The first thing that we have to do in "reconstructing" Pope Paul VI's vital "Humanae Vitae" is putting God first and foremost. Paul VI did. "God" was the first word of the Encyclical as in "God has entrusted spouses with the extremely important mission (munus) of transmitting human life." What God and the Holy Father had hoped for has fallen far short and we reap what we have sown. But it is not totally unrecoverable, the culture of death has gotten a grip, but the culture of life still breathes and is getting stronger by the day, by the hour.
That is because, having failed to find a better answer, society is beginning to realize Paul VI was right. Before Paul's prophetic encyclical there was no known disease called AIDs, abortions were not the law of the land in the United States. Immoral acts by our leaders were looked upon as a weakness and a big strike against a political career. That was 1968. This is now. We have sunk so low that many are immune to anything that 33 years ago would have brought shock and outrage.
But, like the unfaithful people of God in the Old Testament, God has never abandoned us. Through His Permitting Will He has allowed the evils of abortion and it has taken over 40,000,000 innocent lives and millions of psychiatric cases, fractured lives to realize the error of our ways. Now it is time to rebuild, to clear out the clutter, weed out the garden and begin anew.
We can begin by recognizing and urging all we come in contact with that life does indeed begin at conception. We can begin by speaking out for family values; values that uphold the Sanctity of Life from the womb to whenever God calls a person home.
It's very simple what Paul VI laid out. The mistake was that, after Vatican II, some mistakenly considered the Church a democracy and that they could determine what they wanted to follow when they wanted to follow it. Jesus had a word for this attitude and behavior. "Hypocrites!" It was the era that spawned the "cafeteria catholic," an abominable term for someone who chooses what they want to obey and the hell with the rest. Christ also told us where that will lead. Hint. It is not with Him in eternity.
Paul VI recognized the sociological changes in the world and addressed them accordingly. But, unlike the mindset of the weak and rebellious, he refused to compromise, refused to cave to the lazy, materialistic wants of a world questioning even God. He knew this and properly put in perspective how the Church must stand as the moral compass in a raging sea dampening minds and engulfing souls. As his predecessors had asserted and the great Polish Pope who followed redefined, we must uphold human dignity and not give in to the weakness of the flesh.
Contrary to what the liberal media, modernist theologians and bishops, and those with a bone-to-pick with the Church said, Paul VI was not out of touch. He was very much the expert on what he wrote, just as John Paul is today, not because of any human attributes but because these men - Vicar of Christs, ordained by God's Will, were inspired by the Holy Spirit in all things pertaining to faith and morals. Not only inspired, but infallible. It's Dogma.
And in conjunction with the natural moral law, Paul VI sought to enforce what God commanded and remind all of the "integrated teaching on the nature of marriage, on the moral use of conjugal rights, and on the duties of the spouses," something established in stone at the Council of Trent.
Paul VI put it best in Section 17 of his encyclical when he warned of the serious consequences of artificial methods of birth control, "Responsible individuals will quickly see the truth of the Church's teaching (about contraception), if they consider what consequences will follow from the methods of contraception. They should first consider how easy it will be [for many] to justify behavior leading to marital infidelity or to a gradual weakening of discipline of morals." This visionary could see the dangerous waves of depravity not on the horizon, but already lapping at the bow.
Remember this was 1968, the days of the early Beatles, the days of "Leave it to Beaver" but also the dawn of promiscuity as a backlash to the Vietnam War. Rebellion was the watchword and not only an entire generation rejected Paul's words of warning, but countless Catholics who were already confused by poor dissemination of information from Vatican II by the bishops, pastors and Diocesan officials everywhere.
Though the Second Vatican Council was of the Holy Spirit and good, what followed was chaos engineered by dissidents who felt Paul VI and the Council Fathers didn't go far enough. Therefore they culled a feeling of distrust and confusion among the faithful. They fostered fables of what really happened at St. Peter's during the three-year council, giving parishioners the false idea that they now had a choice in faith and morals. How wrong they were.
In order to begin to reconstruct "Humanae Vitae" we need to go back to realize where we went wrong and seek to revive the values and virtues of that time and take the right road now. Yes, it will take years, decades, maybe a century, but we can return to that golden age of the Church in America. Let us now look at the causes and effects of where we went wrong.
First of all, we were susceptible to this because Catholics were so trusting. Prior to the Council, if a priest said something it was gold and if the Pope said it, no one challenged. In fact, many were of the assumption that the Pope knew everything that was going on and whatever the priests and bishops said was not only in tune with the Sovereign Pontiff but approved by him as well. After Vatican II, confusion reigned. You can imagine the consternation and doubt when they turned the altar around, took down the sacred communion rail that separated the sanctuary from the main portion of the Church, a tradition dating back to Solomon. The Latin refrains Catholics were weaned on and had come to memorize were now spoken in English. The problem is only part of the Mass was to be in the vernacular, important aspects of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass were to remain in Latin to maintain traditions. After all, it was and is the Latin Church. But many in charge went further. They scrapped the Prayer to Saint Michael which, prior to the Council had been included at the end of the Mass as ordered by Pope Leo XIII. Looking back, we can see why he did so. We can also see why and how satan was able to get it omitted and forgotten. Without his chief nemesis being called on often, lucifer had an easier time.
Now, whatever the pastors or various diocesan representatives said many of the older generation - those who knew better, but trusted - were already attuned to obey and they went along with the changes; not that they were welcome, but you must understand this was a generation which had experienced the depression, a generation that had obediently fought for their country in World War II and the Korean War, a generation that had been faithful to the Church and, for that obedience, up until the early sixties the Church in America experienced tremendous growth. Vocations were at an all-time high, Catholic schools were packed and each parish helped support the schools. First of all, there was very little overhead because most of the churches built between 1930 and 1950 were paid for upfront. Not only that, but rather than going into debt with loans and hiring an expensive architect and building contractor, parishioners pitched in and helped build the churches, schools, halls, convents and rectories. It was the sweat and blood of our great-great-grandparents, great-grandparents, grandparents and, for some, parents who built up the Church in the United States. They put their heart and soul into these buildings with total love for God. This cooperation flourished in the golden days of the Church in America.
In the next lesson we will dissect how this deterioration of the Catholic structure imploded so quickly after Vatican II.
NEXT WEEK: Lesson Seventeen: How serviam became non serviam
For previous Lessons in this Series, see At One With God