Pope Paul VI




45 Years Ago: Peter Spoke Through Paul VI

By Andrew M. Greenwell, Esq.
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Amid the ruckus of the times, there was indeed a “still small voice”  (1 Kings. 19:12) that could be heard on July 25, 1968.  It was the voice of God.

CORPUS CHRISTI, TX (Catholic Online) – Let us suppose that artificial contraception is an intrinsic evil, that it violates the natural moral law.

Let us suppose that right reason informs us that artificial contraception is intrinsically evil because it perverts the meaning, the purpose, the end of the human sexual act and therefore is a palpable misuse of the sexual faculty.

Let us suppose, further, that this is the teaching of the Scriptures as well as the unanimous Catholic moral tradition.

Let us suppose, further, that, in addition to the pure moral reasons for rejecting artificial contraception (which are reasons enough in-and-of-themselves), there are a whole host of evil personal and social consequences that follow from the mindset that accepts artificial contraception, and practices contraception, and so abuses human sexuality.  Among these, we might include:

Increased disrespect for the unique dignity of women, in particular the unique complementary expression of their humanity, which shows in a lowering regard for motherhood.

Increased disregard for human life, shown in rising rates of child abuse and abortion, the ultimate child abuse.
Moral, familial, and social imbalances caused by the vice of unchastity, which show themselves in weakened virtue, giving rise to weakened marriages, increased consumption of pornography, an explosion of pre-marital sex, and rising rates of infidelity, divorce, and single-parent families.

That the use of artificial contraception and the egoism it engenders would result in a virtual generational collapse which forebodes a “demographic winter.”  Birth rates are inadequate to the point where developed nations are not even replacing their populations, and this will lead to fiscal catastrophes in particularly in societies which socialistic policies.

That the social acceptance of contraceptive sex (and the severance of sex from procreation through technical means) would weaken any sensitivity to the perversion of homosexual activity, inasmuch as homosexual sexual activity is nothing other than sexual acts that are perpetually and permanently sterile not unlike the less permanent, but equally perverse, contraceptive sexual activity.
That, as a result, there would be the virtual banishment of reason from sexuality and it would be replaced by the pleasure principle, so that any sex goes, so long as consensual.

Let us suppose, finally, that only one institution in the whole world–the Catholic Church, in fact, even more narrowly the institution of the Papacy, the successor of Peter, the Pope, in the person of Paul VI–warned us of all this forty-five years ago and was reviled for it by virtually everyone, including many of his own household.

Now we need suppose none of these things.  They are all true.  With the hindsight of 45 years, they are manifestly true.

What we can see with hindsight, Pope Paul VI in his encyclical Humanae vitae, promulgated 45 years ago on July 25, 1968, saw with great foresight.

Any honest person, applying any honest assessment, must come to the conclusion that societies are much less happy as a result of the widespread use of artificial contraception.  Contraceptive sex has not been the panacea it was touted to be.

It is incontestable that the promises made by the sexual revolution and its virtual “sacramental” of artificial contraception, are, in fact, false.  Contraception has proved very damaging to the mores of the population and familial and social life.

The detrimental effects of artificial contraception on marital life, on social life are so well documented by social studies as to be virtually incontestable.  For those who care to know, they are well-reviewed by Mary Eberstadt in her book Adam and Eve After the Pill.

In light of the personal, marital, and social facts, anyone who says that artificial contraception is good for society is lying, is a blind ideologue, or is simply ignorant.

The reasons, already stated in germ in Humanae vitae, are based both on the nature of things and divine revelation.  These have been fully and convincingly (and beautifully) developed by John Paul II in his so-called Theology of the Body.

Right reason only points one way.  Contraception is against the natural moral law.  It is also manifestly against all traditional Christian sexual teaching, Catholic and Protestant.

Historians speak of historic events, often called “turns” or “revolutions.”

There was the “epistemological turn” between medieval and modern world views, often attributed to Descartes, where the relationship between the senses and knowledge was severed.

There was the “critical turn” of Kant, where knowledge of things was given up as hopeless, there being no adequate relationship between thing and and thing thought, and the only knowledge known was what was in one’s mind.

There was the “linguistic turn” of the analytical and continental philosophers, which focused on language as the source of philosophical problems.

By 1968, the sexual revolution had resulted in such a massive “turn,” a sociological turn, and amidst the millions of irresponsible and clamoring voices assuring this was the future, there was one prophetic if diminutive voice, that called, against the entire Spirit of the Times, for a “return.”

Paulus Sextus contra mundum.  Paul VI against the world.

Christ’s promises to His Church–that He would send forth the Spirit of truth, and that He would guide His Church into all truth (John 16:13)–Christ’s promise to Peter–that he was the rock upon whom He would build His Church, and that the “gates of hell would not prevail against it” (Matt. 16:18)–have never been more apparent than on July 25, 1968, for those with eyes to see.

Amid the ruckus of the times, amid the raucous voices of lust-filled men, there was indeed a “still small voice” (1 Kings. 19:12) that could be heard on July 25, 1968.  It was the voice of God.

The voice of God, the voice of the Holy Spirit, worked through the Petrine office established by the Lord Jesus.  Through an intervention into human history of great grace, God taught all men and women of good will through the magisterium, the teaching voice, of Peter, on July 25, 1968.

“Peter has spoken to us through Leo,” exclaimed the Council of Chalcedon.

Peter still speaks to us.

On July 25, 1968, in the encyclical Humanae vitae, Peter spoke to us through Paul VI.

We were fools not to listen then.

We are greater fools not to listen now after we have had 45 years to appreciate the falsehood of the contrary teaching.

“Whoever has ears, let him hear.”  (Matt. 11:15)

The ears we’re talking about are the ears of the human heart.

If only, today, you would listen to his voice:
‘Do not harden your hearts
as you did at Meribah,
on the day of Massah in the desert,
when your fathers tested me–
they put me to the test,
although they had seen all of my works.’  (Ps. 94[95]:8-9)

For forty-five years, that generation that rejected Humanae vitae has wearied us and wearied God.

I said their hearts are wandering,
they do not know my paths.
I swore in my anger:
they will never enter my place of rest.  (Ps. 94[95]:10-11)

After forty-five years of not listening, let us hear.  After forty-five years of hardened, wandering hearts, let us soften them so that truth may enter.  Let us not test God.  Let us assuage his anger.  Let us enter into his place of rest, the place he has prepared for us.

Peter has spoken to us through Paul VI.

Venite!  Audiamus!  Come!  Let us listen!  And let us turn.


Andrew M. Greenwell is an attorney licensed to practice law in Texas, practicing in Corpus Christi, Texas.  He is married with three children.  He maintains a blog entirely devoted to the natural law called Lex Christianorum.  You can contact Andrew at agreenwell@harris-greenwell.com.

Keywords: Humanae vitae, contraception, Paul VI, Andrew M. Greenwell

1 – 5 of 5 Comments
Mister Heche

1 day ago Yesterday marked the 45th anniversary of the publication of Pope Paul VI’s prophetic encyclical, “Humanae Vitae” (“Of Human Life”), which reaffirmed the Catholic Church’s opposition to artificial contraception.

At the link, the reader will find helpful information and resources to help readers better understand this important teaching of the Catholic Church.

Readers will also find information on Natural Family Planning which is an effective, healthy, and natural alternative to artificial contraception, an alternative that is, importantly, fully compatible with Catholic teaching, ethics, and morality.



2 days ago Even before that God spoke through the Prophets against paganism to Human Sacrifices & temple prostitutions, the way of the Heathens, to this they heard not then neither do they hear it now., that which is come as Abortions & Sexual Immorality respectively become the way of the infidels, worse still, this enslavement of the Spirit, totally contradicting the very purpose of the creation, reflect the golden calf come as the holy cow & calling it Liberty.


2 days ago Beautifully and clearly written. The facts are there, the proof is there. We are living the chaos, and suffering for it. As the contrite Prodigal Son decided, let us return to the house of the Father. “Father, I have sinned against you….”
2 days ago Thank you Andrew for a great article. Hindsight is 20:20 but often we are blinded by sin. I hope and pray that many people will see this article and be inspired to follow the teachings of the church.

Terri K

2 days ago I heard Bishop Gracida speak on his experiences and observations when Humanae Vitae was published. I was struck, to the point of tears, to realize the pivot point that we, as a culture, completely disregarded and botched. What an untellable tragedy! The Holy Father spoke in love and by listening to him, through simple obedience, we likely would have been saved this fate.

Come Lord Jesus!

About abyssum

I am a retired Roman Catholic Bishop, Bishop Emeritus of Corpus Christi, Texas


  1. Well written. But then, “who am I to judge?”

  2. Curt Stoller says:

    I would only like to add a very, very small point, perhaps along pastoral lines. I think it is important that we not employ a double standard where we judge others according to Manichean interpretations of Sacred Scripture and the Dogmas of the Roman Catholic Church while employing a Thomistic, Scotistic or Suarezian standards to our own behavior or the behavior of our friends. Consistency has importance too so that we don’t fall into Phariseeism.

    How easy it is to see my behavior and the behavior of my friends in the nuanced terms of objective and subjective guilt, gravity and parvity of matter, a human act and an act of a human, degrees of responsibility, mitigators of full awareness and full freedom, modifiers of voluntariness [ignorace affecting the knowledge; passion affecting the consent of the will, fear opposing to the will a contrary wish; force, actual and psychological, habits acquired by repetition, concupisence and so on . . . how easy to bring to bear this well balanced Catholic moral theology on my own actions and the actions of my friends. How difficult not to falling into the Manichean habit of seeing my enemies as ontologically evil, totally depraved, incarnations of evil, hypostatically united to the demonic element and so on.

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