Humanae Vitae Will Bring Us Together UPDATED

Many Catholics have long regarded Pope Paul VI’s little-read-but-much-despised encyclical letter Humanae Vitae as prophetic. Even some who, perhaps, had not previously thought so are admitting that “Humanae Vitae in its entirety reads better, and more presciently, every year.”

A few months ago, while I was in the middle of a rant, I wrote as an aside:

I have come to believe that Humanae Vitae is going to eventually be seen as a powerfully unifying document between Evangelicals and Catholics, but that’s for another post. . .

Well, I guess this is that post. Last Tuesday Albert Mohler, President of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, specifically references the encyclical in a thoughtful piece suggesting that non-Catholic Christians consider the ruinous effects of artificial birth control on society and then take another look at the Protestant stance on artificial birth control:

Affirming that human life must be recognized and protected from the moment of conception, evangelicals increasingly recognized Intrauterine Devices [IUDs] as abortifacients, and rejected any birth control with any abortifacient design or result. This conviction is now casting a cloud over the Pill as well.

Thus, in an ironic turn, American evangelicals are rethinking birth control even as a majority of the nation’s Roman Catholics indicate a rejection of their Church’s teaching. How should evangelicals think about the birth control question?

. . . we should look closely at the Catholic moral argument as found in Humanae Vitae. Evangelicals will find themselves in surprising agreement with much of the encyclical’s argument. As the Pope warned, widespread use of the Pill has led to “serious consequences” including marital infidelity and rampant sexual immorality. In reality, the Pill allowed a near-total abandonment of Christian sexual morality in the larger culture. Once the sex act was severed from the likelihood of childbearing, the traditional structure of sexual morality collapsed.

I wouldn’t by any means characterize it
as a tumbling toward Rome — Scot McKnight says that by opening the discussion Mohler has presented a big bag of issues and I’m still looking around for some actual responses from Protestant blogs, that go beyond simply posting Mohler excerpts.

At Young, Evangelical and Catholic, Brantly Millegan shares part of an email sent to Mohler, and says he’ll post any response he gets.

I do remember reading in Scott and Kimberly Hahn’s Rome Sweet Home that Catholic teaching on birth control was a contributing factor to their eyes turning Romeward. Who knows? Perhaps this will be the beginning of the day Christ looked forward to, when “all shall be one.”

Or, you know…not.

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RELATED: Sigh. Nancy Pelosi and “ex cathedra” and the authority of the bishops To be fair to Pelosi, she seems like she does not feel at all well, in that clip, and it’s easy to misspeak when you’re not feeling well. That said, she never minds “doing her church” from the podium when she feels like she’s got the ball in her court.

About Elizabeth Scalia
  • Larry Sheldon

    I wish the Baptists would spend a moment on their outfit in Westboro.

    That is an embarrassment (to use a euphemism) to all of Christianity.


    As a Christian, and a reader and admirer of Dr. Mohler, I must say he is a clear voice trumpeting truth in a global church that has produced uncertain sounds. Mohler also has guts – courage and conviction. Dr. Mohler single-handedly cleaned out the liberal/heretics from the Southern Baptist Seminary. Mohler is clear and succinct when many on both sides of the catholic/protestant divide have compromised the Gospel and Scripture for the mythical global warming and sexual political agendas.

  • Brian Killian

    I think his article is just a dressed up rejection of Humanae Vitae. He doesn’t buy the whole ‘intrinsically evil’ thing and uses the same arguments as dissident Catholics for his position. His position amounts to saying ‘we should think more about what we’re doing sexually and seriously consider if we have serious reasons for using contraception…if we do than it’s okay.’

    But how is this different? That’s *exactly* what the contracepting couples are already doing. What couple doesn’t think they have serious reasons for using contraception? What couple doesn’t think they are justified in having themselves sterilized after having two kids?

    Molher has set up a distinction without a difference. It’s all or nothing. If you reject the heart of HV – that *every* contraceptive act is wrong – you reject it completely.

    [Are you familiar with the concept of baby steps? If you're going to bring a new idea to people, sometimes it's best to do it slowly. Saying, "maybe we should reconsider this and also consider HV" is a very big thing to do. People are taken aback. They need to ponder it, and talk about it and then move again. Baby steps, dude. - admin]

  • David J. White

    This is nitpicky, but twice — once in your headline, and once in the first paragraph — you misspelled “humanae”.

    [Yep, yep, I said, was writing fast. Thanks for the corrections. -admin]

  • Magdalena

    PLEASE fix the typos on the encyclical title. It undercuts your argument. And I can’t focus on your point myself with those typos.

    [Yep, yep, yep. But honestly, can the Christians show a little mercy on the dyslexic people? -admin]

  • Peggy R

    I vaguely recollect that it was Albert Mohler (?) who also a few years back suggested that evangelicals have not considered the problems arising from divorce, that perhaps their moral views had been too lenient and that perhaps the Catholic view opposing divorce (not that we perfectly live up to it as a people) might be the attitude and teaching on divorce evangelicals should consider.

    I think he’s a very serious and thoughtful man. Perhaps he’ll make his own trip across the Tiber one day if he keeps thinking like this.

  • Myssi

    I think, maybe, that Westboro Baptist is not a member of the Southern Baptist Convention; however, even if they are an SBC church, no one not a member of Westboro can do anything to change it. The true core beliefs of the Southern Baptist Convention are that the Bible is God’s Word and each congregation is independent of every other congregation. The convention is a means for doing the big work that individual churches cannot do: missions, publishing a Sunday School curriculum, building seminaries. My personal Baptist Church contributes financially to both the SBC and to the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship. We also do mission work in town with the Presbyterians and the Methodists so, we’re a little more ecumenical maybe.
    Anywho, I use “artificial birth control” but not for the sake of birth control. I use it to keep my hormone induced migraines at bay. I literally lost 3-5 days a month before discovering and bringing under control the culprit. (Come on, menopause…I’d really like to get off the drugs…)

  • Ann Couper-Johnston

    People’s concept of marriage has shifted as a result, too. It should be the commitment you make to provide a stable home for the children that will be the product of the sexual activity you can now legitimately enjoy. Instead it has become the making legitimate of sexual activity that has long since taken place. Given that, you can see how same-sex marriage is seen as extending that making legitimate to other couplings.

  • KML

    Elizabeth, maybe I’m mistaken but it looks like this article was originally published a few years ago and reissued recently upon request? Perhaps if you are looking for reactions they are buried in the detritus of past internet pages. If that’s the case, though, I’m glad that he reissued it given recent developments.