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Why the drafting of 'Humanae Vitae' matters, 50 years later


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  • Pope Paul VI (Paul VI. By BastienM [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons)
  • A Chinese couple kisses on a street in Beijing July 11, during their pre-wedding photo shoot. Four theologians are studying Vatican archival material with a view of telling the whole story of how and why Blessed Paul VI wrote his encyclical "Humanae Vitae" on married love. (CNS photo/Roman Pilipey, EPA)

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Vatican City (CNA/EWTN News) -- As its 50th anniversary approaches, the story of how Blessed Pope Paul VI arrived at the final text of "Humanae Vitae" will be a main focus of discussion.

Paul VI issued his encyclical in 1968, after a commission of theologians and experts spent four years meeting to study in-depth whether the Church could be open to the contraceptive pill or other artificial forms of birth control.

In his encyclical, Pope Paul VI reaffirmed that sexual relations cannot be detached from fecundity. The event was a watershed moment in the Church.

A study group from the Rome-based John Paul II Institute for Marriage and Family aims to produce a paper on the development of the encyclical. The group is led by cultural anthropology professor Monsignor Gilfredo Marengo, who teaches at the institute.

Professor Marengo told Vatican Radio July 25 that the commission in the end "was not able to give Bl. Paul VI what he needed to draft the encyclical," and so the Pope "had almost had to start again."

He underscored that Bl. Paul VI's work was made even more difficult by the fact that "public opinion in the Church was very much polarized, not only between in favor and in opposition to the contraceptive pill, but also among theologians, who presented the same polarized counter-position."

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