Friday, July 19, 2013

Spirit & Life - Father Marx on Humanae Vitae

HLI LogoThis week's Spirit & Life looks at one of the writings of HLI founder Father Paul Marx on Humanae Vitae in light of the encyclical's upcoming 45th anniversary. 
Spirit & Life
is the weekly e-column of
Human Life International.   


Father Marx on Humanae Vitae     

With Pope Paul VI's prophetic Humanae Vitae turning 45 next Thursday, we wanted to revisit how HLI's founder, Father Paul Marx, took the Holy Father's teaching "On Human Life" to heart, in what became a driving force behind the international pro-life movement. In this excerpt from his 1997 autobiography, Faithful for Life, Father Marx recalls what it was like when the encyclical arrived, and how, like many in the Church, he struggled with its arrival, and how it would affect everything in the Church.  

An ancient wise man once said, "God always forgives, men sometimes, Nature, never"; she is jealous of her fertility; she strikes back. And no generation should know that better than today's people. Widespread legal euthanasia is threatening. Daily the line between contraception and abortion becomes ever thinner, while new chemical abortifacients are being added to the arsenal of death and may soon obscure the high visibility of surgical abortion.

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HLI Founder Father Paul Marx 
Theologians who dissented to Humanae Vitae do not realize how heavily they contributed to the unleashing of the sexual instinct to the destruction of youth and family; to the proliferation of out-of-wedlock births; to the increased number of single-parent families; and to the massive escalation of venereal (now sanitized as "sexually transmitted") disease, divorce, that "alternative lifestyle" we used to call "shacking up," marital unhappiness, and a host of other evils, including child and spousal abuse.

You will recall that my older brother Joseph became a Benedictine monk (Father Michael) at St. John's Abbey. Roman-trained, he taught theology and Scripture for years there. He died 5 May 1993. He and three confreres, Fathers Godfrey Diekmann, Aelred Tegels, and Kieren Nolan, joined Father Charles Curran in officially dissenting to Humanae Vitae in 1968, a subject Father Michael and I could hardly ever discuss thereafter; he persisted in his false view to the end. From all four I learned from what flimsy grounds and inexperience this sad dissent stemmed. To militantly reject Humanae Vitae is really to reject the Church's moral authority, and such rejection, I have noticed, color's a priest's whole theological outlook and performance. In the first twenty-five years of my priesthood, whenever I met a priest for the first time I could sense an immediate rapport, because we were in total theological agreement. Today the same kinship is felt only when one learns that the newly met priest accepts Humanae Vitae.

Humanae Vitae was issued by Paul VI on 25 July 1968. I did not sleep that night. After having tried to help so many couples with the then-available methods of NFP [Natural Family Planning], I yielded to my doubts about the encyclical; I took the dissenting theologians too seriously; I even sponsored some of them. But before long I saw the consequences of contraception and how far they would extend -- that contraception, with its abortifacient tentacles was already devastating Church and society. I sensed, too, from an abundance of NFP counseling, teaching, and promotion, what a tragedy the rejection and contradiction of that encyclical would induce.

But now we know that the prophetic Pope Paul VI in Humane Vitae was entirely right in making his amazing three predictions[*]: that the practice of contraception would lower general morality; cause men to use and abuse women; and put a weapon into the hands of the government, which then would enter the sanctuary of the home and there dictate to the couple how many children they may have. All of these predictions have subsequently been fully verified in the estimation of all who have eyes to see. Every day the message of that controversial document rounds more convincingly. After all, Humanae Vitae means "Of Human Life," and you cannot defend human life unless you defend its source, which is God's great gift of human sexuality, whereby he invites the truly loving married couple to intimately cooperate with Him in the mysterious acts of creation.

* These days, writers generally refer to Humanae Vitae's four predictions, all of which have come to pass -- here Father Marx combines two of them into a single prediction, which some did in the wake of the encyclicals release.  

Father Marx's witness and faithfulness to the Humanae Vitae's beautiful teachings inspired many to be engaged in pro-life work, and has saved countless lives. In spite of the losses and setbacks we've faced from legal and judicial decisions around the world, there have been tremendous strides made on behalf of life, faith and family recently. We must never lose heart and give up hope. Though bombarded by strife and evil from every direction, we are a people of joy.

Sincerely yours in Christ,

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Father Shenan J. Boquet
President, Human Life International