Pope Paul VI and Humanae Vitae: I Told You So


The image has spread rapidly around social media networks: It’s a photo of Pope Paul VI, and in the likeness of those popular inspirational posters, includes the saying, “Humanae Vitae No. 17: I told you so.”

It’s a humorous but stark nod to a reality that Catholic Americans are facing today: a slow, but sure dissolution of freedom of religion, this time through forcing artificial contraception upon Catholic institutions.

In his 1968 encyclical “Humanae Vitae,” Pope Paul VI waxed prophetic of the consequences of artificial contraception — the same contraception that the current federal administration wants to force Catholic institutions to provide in health care plans. This mandate includes drugs that produce abortions, as well as sterilization procedures.

Here’s what Pope Paul VI wrote about artificial birth control more than 40 years ago:

“Careful consideration should be given to the danger of this power passing into the hands of those public authorities who care little for the precepts of the moral law. Who will blame a government which in its attempt to resolve the problems affecting an entire country resorts to the same measures as are regarded as lawful by married people in the solution of a particular family difficulty? Who will prevent public authorities from favoring those contraceptive methods which they consider more effective? Should they regard this as necessary, they may even impose their use on everyone.”

Eerie, right?

Most Catholics have a pretty clear understanding that the Church teaches artificial contraception is an intrinsic evil — yes, a sin. But many — as evidenced through numerous studies that show a majority of Catholics still use contraception — either don’t fully understand or appreciate the Church’s teaching.

Here are a few reasons why the Church teaches against contraceptives:

1. Marriage = Unity + Procreation

In “Humanae Vitae,” Pope Paul VI wrote, “The Church, nevertheless, in urging men to the observance of the precepts of the natural law, which it interprets by its constant doctrine, teaches that each and every marital act must of necessity retain its intrinsic relationship to the procreation of human life.”

“This particular doctrine, often expounded by the magisterium of the Church, is based on the inseparable connection, established by God, which man on his own initiative may not break, between the unitive significance and the procreative significance which are both inherent to the marriage act.

“The reason is that the fundamental nature of the marriage act, while uniting husband and wife in the closest intimacy, also renders them capable of generating new life — and this as a result of laws written into the actual nature of man and of woman. And if each of these essential qualities, the unitive and the procreative, is preserved, the use of marriage fully retains its sense of true mutual love and its ordination to the supreme responsibility of parenthood to which man is called.” (No. 11 and 12)

2. The birth control pill is an abortifacient

While the Church repeatedly has noted that the birth control pill has the ability to act as an abortifacient, members of the medical community also have spoken to that reality.

As an abortifacient, the pill has the ability to prevent a human embryo from implanting in a uterus. Yes, that means it’s an abortion.

3. Contraceptives do not solve our problems

In the secular world, it’s been touted time and time again that contraception will lower unintended pregnancies, reduce abortions and even benefit marriages.


In fact it’s done just the opposite, as Pope Paul VI warned:

“Responsible men can become more deeply convinced of the truth of the doctrine laid down by the Church on this issue if they reflect on the consequences of methods and plans for artificial birth control. Let them first consider how easily this course of action could open wide the way for marital infidelity and a general lowering of moral standards.”

He went on to say that any man who “grows accustomed to the use of contraceptive methods may forget the reverence due to a woman, and, disregarding her physical and emotional equilibrium, reduce her to being a mere instrument for the satisfaction of his own desires, no longer considering her as his partner whom he should surround with care and affection.”

A 2011 Guttmacher Institute fact sheet states that nearly half of all pregnancies among American women are unintended. Four in 10 of those are terminated through abortion. And 54 percent of women who have had abortions had used contraception during the month they became pregnant.

Paul VI sure told us so, didn’t he?

This article courtesy of the St. Louis Review.


About Author

  • noelfitz

    I read that 98% of American Catholic women sexually active use artificial contraception. Is this a concern for the Church?(http://fallenfromgrace.net/2012/02/09/the-catholic-church-catholic-women-and-birth-control/

    • sammy

      100% of all Catholics sin. Is this a concern for the Church?

  • HomeschoolNfpDad

    98% sounds about right. The American bishops, though, have everyone’s attention on this point for the first time in 40 years, and they are teaching and preaching this Truth in widespread fashion. Let us pray for them because our culture doesn’t like to hear this Truth that — if we really believe God’s message to Ezekiel — our bishops are nonetheless obliged to teach.

    • Mary Kochan

      I think it is a bogus number: The survey was limited to women between 15-44. So right there we aren’t dealing with “all” Catholic women. It excluded any women who were a) not sexually active, where that is defined as having had sexual intercourse in the past three months (there go all the nuns and chaste single women and all but the sexually active teens, while other surveys have shown that a majority of teens are NOT sexually active in spite of the best efforts of PP to get them to be so), b) postpartum, c) pregnant, or d) trying to get pregnant.

      • HomeschoolNfpDad

        Good point. If you asked a cohort of women who were using artificial birth control, whether they used artificial birth control, the answer would be 100%. Another way to skew the numbers is to ask, say, 50-year-old women whether they had ever used. The numbers would be high there, also.

        Still the numbers are high, and the bishops now have people’s attentions and sympathies. The Great Contraception Silence has been broken. Let’s pray they make the most of it (and us too).

  • noelfitz

    Thank you for replies.
    A problem still remains.
    If many Catholic women practice artificial contraception, is it a problem for the Church? What is it doing about it?
    Is it sinful to practice contraception and are many Catholic women not in the state of grace due to this? Is hell awaiting these women?

    • HomeschoolNfpDad

      As St. Peter teaches us, love covers a multitude of sins. Thus, asking whether hell awaits these women is a lot like asking yourself or me or any in these fora the same question. The Church teaches that hell is a choice, made in free will by a human being who understands the gravity of his actions when choosing to commit an objectively immoral act (roughly the definition of mortal sin). Only God can judge those who currently use artificial contraception, just as only God can judge those who commit other acts that fall into the definition of mortal sin. Finally, only God can know the final state of repentance of a human soul. Read the first few pages of Dante’s Purgatory, where late repenters wait years merely for the chance to enter Purgatory, from which they will eventually emerge into Heaven. This isn’t formal theology, but Pope Benedict XV endorsed it as a valid representation of the Faith in In Praeclara Summorum, http://tinyurl.com/6mxbd9v .

      But the Church also teaches that grace builds on nature. While ultimate destinations like heaven or hell are ultimately between God and a sinner, questions of grace are real in the here and now. It doesn’t take much searching on the web to discover a multitude of families who have embraced the Church’s teachings on sexuality and marriage. These families have real struggles, often with sinfulness. But they also have a serenity that is deeper than their own sinfulness. Search and read. Grace is real and evident to anyone willing to look and see.

      The real problem for the Church, I think, is silence. Many of the Church’s own princes do not teach this. And where this is not taught, the Church is dying. Family has always been the cornerstone of the Church. That is why the Church does not embrace the American concept of freedom, with its inane focus on the individual as the cornerstone of human rights. The Church’s view is that this cornerstone does not reside properly in the individual but in the family. Even celibate men and virgins live this reality, if they really embrace the brotherhood of the priesthood or the intrinsically familial design built into every convent and monastery in history (and again notwithstanding the corruptions occasionally allowed into these institutions by sinful priests and religious). There is a real familial grace to be observed here, too.

      In the end, sins are acts with varying gravity. Artificial contraception is grave matter, as Paul VI teaches in Humanae Vitae. Willfully engaging in artificial contraception is an immoral choice in an area of grave matter. It is the very substance of mortal sin. But sins, as acts, can be forgiven. They do not define us. We define ourselves insomuch as we choose to respond to God’s call to change our life. The famous metanoia that John the Baptist demanded in the desert remains a demand leveled at all of humanity throughout all time. But John’s fire and brimstone was always leveled at the acts and his call to repentance. Those who repented encountered a gentle saint who rejected no one.

      So also with Jesus. Every time he encounters a sinner, and most especially when encountering a sexual sinner, his response is always twofold:

      1) Your sins are forgiven.
      2) Go forth and sin no more.

      It used to be that we rejected step 2 only. We still approached the Church asking Her to forgive us in the person of Jesus (the actual formula for the Sacrament of Penance). Now we ignore step 1 because we pretend that there is no sin; therefore, nothing to be forgiven; therefore, no need to change. But the demand for metanoia remains, and we lose out on real graces when we do not convert our hearts and our actions in consequence of this internal conversion.

      We cannot pretend that artificial contraception (and sterilization, for that matter) are acceptable. The graces lived by those married couples open to life — and missed by those who are not — are real and measurable. Couples open to life simply do not divorce, the rare exception notwithstanding. Couples who close themselves off to life really close themselves off to each other (John Paul’s observation). Thus, the closeness and unity in marriage already does not exist in nature for these couples. There is nothing for grace to build upon. And divorce therefore commonly follows.

      That is the real scandal. The body of Christ torn asunder by divorce, while Christ’s princes — with a few notable exceptions — hold their tongues except, perhaps, to say that we need to have compassion for those hurt by divorce. Well, of course we do, but we also need to break the cycle. There is only one way. Metanoia. Away from contraception. Towards openness to life. A major fall in the divorce rate can only happen after this conversion of hearts, not before. It does not matter what we argue on this point. The facts speak for themselves.

      In the U.S., the HHS mandate has had at least this notable effect: the Church’s princes have broken their silence about contraception. The next step is teaching and preaching, followed by conversion of hearts, as one couple at a time makes the right decision.

      Then love — Real Love, in Mary Beth Bonacci’s words, http://reallove.net/index2.asp?CID=1will cover for a multitude of sins.

      • Mary Kochan

        HomeschoolNfpDad, Please check your email for a message from me. Thanks.

  • noelfitz


    thank you for your long, detailed, solid and orthodox reply to me.

    I appreciate that you spent so much time preparing your response.

    The problem I posed is part of my fundamental concern. Is God good?

    Contraception is intrinsically evil. hence objectively hell awaits those Catholics who willingly reject God’s teaching and use contraception.

    Also in Ireland only a small proportion of Catholics fulfill the duty of Sunday Mass. Confession has almost disappeared, then on Christmas many who are living together unmarried and not practicing go to communion. Are they adding to their destruction.

    Even if only one person ends up in hell can God claim to be good?

    He is meant to be all powerful, everything he made is good and he want our happiness, so how can he allow a person to end up being tortured for all eternity?

    As I have often written God’s ways are not our ways and the clay cannot give orders to the potter.

    • sammy

      Yes, many people will go to hell.

    • Lou Ferpo

      It is the Irish people who have stopped honoring God’s ways because they don’t hear their priests address their sinfulness. Mass is a rushed half hour long, and for the few who attend, many use it as a social gathering. Ireland’s religious have been plagued by scandal, so the disillusionment is understandable, but where are the laity? The church has been weakened in so many ways, that it is time for those members of the church, who are the majority, to step up and learn their catechism enough to save the youth and disillusioned.

      Purchase the dvd collection by Fr. Barron, called Catholicism. It is a jewel for God, with a philosophical understanding of the supernatural. It is around $175 US, but perhaps you can negotiate a price considering the need.

      Instead of asking the same question over and over, is God good, learn the basis for why we believe He is good. He wills our good everyday, otherwise He would not have suffered for us. His will for us, and our will’s have to coincide to reap the fruit of our efforts. We cannot be half-baked, only doing as much as we feel like doing.

      If we are not learning, then we must seek the answers. We are obligated to learn and know God. We are obligated by being Catholics to bring God to others.

      There is no ‘negative’ with God. Seek the good, and you will find the good. The devil wants you in the negative where he reigns supreme; doubting God, condemning God, and rebelling against God.

      Read books by the saints, especially St. Augustine, St. Theresa, St. Faustina. Read about the children of Fatima, how young they were, and the graces they received. Read about Lourdes. Keep your faith in the positive. Recall the apostles who abandoned Jesus on the night he was betrayed. Recall their fear of being captured and tortured. Then, when all should’ve been lost, after Jesus was crucified, recall how most were martyred in horrific ways. What changed their hearts? What made them brave enough to face death? It is their testimony for the ‘risen’ Christ that sustains us through the centuries. It is their martyrdom that speaks to Christ rising from the dead, and removing their fear of death. Keep yourself Christ-centred to see the goodness of God.

      God bless.

  • Mary Kochan

    Noel, this is not the first time that you have brought up the question of whether God can be good if anyone goes to Hell. This question has become a repeated theme of yours on this site. The question has been answered repeatedly, by numerous respondents.

    In spite of that, you are not satisfied with the answers, which have been given from the tenets of our faith.

    Since our faith, and the knowledge of it amassed here, is clearly inadequate to your question, otherwise you would not keep repeating it, I need to ask you to take this question elsewhere henceforth. Perhaps to a spiritual director, or a priest, or theologian, but we are finished with responding to it here and I will delete it if it comes up again.

  • noelfitz

    many thanks for your post.
    I will do as you ask.

  • Linda

    Just a comment with regard to Noel’s statement as it seems to be a prevalent mindset in our society of relativism. My pastor has made same reference even during homilies however his rationale is that everyone will go to heaven because God is so good and loving. Of course this is not my belief nor the teaching of the Catholic Church. Or the statement if God is so good & loving why is there suffering in the world. The obvious being if our Heavenly Father is so good & loving why did his son our Lord Jesus have to suffer mentally and physically such a cruel death on the cross. His suffering during the passion and carrying of the cross as well as the death & resurrection atoned for the many sins of the past, present and future and opened the gates of heaven. That is why suffering is a great mystery. We will all have some suffering during our lifetime, some will have more than others. However we can during our sufferings unite ourselves to Christ on the cross not only to atone for our sins but for the conversion & salvation of sinners which is so much needed in these days and for the souls in purgatory.
    We will truly follow in the footsteps of Christ
    which the Church teaches us. Christ & his Mother will always be with us and give us much grace to accomplish this.
    Again our prayers & offering of our sufferings that many souls will be converted and saved by this means. My father who at age 87 was saved by this means and became Catholic at the last hour. It was in the year 2011 when Pope JPII was declared blessed and was invoked in the Divine Mercy novena during the Easter vigil when my father said yes to becoming a Catholic… he had not attended RCIA as a result of his health however the priest made an exception. My father had many misconceptions about what the Catholic church really taught but through explainations through the many years and grace he became a Catholic. He died three months later unexpectantly receiving the sacraments. So one thing never give up on anyone through our prayers, attending mass, sacrifice and suffering we are helping in the salvation of souls!

  • Little Lamb

    Noel, I hope you don’t mind if I address your question about God’s goodness from a different direction. I am new to this site, so forgive me if I repeat any advice/information that has already been given. I am not making any assumptions regarding you personally, but on the chance that the barrier you find insurmountable is something more than philosophy alone, I would like to share a little of my own life experience with you. I am 50 years old. I was blessed with the Catholic faith as a teenager after someone gave me a Miraculous Medal, and a large Catholic family taught me to pray the rosary. Life has not been easy – even during my childhood. I was blessed beyond words to have good priests preach Humanae Vitae. I owe them my family. I have been married 30 years and have nine living children from age 29 to 8 years, and five grandchildren so far from age 4 years to 8 weeks. I live in a State that was 3% Catholic until the last ten years. By God’s grace I obeyed the Pope’s encyclical concerning contraception. I feel like I am one of a privileged few who had that support from priests (I certainly did NOT have it from family/friends/society at large). I will never forget the day I was sitting on the couch watching my first seven children play and laugh, and had the realization, “THIS IS WHY!” But I digress. The point I wanted to address was not contraception, but the goodness of God. I, myself, did not allow myself to ever ask that question directly. I thought I KNEW God is good in my head, but did NOT know it in my heart. My doubts were focused on how goodness could possibly be greater than evil when we are drowning in evil – yet, I realize now my doubting ‘goodness’ is doubting God’s goodness. Until I was 49 years old and went to a place in Georgia for Intensive Trauma therapy called “Freedom’s Calling”. You can check them out at http://www.freedomscalling.org. Three weeks after I got home my husband asked me if they had put me on drugs. NO. No drugs. No hypnosis. Three months after, I was laughing and being silly with my children and my 10 year old son asked, “Mom, what did they do to you in Georgia?” But the best part: I KNOW in the very depths of my heart GOD LOVES ME! From that starting point meditating on the Blessed Trinity is the real answer to the goodness of God. From all eternity, outside of time, God the Father loves God the Son, and God the Son loves God the Father with such a love (a love that NEVER changes) that that love is God the Holy Ghost…and WE are an outward expression of that love, created to be drawn up into that love for eternity. What about sin/evil? Simply put – sin is a rejection of that eternal, unchanging, infinite, boundless love, and evil is the consequence of that rejection. Evil is really an ABSENCE of good. The greater the thing that is absent, the larger the hole – right? I have tried to type this while working – duty calls now. I hope it helps. God bless you.

  • noelfitz

    Little Lamb

    You wrote “The point I wanted to address was not
    contraception, but the goodness of God.”

    I appreciate it that you took the time to write me a long, positive
    and encouraging post.

    It was thoughtful of you and your post has encouraged me.

    In these difficult times there is reason for hope and optimism.

    Last night in our parish (http://newtownparkparish.com/) we had a
    Listening Meeting where parishioners were invited to give their views on the
    future of our parish.

    Many positive points were made, we have great clergy and are welcoming,
    friendly, inclusive and based on community.
    But a new parish hall would be helpful, as would a prayer group,
    devotion to guardian angels and encouragement for youth.

    So we have reason to rejoice, as well as to be concerned.

    “You will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice” (NRSV,
    Lk 1:14a).