Humanae Vitae was prophetic…and right!

Is the Church going to “revisit” its teachings against artificial contraception? That’s what Melinda Gates – wife of Microsoft founder and billionaire Bill Gates – hopes. In a recent interview with the BBC, Gates said she is “optimistic” that Pope Francis and the Vatican might do just that.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is one of the leading promoters and providers of contraception in the developing world. So it’s no surprise that Melinda, who dissents from Church teaching on contraception yet considers herself a Catholic, is excited and hopeful the Catholic Church – the last major holdout against the contraception revolution – will cave into the zeitgeist. Perhaps Melinda was reacting to rumors swirling among well-informed Vatican sources that there are efforts afoot within the Vatican to “reinterpret” Blessed Pope Paul VI’s famous encyclical Humanae Vitae.

Published on July 25, 1968, Humanae Vitae stunned the world by reiterating the Church’s perennial teachings against artificial contraception, at a time when many people – including many of Paul VI’s own advisors on the subject – expected and were urging him to do the exact opposite.

Humanae Vitae of Pope Paul VI

Given how prophetic Humanae Vitae turned out to be, and the vast path of destruction that has resulted from its widespread rejection by Catholics and the culture alike, one would think that the time is ripe for the Church to celebrate that great encyclical and launch a widespread effort at catechesis on its teachings. Instead, troubling reports emerged earlier this year about a secret Vatican “commission” tasked with reviewing Humanae Vitae. The existence of this commission has since been confirmed, although there are conflicting reports about its purpose, and to what extent it has formal Vatican recognition.

Either way, it is evident there is a great need to remind ourselves of just how prophetic Humanae Vitae was and why its teaching must be upheld, defended, and vigorously taught.

Perhaps the most famous sentence from Humane Vitae is found in section 17, where Paul VI describes the “consequences” of embracing artificial contraception. That great pope predicted:

A general lowering of moral standards throughout society; a rise in infidelity; a lessening of respect for women by men; and the coercive use of reproductive technologies by governments.

He added:

Another effect that gives cause for alarm is that a man who grows accustomed to the use of contraceptive methods may forget the reverence due to a woman, and, disregarding her physical and emotional equilibrium, reduce her to being a mere instrument for the satisfaction of his own desires, no longer considering her as his partner whom he should surround with care and affection.

It is heartbreaking now, 49 years later, to realize how painfully right Paul VI was. At the time many accused (and still accuse) Paul VI of being an alarmist. A quick survey of our culture reveals that, if anything, his predictions were understated.

Just last week, I wrote about how a leading magazine aimed at teen girls had published an article coaching those girls on how to engage in sodomy. That article is merely the tiniest tip of the iceberg of the vast and nearly unthinkable sexualization of our society – “a general lowering of moral standards” – in the past 49 years.

Since Humanae Vitae was published, we’ve seen the explosion of pornography, beginning with popular magazines like Playboy and Hustler, then VHS tapes, and now, on-demand streaming high definition Internet porn. The initial age of exposure to pornography is 12 years old, while a staggering percentage of teens – boys and girls – now watch hardcore porn as a matter of routine. Even many of our mainstream television shows and movies are now filled with sexuality so graphic that it is indiscernible from the stuff found on the porn sites.

Meanwhile, we now accept as “normal” public parades celebrating immoral lifestyles, in which nude men and women march down the street and simulate graphic sex acts. Millions of people attend these parades, and many of them bring their children.

After the advent of the Pill, divorce rates skyrocketed – “a rise in infidelity” – with as many as half of all marriages at one point ending in divorce. And while the divorce rates seem to have peaked, and possibly even fallen, sadly a large part of the reason is that many young adults aren’t even bothering to get married in the first place. They “cohabitate,” simulating married life.

The impact this has had on children is staggering. A 2012 study found that, among women under 30, more than one-half of all children are born out of wedlock. An unthinkable number of children have never known the fundamental good of a stable household or have never known one of their parents; moreover, many children are the innocent victims of ugly divorce proceedings and are passed around from household to household.

We have also seen massive government-sponsored programs of forced abortion and sterilization – “the coercive use of reproductive technologies by governments” – in countries like India and China. Many population alarmists, including Paul Ehrlich, the population controller who recently spoke at the Vatican, endorse government efforts to coerce couples into reducing how many children they have.

Meanwhile, new reproductive technologies, like IVF and surrogacy, have arisen that deliberately sever procreation from sex altogether. Children are bought like commodities. Prospective parents can even choose the characteristics of their child. Millions of excess human embryos are created and then left in a state of limbo in cryo-banks, or simply thawed and flushed down the drain like so much garbage. Wealthy couples and same-sex couples hire out impoverished women from third world countries to bear their children for them, and this is called “progress.”

I could go on and on.

Ultimately all of this unthinkable evil can be traced to one single thing: the severing of sexuality from the only place it belongs – marriage – and from its primary purpose – procreation.

After all, if we accept that it is moral to deliberately cut off sexuality from these two things, then sex becomes little more than a form of mutual masturbation. At that point, it also becomes practically impossible to make a cogent argument against other forms of non-procreative sex: mutual masturbation, sodomy, and other debased sexual activities.

In a post-Pill world, that most-powerful and fundamental force of human sexuality has now broken away from its mooring, no longer bound by the life-giving principles of the Christian worldview. Self-control, responsibility, and consequences are no longer deemed relevant. And set loose from these necessary constraints, sexuality becomes a ravening beast, consuming men, women and children.

Humanae Vitae is perhaps the most-hated and most-rejected encyclical in history. And yet, Paul VI himself knew that he was simply doing what any loving father does: helping his children understand and live within the life-giving laws that are the only path towards happiness and fulfillment. For as he wrote:

In preserving intact the whole moral law of marriage, the Church is convinced that she is contributing to the creation of a truly human civilization. She urges man not to betray his personal responsibilities by putting all his faith in technical expedients. In this way she defends the dignity of husband and wife. This course of action shows that the Church, loyal to the example and teaching of the divine Savior, is sincere and unselfish in her regard for men whom she strives to help even now during this earthly pilgrimage “to share God’s life as sons of the living God, the Father of all men.”

About Fr. Shenan J. Boquet

Fr. Shenan J. Boquet has served as president of Human Life International since 2011. He was ordained in 1993 as a priest of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Houma-Thibodaux, Louisiana. As HLI’s president, Fr. Boquet collaborates with fellow laborers in the pro-life and family movement in over 80 countries, offering the Sacraments, giving seminars and trainings, appearing on numerous media outlets, and encouraging people of all walks of life to live as faithful advocates for a Culture of Life and Love. He is available for interviews and bookings on behalf of HLI by emailing


  1. Thomas Marzocchi, S.S.S. on July 22, 2017 at 6:27 PM

    And, from the spiritual perspective, above all, Blessed Pope Paul VI, gave a special edition of Dante’s Divina Commedia to all the participants of the Second Vatican Council, and told them to use it as a “breviary”! He also published an Apostolic Letter, a motu proprio entitled: “Altissimi Cantus” for the VII Centenary of the birth of Dante Alighieri. Why are we so lacking, in our parishes, in our schools, so it seems, in knowledge of all this greatness of the Church? For certain, the Scriptures take first place, and, precisely because of this, we also have as a gift because of them, the greatest poem of the world! Thank God for the recent translator and commentator of the Divine Comedy … Anthony Esolen!

  2. Blaise Milburn, MD on July 23, 2017 at 12:30 AM

    What an amazing article. What more needs said. God Bless Fr. Boquet and HLI. Keep standing up for the truth!

    • Jimmy Costello on July 23, 2017 at 1:12 AM

      Totally agree with Blaise. An amazing article and God bless, Fr Boquet and HLI or
      FLI down here in New Zealand. Well done Thomas as well on your wise words on the Divine Comedy. It should be compulsory student reading. (And in the Vatican!)

  3. Dr Geraldine Sanjay on July 23, 2017 at 2:53 AM

    Very true Father.
    But who is listening?

    • Eustaquio Bungangkahoy on July 26, 2017 at 2:04 AM

      I am. Thank you Fr. Bouquet.

  4. Dame Colleen Bayer DSG on July 23, 2017 at 5:25 AM

    Thank you Father Bouquet for so eloquently and succinctly expressing this most truthful and necessary message of, in essence the outcome of disobedience and selfishness in regard to the natural law and the leadership shown by Pope Paul Vl in Humane Vitae. Oh how we long to be given such sound teaching and shown such loving and truthful leadership in this sad and sex saturated world that every moment of every day is stealing the innocence of our little children.

  5. Michael M. Guerra on July 23, 2017 at 2:30 PM

    Thank you father for speaking the truth. It will take a miracle to reverse the tide, especially here in the States, but I am praying for the same.

  6. Patricia on July 23, 2017 at 4:25 PM

    Terrific article. Will share it with many. God bless you Fr. Boquet!

  7. Patrick Pullicino on July 24, 2017 at 4:58 AM

    This is a very badly needed and important statement. Chemical contraception has been probably the most insidious and destructive human invention ever and Paul VI clearly saw its disastrous potential. We must pray to Our Lady to take it away.
    For those interested this is a review of the effects of oral contraceptives on individuals, marriage and society in the light of Humanae Vitae:

  8. Sister Lucy Frein, R.S.M. on July 24, 2017 at 11:45 AM

    Father Boquet, this excellent article needs to be in the hands of every person in our world, so we all will think and meditate carefully what it is saying to us. This would help everyone to grow to be more mature.


    Sister Lucy Frein, R.S.M.

  9. Milagres Pereira on July 24, 2017 at 10:29 PM

    Father Boquet,
    Great, wise and courageous writing!
    I think we all need to shout louder through our programs in favour of and insisting on keeping intact HV.
    And seek the intercession of the Blessed Virgin.

  10. mary ellen pavlish on July 27, 2017 at 3:45 PM

    Thank you, Father. What needs to be preached from the pulpits of our churches is the fact that any person using artificial contraception curses themselves according to Genesis 38:8-10. The “Sin of Onan” applies to all who use contraceptive means. This sin gives Satan authority to yoke one’s flesh in sickness and death. The evil consequences from Satan’s kingdom of darkness that befell Onan can come upon anyone in a state of sin from using contraceptive means! So few Catholic priests understand the meaning and evil consequences of “Onan’s Sin”! May our bishops begin to preach again that which the Catholic hierarchy understood in ages past!!

  11. Mary Sue Laing on July 27, 2017 at 6:59 PM

    I’m praying that our political leaders convert their hearts to the Lord. That applies to churchmen even more. One day there will be one flock and one shepherd.

    The culture of death can’t last. The participants die young and leave no descendants. The Holy Spirit is very powerful. He brings good out of every evil. Let’s follow the Holy Spirit and have life everlasting.

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