Bishop Olson, Dr. Janet Smith headline conference on truth, wisdom of Humanae Vitae
FORT WORTH — Many Catholic couples form their viewpoint on marital love and family planning using advice from the secular world and American culture. But our nation’s divorce rate hovers around 42 percent, and almost 40 percent of babies are born to single mothers.
Isn’t that like asking the captain of the Titanic to share his insights on passenger safety?
Fifty years ago, Blessed Pope Paul VI released his encyclical Humanae Vitae (Of Human Life), which focuses on issues pertaining to marriage and the family. To mark the anniversary of this landmark document, the Respect Life Office of the Diocese of Fort Worth will host a conference on April 28.
Humanae Vitae teaches that artificial methods of birth control are counter to God’s natural law. Marital love is designed to be both unitive and procreative.
According to God’s design, married love is “. . . intended to endure and to grow by means of the joys and sorrows of daily life, in such a way that husband and wife become one only heart and one only soul, and together attain their human perfection” (Humanae Vitae 9).
Blessed Paul VI predicted that many negative consequences would result if the unitive and procreative aspects of sex are separated by using artificial contraception. He anticipated increases in divorce, abortion, adultery, pregnancies to single women, and pornography. He projected a “general lowering of morality.” He foresaw that men would lose respect for women “to the point of considering her as a mere instrument of selfish enjoyment.” He also forecast that government might regulate and sometimes mandate contraception, intervening in the most personal relationship between a man and woman.
Many have called the encyclical “prophetic.”
Terri Schauf, Respect Life coordinator for the Diocese of Fort Worth, understands that with Humanae Vitae’s prohibition of artificial contraception, the Church is accused of being “behind the times.” She contests the Church’s truth is “outside of time. We need to live to God’s standards, not cultural standards,” she said.
Indeed, Pope Paul VI, who will be canonized a saint this fall, wrote “. . . Man cannot find true happiness — towards which he aspires with all his being — other than in respect of the laws written by God in his very nature, laws which he must observe with intelligence and love” (Humanae Vitae 31).
Married couples need guidance on family planning and the gift of life. “As Catholics, we need to entrust the big issues to the Church, to the Lord” instead of making a personal decision without consulting what the Church teaches, said Schauf. The wisdom and spiritual perspective of clergy and the Magisterium is beneficial to couples.
One of the biggest reasons that more Catholics don’t live the “transformative truth” of Humanae Vitae is a lack of understanding, according to Schauf. She hopes that couples who attend the conference will experience the “eye-opening, light bulb moment when you realize it makes perfect sense.”
Bishop Michael Olson and Dr. Janet Smith will present at the event, which concludes with a panel discussion and Q&A session. A nationally-recognized speaker, Dr. Smith is a professor of moral theology at Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit and the author of several books on sexuality and bioethics.
Bishop Olson is also recognized for his experience in the field of bioethics. He has explored bioethical topics like beginning-of-life studies and end-of-life issues and has served on the University of Texas Medical Center Ethics Committee for Research involving Human Subjects.
The bishop will speak about the beauty of marriage, and Dr. Smith will give two presentations: one providing the historical context and repercussions of the encyclical, and a second on the negative physical, emotional, and relational consequences of artificial contraception on individuals, couples, and society at large.
Those who attend the conference will also have an opportunity to learn about the efficacy of natural family planning and training resources offered by the diocese.
Schauf said, “Parents need to know how to [space out their children] wisely, following the Church in a moral way.”
The conference, co-sponsored by Mother and Unborn Baby Care and WholeLife Authentic Care, will be held at St. Patrick Cathedral Parish Hall from noon to 5 p.m. Online registration at fwdioc.org is required. Click here to register.