By Matthew Lau
Theologian to the Papal Household Father Wojciech Giertych OP marked his first ever visit to Australia by speaking about the fallout of one of the most controversial encyclicals in recent Church history.
Humanae Vitae (On Human Life) is an encyclical written by Pope Paul VI – dated 25 July 1968 – that articulates Catholic teaching regarding married love, responsible parenthood, chastity and the exclusion of contraception.
Theology maven Fr Giertych was a special guest speaker at the “1968: Five Decades On” conference, which was held at the University of Notre Dame Australia Fremantle Campus from 12 to 14 July.
The conference featured a number of noteworthy speakers who revisited some of the most significant cultural moments in recent history while uncovering the impacts they have had on the Church.
In an exclusive interview with The Record journalist Matthew Lau, Fr Giertych explained why 1968 was a revolutionary year in the Western world.
“The year 1968 was a time of a cultural revolution in the West – with a sexual revolution, the rejection of authority, with the hippy movement, and with cultural changes such as those in popular music. It was also the moment of great joy and hope with the reform of the Church after Vatican II. But at times, there was also grief and anxiety, because often the reforms were implemented inappropriately,” he said.
“In many respects, it was a very important year. Now, in many parts of the world I am observing a perception that the ideologies that had been being thrust upon the world since 1968 need to be corrected. There is a feeling that something went wrong.”
He notes that in today’s world there is “a certain backing out” from the ideologies that can be symbolically tied with 1968.
“Paul VI prophetically saw that the deformation of marital love will generate a crash of paternity; and we are seeing now that many men have become degenerate. Locked in egoism, they are not responsible for their families. Thus abortion, abandoned single mothers and abuse are a consequence of the faulty approach to sexuality.”
Paul VI prophetically saw that the deformation of marital love will generate a crash of paternity; and we are seeing now that many men have become degenerate.
Fr Giertych explained the intent of Blessed Paul VI’s Humanae Vitae and how at times his teaching has been ignored or misunderstood.
In rejecting the “safe-sex” mentality that treats procreation as an enemy, Paul VI spoke out in the defence of the dignity of children and of abused women, but primarily he was concerned about the quality of marital love.
“Contraception is for men, allowing them to be egoist and irresponsible, and so it is not conducive to the growth of charity, the divine love that is offered to us by Christ.
“The Church regularly passes through moments of crisis in history; the conflict of the world with the Church today is primarily in the field of moral theology,” he stated.
“At the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries, the issue was history, the reading of the Bible in the face of the discoveries of the biblical archaeology in the Middle East and how to put them together with faith. Today, neither biblical theology nor doctrinal questions are seen to be a major issue.”
It is the Catholic understanding of morality that seems to be problematic, he said.
“It is not a question that some acts were not seen to be sinful and now they are interpreted as such – it is not some particular detail that is at stake. The fundamental question is how the moral teaching of the Church is to be located within the entire Christian message, centred upon Christ. This, of course, has also an impact on sexual morality and marital life, because for most people, it is there that the living out of the divine charity received from God takes place,” Fr Giertych continued.
“This is the prime issue the Church is confronting in the universal world. The renewal that Vatican II had instigated includes the renewal of moral theology and the tying of moral dilemmas with the redemptive work of Christ and not only with the natural law. This reformulation of the approach is in process, although with difficulty, but also with directive guidance coming from the Holy See.”
From pages 24 and 25 of Issue 14: ‘Culture of Life: Love does not come at the price of another person or their dignity’ of The Record Magazine