New book shatters myth of Humanae Vitae

Blessed Paul VI (CNS)

Documents in the Vatican archives prove it was a “myth” that Blessed Paul VI largely set out on his own in writing Humanae Vitae, the 1968 encyclical on married love and birth regulation. Source: CNS.

In anticipation of the encyclical’s 50th anniversary on July 25, Pope Francis gave special access to the archives to Msgr Gilfredo Marengo, a professor at Rome’s Pontifical John Paul II Theological Institute for Marriage and Family Sciences.

The results of his research were published in Italian this month in the book, The Birth of an Encyclical: Humanae Vitae in the Light of the Vatican Archives.

In a note to reporters, Msgr Marengo said his research revealed four little-known facts: Pope Paul approved an encyclical, De Nascendae Prolis (On a Child’s Birth), in early May 1968, but was convinced by translators in the Vatican Secretariat of State that it still needed work; a new draft was corrected by hand by Pope Paul; on several occasions the future St John Paul II sent suggestions, including an extensive treatment of the theme, but there is no evidence that they were used heavily in the final document; and Pope Paul asked the 199 bishops at the 1967 world Synod of Bishops to send him reflections on the theme of the regulation of births.

Msgr Marengo said the request to the synod members was a surprise. It is not included in any report about the synod itself.

“The news about the desire of the Pope to consult all the members of the synodal assembly is very important,” he said, “because one of the accusations repeated most often after the publication of Humanae Vitae was that the Pope decided to act alone, in a manner that was not collegial.”

The Pope received only 25 responses in the period between October 9, 1967, and May 31, 1968, Msgr Marengo said. And, perhaps more surprising, of those, only seven bishops asked Pope Paul to repeat the Catholic Church’s teaching against the use of contraceptives.

The other responses exhibited an openness to the use of artificial birth control in some circumstances, however “none of them would say that using the pill is a good thing,” Msgr Marengo said.


Birth of an encyclical: Priest documents preparation of ‘Humanae Vitae’ (CNS)

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