Resistance to Humanae Vitae

Dr José María Simón Castellví

President Emeritus of the World Federation of Catholic Medical Associations (FIAMC)

Some years ago, on the anniversary of Paul VI’s famous encyclical, I wrote a few lines to support it. Occasionally quite a stir has arisen, as in 2009 based on an article of mine in Osservatore Romano. At that time, I was presenting a FIAMC study which demonstrated that the birth control pill was most likely one of the reasons behind the rising infertility rates among European men, due to the contamination that its metabolites was leaving in the environment and food. Both criticism and support of that document can still be found on Internet search engines.

           However, the core of the encyclical’s teaching, which had precedents and subsequent pontifical reaffirmations, reaches a higher level: children are a gift and a good of marriage. They are not a side effect of it but a primary effect. They are good for the family, the Church and society. The transmission of human life should be taken very seriously. This is why the family is the best place to welcome life and where life’s major and minor problems are best handled. Sometimes, for a variety of serious reasons, spouses have to space out the births of their children and continue to have regular intimate relations. The key to ensuring that the marital relationship does not break its total reciprocal giving or all the unitive and procreative meanings of it lies in the nature of women themselves, while the conception of a child is spaced out. This is knowledge of the woman’s fertile periods (several days per month) and infertile periods, when decisions can be taken on whether to conceive or wait.

          I have always said that birth control infringes on the rights of God the Creator and human rights. It runs counter to the right for nobody to deprive us of life, in the case of drugs or micro-abortion instruments. It runs counter to the right to reasonable equality between the sexes, because the responsibility for contraception is almost always the woman’s. It runs counter to the right to healthcare with the fewest adverse effects possible, because birth control causes damage while the natural means of tracking human fertility do not (fertility is not a disease). It runs counter to the right to education, because all women should be instructed on how to recognise their fertility-infertility rhythms. Today the natural methods to regulate fertility, to track a woman’s fertile phases, are easy to learn and teach. Husbands and wives cooperate actively in applying them, and sometimes they also make the sacrifice of a few days of abstinence. In the encyclical, we healthcare professionals were explicitly asked to give the spouses who asked us wise advice and healthy guidelines, which they rightly expect of us.

          I do not understand this resistance to accepting the healthy rhythms of nature in spouses’ cooperation with the Creator. If only an iota of the rivers of ink, litres of saliva and millions used in contraception were instead used for natural regulation and talking about healthy anthropology, the entire human family would benefit in many ways. We cannot step aside, like Don Tancredo, when faced with a challenge that is vast today: helping spouses be good lovers and parents.