Benedict XVI on Humanae Vitae

Benedict XVI on Humanae Vitae January 3, 2011

In the furor over the Pope’s comments on condoms this rather remarkable passage from Light of the World has been little discussed:

The perspectives of “Humanae Vitae” remain valid, but it is another thing to find humanly accessible paths. I believe that there will always be minorities that are deeply persuaded of the correctness of those perspectives and that, in living them, will be so fully rewarded that they will become for others a fascinating model to follow. We are sinners. But we should not take this fact as evidence against the truth, when that high moral standard is not met. We should seek to do all the good possible, and sustain and support one another. To express all of this from the pastoral, theological, and conceptual point of view as well in the context of current sexology and anthropological research is a great task to which we must be more and better dedicated.

This passage raises many questions that those Catholics who are “deeply persuaded of the correctness of those perspectives” have not been very enthusiastic to entertain.  For me, as one who has always followed Humanae Vitae and suffered much as a result, the suggestion of “humanly accessible paths” is particularly interesting.  What exactly is the Pope suggesting here?  Are there any other options for couples that find Humanae Vitae inhuman and inaccessible?  What might these options look like?  That the Pope sees a “great task” before us here seems to indicate that the currently available pastoral approaches are not the only possibilities.  I am more than intrigued.

Brett Salkeld is a doctoral student in theology at Regis College in Toronto.  He is a father of two (so far) and husband of one.  He is the co-author of How Far Can We Go?  A Catholic Guide to Sex and Dating.

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