“Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? ..the immoral person sins against his own body. Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you… Therefore glorify God in your body.”
As every scripture scholar acknowledges, St. Paul is here warning the Corinthians about a particular type of sin – sexual immorality that was so rampant at the time in Corinth
I read an article this week about how this letter from Paul to the Corinthians was the FIRST sexual revolution – a preaching to Corinth a way of viewing sexuality which would have been almost completely foreign to them and the rest of the world
There is a certain basic reality that St. Paul is speaking to that makes Catholicism unique in so many ways – the idea that each of us have a body and a soul and that our bodies and souls are not a ghost and a machine
Virtually no one else holds the classic Catholic understanding of the body and soul relationship.
- Some go really far towards the bodily and material: “all that is real is what is the physical world”
- Others go too far to the spiritual: “everything that matters is only on the spiritual realm and what we see around us, all that is “bodily” is bad or is an illusion”
- and most everyone else has the problematic view that body and soul are real but almost completely unrelated – “I can do with my body whatever I want, and my soul will remain unharmed. And I can do whatever I want on the spiritual plane, it will not affect me bodily”
July 25, 2018 is the 50th Anniversary of the most talked about encyclical of all time: Humanae Vitae.
It too, like St. Paul to the Corinthians, seeks to speak to humanity about the importance of keeping the body and soul together.
A central idea of the encyclical is that in married love, the coming together of spouses (the unitive dimension of married love) must always be linked, in every act, to the procreative dimension of married love (the openness to life)
The Church has always condemned contraceptives that, in a physical way, intervened in married love, but a new question arose with the advent of the birth control pill. Would it be permissible for marriages to allow a chemical form of birth control?
Pope Paul VI wrote the encyclical, then, and ruled that no, couples could never use chemical means of birth control either, that chemicals also serve to sever the unitive and procreative – the body and the soul of marriage
Pope Francis reaffirmed all the teachings of Humanae Vitae last year with his letter Amoris Laetitia (paragraph 80, among others).
What I’d like to look at for the moment is the prophetic nature of Humanae Vitae. It is probably the most prophetic Church document of all time.
Humanae Vitae made 4 predictions if use of the contraceptive pill became widespread in our wider culture:
- An increase in marital unfaithfulness and a general lowering of morality
- Would anyone deny that over the last 50 years that has happened?
- In 1968 he was mocked for worrying about this, but only a couple of years after the contraceptive pill was legalized in the United States, the divorce rate doubled, some of those divorces caused BY infidelity
- Objectification of women
- Again, many in 1968 would have asked what the worry is about?
- In the wake of the Harvey Weinstein scandal and so forth, would anyone deny this now? With pornography being the number one thing the internet is used for, would anyone question his prophecy now?
- Governments would begin to use contraception and encourage it on their populations
- Surely in 1968 people probably thought he was crazy
- In 2018, when China and other countries have done this for years
- In 2018 when our own country and Canada and others have been guilty at times of tying our foreign aid to countries only if they are distributing to their people contraception. As Mary Eberstadt rightly noted: “This spectacle of pale people in increasingly barren societies telling certain other people not to have their own children is going to look grotesque in history’s rear view mirror” Mary Eberstadt
- In 2018, when the Little Sisters of the Poor are still in appeals courts and are currently required to pay for contraception for people, would anyone call Pope Paul VI crazy now?
- People would begin thinking they have total dominion over their bodies
- In 1968 – what does that even mean?
- In 2018, when people say that if you are male, but you think you are female, then you are – that merely thinking something in your mind is enough – would anyone say that in 2018 Pope Paul VI was off the mark?
These 4 predictions – to those who mocked them 50 years ago today, Paul VI might say today “you mocked me 50 years ago, but can you hear me now?”
St. Paul said the body and the soul are one, nothing can come between them.
Pope Paul said the body and soul of a marriage are one, nothing can come between them.
Bishop Fulton Sheen put it this way “Nothing is more psychosomatic that the union of two in one flesh; nothing so much alters a mind, a will, for better or for worse. The separation of soul and body is death. THOSE WHO SEPARATE SEX AND SPIRIT ARE REHEARSING FOR DEATH.”
As we think about these warnings of Paul VI in Humanae Vitae, the warnings about separating body and soul in married love, we of course have likely heard about those who have, over the last 50 years, not given their assent to the teaching. But St. John Paul II said the following – “Humanae Vitae’s teaching on Contraception does not belong to matter that can be freely disputed among theologians. To teach the contrary is equivalent to leading the moral conscience of spouses into error.” Address of June 5, 1987
Solution put forward by Humanae Vitae – Natural Family Planning.
Again, just as the proof of the accuracy of Paul VI’s predictions are obvious and apparent, equally impressive are the positive statistics of those who utilize Natural Family Planning that Humanae Vitae proposed
- Natural Family Planning has a success rate of 97-99% for those who discern that they ought to abstain during fertile windows for the time being for various reasons discover in prayer before God.
- The divorce rate for couples using NFP is between 1-3%
May our world recapture the Christian vision of human persons as embodied souls, may we recognize the link between our bodies and souls, and thus begin again to affirm, as a culture, that our bodies are Temples of the Holy Spirit, and we are called, by Paul in today’s reading and also called by the Church in all Her teachings, we are called to glorify God in our bodies.