US Catholic Faith in Real Life

40 years of agreeing to disagree

By Bryan Cones | Print this pagePrint | Email this pageShare
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The 40th anniversary of Humanae Vitae is getting some press in Catholic circles, the most prominent of which is John Allen's New York Times column on the subject. Allen argues that Humanae Vitae's survival is a sign of the unwillingness of the Catholic church--by which he means the Vatican, it seems--to change, a stubbornness that was underestimated by commentators at the time. David Gibson, in his blog, offers a different view, and, I think, a fair critique of both Allen and Humanae Vitae--while also providing links to two other responses to the anniversary.

 A number of Gibson's commenters, however, offer anecdotal evidence (mostly from the Denver archdiocese, it seems) of renewed interest in HV sparked by Pope John Paul II's "theology of the body." No one has good numbers on the oft-repeated assertion that younger churchgoing Catholics are more likely to follow the church's teaching on this matter, but the fact that only something like 4 percent of Catholic couples of childbearing years stick to natural family planning would suggest that the pro-HV couplse are the exceptions that proves the rule.

Still, it seems odd to me that this of all issues has become somewhat of a defining one for Catholics, even a test of "orthodoxy." But if accepting Paul VI's conclusions in Humanae Vitae is the test of actual membership in the church, we'd have a small church indeed.