Friday, July 25, 2008

Humanae Vitae at 40

Forty years ago on this day Pope Paul VI issued what really ought to have been a pretty unremarkable encyclical letter, all things considered: Humanae Vitae, on the transmission of human life and on sexual ethics within marriage.

Unremarkable because Humanae Vitae contained nothing new. Its teaching ought not to have been a surprise to anyone endowed with a Catholic sense of things. Pius XI had already condemned contraception and the contraceptive mentality in Casti Connubi (1931), as a response to the Anglican bishops’ approval of contraception at the Lambeth conference of the previous year. What could be more natural, therefore, than that Pope Paul should uphold the constant teaching of the Catholic Church on married life and human sexuality? This is what he did, and his reiteration of the Church’s constant teaching was greeted by howls of protest and dissent, not only by the secular world but even by priests, religious, theologians and even bishops.

1968 has been described by some as the year in which the Church fell apart. Anne Roche Muggeridge in her book The Desolate City, refers to Humanae Vitae as the triggering incident which allowed the revolution within the Church to emerge full-blown into the open, and openly to defy the authority of the Pope, the Holy See, Canon Law, and indeed the entire doctrinal and liturgical tradition of the Church across two thousand years.

Forty years later the revolutionaries are still in a state of defiance and open revolt—a state which some of them still describe, even today, as “loyal dissent”, an oxymoron if ever there was one. But today they are less confident, less sure of themselves, less convinced that the future belongs to them and to their fellow secularizers within the Church. For forty years on, as one might expect, they have aged considerably; they have not achieved the overthrow of Catholicism, for which they strove; and most ominously of all for their hopes of success, they have inspired none to follow in their footsteps and take up the cudgels in defence of peace, love and rock ’n’ roll once they have retired or passed on. They look—and sound—like relics of the groovy ’sixties and ’seventies, outdated tie-dyed hippies still tripping on the spirit of Vatican II (or should that be the spirit of Woodstock?). They are so completely contemptible that no one today—not even those thoughtless youth most in agreement with their heresies—wants anything to do with them at all.

Of course the most infuriating thing about the dissidents’ revolt against Humanae Vitae is that—as in every other area in which they have challenged Church teaching—the dissidents are quite simply wrong. They have backed the wrong horse—one that will not even pass the post, never mind win the race. Contraception is NOT a good thing. While it might at times be convenient for individuals, it is ruinous for society. There is not one country in the entire European Union—apart perhaps from Malta—which is producing sufficient children to replenish its population. This means that population is falling across the EU. The birth rate must be at least 2.2 children per woman if a given population is to be sustained. This is what is known as the “replacement level”. No EU state—and certainly not Ireland, which has embraced the contraceptive culture with gusto—has a birth rate anywhere near replacement level. Some states—Germany, Italy, Spain and Greece, for instance—have birth rates so alarmingly low that these countries will assuredly experience dire economic and social problems in a generation or two.

A low birth-rate spells disaster for society. It always means more older people and fewer young. As the population ages, and begins to retire from the labour force, there will be fewer younger people available to meet the demand for workers and to keep the economy moving. Fewer workers means the state has a much reduced tax revenue—but not reduced costs, since there are now disproportionately large numbers of older people requiring pensions and expensive medical care. At a certain point, in order to avert the unsavoury prospect of an unsustainably large proportion of society being dependent on the support of an insufficient few, the state will begin to take certain measures. Old or chronically ill people requiring constant and costly care, will be required to be “put to sleep”. Able-bodied elderly people will not be permitted to retire at 65, but be required to remain at work for several years more. And the deficit in the working population will be further relieved by importing young immigrants from the third world, not a few of which will profess the religion of Islam. These latter, of course, will have more than 2.2 children per woman, not having embraced the contraceptive culture that has already sounded the death-knell of the west. Over time, the proportion of Muslims in the population will steadily increase—as it is in France, Britain and the Netherlands—with further chaos and destabilisation the only result of such a process.

We are already seeing and living through the endgame of the contraceptive mentality in so many different countries in the west; but will anyone sit up and take notice? Or are we now too firmly attached to playing God with our marriages, and with our children?

When one practices contraception, especially if one is aware of the Church’s teaching on the matter, one does not please God; one pleases oneself. To persevere with one’s own will against the holy will of God is always—in whatever matter—to invite catastrophe. Those who in the ’seventies, ’eighties, ’nineties and today took it upon themselves to have but a single child—or even no child at all—are precisely the same generation that will most feel the pain when the looming demographic crisis finally hits home. They themselves will be euthanised for purely pragmatic reasons by the same offspring they raised to be godless and secular, under the same laws permitting abortion and euthanasia for which they will have striven so hard to keep on the statute books. As all historical precedent has shown, wherever contraception is approved and practiced, the legalisation of abortion is sure to follow. For abortion is in the final analysis simply an extension of contraception, one that seeks to remove a conception rather than merely prevent it in the first place. For if one can in so cavalier a fashion interfere with human life at its very beginnings, why not also at its end?

Pope Paul was prescient. Humanae Vitae is the true teaching of the Catholic Church and may not be gainsaid without consequences, either in this world or the next. Defy it at your peril.

You have been warned.

No comments: