“I believe that many people, including people who have every intention of living as good and faithful Catholics, are acting in a way that is contrary to the faith, and at odds with what is humanly good, by using contraception,” Bishop Carlson wrote.
“Whether knowingly or unknowingly, they are using their bodies in a way that contradicts God’s love for them as well as their love for each other. I believe that the consequences of this contradiction are gravely harmful to marriages and to society.”
Bishop Carlson’s reflection is now available for download at the Catholic Diocese of Saginaw website (http://www.saginaw.org/) and will soon be released in print as a resource booklet for couples preparing for the sacrament of marriage.
“Many couples have never heard this teaching, or never heard it explained in a way that made sense to them,” he wrote.” Therefore, I want to mark the 40th anniversary of Humanae Vitae by re-stating the Church’s teaching, and explaining why contraception is contrary to God’s plan for married life, and contrary to the true meaning of married love.”
Released on July 25, 1968, Humanae Vitae (Of Human Life), subtitled “On the Regulation of Birth,” was the eighth and final encyclical published by Pope Paul VI (1963-1978). It is regarded as a pivotal document in the continued re-affirmation the Church’s teachings regarding contraception, abortion, and other issues pertaining to human life.
Pope John Paul II (1978-2005) later expanded on the themes of Humanae Vitae is his book Theology of the Body (1997), which is a compilation of weekly lectures from 1979 to 1984 to married couples about the deep meaning of human love and sexuality.
Earlier this year, Pope Benedict told participants in the International Congress on the 40th Anniversary of Humanae Vitae, “What was true yesterday is true also today. The truth expressed in Humanae Vitae does not change; on the contrary, precisely in the light of the new scientific discoveries, its teaching becomes more timely and elicits reflection on the intrinsic value it possesses.”
In his reflection, Bishop Carlson calls the faithful to consider the difference between what is true and what is false.
“The broader problem, of course, is that the falsehood of contraception has become part of the native language of our culture,” he wrote. “It is one of many ways that we have learned to speak a language that degrades the true meaning of the body. The consequences of this degradation are evident in how the body is treated in newspapers, on television, and all over the Internet. Our culture is in serious crisis when it comes to the meaning of the body!
That meaning, Bishop Carlson wrote, is revealed in some of the earliest chapters of the Bible: “God created man in his image, in the divine image he created him, male and female he created them” (Genesis. 1:27). It is a truth that witnessed in the Gospels and proclaimed in the teachings of the Church.
“We need to return to the true meaning and dignity of the body as revealed by Jesus,” he wrote. “If we do that, we can distinguish between speaking the truth and speaking falsehood with our bodies. Then we can build our marriages — and our culture — on a sure foundation.”
Bishop Carlson wrote that it is imperative that one’s faith is expressed in both beliefs and actions.
“Our faith (or lack of faith) is not only expressed in what we believe and don’t believe with our minds, it is also expressed in what we do and don’t do with our bodies,” he wrote. “What we believe in our faith and what we do with our bodies should be consistent with each other. This is a simple matter of integrity: just as we should speak in a way that is consistent with our faith, so also we should act in a way that is consistent with our faith.”
The text of Humanae Vitae can be found online in the Papal Archives section of the Vatican website (http://www.vatican.va/) or in most Catholic bookstores.
The Catholic Diocese of Saginaw includes 106 parish communities across Arenac, Bay, Clare, Gladwin, Gratiot, Huron, Isabella, Midland, Saginaw, Sanilac and Tuscola counties.