Pope Paul VI greets children as he visits the Church of St. Leo the Great in Rome March 31, 1968. Pope Francis will beatify Pope Paul Oct. 19 during the closing Mass of the extraordinary Synod of Bishops on Youth. (CNS photo/Giancarlo Giuliani, Catholic Press Photo)


When soon-to-be St. Paul VI promulgated “Humanae Vitae” 50 years ago, he warned his readers of the consequences of the widespread use of artificial birth control.

His warnings came in the encyclical’s 17th paragraph, first warning how it could “open wide the way for marital infidelity and a general lowering of moral standards.”

Another effect and cause for alarm, he wrote, “is that a man who grows accustomed to the use of contraceptive methods may forget the reverence due to a woman,” and “reduce her to being a mere instrument for the satisfaction of his own desires, no longer considering her as his partner whom he should surround with care and affection.”

Finally, he expressed his concern of it being used as a tool by public authorities.

“Who will blame a government which in its attempt to resolve the problems affecting an entire country resorts to the same measures as are regarded as lawful by married people in the solution of a particular family difficulty?” he asked. “Should they regard this as necessary, they may even impose their use on everyone.”

Marital infidelity

Cynthia Lemieux has seen the effects of the marital infidelity Paul predicted through her work as a marriage coach with her husband Peter.

“My husband and I have been doing this for 35 years, and we have seen a huge shift and change in the couples,” Lemieux said. “Two things that stand out in every single class in the last five to 10 years has been infidelity and infertility. It’s now one of the main things they (couples) wrestle with.”

The Lemieuxs, who offer a variety of marriage enrichment programs through their Say Yes to Forever ministry, have worked with engaged couples, newly married couples, couples interested in renewal and those whose marriages are in trouble.

Lemieux said that often infidelity is expected in marriage and couples think, “We will just get a divorce.”

“The Catholic Church doesn’t believe in that, and we don’t believe in divorce,” Lemieux said. “So, we try to give them hope to show that couples can say ‘yes’ to forever.”

Since many of the couples the Lemieuxs work with have experienced their parents’ divorce, they want to choose a different route in order for their marriages to succeed.

“We encourage them to get into a parish and start going to Mass every Sunday,” she said.

Lemieux said there is hope, but couples need to work on their marriages through spending time together, prayer and marriage enrichment programs.

“It is so critical because the growth of our Church depends on married couples,” Lemieux said. “We have to still fight for the family, and what we need to see is more (examples of) good and faithful couples devoted to each other. They are there, you just don’t read about it.”

This is the cover of “Every Parent’s Battle: A Family Guide to Resisting Pornography” by Dan S. Spencer III. The book is reviewed by Daniel S. Mulhall. (CNS)

General Immorality

Samuel Bryant, LAC, a licensed counselor for Family Strategies in Mesa, said that while he was growing up there was still a sense of sexual sin, but that the concept of sexual sin isn’t present today.

“In a lot of ways, we’ve made ourselves God in that we’ve determined for ourselves what is and is not sinful,” Bryant said.

He recalled a teenage client who was struggling with depression that didn’t consider his use of pornography or masturbation wrong.

“He didn’t have any thought that that behavior was contributing to his depression,” Bryant said. “Living lives immorally has a psychological impact — we don’t even attach this sinful behavior to our emotional experiences.”

Bryant said Family Strategies has thousands of success stories of people who’ve been able to turn their lives around, and he’s seen it in his own practice, such as when he counsels couples.

“They come in and,” through therapy, “the Lord does His work by making aware to them that this behavior is destroying their lives.”

Loss of respect for women

Catholic author and blogger Leila Miller pointed to the acceptance of contraception, which came about during that same era, as leading to more disrespect for women, just as the pope predicted.

“You always had a small segment of men that were going to objectify women anyway, but now we have a much larger group of men who are objectifying women,” Miller said. At the same time, she said, women are also objectifying themselves by not respecting their own bodies.

“Making a woman objectively sterile and barren so that she can be used at will for sexual pleasure can’t ever in any way increase respect, care and love for a woman. It can only turn her into an object,” Miller said. Women then begin to look at themselves differently too. “They open themselves up to be used by men and see that as completely normal because that’s what society says.”

At a time in which many laud the organic and natural and eschew the artificial, the irony that altering a woman’s body chemistry with drugs and implanting devices to thwart or abort pregnancy is not lost on Miller.

“What is so wrong with women’s bodies that we are having to alter a perfectly functioning, perfectly healthy body the way that God designed it in order to be more like a man’s body, to be unable to become pregnant? Why do we think that’s good? Why do feminists think that’s good? It’s a question they need to ask themselves,” Miller said.

“There’s this massive disconnect there because there’s nothing [more] that says we don’t like women than, ‘let’s change how women’s bodies work.’”

The mother of eight said she has always taught her children that people are to be loved and things are to be used — not the other way around. The use of contraceptives by millions of people around the globe has changed that and even plays into the growing problem of pornography.

“I think we know we are using people now because all the men who look at pornography — if that was their own mother, or daughter or wife, they would not want that kind of response to those women. They can only do that because they don’t see that person as someone loveable that they know.”

A banner referencing “Humanae Vitae,” the 1968 encyclical of Blessed Paul VI, is seen in the crowd at the conclusion of the beatification Mass of Blessed Paul celebrated by Pope Francis in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican in this Oct. 19, 2014 file photo. The Mass also concluded the extraordinary Synod of Bishops on the family. Blessed Paul, who served as pope from 1963-1978, is most remembered for “Humanae Vitae,” which affirmed the church’s teaching against artificial contraception. (Paul Haring/CNS)

Erosion of religious freedom

Alan Sears, founder and former president of the Alliance Defending Freedom, an organization that successfully fought for religious liberty and rights of conscience vis-à-vis Obamacare’s contraceptive mandate, pointed to the legal background that set the stage for government’s involvement in coercing others to embrace contraceptives.

The Supreme Court’s finding in Griswold v. Connecticut in 1965 overturned laws against contraceptives and established a constitutional right to privacy that later on led to the Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion. Sears also pointed to Buck v. Bell, a 1927 Supreme Court decision that to this day has not been overturned. The decision in that case opened the door to compulsory sterilization of people with disabilities.

More recently, ADF was involved in litigating cases in which employers were facing fines of up to $100 per day per employee if they refused to participate in Obamacare’s funding of sterilization, contraceptives and abortifacients.

This is the cover of a 50th anniversary edition of “Humanae Vitae” with related papal texts and published by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. Blessed Paul VI’s 1968 encyclical reaffirmed the church’s moral teaching on the sanctity of life, married love, the procreative and unitive nature of conjugal relations, responsible parenthood and its rejection of artificial contraception. (CNS)

“No employer in this nation could afford to pay the fine that was going to be imposed,” Sears said. “Then you look at how those cases were litigated and the response. And basically, you saw government lawyers, lawyers in the Department of Justice and their allies with Planned Parenthood and even presidential candidates, who basically said nobody should be allowed to dissent — they should be required to do this.”

Pope Paul VI, Sears said, understood human nature and saw the breadth of human history — the rise of the eugenics movement, the horrors of Nazi Germany, the Griswold decision in the U.S. and its end result — whatever the state grants, the state can always take away. Once the notion of natural law and God-given rights is discarded, the state becomes the giver and the taker of rights.

With a previous U.S. administration having decided to make it impossible to be in business and not further the agenda of their sexual regulatory scheme, there remains the strong possibility that another administration might do the same, Sears said. Coercion by the state and the crushing of dissenters when it comes to contraceptives, abortion and sexual relationships?

“We’re not that far away,” Sears said.

Recently, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled June 26 to strike down a California law that compelled pro-life pregnancy clinics to notify women of abortion services paid for by the state. ADF attorneys represented the pro-life clinics in the case.

ADF lawyers also represented Jack Phillips, a Colorado cake artist who refused to bake cakes that celebrated same-sex weddings. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled June 4 to reverse the punishment meted out to Phillips by Colorado’s Civil Rights Commission.

Joyce Coronel, Lisa Dahm and Tony Gutiérrez contributed to this article.