ROME — On its 45th anniversary, Pope Paul VI’s encyclical that upheld the Church’s teaching on birth control is “incredibly up-to-date,” especially because it raises “the problem of a technocracy” which is “the main problem of our culture and our society,” says Bishop Mario Toso.
Bishop Toso, the secretary of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, said in a July 25 interview that the problems raised by technology is “a global social question. It goes beyond the relation of mankind with creation and the manipulation of life.”
Pope Paul VI issued Humanae Vitae (On the Regulation of Birth) on July 25, 1968, in the midst of rapid social and moral changes that were brought on by the widespread availability of contraceptives and the sexual revolution that swept through Western societies.
The encyclical created a strong reaction, particularly in the United States.
Many expected that Paul VI would follow the suggestion of the majority of the experts on the panel he assembled and approve the use of contraception, at least for married couples.
Instead, Paul VI reaffirmed the Church’s teaching that new life and love, the two fruits of the conjugal union, cannot be separated.
Bishop Toso pointed out that, after 45 years, the debate is still focused on the contraception issue, but the real issue being discussed is the nature of human beings.
The topics and issues developed in Humanae Vitae form the roots of the concept of integral human development, that is, the idea that the entire person must be cared for and cannot be separated into compartments.
This was backed up in Benedict XVI’s social encyclical “Caritas in Veritate,” which “clearly considers Humanae Vitae a fundamental basis for social ethics and for integral and inclusive development,” he said.
Bishop Toso also stressed, “The question of the technical mindset is enlarged well beyond the question of human nature in the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, where it is linked to the question of culture, poverty and human ecology.”
This is why “the true social issue” today is about how our way of thinking is being effected by technology.
According to Bishop Toso, the spread of technology has come into conflict with the principles of Humanae Vitae in “two important ways.”
The first is the perception of procreation being changed by technological and medical developments.
Bishop Toso noted, “When the generated child is considered a mere product, the couple is deprived of the finality of welcoming a new life, which is one of the most important finalities of the family.”
The second way technology has challenged the teachings of the Church is by making sexual differences something that can be subjective.
Benedict XVI spoke about the “philosophy of gender” in his last address to the Roman Curia for Christmas, on Dec. 12, 2012.
He noted that, according to the philosophy of gender, “sex is no longer a given element of nature that man has to accept and personally make sense of: It is a social role that we choose for ourselves, while in the past it was chosen for us by society.”
This led human beings to deny their “own nature and decide that it is not something previously given to them, but that they make it for themselves.”
Bishop Toso stressed that behind the international promotion of gender-oriented policies, “there is a project to subvert the social order of society, thus putting in discussion the idea of the human being.”
If one’s sexuality can be chosen, “the idea of family has no content, and it becomes a matter of no importance if there is a family made up of man and woman and open to procreation or if the family is just the consequence of a contract.”
“If man cannot live the family as a natural vocation, how can he welcome the natural vocation of belonging to the wider human family?” Bishop Toso said. These are the roots of an “absolutely relativistic way of thinking.”
Bishop Toso recalled, “In the 'Message for the World Day of Peace 2013,' Benedict XVI affirmed that ‘the precondition for peace is the dismantling of the dictatorship of relativism and of the supposition of a completely autonomous morality.’”
The mission of dismantling the dictatorship of relativism, he insisted, “must be carried on in every area of social life. All Christians are called to this urgent and important commitment.”