Forty-five years ago, on July 25, 1968, the Roman Catholic Church, and specifically Pope Paul VI, shocked the world with a beautifully bold document: Humanae Vitae.
As the world — and especially the West — went full throttle ahead in a hysterical push for birth control, abortion and various other “progressive” nostrums, the document stood athwart history, yelling, “Stop!”
Here, said the magisterium, was one Church, one institution that would not swim along with the cultural tide. The rest of the world might madly and heartily embrace this or that new “freedom,” new “right,” new so-called “good,” but the Church founded 2,000 years ago by Jesus Christ was not going to do so.
The Church cited its reasons. Among them, it foresaw “the pill” as not liberating women, but demeaning them, turning them into sexual objects in ways that the wisdom of the world could not imagine. Among the “grave consequences … of artificial birth control,” Humanae Vitae feared “that a man who grows accustomed to the use of contraceptive methods may forget the reverence due to a woman and, disregarding her physical and emotional equilibrium, reduce her to being a mere instrument for the satisfaction of his own desires, no longer considering her as his partner whom he should surround with care and affection” (17).
The Church foresaw disaster ahead not just for women, but for the human family: father, mother and children. The document was profound and prescient, accurately predicting the crises and disasters and disorders to come.
Moreover, not only did Humanae Vitae affirm the need for men to respect women, but, from the outset, it upheld the sanctity of marriage. Literally, the first line in the encyclical addressed “the most serious duty of transmitting human life, for which married persons are the free and responsible collaborators of God the Creator.” Throughout, the document spoke of “married persons” and their “faithfulness to God’s design,” of the “sacrament of matrimony” between “husband and wife.”
And where do husband and wife stand today?
Today, we need another Humanae Vitae, this one defending marriage and dealing with the enormous onslaught of so-called “gay marriage,” which the culture suddenly insists is a new freedom, a new right, a new so-called good. There is an absolute urgency.
Same-sex “marriage” is sweeping not just America, but the wider West. France, once a bastion of Catholicism, has legalized it, and that country just performed its first official “gay marriage.” Countries throughout Europe are demanding compliance and (in some cases) even participation from churches and believers whose faith clearly teaches that two people of the same gender should not marry — that a man and a woman shall leave their parents and become one flesh.
In America, this issue is an absolute juggernaut, threatening to crush faithful Christians who stand in its way. Make no mistake: This will become a fierce threat to our religious liberty as faithful Catholics and Christians.
In short, the world needs someone or something to stand up right now and yell, “Stop!” We’re hungering for leadership by someone or something that can spell out the debacle ahead, especially for children and the human family — and can do so with the great eloquence of truth and charity, of Scripture and Tradition, of biblical law and natural law.
That someone and something is Pope Francis and the magisterium of the Catholic Church. When he was a cardinal from Argentina, Pope Francis called same-sex “marriage” an attempt by the “Father of Lies” (i.e., Satan) to “destroy God’s plan … and deceive the children of God.” He said that same-sex “marriage” discriminated against children “in advance,” depriving them of “their human development given by a father and a mother and willed by God.”
At stake, said then-Cardinal Bergoglio, was “the total rejection of God’s law engraved in our hearts” and the very survival of the human family: “father, mother and children.”
The world is begging for that moral clarity right now.
For the record, the latest news in the Catholic press is that Pope Francis is reportedly planning the first encyclical on the subject of poverty (after finishing Benedict XVI’s encyclical on faith). That’s good. It’s most certainly a vital issue. We know that this Pope and our Church and Catholics and Christians everywhere must help the poor. We know that Jesus wants us to help the poor. You cannot neglect the poor. As much as we know that, it’s good to be constantly reminded. I need to be regularly reminded, particularly because I rarely encounter real poverty. Poverty is especially close to the heart and experience of this Pope.
Right now, however, at this utterly crucial moment in time, the world also needs the Church to speak out on so-called “gay marriage.” The culture and the faithful worldwide are crying out for it. Many are deeply confused, especially the Catholic laity in America, which, amazingly, according to polls, actually supports same-sex “marriage.”
Countless numbers of Catholics are hearing absolutely nothing on the subject from the pulpit, from their bishops, from their religious-ed programs — and despite recent major and relevant works in the Church, such as John Paul II’s seminal theology of the body.
On the whole, the Catholic laity seem totally in the dark, accepting and embracing not the ancient teachings of the Church, but the dogma of Hollywood, the media, the universities and secular liberalism.
Leadership from Rome could not be more imperative. Action is needed — and needed quickly. And this Pope, welcomed and beloved (thus far) by dissenting Catholics and secular progressives because of his care for the poor and the environment, is the perfect messenger for the message. He is the ideal man at the ideal time. He’s so perfect for this particular task that his choice indeed seems Providential.
The Catholic faithful and people worldwide — Catholic and non-Catholic, Christian and non-Christian — need to know the crises and disasters and disorders to come from the “gay marriage” tsunami.
We need a Humanae Vitae on marriage.
Paul Kengor, Ph.D., is a professor of political science at Grove City College. His books include God and Hillary Clinton and, most recently, The Communist: Frank Marshall Davis: The Untold Story of Barack Obama’s Mentor.