On 29th July, 1968, Pope Paul VI wrote an encyclical which spoke of human life. It was an official document stating the church’s teaching on marriage and matters concerning married life. Some remember it as the “birth control” controversy. I will not go into the history of that here, but the discussion continues. Was the church right in 1968?
This discussion involves what some call “Liberation” and “Responsible Parenthood”. One thing is certain and that is, that in the last 50 years we have been going through a period in our history which we call “modern rationalism”. Basically this is about what can be seen as man’s desire to ‘be right, fair and responsible for his own decisions, the need for something to make sense and to be clearly rational’. There are many positives in thinking this way, but ultimately the question arises – is humanity responsible to make its own rules or are some laws divinely inspired and therefore, above mankind? To put it more simply, is “man” his own “god” or is there a “God” outside “man”? Rationalism leads most adherents to the conclusion that man is his own god.
In 1992 in a case called “Planned Parenthood v Casey” the Supreme Court issued a judgement which backed the rationalists’ view. The Court stated that “at the heart of liberty is the right to define one’s own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universal, and of the mystery of human life”. This is basically what the evil one told Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. The U.S Supreme Court reconfirmed the right of men and women to exterminate their own unborn children.
Most of the world followed this statement and abortion has become very common place. As you know, the Catholic Church, even to this day, stands solidly against this. Pope Paul VI warned against this kind of teaching. He said, “The religion of the God who became man, encounters the religion of man who makes himself god”.
It is an impossible burden for people to be their own “god”. Man is not god or the “absolute one”. God creates mankind so that, using the God given freedom man has, he might become united with the “absolute one”.
We are invited to be partners of God and through that, to see in our fellow humans the presence of God. We are to be out going, to be generous, sharing and on a journey to the Almighty in heaven.
If we, on the other hand, are motivated by seeking only our own worth, disposition or power, then this freedom or goal we seek can only be expressed in self-gratification. People who seek only to gratify or serve themselves are very dangerous people. They have no limits, but also have no peace or satisfaction because there is never an end to the search for self-glory.
This is why our society is in trouble, why we find it hard to trust anyone and why it is dangerous to walk on the streets in places. God is the ultimate law giver. If He is not respected then we have to deal with the multitude of self-proclaimed “gods”.
Was the church wrong in 1968? History has shown that it was not. The official teaching of the church is actually a road map to human fulfilment and not some strange attempt to control or confine people.
“Human Vitae” and other church documents should be looked at in the positive light in which they were written.