Saturday, 7 June 2008

Come and Gone

The 40th anniversary of Humanae Vitae has been greeted with as much enthusiasm as did its original publication. You would not think that it was the anniversary of one of the most prophetic documents in recent Church history. Given our contemporary tendency to celebrate everything, you would think that it would at least get a mention. As a curiosity, how many of your local pastors have mentioned it? How many of these local pastors have mentioned global warming? Social justice? Lay ministry? etc? Coincidence?


The current silence surrounding humanae vitae is a very strange thing. When the document was released, its detractors were very vocal in telling the world how backward the Church's attitude was to women, sex and basically everything.  Then there was something like a conspiracy of silence in which the document was just left untouched. It was the unspoken rule that HV was the unmentionable document. The alcoholic uncle of the magesterium- everyone knew who he was, you just never mentioned him.

By why the silence now? If the detractors of the 60s and 70s, ironically those who are now in their sixties and seventies, were so right in their claims about HV, why aren't they so vocal now. If the document was a failure, why not be vocal? Why not press the point home that the document was a disater then and history has proved us right? After all, this was not a generation of shrinking violets. The anniversary of HV should be a tombstone and not a cake. Yet, they are surprisingly silent. But why?

HV is usually sold to us as being a document obsessed with sex. It is a document that is exclusively about 'getting pregnant at all costs.' You know, if you didn't have fourteen children by age forty, then there is something wrong. Usual rubbish.

The document is really about two things in particular, which are expressed as a prophecy. The first is the intrinsic link between sexual identity and its expression and the responsibility that it engenders. The second is that sexual identity and expression is clearly part of the person and requires a community of persons if it is to be expressed in a way that leads to happiness. Very beautiful.

The silence is not because HV has turned out to be a failure, but rather that it has turned out to be so correct. HV warns all persons of goodwill that when man tampers with his sexual identity he risks his happiness and at the same time risks the precarious balance that is in the world. The recent debate about stem cells and in particular the hybrid embryo bill in the UK should be witnesses to that. Yet if anyone in the years of HV's release had warned of what was coming, they would have been written off as paranoid and crazy. Yet look at what has happened. The only option for HV's detractors is silence. To say anything would be to give the game away and expose their own failures and not the documents.

How ironic that the young and liberal of the 60s should now be the old and conservative of the 21st century. Theirs is a silence of conservatism, an alternative magesterium- a magesterium that is fatally flawed.

1 comment:

Emilio said...

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