Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Love isn’t Free: And Decrease the Surplus Population

Part of series on Humanae Vitae

My least favorite episode of Star Trek is “The Mark of Gideon,” which aired in January of 1969. It involves a race, the Gideons, who live on a severely overpopulated planet, where there is little room to move or breath. It’s explained that the Gideons live long, regenerative lives, sterilization doesn’t work, and they don’t accept other methods of birth control, because they believe: “We are incapable of destroying or interfering with the creation of that which we love so deeply. Life, in every form, from fetus to developed being. It is against our tradition, against our very nature. We simply could not do it.” An ambassador is planning to release a virus on the population to wipe out enough people to reduce the crowding. Ultimately, the crew saves the girl carrying the virus so that she won’t have to die but allow her to carry the virus back down the planet in order to kill others.

It seems written as a reaction to Humanae Vitae and was consistent with the worries of its time that rapid population growth was barreling the human race toward catastrophe. The idea that population growth was a danger helped promote the use of birth control: we must make the world a better place for some people by removing others.

The twentieth century witnessed unprecedented population growth. Better hygiene, more food production, and medical and technical advancements lowered mortality rates. The history of humanity slowly climbed to 1.5 billion by 1900, then exploded to almost 7 billion by 2000. 

Near the middle of this, 1968, the same year Humanae Vitae was written, Paul R. Ehrlich published The Population Bomb, predicting hundreds of millions of deaths by starvation in the next decade and that society would break down by the end of the century due to the masses of people competing for limited resources. 

Overpopulation has always been a concern, given before rapid growth. The Greeks, Tertullian, and other ancients worried about it. The population has doubled again since 1968, so the fear of overpopulation and limited resources is still a heavily studied and worried about topic. We are depleting our resources faster than ever. There are dangers of disease, famine, and conflict that are worsened by crowded conditions. They are real challenges that must be addressed on both local and global levels. 

In another of his encyclicals, Populorum Progressio, Paul VI says, “There is no denying that the accelerated rate of population growth brings many added difficulties to the problems of development where the size of the population grows more rapidly than the quantity of available resources to such a degree that things seem to have reached an impasse. In such circumstances people are inclined to apply drastic remedies to reduce the birth rate.”

Yet drastic remedies have moral consequences. This fear of overpopulation has caused some to want to solve the problem through artificially manipulating population growth, change how we make people, not how we make or allocate goods. They present it as the conscientious choice to promote contraception. The world has too many people; it doesn’t want any more. 

In Humanae Vitae, Paul VI warns that those in power might use contraception against populations in their efforts to balance population and resources: “Who will prevent public authorities from favoring those contraceptive methods which they consider more effective? Should they regard this as necessary, they may even impose their use on everyone.”

In 1968, Robert McNamara that countries implementing birth control practices would get preferential access to resources. Doctors in Bolivia called it insulting that money should be exchanged for the conscience of a Catholic nation. In Colombia, Cardinal Anibal Muñoz Duque said that if American condition for aid undermined the teachings of the Church, they would rather not receive one cent.

The undeveloped countries, after all, weren’t (and still aren’t) the ones using up more than their share of resources. Overconsumption uses up resources more than population numbers. For example, the wealthiest 10% cause 50% of carbon emissions. Resources are hoarded, restricted, withheld. There is enough to go around if people used their share and if efforts were in place to care for our environment. And advancements have been made to increase food production, use renewable energy, and find other sustainable solutions. But the wealthy (and I broadly include me in that category) do not want to reduce their standard of living to help others. They like their comforts and their comfortable way of living. So instead, many policies promote limiting population growth.

Limiting population growth of poor people, specifically. Population control efforts quickly show political and economic biases. Population growth is mostly in Africa. As a continent, it uses far less resources than other regions. Yet it is the poor populations who must be controlled. There are some policies that mandate families limit children, such as China’s one-child policy or India’s forced sterilization program in the late-70s. Such programs or other forced sterilizations (such as in water and food supplies) can be used to eliminate undesired ethnic, religious, or political groups under the guise of environmental concern.

Other programs promote birth control, abortion, and sterilization through gifts or benefits offered to people willing to participate such as free medical care, rations, tax benefits. For the poor who have well-formed moral consciences, they are asked to sell out their beliefs in exchange for goods or services they need access to. 

In short, the wealthy are told they deserve children on their own terms, no matter the cost. Put off having children, then when you decide you want them and that you want them to be your own, pay any cost for fertility treatments or donors or surrogates. But the poor are told that it is selfish to give birth to their children, that it would be better if the child were never born than to have him live in squalid or dangerous circumstances. Abort the baby. Get yourself sterilized. Your family is unwanted.

This idea is most egregious in places where the demand for population control is dictated out by the government. Look at China’s one-child policy as an example. There are now generations of children supporting two parents and four grandparents all on their own. There is a gender imbalance due to preference for boys (if you only have one shot, you’ll abort the lesser desired), leading to millions who statistically will not be able to settle down even if they want to. What happens to a society with millions of frustrated, bitter men? China has had to loosen its policy in attempt to counteract the social repercussions. 

The places experiencing population loss are also struggling to care for an aging population, straining social benefits systems as there are less and less workers. Many countries are offering incentives to couples to have children. But for decades people have been told that children are a burden, your individual happiness is more important than a family or community, and you can have child-free sexual relationships. Society disseminates a message against children and families then can’t understand why their people won’t have children and families.

In Populorum Progressio, Paul VI says, “[Public authorities] can instruct citizens on this subject and adopt appropriate measures, so long as these are in conformity with the dictates of the moral law and the rightful freedom of married couples is preserved completely intact. When the inalienable right of marriage and of procreation is taken away, so is human dignity.”

Marriage, and its function of raising children, is a sacrament, a grace given by God that must not be frustrated by either outside or internal demands of reordering or control. Once the value of one child is diminished, the value of children is diminished. When we no longer see a human life in the image of God, worthy of dignity, we begin to see one another as competitors, burdens, enemies. How we individuals conduct our relationships results in how we a society conducts itself. Paul VI says in Humanae Vitae, “In a word, the exercise of responsible parenthood requires that husband and wife, keeping a right order of priorities, recognize their own duties toward God, themselves, their families and human society.”

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Love isn’t Free: What a Girl Needs

Women have long suffered under patriarchal systems—told explicitly or implicitly that they are too weak, too emotional, too stupid, too needy to contribute equally to men. They’re simultaneously too sexual and not sexual enough. They are objects for men to conquer, to win, to be rewarded with. There is a long, tragic, beautiful history of women fighting for their rights. To own property, to vote, to work, to live independently and safely. They had to knock down the doors to male-dominated spaces. And even when they were reluctantly allowed in, it was with the understanding that they couldn’t change the space; they had to act like men, conduct business like men, date like men, adopt the attitudes of men in order to fit in. Women have gained entry but still face discrimination and misogyny.

Paul VI rightly states in Humanae Vitae, “Let them first consider how easily this course of action [contracepting] could open wide the way for marital infidelity and a general lowering of moral standards. Not much experience is needed to be fully aware of human weakness and to understand that human beings—and especially the young, who are so exposed to temptation—need incentives to keep the moral law, and it is an evil thing to make it easy for them to break that law. Another effect that gives cause for alarm is 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.”

The Sexual Revolution claimed that it liberated women—that women could be open about their sexual desires and freely choose partners as much as men. But in reality, men benefited more from the Sexual Revolution than women. Women experienced more social pressure to “put out” earlier or more frequently as men expected their partners to be sexually active. In general, men are more likely to seek pleasure whereas women are more likely to seek security. The Sexual Revolution took the more masculine attitude toward sex—pleasure apart from love or commitment—and promoted it as the freeing and healthy approach. Women would use sex to try to draw closer to a man, then be dejected when the security did not follow. And they were told that if they just adjusted their attitudes to be more like men’s, they wouldn’t feel so hurt. The fantasies of bachelor life were prioritized over the desires of women or the social order of married life.

If you read any articles on modern dating, they all come with the assumption that the couple will be having sex—if not on the first date, then soon after. You can get lost in the number of stories of people thinking the relationship was more serious than the other, of people feeling pressured to keep their partner satisfied, of STIs and pregnancy scares and abortions. Women are simultaneously slut-shamed and prude-shamed. This supposed-win for freedom looks a lot like a loss.

People have come to believe that sex is a right, something owed to them. And when it is denied through romantic rejection, they sometimes become angry and bitter. You see this in groups of incels and red pillers who experience rejection and turn it into violent hatred of women. They deserve sex. They are being denied what they deserve. No one deserves sex. No one is entitled to another person’s body. And all too often, sex is a way to physically use another person to boost one’s own pleasure, ego, or sense of control. There is a lot of getting and having and not a lot of giving. Rather than men (and women) being challenged to stand up for the virtues of respect and love, women (and men) are expected to give into baser impulses.

This attitude hurts both women and men. While women are pressured to fulfill sexual fantasies, to be cool, be active, but not slutty, men have to play along too. Men who want to wait for marriage or don’t objectify women are mocked as weak. Men are also expected to put out and perform competitively. Both are expected to be sexually experienced and involuntarily compare partners while fearing the comparison themselves.

Media feeds into this mindset. It presents uncommitted sex, premarital sex, and cohabitation as unquestioned and natural. They promote the erotic while downplaying responsibilities or consequences. They produce unrealistic portrayals of hook-ups and relationships. And that’s not even going into the damaging effects of pornography, such as emotional withdrawal, objectification, less sympathy to rape/assault victims, and desensitization to violent sex.

And what happens when people spend a decade or two in this culture and then want to commit? Sexual habits are hard to change once a person decides to “settle down.” Studies have shown a correlation between premarital sex and infidelity/divorce. Regrets, comparisons, keeping the past from the current partner, and unmet expectations can eat away at a person and relationships.

There was the underlying assumption that sexual freedom would mean more happiness. But fleeting happiness replaced deeper joy. The emphasis on autonomous fulfillment and happiness meant that one’s personal desires superseded the needs of another or of society. Structures built by generations of experience were dismantled in pursuit of individualism. While it is important to people to realize their worth and be fulfilled, without a moral structure forming self-control, discipline, and ethics, the pursuit of personal desires can often become a hedonistic journey.

Christianity offers that structure, where sex is conducted in its proper context, an expression of love between spouses. In Humane Vitae, Paul VI says, “This love is above all fully human, a compound of sense and spirit. It is not, then, merely a question of natural instinct or emotional drive. It is also, and above all, an act of the free will, whose trust is such that it is meant not only to survive the joys and sorrows of daily life, but also to grow, so that husband and wife become in a way one heart and one soul, and together attain their human fulfillment.”

There is no closing Pandora’s box, and I’m not suggesting that things were better in some “back then.” Discussions about sex are good. Premarital counseling, marital counseling, and support for people leaving domestic abuse are all good things that have developed in recent decades that can help strengthen families. Women have more rights, more respect. We’ve made progress. But the current attitudes and expectations about sexual freedom is not progress. It is not liberating anyone; it’s just making us slaves to our desires and objects of others’ desires. We have to treat one another with the dignity and respect given to them by God, which means refraining from objectifying language and action, to respect the other’s needs over one’s own desires, to use our God-given reason and will to conduct ourselves with prudence and self-control.

Monday, July 16, 2018

Blessed Rosalie Rendu

Blessed Rosalie Rendu was born Jeanne-Marie Rendu in Confort, France in 1786, just before the French Revolution. Growing up, her family hid priests who refused to take oaths to the new Civil Constitution of the Clergy, which among other things, banned monastic orders, forbade commitments to foreign powers (i.e. the pope), and made bishops and priests elected positions. The family’s home was a refuge as priests fled to nearby Switzerland. Jeanne-Marie received her first Communion in her family’s basement.

As a teenager, she was educated by the Ursuline Sisters. It was at boarding school that she encountered the Daughters of Charity who ran the local hospital. The novitiate had been suppressed during the Revolution and had reopened in 1800. In May of 1802, Jeanne-Marie joined the Daughters of Charity and was given the name Rosalie.

She was sent to a house in one of the most impoverished districts of Paris. The population of the city was swelling, causing crowded housing, dirty streets, and contaminated water. There was a lot of poverty and sickness.

She worked with the Napoleonic government’s Department of Welfare to create a program providing vouchers for coal and food for people in her district. She sought to meet the spiritual and material needs of the poor around her and always treated them with respect. Over time, she opened a free clinic, a pharmacy, a school, a child and maternal care center, a youth club for young workers, and a home for the elderly. During cholera outbreaks, she would event pick up dead bodies from the streets. In a political uprising, she climbed the barricades to help wounded fighters.

She always responded to the current need and the changing situations of her neighborhood. Not just the sick or just the poor or just the hungry; she sought to help each person’s needs. It was noted that she was particularly attentive to priests and religious suffering from psychiatric difficulties Her work became very well-known; even King Charles X and Emperor Napoleon III visited her.

Students in Paris started coming to her for advice and direction on how to serve the poor. She would direct them to houses and after would facilitate their reflections on their encounters. In 1833 she began mentoring the first members of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul. In 1840, she helped re-establish the Ladies of Charity for lay women who wanted to serve the poor.

In the last two years of her life, she grew frail and blind. She died on Feb. 7, 1856. She was beatified in 2003. Her feast day is February 7.

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Love isn’t Free: Family Ties

The birth control pill’s effectiveness and popularity in the 1960s began to remove sex from procreation. Couples could engage in physical relationships with reasonable assurance that it would not lead to pregnancy. This heightened a public debate on premarital sex and helped set the scene for the Sexual Revolution. Sex was presented as pleasurable act separate from procreation or commitment. While touting how wonderful and liberating sex was, the revolution actually minimized the importance of sex, reducing it to instinct and hedonistic pleasure.

Couples began to engage in premarital sex or cohabitate before marriage more frequently. But even with modern birth control methods, there is little guarantee that sex is completely severed from its intended goal. Birth control meant to prevent unintended pregnancies actually led to riskier sexual behavior, which in turn, created unintended pregnancies. For couples not ready or wanting children, this can mean stress, threats, break-ups, children raised without both parents, or even abortion. Unplanned children are seen a hindrance—a problem to solve—for a couple’s circumstance-free life, rather than the blessing of new life that they are.

While cohabitation mimics a family structure, it still lacks the level of commitment that marriage takes on. Many believe that cohabitation is like test-driving marriage—that they can’t decide if they want to marry a person unless they live with them. But that just shows how the level of commitment is lacking in a relationship when they decide to cohabitate. It is mimicking a richer commitment and putting the partner through a test. It’s saying, “I love you—except I reserve the right to leave at any time.” Studies have actually proven that that “test drive” often backfires; couples who lived together before marriage had a higher rate of divorce than couples who did not.

Marriage is more than just attraction or a roommate with benefits. Marriage is supernatural, that is, it is not found in nature. Even animals that mate for life do not enter into a sacramental bond. Like other sacraments, it is reserved for humans, an efficacious expression of God’s love and grace.

And it is the foundation which family and thus society stand on. Paul VI says in Humanae Vitae, “Marriage, then, is far from being the effect of chance or the result of the blind evolution of natural forces. It is in reality the wise and provident institution of God the Creator, whose purpose was to effect in man His loving design. As a consequence, husband and wife, through that mutual gift of themselves, which is specific and exclusive to them alone, develop that union of two persons in which they perfect one another, cooperating with God in the generation and rearing of new lives.”

The marital act reflects God: it draws two people into union with one another, and it generates a new creation. To diminish sex to just pleasure diminishes marriage and its sacred role in enjoining two people, bonding them through physical union, and demonstrating virtue and love in the raising of families. In Humanae Vitae, Paul VI says, “It fosters in husband and wife thoughtfulness and loving consideration for one another. It helps them to repel inordinate self-love, which is the opposite of charity. It arouses in them a consciousness of their responsibilities.”

With the rise of promiscuity, people looked at monogamy and marriage as outdated institutions. Marriage rates dropped and divorce rates rose. Current divorce rates have lower since peaking in the early 1980s, but more and more people are having children without marriage, often without even living together. The idea of a nuclear family with a father and mother and their children exists as one of many options rather than the norm. Children grow up among different homes, witnessing their parents’ failed relationships. Most parents love their children and want to provide them a stable, loving home. But they’ve never been taught how to build that stability themselves.

Marriage takes a lot of patience, sacrifice, and hard work. I can only speak from a witness’ experience, but I have been fortunate enough to have a stable home and friends raised in stable homes. Society feeds us visions of marriage that are movie happy endings, deep romances, and wedding receptions. But marriage is a daily sacrifice for the good of the other. It’s best demonstrated when the couples face financial struggles, illness, or some other challenge, and help one another through. Any mundane, average day of marriage is more important than the wedding day.

The union of marriage holds nothing back. It calls people to love sacrificially as Christ taught. Birth control disrupts that total giving of one’s self to another. It’s a woman or man saying, “I give all of myself to you—except my fertility.”  

All of us are called to chastity. For non-married people that means abstinence. For married people that means fidelity and respect for one’s spouse. Regardless of our vocation or current status, we are called to be chaste, to practice self-control and use our bodies in the proper manner.

Maintaining a healthy, physical relationship with a spouse when additional children might pose serious financial or physical burden can be extremely challenging. The Church recognizes how difficult circumstances make her teachings on contraception. But as neighbors, we are called to help others in their difficult circumstances, not use it as an excuse to permit sin. Doing so only creates more damage.

Paul VI says in Humanae Vitae, “We have no wish at all to pass over in silence the difficulties, at times very great, which beset the lives of Christian married couples. For them, as indeed for every one of us, ‘the gate is narrow and the way is hard, that leads to life.’ Nevertheless it is precisely the hope of that life which, like a brightly burning torch, lights up their journey, as, strong in spirit, they strive to live ‘sober, upright and godly lives in this world,’  knowing for sure that ‘the form of this world is passing away.’”

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Love isn’t Free: Our Bodies

Even before I was Catholic, I was leery of hormonal birth control. And while I now believe there are moral arguments against birth control in general, I still believe the health issues surrounding hormonal birth control need to be addressed as well. Women are taught that it is natural to disrupt to her healthy body’s natural rhythm in order to fit in with society’s expectations. That shows a disrespect of women at their fundamental, biological level. And it shows how unnatural modern ideas of womanhood, relationships, and families are.

In the 1930s, the connection between steroid hormones and ovulation was discovered in animals. Development of these steroids from animal extracts and synthetic steroids developed for a few years without much interest outside the field. Then in 1951, Gregory Pincus, a leader in hormone research met Margaret Sanger at a Planned Parenthood dinner. She helped him get a grant to begin research for human hormonal contraception. In 1952, Pincus discovered that gynecologist John Rock was doing similar research for the opposite ends: he was trying to develop a pill to aid infertile women. Testing and development continued for a few years, resulting in Enovid.

The first contraceptive trail of Enovid began in April 1956 in Puerto Rico. While the women understand they were being given contraception, they were not told that they were part of an experimental trail. They were not warned of side effects. Three women died during the trail, most likely from blood clotting related to use of the pill.

On June 10, 1957, the FDA approved Enovid for the treatment of menstrual disorders. One June 23, 1960, it was approved for contraceptive use. Griswold v. Connecticut in 1965 made oral contraception available to all married women, and Eisenstadt v. Baird in 1972 made it available to all women, regardless of marital status. In 1970 Barbara Seaman arranged Senate hearings over the medical risks of oral contraceptives, such as increased risk of blood clots, venous thrombosis, stroke, cancer, and depression. These effects had not been thoroughly studied, nor were doctors warning women of these side effects. The Nelson Pill Hearings led to patient package inserts explaining side effects and risks.

Oral contraception altars the menstrual cycle to prevent ovulation. Synthetic progestogen and estrogen affect the hormones that stimulate ovulation. They also thick the cervical mucus, making it more difficult for sperm to find an egg should one be released.

The pill was developed to mimic a natural cycle, with three weeks of hormones and one week of placebos to allow for menstruation. This was purely cosmetic. Developers hoped that by mimicking a natural cycle, it would be easier to get approval by the Catholic Church. Today there are variations that don’t follow a natural cycle and women menstruate less often. Current birth control pills use lower doses of hormones than earlier variations. They have a perfect use fail rate of .3% and an actual use fail rate of 9%.

Fertility is not a disease. Fertility is the sign of a healthy body. So why would a woman take daily medication when there is nothing wrong? The pill or IUDs or other hormonal birth controls are not medicine. It’s a drug. It disrupts the body to prevent it from naturally ovulating.

There are cases where the pill is medicine. It is commonly used to alleviate symptoms of PCOS, endometriosis, and menstrual-related conditions. It is also used to treat acne. Other than to treat acne, no oral contraceptives have FDA approval for treating such medical conditions.  Use of medication to treat medical problems is completely allowed by the Church, even if these medicines have the side effect of reduced fertility. Paul VI in Humanae Vitae says, “The Church does not consider at all illicit the use of those therapeutic means necessary to cure bodily diseases, even if a foreseeable impediment to procreation should result there from—provided such impediment is not directly intended for any motive whatsoever.” But wouldn’t it be healthier for women if we developed medications targeted and approved for these issues specifically?

Besides the physical side effects, studies are starting to show social side effects with oral contraception as well. Women on hormonal birth control tend to pick partners with similar immunity genes as themselves, similar to pregnant women, whereas women not on hormonal birth control pick partners with different immunity genes. By tricking the body into thinking its pregnant, women are drawn to different types of people—more familial and nurturing. In and of itself might not be a problem, but what happens in a relationship when a woman goes on/off contraception; how does that affect her attraction to a man she might not have otherwise been attracted to? Similarly, men are more attracted to the pheromones of a fertile woman. A study found that men rated their partners less attractive when they were on hormonal birth control versus not, and that the men rated themselves less desirable partners.

The side effects are not limited to the women taking oral contraception, or even humans. Women using oral contraceptives excrete natural and synthetic estrogens that can pass through water treatment plants and have been proven to affect sexual development of wild fish populations. Because hormonal birth control is so widely used, it has actually begun to affect not only us as a people, but our environment as well.

Is consequence-free sex really worth all that? Could we not, instead, develop a culture that values a woman’s body—its autonomy, its ability, its fecundity—as well as the whole woman—her social contributions, her goals, her dignity? 

Thursday, July 5, 2018

St. Elizabeth of Portugal

St. Elizabeth (Isabel) of Portugal was born in 1271 into the House of Aragon. She was named after her great-aunt, St. Elizabeth of Hungary. At a young age she showed religious fervor, saying the Daily Office, attending daily Mass, and fasting.

In 1288, she married King Denis of Portugal. Denis was a good ruler but not a particularly pious man. A page started a rumor about another page and the queen. When the king heard the rumor, he was enraged. He ordered a lime-burner to throw the first page he saw into the furnace then sent the page who the rumor was about. The page, being devout, stopped for daily Mass. But Mass had already started so he stayed at the church for the second Mass. Meanwhile, the king sent the page who had started the rumor to go check with the lime-burner that the job had been completed. As he was the first page the lime-burner saw, the lime-burner threw the lying page into the furnace. The king released the other page’s piety had saved him and that rumor was a lie. He publicly apologized to Elizabeth and became a more devout man.

Elizabeth was well-known for her strong piety, her kindness to the poor, and as a peacekeeper between family members and nations. She even served as an intermediary between Denis and their son Alfonso during a civil war during 1322-1324. Legend says that at one point, she rode a mule and positioned herself between opposing armies in order to prevent the combat.

After Denis’ death in 1325, she moved to a convent of the Poor Clares and became a tertiary Franciscan.

She died in 1336. Her feast day is July 4, although in the United States it is transferred to July 5 because of the national holiday.

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Love isn't Free

It’s the Fourth of July, which means fireworks, bald eagles, brazen stars and stripes on everything. And even in an age that makes it very hard to love this country, I still think it’s alright to be patriotic and celebrate Independence Day. Along with all the patriotic pomp is the phrase “freedom isn’t free.” It’s meant to remind us that our rights, though inalienable, had to be fought for, that people sacrificed their livelihoods and lives for the principles of freedom and liberty. There is a cost.

On a smaller scale, we’re taught the same idea: “there is no such thing as a free lunch,” and “if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.” We’re wisely warned against Faustian bargains. And yet we keep making them. Because we want them to be true. We want the little-effort-high-reward option, the free lunch, the no-risk gamble, the democracy that doesn’t need defending, the bite of fruit that will make us like God.

Fifty years ago this month, on July 25, 1968, Pope Paul VI reaffirmed the Church’s teaching on marriage, parenthood, and the prohibition of birth control in Humanae Vitae. Many expected the encyclical to change the Church’s teaching, to agree with the zeitgeist. It was the Church standing up to the Sexual Revolution and saying “no.” 

Marital relations are just that—done in the confines of marriage and in relationship. Each partner gives completely of oneself to the other, including fertility. It is also done in relationship with God, trusting his will and being open to the possibility of children.
Paul VI says, “Whoever really loves his partner loves not only for what he receives, but loves that partner for the partner's own sake, content to be able to enrich the other with the gift of himself.”

The act combines bodies with the all the genetic information to form a new body, one that God imparts a soul into. This, at the very biological core, is the point of sex. But people have always wanted to disrupt the act from its conclusion. An empty release. People want the act of feeling loved without putting in the work of loving someone.

Free love doesn’t exist. Love is sacrificial.

Fifty years on, Humane Vitae is looked on by outsiders as the mean Catholic Church who won’t admit it’s wrong and by too many insiders as the Church being fallible or failing to get with times. The Sexual Revolution won. People are free to sleep with who they want, when they want, without contrition, without commit, without children. If it sounds too good to be true…

Paul VI predicted the consequences of the new sexual paradigm and the wide acceptance of artificial birth control: more people using partners just for pleasure, more demand for pleasure, broken relationships, the breakdown of strong marriages and strong families, the repudiation of the differences of the sexes, and the use of birth control to reduce undesired populations. He was right. In the face of ridicule, the Church continues to teach the beautiful, sacrificial love of a man and woman which is the bedrock of family, and thus, society. As Pope Benedict XVI states in Deus Cartias Est, the spirit and body can only love together; the two cannot be separated. To do so denies a person the fullness of self. He says, “Eros, reduced to pure ‘sex,’ has become a commodity, a mere ‘thing’ to be bought and sold, or rather, man himself becomes a commodity.”

In honor of the anniversary of Humane Vitae, I hope address in a few future posts the dangers and consequences of society’s current understanding of sex, contraception, and relationships, and how the Church’s teachings offer freedom through sacrificial love.

Our Bodies
Family Ties
What a Girl Needs
And Decrease the Surplus Population

Monday, July 2, 2018

St. Monegundis

Mother and anchorite, not normally two titles that go together. But one led to the other. St. Monegundis was born in Chartes, France, in the sixth century. She married and had two daughters who both died in childhood. Her grief and depression led her to a deeper devotion to God. With her husband’s approval, she built a private room where she devoted herself to solitude and prayer.

After a few years, she moved to Tours and built a hermitage near the tomb of St. Martin of Tours. She gained a reputation of a wise hermit, and several woman came to join her in prayer. This led to the establishment of a convent dedicated to St. Pierre le Puellier.

St. Monegundis died around 570 at Tours. Her feast day is July 2.