Today is the 50th anniversary of Humanae Vitae. For us, we know the truth is the truth today as it was then. It predicted the mess of problems we see today. Several news outlets are carrying articles today about the fact that the #MeToo movement, where women speak out about sexual abuse and label it with the #MeToo tag. See, for instance, 50 Years Ago, Pope Paul VI Predicted #MeToo at the National Catholic Register.
The logic of Janet Morana’s article there is fine. In it, she singles out a quote from Humanae Vitae 17. To wit:
Responsible men can become more deeply convinced of the truth of the doctrine laid down by the Church on this issue if they reflect on the consequences of methods and plans for artificial birth control. Let them first consider how easily this course of action could open wide the way for marital infidelity and a general lowering of moral standards. Not much experience is needed to be fully aware of human weakness and to understand that human beings—and especially the young, who are so exposed to temptation—need incentives to keep the moral law, and it is an evil thing to make it easy for them to break that law. Another effect that gives cause for alarm is that a man who grows accustomed to the use of contraceptive methods may forget the reverence due to a woman, and, disregarding her physical and emotional equilibrium, reduce her to being a mere instrument for the satisfaction of his own desires, no longer considering her as his partner whom he should surround with care and affection.
It seems that rather than be prophetic, Paul VI was stating the obvious about fallen human nature. But, #MeToo is a problem of a gender-based world. That world was 25 years ago.
The Four Horsemen of Contraception Proceed the Androgynous Person
That abortion, sex abuse, divorce, and homosexuality are all wrapped up in that one paragraph, however, took someone like Fr. Hardon to spell out for people (Contraception: Fatal to the Faith and to Eternal Life). He gave the myriad results of contraception.
- Breakdown of the family; and
- Murder of the unborn (Abortion).
Father took it one level beyond any mere #MeToo prediction, though. Father explains that Humanae Vitae predicted a whole weaponry against family life to be unleashed. He said:
I use the word “legislated” to bring out what Pope Paul stated so clearly in Humanae Vitae. In context, he is urging reasons for avoiding contraception. He says:
Consider also the dangerous weapon that would thus be placed in the hands of those public authorities who pay no attention to moral obligations. Who could blame a government for applying to the solution of the problems of a community those means acknowledged licit for married couples in the solution of a family problem? So it has been. Once contraception became widespread, it was only logical for civil governments to impose a contraceptive way of life on all their citizens.
(Fr. Hardon quoting Humanae Vitae).
What nobody really predicted was the genderless mess of absolutely anything goes today. Well, almost nobody it seems. And it is our government forcing it on us as well.
Genderless Androgyny brought to you by the NCCB (now USCCB) through Inclusive Language
When Humanae Vitae turned 25 years old, the giant issue for the Church that year was the rollout of the NSRV and the forced inclusive language in the English liturgy. Lead by Bishop Trautperson (nee Trautman), the Bishops Conference rolled out a new liturgy that incorporated the use of inclusive language, or genderless pronouns. Canada had already ordered new lectionaries with the mess, but Rome had not yet approved. (amazing how fast Bishops can move if they are cramming Rome).
In 1993, Bishop Trautperson, as Chairman of the U.S. Bishops’ Committee on Liturgy, commented that “inclusive language is a necessity in our American idiom and culture today. It is necessary in Scripture, in the liturgy and in catechetics.”
Whether you agree with the feminists in the 70s who claim that referring to us as “mankind” is an oppressive patristic structure of the past, doesn’t matter. The Bishops did and set themselves on the vanguard of forcing gender out of Liturgical language.
I would argue that they legitimized it, in fact. Without the Church pushing the gender neutral pronouns, it was merely a quirk of some college english professors.
Roughly on 25th anniversary of Humanae Vitae, then Cardinal Ratzinger, head of the CDF, indicated that the translation had serious issues. Australia, Canada, and the United States announced that “new lectionaries” were approved for use. By cramming the new books into the public, they thought they could railroad Rome’s approval the way they did Communion in the hand. Canada, as I mentioned above, already ordered them. Then, in 1994, Rome squashed any use in Catholic liturgy. Much wailing and gnashing of teeth ensued.
As an aside, the 1800 scholar Catholic Biblical Association at the time had written that Rome’s quashing of the NSRV and inclusive language slammed “directly on the pastoral efforts made by the American hierarchy” and raised questions as to the fitness of the U.S. Bishops’ Conference to “determine what is doctrinally sound and pastorally appropriate.”
Even today, the newest translation insists on having “humankind” in the Creed. I’ve heard many people still say “mankind.”
As Words Go, so Goes the Rest
Is it any surprise that 25 years later, the world followed the Church and we now have people insisting that using the wrong pronoun and assuming someone’s gender is wrong? Didn’t the U.S. Bishops teach them this? For three decades, the push has been to scrub gender from sacred language. Shouldn’t the profane obey as well?
But what does this mean for #MeToo and Humanae Vitae?
If birth control divorced sex from procreation and reduced it to a mere act of pleasure, then inclusive language divorced discussion of sex from being a thing between man and woman.
It would have sounded absurd 25 years ago. But today?
Just replace the last part of HV 17 with inclusive language:
Another effect that gives cause for alarm is that a [person] who grows accustomed to the use of contraceptive methods may forget the reverence due to a [person], and, disregarding [their] physical and emotional equilibrium, reduce [that person] to being a mere instrument for the satisfaction of [its] own desires, no longer considering [them] as [a] partner whom [they] should surround with care and affection.
Taking the gender out almost makes contraception seem irrelevant… after all genderless people can’t make babies, right?
The problem with #MeToo is that it is a problem for the patristic past and assumes the gender of the actors. It is a problem of the 25th anniversary of Humanae Vitae, and not the 50th. Today, on the 50th anniversary, we have moved on. Sex isn’t even between humans anymore, much less a man and a woman.
Inclusive Language Washed Away Man and Woman
I’m not even sure Paul VI could foresee this. He could foresee the objectification of women, as articles today comment. But only the magic of inclusive language could predict where we really are today — sex is just an act for itself now. And if you say otherwise, you’re probably violating whatever arbitrary norm it was that the Bishops made real by insisting on inclusive language.
The truth, however, is the same: Jesus said it “From the beginning God made them man and woman.” God has a plan to creation, and He put a rainbow here after the flood to remind us that sex is for a man and a woman. Humanae Vitae wasn’t written in inclusive language because it makes no sense if it were.
The 50th anniversary of Humanae Vitae shows that unleashing sex from procreation did more than #MeToo, but drove the very purpose and nature of gender out of the public. Even the bishops fell into the trap and assisted it in language.
We have to wonder just how much of this would have been avoided had our bishops focused on teaching Humanae Vitae instead of chasing gender out of our language.
This article, Did USCCB Inclusive Language Cause the Androgynous Mess at Humanae Vitae’s 50 year Anniversary? is a post from The Bellarmine Forum.
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About John B. Manos
John B. Manos, Esq. is an attorney and chemical engineer. He has a dog, Fyo, and likes photography, astronomy, and dusty old books published by Benzinger Brothers. He is the President of the Bellarmine Forum.