Written by the Priests and Pastoral Associates of Priests for Life
This study guide is based on the Vatican Translation of Humanae Vitae
Table of Contents:
Introduction to the Study Guide
Summary of the Introduction to the Encyclical and Section I: New Aspects of the Problem and Competency of the Magisterium
A Summary of Section II. Doctrinal Principles
Summary of Section III. Pastoral Directives
Essay: Finding Our Way Back Home
Essay: Life, Purity and Humanae Vitae
Essay: The Transmission of Life -- On Whose Terms?
The Contraception of Grief: A Personal Testimony
Glossary of Terms
A Study Guide to Humanae Vitae
Fr. Frank Pavone, National Director, Priests for Life
Forty years is not a long time in Church history. Indeed, we are still living in the moment of Humanae Vitae (issued on July 25, 1968), and of the challenge it presents to the world.
Humanae Vitae does not identify the key problem of our day in the realm of sex or birth or "the pill," but rather in the myth that we can be God. Pope Paul writes at the beginning of the document, "But the most remarkable development of all is to be seen in man's stupendous progress in the domination and rational organization of the forces of nature to the point that he is endeavoring to extend this control over every aspect of his own life -- over his body, over his mind and emotions, over his social life, and even over the laws that regulate the transmission of life” (n.2).
The Pope here is painting a wider vision of the problem. We think everything belongs to us, but the reality is that we belong to God. "Humanae Vitae" means "Of human life." Human life came from God, belongs to God, and goes back to God. "You are not your own,"
St. Paul declares. "You have been bought, and at a price" (1 Cor. 6:19-20). Sex and having children are aspects of a whole cluster of realities that make up our lives and activities. We suffer from the illusion that all of these activities belong to us. “This is my life, my body, my choice.
The problem we face is not that our society is obsessed with sex. Rather, it is afraid of it-- afraid of the total reality and power of what it represents, where it comes from, and where it leads. Sex properly understood requires that we acknowledge God who made it. More than that, sex can never be separated from its purpose: to insert us into this immense, powerful movement of life and love that started when God said "Let there be light" (Genesis 1:3) and culminates when the Spirit and the Bride say "Come, Lord Jesus!" (Revelation 22:17).
Sexual activity means so much that it is wrong to diminish its message or deny its full reality: it belongs in the context of committed love (sealed by marriage) and openness to life precisely because this is the only context great enough to hold its message and reflect the greater reality to which the gift of sexuality points us and to which it commits us.
This is a reality that is bigger than all of us. It is the self-giving which starts in the Trinity, and is revealed in a startling way on the Cross, and then challenges each of us in our daily interaction with others, with God, and with our own eternal destiny. It is so real and so big that it is scary. That's why so many today are afraid of the full reality and meaning of sex. That's why Pope Paul VI wrote Humanae Vitae.
That is also why our Priests for Life pastoral team wrote this Study Guide. We have also established a special website, www.HumanaeVitae40.com, to promote the teachings of this document. It is our daily prayer that this effort will lead many believers to understand, embrace, and proclaim the beautiful truth of human life.
INTRODUCTION TO THE STUDY GUIDE
James J. Pinto, Jr., M.E.V.
Editor: A Study Guide to Humanae Vitae
This Study Guide will be most effective if one first thoroughly familiarizes himself with its content and layout. Review the table of contents and the location of each section listed. The Study Guide is to be used by an individual or group as a side by side companion with the text of Humanae Vitae included in this booklet. The three Essays offer unique insight with questions for further discussion. The Contraception of Grief: A Personal Testimony presents a riveting and practical witness to why Humanae Vitae is the wholesome truth.
The Glossary assists the reader in clarifying some key terms contained in the Encyclical. Glossary terms are listed by the number/paragraph in which they first appear. The terms will be marked with an *asterisk in the Humanae Vitae text as a note to the reader that the term is contained in the Glossary.
After memorizing Fr. Pavone’s Foreword one should read the Summary of the Introduction and Section I, followed by the memorizing of the Introduction and Section I. of Humanae Vitae itself. After completing the Introduction and Section I. of Humanae Vitae; the reader answers the series of questions below the Summary of the Introduction and Section I. The sequence followed for the Introduction and Section I is repeated for each following section: memorizing the Study Guide Section Summary, memorizing of the corresponding Encyclical section itself and returning to the Study Guide questions for that particular section. The questions are meant to refer the reader back to particular paragraphs/numbers (n.or n.n.) of that section where he/she will find the answers. One may work on the answers to these questions while memorizing the paragraph/number, or, wait until he/she has read the entire section and then complete the answers. Continual returning to the text of the encyclical helps emphasize that the document itself is the primary source of instruction and the basis for individual and group applications.
The three Essays have several questions at their conclusion to help foster reflection and discussion. A personal witness to the truth and wisdom of Humanae Vitae is presented in The Contraception of Grief: A Personal Testimony.
This Study Guide is meant to be a “springboard” to delve more deeply into Humanae Vitae and its themes, in order to stimulate reflection, and a lifestyle of holiness.
For those considering the possibility of facilitating a study group, this study guide lends itself to a discussion study group method of learning. While a leader/facilitator encourages the group and keeps it “on track”, it is the individual sharing and group dynamic that contribute most to the learning process. The facilitator is not a lecturer, neither is he there to supply all the answers. The facilitator seeks to shepherd the group learning process and does everything possible to solicit their contributions. Members interact and learn from everyone, including the facilitator. A Facilitator’s Guide is available through Priests for Life at www.HumanaeVitae40.com. The Facilitator’s Guide seeks to assist you in leading a group and lays out suggested study sessions.
It is our hope, that on the fortieth anniversary of Humanae Vitae, this study guide will assist in promoting the Church’s clear and authoritative word on transmitting human life. May all who hear this true, prophetic and lovely word be assured that: the Church has always issued appropriate documents on the nature of marriage, the correct use of conjugal rights, and the duties of spouses. These documents have been more copious in exact times. (n.4)