Humanae Vitae is online at the Vatican site, and the text highlighted below is © Copyright – Libreria Editrice Vaticana.
I think Pope Paul’s example here is awkward:
13. (People) rightly observe that a conjugal act imposed on one’s partner without regard to his or her condition or personal and reasonable wishes in the matter, is no true act of love, and therefore offends the moral order in its particular application to the intimate relationship of husband and wife. If they further reflect, they must also recognize that an act of mutual love which impairs the capacity to transmit life which God the Creator, through specific laws, has built into it, frustrates His design which constitutes the norm of marriage, and contradicts the will of the Author of life. Hence to use this divine gift while depriving it, even if only partially, of its meaning and purpose, is equally repugnant to the nature of man and of woman, and is consequently in opposition to the plan of God and His holy will.
I wouldn’t disagree with the principle Pope Paul presents here, but many people–not just women–will find the comparison troubling. An act of forced sexuality is a complex mire of sin: brutality, power, cruelty, domination, among other possible qualities. To have a hope of communicating Church teaching on conception, be it in the late 1960’s or today, one must be supremely sensitive to matters of sexuality, and avoid any opportunity for misunderstanding.
But to experience the gift of married love while respecting the laws of conception is to acknowledge that one is not the master of the sources of life but rather the minister of the design established by the Creator. Just as (people do) not have unlimited dominion over (their bodies) in general, so also, and with more particular reason, (they have) no such dominion over (their) specifically sexual faculties, for these are concerned by their very nature with the generation of life, of which God is the source. “Human life is sacred—all (people) must recognize that fact,” Our predecessor Pope John XXIII recalled. “From its very inception it reveals the creating hand of God.” (See Mater et Magistra)
After a bad misstep, the essence of Church teaching is presented here: God is the source and author of life, human beings “administer” this gift to the universe. It’s a beautiful teaching, and through it, we place ourselves at the service of God. The spiritual reasoning behind it is that God moves often enough in surprise and discontinuity, and not through logical organization. It might be that the gift of a child is opportune when parents might not discern it to be so.
In my own experience, this openness did not bear fruit, but it was a personal commitment. My wife and I were able to experience God’s surprise in many good ways in our lives as single people. It was an easy matter for us to trust a providing God. But not every human being, and certainly not every believer is as trusting.