Humanae Vitae, the landmark encyclical of Pope Paul VI “became a sign of contradiction” because it upheld the Church’s traditional condemnation of contraception, Pope Benedict XVI told a Roman audience on May 10.
The encyclical was a significant show of courage, the Holy Father told participants in a conference held by the Pontifical Lateran University to prepare for the 40th anniversary of the document’s release. The passing years have helped to underline the importance and power of the encyclical.
“The truth expressed in Humanae Vitae does not change,” Pope Benedict said. “Quite the contrary, in the light of new scientific discoveries, its teaching becomes more relevant and stimulates reflection on the intrinsic values it possesses.”
In a consumerist culture that often denigrates the value of life, the Church is obliged to defend human life and human dignity, the Pope said. He warned that “the use of sexuality becomes a drug” when it is divorced from the context of marital love and the transmission of life. “As believers we could never allow the power of technology to invalidate the quality of love and the sacredness of life,” the Pope said.
Pope Benedict argued that the case against contraception is based not on sectarian beliefs but on the natural law. “The transmission of life is inscribed in nature,” he observed, “and its laws stand as an unwritten norm to which everyone must refer.”
In his Saturday talk the Pope also commented on the forms of artificial reproduction that, like contraception, sever the intrinsic link between marital love and the transmission of life. “No mechanical technique can substitute the act of love that husband and wife exchange as a sign of the greater mystery, in which they are protagonists and co-participants of creation,” he said.