Humanae vitae

Humanae Vitae ( Latin : Of human life ) is an encyclical written by Pope Paul VI and published on 25 July as as 1968 . This encyclical, published under the subtitle On Birth Regulation , defines the Catholic Church ‘s doctrineon abortion , contraceptive methods and other measures that relate to human sexual life. Due tofact that the encyclical declares illegal all kinds of artificial birth control, one publication was controversial.


  • New aspects of the problem and competence of the teaching profession
    • The transmission of life
    • New approach to the problem
    • Competence of the Magisterium
    • Special studies
    • The Magisterium’s response
  • Doctrinal principles
    • A global vision of man
    • Conjugal love
    • Responsible parenting
    • Respect the nature and purpose of the marriage act
    • Inseparable the two aspects: union and procreation
    • Faithfulness to God’s plan
    • Illicit routes for the regulation of births
    • Licitud of the therapeutic means
    • Licitud of the recourse to the infertile periods
    • Serious consequences of methods of artificial birth control
    • The Church, guarantee of authentic human values
  • Pastoral directives
    • The Church, Mother and Teacher
    • Ability to observe the divine law
    • Self-control
    • Create an environment conducive to chastity
    • Appeal to public authorities
    • To the men of science
    • To Christian Spouses
    • Apostolate among households
    • To physicians and health personnel
    • To the priests
    • To the bishops
    • Final Appeal


Encyclical Humanae Vitae was published on July 25, 1968 by Pope Paul VI .

This encyclical stresses that Christian marriage is valid only under the foundations of union, love, fidelity and fruitfulness. Therefore, the conjugal act can not separate the two principles that govern it: the unitive and the procreative. In this way, the Catholic Church opposes all types of contraception, whatever its nature. Even so, when there are serious reasons, the encyclical proposes as legitimate the use of natural methods to temporarily space births, limiting marital relations to the natural periods of infertility of the wife.

It further indicates that “the direct interruption of a reproductive process that has already begun” goes against Christian moral laws. Abortion, even for medical purposes, must be absolutely excluded as well as surgical sterilization, even if it is a temporary measure. Similarly, any therapeutic action aimed at preventing procreation is illicit, including chemical methods and those that create physical barriers to prevent pregnancy. However, the encyclical does not condemn methods that cause infertility as a side effect, as long as sterilization is not what you are really looking for.

The encyclical recognizes that perhaps the teachings it intends to disseminate will not be accepted by all, but that the Catholic Church can not declare certain acts as moral when in fact they are not. Then, it indicates various consequences that could arise from the use of unnatural means for birth control: it would open the way for conjugal infidelity and the degradation of morality, it would lose the respect for the woman who could come to be considered as A mere object of pleasure, and “would allow” some states the possibility of intervening in intimate issues of the couple. Some of the arguments of the encyclical to be against contraceptives, which it claims would be against natural law , 2 would be the excessive power that birth control methods supposedly grant to public authorities, becoming a tool of Those that could be “abused”, 3 or a supposed loss of man’s respect for women derived from the use of contraceptives, a position criticized by Cohen for never considering female sexual desire. 3

In the third part, entitled “Pastoral Directives”, the pope addresses various groups to request their support. Calls on public authorities to oppose laws that undermine the natural laws of morality asks scientists to study better methods of natural birth control, and calls on doctors, nurses and priests to promote the natural methods on The artificial ones.

Role of John Paul II

The last section of Humanae Vitae was strongly influenced by the bishop of Krakow , Karol Wojtyła, future Pope John Paul II . Bishop Wojtyła defended the traditional position of the church from a philosophical point of view in his book Love and Responsibility , published in 1960 . 4

Wojtyła was named as one of the members of Paul VI ‘s commission, as detailed in John Paul II’s biography of George Weigel . However the bishop had problems since the communist authorities of Poland did not allow the bishop to travel to Rome to be able to meet with the rest of the commission . 5

After being named pope in 1978, John Paul II gave a series of readings entitled Theology of the Body . In these talks, John Paul II further detailed the ideas that appeared in Humanae Vitae and in Love and Responsibility . 6


Su aparición suscitó un fuerte rechazo,7 provocando que sus ideas fuesen rechazadas abiertamente por muchos grupos de católicos. De hecho, dos días después un grupo de teólogos, liderado por el sacerdote Charles Curran que trabajaba en la Universidad Católica de América, publicaron una declaración que decía que la conciencia individual de cada católico debía de prevalecer en un dilema tan personal. Según Joseph Komonchak, en 1978, sólo el 29% del clero bajo estaba de acuerdo con esta amoralidad de los métodos anticonceptivos artificiales.8

Two months later, a group of Canadian bishops issued the Winnipeg Declaration (originally the Winnipeg Statement ), a statement which stated that those Catholics who did not follow the encyclical (ie contraceptives) worked well 9 as long as they had previously tried to accept Directives of the encyclical. However, recently a large group of Canadian Catholics asked their bishops to retract 10 of that statement. For his part, Pope John Paul II responded to the argument presented by the Canadian bishops in the encyclical entitled Evangelium Vitae and Veritatis Splendor . In these documents the pope reaffirmed Humanae vitae and clarified that the use of artificial contraceptives is not a practice accepted by the Catholic Church under any circumstances. The same encyclical details the use and validity of the conscience to determine moral decisions, including the use of contraceptives.

It was also intended to reaffirm the internal character of the ethical demands derived from that same law and which are not imposed on the will as an obligation, but on the basis of the prior recognition of human reason and, in particular, personal conscience .

John Paul II

On the other hand, this encyclical has been supported by authors such as Janet E. Smith , 11 Scott Hahn 12 and Mary Shivanandan , 13 in addition to the founder of Opus Dei , Josemaría Escrivá . 14 According to the Catholic writer Jose Noriega, part of the Neocatechumenal Way “has accepted without reservation” the encyclical. fifteen

In 1969, a year after its appearance, the American philosopher Carl Cohen criticized Humanae vitae for allegedly prevent this control adequate birth, creating the corresponding overpopulation ‘misery’ in the society of underdeveloped countries to follow these precepts. 1


  1. ↑ Jump to:a b Cohen, 1969 , p. 251.
  2. Back to top↑ Cohen, 1969 , pp. 251-253.
  3. ↑ Jump to:a b Cohen, 1969 , p. 261.
  4. Back to top↑ Karol Wojtyla (2011). Love and responsibility (3rd edition). Word. ISBN  9788498401882 .
  5. Back to top↑ George Weigel (2000). Biography of John Paul II: witness of hope . Plaza & Janés Editors. ISBN 978-84-01-37652-8 .
  6. Back to top↑ John Paul II (1996). Male and female: Theology of the body . Ediciones Palabra. ISBN  9788482390611 .
  7. Back to top↑ Komonchack, 1978 , pp. 221-222.
  8. Back to top↑ Komonchack, 1978 , p. 221.
  9. Back to top↑ Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (Sept. 27, 1968). Canadian Bishops’ Statement on the Encyclical “Humanae Vitae” (para 17). Public statement.
  10. Back to top↑ Catholics urge bishops to retract the Winnipeg Declaration
  11. Back to top↑ Janet E. Smith (1991). Humanae Vitae, the Generation Later . AUC Press. ISBN  9780813207407 .
  12. Back to top↑ Scott Hahn, Regis J. Flaherty, ed. (2007). Catholic for a Reason IV: Scripture and the Mystery of Marriage and Family Life . Emmaus Road Publishing. ISBN  9781931018449 .
  13. Back to top↑ Mary Shivanandan (1999). Crossing the Threshold of Love: The New Vision of Marriage in the Light of John Paul II’s Anthropology . AUC Press. ISBN  9780813209418 .
  14. Back to top↑ José Luis Illanes Maestre, ed. (2012). Conversations with Mons. Escrivá de Balaguer . Rialp. Pp. 387 ff. ISBN  9788432142031 .
  15. Back to top↑ Noriega, 2009 , p. 30. ” accoglienza senza riserva della enclatica di Paolo VI Humanae vitae on the part of the famiglie on the way is an authentic testimony for the interes Chiesa “.