Humanae Vitae (HV) is an encyclical written by Blessed Pope Paul VI on July 25, 1968 to reaffirm the orthodox teaching of the Catholic Church on married love, responsible parenthood and the continued rejection of unnatural forms of birth control and abortion. It affirmed traditional Church moral teaching on the sanctity of life and the procreative and unitive nature of conjugal relations.
Blessed Pope Paul VI, who is to be canonized on October 14, prophesied in this encyclical about the consequences of dissenting from the Church’s teachings on marital love:
Infidelity and moral decline: He predicted that the widespread use of contraception would “lead to conjugal infidelity and the general lowering of morality.”
Loss of respect for women: Paul VI argued that “the man” will lose respect for “the woman” and “no longer (care) for her physical and psychological equilibrium” and will come to “the point of considering her a mere instrument of selfish enjoyment and no longer as his respected and beloved companion.”
Abuse of power: The Holy Father saw that the widespread use of contraception would place a “dangerous weapon…in the hands of those public authorities who take no heed of moral exigencies.”
Unlimited dominion: He warned that contraception would lead man to think he had unlimited dominion over his own body.
In summary, Pope Paul VI states that marital relations are much more than a union of two people. They constitute a union of the loving couple with a loving God, in which a new person can be created, and upon which God completes the creation by adding the soul. For this reason, Pope Paul VI says right in the first sentence of HV that the transmission of human life is a most serious role in which married people collaborate freely and responsibly with God the Creator. This is a divine partnership that takes its origin from God, who is love, and from this basic dignity Pope Paul VI defines his position:
Love is total — that very special form of personal friendship in which husband and wife generously share everything, allowing no unreasonable exceptions and not thinking solely of their own convenience. Whoever really loves his partner loves not only for what he receives, but loves that partner for the partner’s own sake, content to be able to enrich the other with the gift of himself.
Married love is also faithful and exclusive of all other, and this until death. This is how husband and wife understood it on the day on which, fully aware of what they were doing, they freely vowed themselves to one another in marriage. Though this fidelity of husband and wife sometimes presents difficulties, no one has the right to assert that it is impossible; it is, on the contrary, always honorable and meritorious. The example of countless married couples proves not only that fidelity is in accord with the nature of marriage, but also that it is the source of profound and enduring happiness.
Finally, this love is fruitful. It is not confined wholly to the loving interchange of husband and wife; it also contrives to go beyond this to bring new life into being. “Marriage and conjugal love are by their nature ordained toward the procreation and education of children. Children are really the supreme gift of marriage and contribute in the highest degree to their parents’ welfare.”
(Sources: Encyclical – Humanae Vitae; Wikipedia – Culture of Life)