July 25 1968 was a significant event in the life of the Catholic Church throughout the world. Pope Paul VI released his encyclical Humanae Vitae(On the regulation of Human Life) on this day. The papal promulgation was revolutionary and not really expected by Catholics throughout the world, especially in the United States. The 1960’s were a decade of substantial political unrest, unsurpassed social experimentation in the areas of race relations and sexual identity and the whole world was in the midst of a global social revolution. Paul VI released on the global village a reaffirmation of the Catholic Church’s teaching against artificial birth control and the sanctity of human life as contained within the marital relationship. Any such revelation by the Church or Pope was unheard of in previous papal tenures and in Church history.
However, Humanae Vitae proved to be controversial with the world’s Catholic population because some believers felt it was a form of Papal interference in the conjugal world of marital relationships and sexual activities.

On the whole the document reaffirmed the Church’s teachings against artificial methods of birth control. In the 1960’s such a promulgation against the practical applications of pharmaceutical sciences was unheard of. Catholics throughout the world not only dismissed the doctrinal persuasions from the Catholic Church,but in some cases blatantly disregarded the Vatican’s teachings.
Today, 40 years since the proclamation of Humanae Vitae, some Catholics throughout the world still consider this document as a controversial teaching by the Catholic Church that has faithful Catholics confused and confounded as they morally struggle with questions related to the procreation of human life and the Church’s ban against artificial methods of birth control.
What Humanae Vitae has done however has clearly stated the Universal Church’s unwavering position that defends all aspects of the sanctity of human life. Since the famous proclamation of Paul VI the Church has increasingly become aware of the many aspects of life and death that characterize human life as we have come to know and understand it. Since that summer of 1968 scientific progress has revolutionized the way in which we view the examination of human life. The discovery of DNA and the double helix of Watson and Crick, the development of the destructive AIDS virus,the agony of Alzheimer’s and the perpetual questions surrounding human reproduction and development are forever joined with the teachings of Human Vitae that made it’s debut in the summer of 1968. We as Catholics have come quite a long way since this monumental encyclical was released. However, the fact that all of the medical technologies and developments the world has experienced since 1968 shows clearly that Humanae Vitae is still the consistent Catholic standard by which all moral and ethical decisions regarding the evaluation of the dignities of human life are measured. Humanae Vitae transcends not only the turmoil of the radical 1960s but it defines and clarifies for Catholics and the world our unwaivering values concerning the sanctity of human life. Humanae Vitae preceded Roe vrs Wade and that horrific decision by the United States Supreme Court.However the doctrinal clarity associated with Humanae Vitae can only today be fully appreciated and understood. The document clearly defines the obligations of conjugal love as procreation and the education of children.There is no other manner of interpretation. Almost 40 years since this declaration the Church still proclaims a special mandate towards the development of mutual love between a married couple and the openness to the procreation of children as an activity that is paramount to the proper relationship between a man and a woman, a husband and a wife, a Church and Her Spouse. Regardless of the changing world and its technological wonders the Church has consistently advocated and defended human life against all adversaries, in all of their forms that have tried to undermine and destroy human capacity to procreate and flourish in the human condition.
This consistency and continuity of Catholic moral teaching regarding the sanctity of human life and the sacred union between a man and a woman clearly testifies to the fact that the Catholic Church promotes a living and vibrant faith that is firmly rooted in the human family and the awesome appreciation for the remarkable gift of human life that we hold so precious and special.
Humanae Vitae might have been written 40 years ago but the message of respect for the human person, the marital union, the union family and the respect for the essential dignity of all human life is still clearly heard throughout the world by all types of believers, Catholic, Christian,Jewish,Islamic and other sects as well daily testify to the world and each other that human life is indeed sacred…and should be always and everywhere preserved and defended.

Hugh McNichol is a Catholic author and journalist that writes on Catholic topics and issues. Hugh studied both philosophy and theology at Saint Charles Borromeo Seminary in Philadelphia. He writes daily at: http://verbumcarofactumest.blogspot.com & http://catholicsacredarts.com & http://pewsitter.com He writes about Irish Catholic experiences  at http://graysferrygrapevine.blogspot.com  Comments are always welcome @ hugh.mcnichol@trinettc.com

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