Humanae Vitae is online at the Vatican site, and the text highlighted below is © Copyright – Libreria Editrice Vaticana.
“Chapter” I consists of numbered sections 2 through 6 under the title of “Problem and Competency of the Magisterium.” Pope Paul states the problem as it appeared in the 1960s, and makes a case for the guidance of the Magisterium.
In this section, we read of four significant changes that took place prior to 1968 that impact people and their reception of church teaching on the transmission of life.
2. The changes that have taken place are of considerable importance and varied in nature. In the first place there is the rapid increase in population which has made many fear that world population is going to grow faster than available resources, with the consequence that many families and developing countries would be faced with greater hardships. This can easily induce public authorities to be tempted to take even harsher measures to avert this danger.
The world population has doubled in the intervening years, and so far, available resources are keeping the pace. The problem today, as it was in the late 60’s, is distribution and the politics that prevent a just sharing of basic needs. That isn’t to say that overpopulation isn’t a concern. Among thoughtful people, the threshold may vary: ten billion, or fifty, or even a hundred. At some point, the Earth will simply run out of space. Unless we move to outer space.
My sense is that distribution of resources remains a problem and that rural injustice leads to the crowding of urban areas, with accompanying hardships:
There is also the fact that not only working and housing conditions but the greater demands made both in the economic and educational field pose a living situation in which it is frequently difficult these days to provide properly for a large family.
The wealthy, who could afford to rear ten, twenty, or even a hundred children do not adopt them. Nor do they choose in many cases to bear them.
Also noteworthy is a new understanding of the dignity of woman and her place in society, of the value of conjugal love in marriage and the relationship of conjugal acts to this love.
Perhaps misogynists and others lament trend number three. But women are in a position to control the transmission of life. Women are less breeding stock–unless they are unfortunate enough to be placed in royalty or aristocracy. Men have less of a monopoly with regard to either larger or smaller families. In healthy situations, the discernment is now a shared one.
But the most remarkable development of all is to be seen in man’s stupendous progress in the domination and rational organization of the forces of nature to the point that he is endeavoring to extend this control over every aspect of his own life—over his body, over his mind and emotions, over his social life, and even over the laws that regulate the transmission of life.
And this last point gets to the most serious aspect: human beings now control conception through reliable artificial means separate from abstaining from sexual acts.
Note the sexist language in this translation. It may well be a metaphor for the presumption that male human beings are expected to be in control of it all. Certainly men used to control much in women’s lives, including body, mind, emotions, social life, and law. I wouldn’t underestimate the significance of the loss of some male power in the debates of the past several decades. I certainly note that men have no problem, for example, placing the burden of contraception on women. Perhaps not much has changed in some areas.
Your comments, please.