiment set against the backdrop of Pope Paul VI’s 1968 encyclical about love, sex and marriage on its 50th anniversary. At the same time, he contrasts the development of two means of regulating births — the weed-like roots and spread of artificial conception and the wholesome roots and growth of natural family planning.
“Sometimes we have to go back and look at what was foretold. Here we are, in 2018, with all the consequences of the sexual revolution, and the Pope was right,” diSilva explained to the Register. “Here was the Vicar of Christ, Blessed Paul VI, writing prophetically. Who could have foretold these things? He had such vision, such foresight. But we shouldn’t be surprised, because that’s the way God works.”
Similar in style to his 2016 film, The Original Image of Divine Mercy, diSilva knows how to tell a story — as narrator Alana Newman relates her own story, connected with the history of the last 50 years, while driving in a vintage Volkswagen van. This visual motif keeps the sexual revolution history — where we started, where we’ve ended up presently, and where we should be heading — rolling along. The functional songs throughout also underscore the theme.
As in his first film, diSilva brings in familiar specialists for accounts of what happened, follows timelines connected to key players, and brings to light results with concise and priceless insights.
“It was so clever to try and get every woman on earth to take a drug every day of her fertile life. That is a dream for a pharmacology business. And now we know decades later, exactly as Pope Paul predicted, if you don’t respect the natural rhythms of the body, you’re going to be messing yourselves up one way or another: your relationships, your health,” says Archbishop Anthony Fisher of Sydney, Australia.
Other voices, both Catholics and secular, include leading political philosopher and commentator Robert George, Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia, author and researcher Mary Eberstadt, Population Research Institute President Steven Moser, University of Texas sociologist Mark Regnerus, ethicist Father Tad Pacholczyk, law professor Helen Alvaré, moral theologian Janet Smith, Planned Parenthood staffer-turned-pro-lifer Abby Johnson, and several others.
Making It Personal
Throughout the film, diSilva picks up different angles that seek to resonate strongly with millennials.
Take the way Eberstadt observes society’s “desire to live naturally and organically and authentically and … the desire to live by the rules of the sexual revolution — the inorganic technological control of fertility.”
And Johnson bluntly remarks, “Everybody is running out and buying free-range eggs and chickens, and then they’re popping a birth-control pills. That doesn’t make any sense.”
Then there’s the narrator, who tells her story of not knowing her father, since he was a “donor parent.” Trying to find out who he was, she learned only his donor number.
“This sounds unnatural. That’s because it is,” she observes.
Eventually, Newman learned of her father’s nationality, which led her to discover Catholicism, St. John Paul II and his “theology of the body” teaching.
Where did we get this idea of conceiving children whose parents have never even seen each other, never set eyes on each other and never said I love you? Newman asks.
George ticks off the heartbreaking results of the societal shunning of Humanae Vitae: “no-fault divorce, out-of-wedlock childbearing, sperm donation. It’s turning children into property. But it … makes perfect sense under the ideology of the sexual revolution,” and the loss of a sense of sexual morality, because sex belongs in marriage, and marriage is between one man and one woman.
Two Roots to Two Routes
“This is an attempt to put people back on the track of what real love is,” diSilva said, explaining his approach. People need to understand the effects of the sexual revolution and how it led to where we are.
He emphasizes another aim of the documentary is to “introduce people to the most organic and natural form of regulating births ever known to man.”
The film expose the roots and rise of “the pill” as it simultaneously traces the development of the Billings Method of natural birth control as a way to showcase Church-approved natural family planning (NFP).
In contrast, Dr. Gregory Pinkus, who was working on the birth-control pill and in vitro fertilization, met Planned Parenthood founder Margaret Sanger and experimented on women in a mental asylum.
Theology professor and author Angela Franks reveals how Pinkus fudged his research figures, not showing serious side effects — all while not knowing the long-term effects of this type of contraception.
“The pharmaceutical companies knew the birth-control pill was a potential goldmine,” says Franks. “The pill would be the first drug that healthy women would take — daily and possibly for years.”
At the same time, this film looks at the contributions of Dr. John Billings and his wife, Dr. Evelyn Billings, featured in film clips, in developing NFP, starting in 1953.
The film presents the facts in a non-preachy way of what Blessed Paul VI prophesied would happen if Humanae Vitae was ignored.
University of Texas sociologist Regnerus points out how Paul VI was right in Humanae Vitae, especially about “the respect that is due to women and how the pill would virtually be creating a scenario where he (the man) wouldn’t be doing that.”
Archbishop Chaput highlights how “contraception placed a dangerous weapon in the hands of public authorities.” And Moser adds how governments use it to control populations: “What Paul VI predicted would happen did happen.”
Eberstadt reveals that, with “the invention of the birth-control pill, America and the sexual revolution acquires a deep interest in not forming families the way families used to be formed. And it is the lack of family formation … that is guiding people out of [the] Church.”
The documentary at the same time spotlights the critical solution.
“A new sexual revolution is here, and it is defined by John Paul II’s theology of the body,” affirms narrator Newman, who is a certified NFP teacher, “and before that by Paul VI and Humanae Vitae. … And even before that by Christ, who himself reveals true marriage on the cross. True marriage is a fruitful giving of the total self over to another in love forever. … Our journey starts with Christ, who makes all things new, and in God our Heavenly Father, who loves every person.”
Joseph Pronechen is a Register staff writer.
A trailer of Sexual Revolution: 50 Years Since Humanae Vitae appears at SexualRevolutionMovie.com. The official site also contains further information and how to book a showing.