Humane Vitae 5oth Anniversary

2018 is the 50th Anniversary of a most misunderstood and vilified church document, Humanae Vitae (“On the Transmission of Human Life”). Some portray it only as forbidding contraception, but it is more so a teaching on love, marriage, family and society. In the Fall and months to follow we’ll look at it in all its parts. This article by Helen Alvare, founder of Women Speak for Themselves, examines where we are today because of the sexual revolution. It can be found at

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Church’s ‘Gorgeous Prescriptions for Love’


Americans continue to pursue “this ridiculous path” of “unlinking sex and marriage and kids, while calling what is actually falling apart ‘flying,'” said one of America’s foremost Catholic feminist thinkers. “All the while (they’re) hurtling toward a collision with the ground,” said Helen Alvare, law professor at George Mason University’s Antonin Scalia Law School in Arlington, Virginia.

“Kids are hitting rock bottom with suicide and opioid use” as serial cohabitation and plummeting numbers of marriages signal the collapse of a relational society, she said July 12 at the Napa Institute’s conference but she said there are signs of hope in the “growth of movements straining toward solidarity….There are opportunities for the church to narrow the gap between our world’s current situation and the church’s gorgeous prescriptions for human love.” Movements like Black Lives Matter, those working for immigrant rights and #MeToo demonstrate we live in a “society wanting diversity and solidarity together. I hope we see these are a reflection of a radical need for solidarity and love - a message we endorse.”

“Where do we get the first message about solidarity and diversity? Genesis?” said Alvare, referring to the creation of man and woman in the first book of the Bible.

Effective Catholic communication needs to meet people where they are. It must discard “church talk,” terms such as “procreative and unitive,” Alvare said in her keynote address. “We have to give plain answers,” for instance, about contraception, “If you disassociate where God chose to put babies” from a committed marriage, “do you realize what that does to the relationship between you and the man - it severs tomorrow….Contraception severs sex from tomorrow and that’s why we oppose it.” She noted that in reversing the healthcare contraceptive mandate, the Administration lifted 30 paragraphs of her law journal article disproving the underpinnings of the mandate.

Alvare’s talk was inspired by the day’s theme of the 50th anniversary of Blessed Paul VI’s 1968 encyclical, “Humanae Vitae.” There are signs all around that people are concerned about the fallout from the sexual revolution, Alvare said. “The sexual revolution is not itself a reasoned revolution. The people who invented it did not invent it out of reason,” said the married mother of three children, now teenagers and young adults. “Children are speaking up,” wearing T-shirts “My Daddy’s name is donor,” she noted. “Hook-up” books are a genre of teen literature that talk about how bad it feels.

Both the left-leaning Brookings Institute and the conservative Heritage Foundation acknowledge the harms of family instability, she said. “Too many smart academics have< pointed out that family structure … is actually the largest part of the social and economic gap between rich and poor, between white and black,” even between men and women.

Several recent academic studies indicate boys suffer more than girls if raised by a single mother, said Alvare, citing works by economists Raj Chetty of Stanford University and David Autor of MIT. Autor found that especially black boys raised by a single mother in poor neighborhoods tend to fall behind their sisters by kindergarten. The achievement gap widens as they go through school, Alvare said, “Today we see that Americans are not willing to adopt the claim that the sexual revolution was a complete hands down win.”

To counter the lies of the sexual revolution, “the winning argument is relationship,” Alvare said. To say: “You think that is the way to get there, but this is not going to get you there.” That is because, Alvare said, “ultimately our desire is for the love of an infinite God.



Heart, Soul and Mind

Monsignor Royal's weekly column as featured in our bulletin.


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