Fertile ground diocese digs deep into humanae vitae at its 50th anniversary electricity questions and answers physics


FORT WORTH — Gracie Morris did not feel tired as Bishop Michael Olson and Dr. Janet Smith spoke about Humanae Vitae for five hours. The 17-year-old from St. Mary the Virgin Parish in attended the April 28 conference after getting home from her school prom in the wee hours that morning. And the night before, she’d been up late studying.

Morris and 19 other youth from the Arlington church attended the conference on Blessed Pope Paul VI’s encyclical that addresses the perils of artificial contraception. They read Humanae Vitae (Of Human Life) along with Pope Pius XI’s encyclical Casti Connubii (On Christian Marriage) this year in religious education class.

Dr. Janet Smith, a professor of life ethics at Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit, gave two talks at the Humanae Vitae conference hosted at St. Patrick Cathedral’s Parish Hall. Her first talk explored the background and history of Blessed Paul VI’s landmark document.

Although some hoped the Catholic Church would change with the times and permit the use of artificial contraception as Protestant denominations had, the document released was consistent with the Church’s unbroken tradition of valuing life and procreation.

In Humanae Vitae, Blessed Paul VI predicted many negative consequences would result if the unitive and procreative aspects of sex were separated by the use of artificial contraception. He anticipated increases in divorce, abortion, adultery, pregnancies to single women, and pornography. He projected a “general lowering of morality.” He foresaw that men would lose respect for women “to the point of considering her as a mere instrument of selfish enjoyment.” He also forecast that government might regulate and sometimes mandate contraception, intervening in the most personal relationship between a man and woman.

“One of the things that was very much at stake that required Pope Paul to address it so importantly and so critically was the integrity of family life, the integrity of motherhood, the integrity of paternity, the integrity of the vocation of marriage,” said the prelate.

“We have a responsibility to do our best to teach as a Church in a way people can hear and understand to the extent that is possible. One of the most important things is the authentic proclamation of the faith, the authentic proclamation of right reason,” he said.

Having written and edited several books and articles on Humanae Vitae, Dr. Smith is regarded as a leading expert on the encyclical. In fact, she told the audience of more than 200 that she is speaking at 24 conferences that observe its half-century anniversary this year.

More than two million copies of her talk “Contraception, Why Not?” have been distributed, and she delivered that message at the conference. After detailing how artificial contraception diminishes mental and physical health, impedes the selection of a good spouse, and increases the likelihood of divorce, the professor explained cultural fallacies about sexual freedom.

She said, “The biggest lie of all — that sex is just sex, it’s just a powerful physical pleasure. . . . Sex changes your life. A baby changes your life forever, so you are engaging in an act that can change your life forever. Sex is not trivial. . . . Sex is for making love and making families, not just for pleasure.”

According to Dr. Smith, artificial contraception sends the message that “I want a momentary pleasure with you” instead of “I am willing to be a parent with you. I am here for you forever.” Our culture does not recognize the sacredness of sex, which invites God to create a new, eternal human soul.

“How do you defend the Church teaching on marriage?” queried one attendee. Dr. Smith suggested asking questioners to read Church teaching in front of the Blessed Sacrament. “We don’t have anything to apologize for,” she asserted. “We have the confidence that this is the truth.”