Monday, May 12, 2008

The Philosophy of Humanae Vitae.

Recently (May 10th) Pope Benedict XVI praised Humanae Vitae as a "brave show of courage" on the part of the Catholic Church in the midst of the 60's and the atmosphere of the "sexual revolution". On the Regulation of Birth is indeed a philosophical milestone in comparison to the cavalier attitude of most of the (non-Catholic) church at that time and extending up to today. Humanae Vitae rejected the use of contraceptives, abortion in all forms, to name but a few points on human sexuality.

The Philosophy Behind Humanae Vitae.

Foundationally, the sin of sex for simple pleasure is rejected by its author. The text in Genesis is clear,

"But Onan knew that the offspring would not be his; so when he went in to his brother's wife he spilled the semen on the ground, lest he should give offspring to his brother. And what he did was displeasing in the sight of the Lord, and he slew him" (38:9-10).

This text has been understood by the patristic fathers1 and the reformation fathers2 as a clear warning against the malpractices of sexual intercourse. Not that sex in itself (or the pleasure derived within it) is evil, no, on the contrary, the pleasure is sweet indeed when experienced in it's God ordained purpose, namley, the procreation of the human race in the boundaries of marriage. When the historic interpretation (regula fidei) is lost or ignored, misunderstandings have practical consequence.

Pope Benedict eloquently states as much when he says that sex divorced from it's divine assignment (procreation) is nothing more than simple carnal desire, a desire that can be as addicting as any drug. The very act of procreation demands the transmission of life by design argues Benedict, to deny this we deny the charge of God and give sex a different unintended meaning. It follows then holds Benedict, that artificial reproduction is a grave offense since it also denies the natural sexual reproduction of human life.

Stop and think about it beloved, sex for the simple pleasure of sex robs God of his natural design for sex. Sex no longer is a beautiful and pleasurable act between a husband and wife for the procreation of children. Sex now becomes a mission to arrive at ecstasy, it now matters not if your partner is of the same sex (homosexuality), if you even have a partner (masturbation), or if you do have a partner of the opposite sex, you are simply using him/her to arrive at ecstasy devoid of the responsibilty involved with children and marriage. Humanae Vitae is clear that women when seperated of this God ordained responsibility and commitment become a “mere instrument of selfish enjoyment, and no longer as his respected and beloved companion.” A tool of self gratification rather than the God ordained equal partner of man to enjoy for procreation within the boundaries of marriage.

Anglican writer C.S Lewis waxed eloquently on this issue,

"By contraception simply; they are denied existence, by contraception used as a means of selective breeding, they are, without their concurring voice, made to be what one generation, for its own reasons, may choose to prefer." 3


1. "(Callistus) even permitted women, if they were unmarried and burning up at an unsuitable time of take a man of their choosing as bedfellow...and to regard such a one as a husband, though not lawfully married. For this reason women who were reputed to be believers began to take drugs to render themselves sterile, and to bind themselves tightly as to expel what was being conceived...See then, into what great impiety that lawless one has proceeded, by teaching adultery and murder at the same time" (St. Hippolytus, Omnium hearesium refutatio. 9, 12) is but one example among the Catholic fathers.
2. Calvin is one example, "It is a horrible thing to pour out seed besides the intercourse of man and woman. Deliberately avoiding the intercourse, so that the seed drops on the ground, is doubly horrible. For this means that one quenches the hope of his family...When a woman in some way drives away the seed out of the womb, through aids, then this is rightly seen as an unforgivable crime" (Comm. Gen. at loc; see further the railing against contraceptive measures by Luther in his Lectures on Genesis).
3. The Abolition of Man, 68.

"itaque fratres state et tenete traditiones quas didicistis sive per sermonem sive per epistulam nostram"


Tim A. Troutman said...

Excellent post. This is a difficult subject to grasp for our self-serving culture (and for me personally).

I do want to point out though that while I agree with Hippolytus, we cannot be sure that Callistus allowed this - Hippolytus also accused Callistus of Monarchianism which is utterly false especially given the fact that Callistus excommunicated the arch-Monarchian Sabellius.

Hippolytus was a great theologian and martyr. But I think Callistus was too (well he wasn't a martyr)> Anyway, I like your blog, I'm gonna add a link and add this too my regularly visited blogs.

R. E. Aguirre. said...

Thanks for the kind words Tim. I highly suggest Tim's blog as well which can be found here - (and added to my recommended links).

Aye, this is indeed a difficult subject that literally rocked my thought when I first encountered it coming out of the anarchy that is Protestantism. In light of the strict grasp of our Lord on the subject of sexuality (adultery is also committed in the heart before the act) though it makes perfect sense - and a sense that we must follow.


R.E. Aguirre