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Prophetic Insights for our Day


Humanae Vitae by Pope Paul VI was very Prophetic explains Professor Janet E. Smith


Humanae Vitae, Pope Paul VI
Section 17…

Man … may finally lose respect for the woman and, no longer caring for her physical and psychological equilibrium, may come to the point of considering her as a mere instrument of selfish enjoyment, and no longer his respected and beloved companion. …


Excerpts from Article


By: Professor Janet E. Smith

In section 17 of Humanae Vitae, Pope Paul VI made four prophecies about the bad consequences that would follow upon widespread acceptance of contraception.



First Prophecy. The Pope noted that the widespread use of contraception would "lead to conjugal infidelity and the general lowering of morality." That there has been a widespread decline in morality, especially sexual morality, in the last twenty years is very difficult to deny. The increase in the number of divorces, abortions, out-of-wedlock pregnancies, and venereal diseases should quickly serve to convince any skeptic that sexual morality is not the strong suit of our age.

Contraception may not be the sole cause of this decline but it is certainly among the contributing factors.  The phenomenon of teenage pregnancy is a case in point. While many predicted that ready access to contraception would reduce teenage pregnancy, it seems in fact to have exacerbated the problem. Indeed, studies show that in places where efforts to provide teens with contraceptives have intensified, there has been no clear decrease in teenage pregnancy, and in some cases there have been increases.1

The availability of contraception has led teenagers to believe that they can engage in premarital sexual activity "responsibly." But teenagers are about as responsible in their use of contraception as they are in all other phases of their lives –like making their beds, and cleaning their rooms, and getting their homework done on time. …

Children who do not have mature and loving parents have a hard time meeting the demands of life, have a hard time resisting the call to easy pleasures and other modes of escape. … Many now recognize, however, that widespread use of contraception has paved the way for more abortions. Contraception has led the way to more extramarital sexual intercourse, which in turn leads to more unwanted pregnancies. …

Indeed studies show that over 80 percent of young women having abortions are contraceptively experienced.  …

Not many women intend to use abortion as a "backup" to failed contraception but that in fact is how it is often used. …



Second Prophecy. Pope Paul VI also feared that the man who grew accustomed to the use of contraceptive practices might ultimately lose "respect for the woman," and "no longer caring for her physical and psychological equilibrium" might come to consider her as an "instrument of selfish enjoyment, and no longer as his respected and beloved companion."  …

By treating their bodies as mechanical instruments to be manipulated for their own purposes, they risk treating each other as objects of pleasure.  …

Certainly, one of the side-effects of the pill is depression, but more is involved than that. Pope Paul VI warned that the use of contraception can assist "the man" in looking upon "the woman" not as a special woman with her own needs and desires, not as a female with a marvelous procreative faculty, but as an object from which to derive sexual pleasure without the risk of personal bonding.

The bond created by sexual intercourse open to procreation needs to be more fully understood. Young girls often have a preference for "unprotected" sexual intercourse because they feel they are thereby giving themselves more fully, that they are showing their love more completely to their boyfriends. And there is something fundamentally right about that "feeling."

Few are willing to have "procreative" sex with someone whom they do not love, with whom they are not willing to share a lifetime of responsibilities. "Recreational" sex admits of a large number of partners for they are partners only for momentary sexual pleasure, not for sharing in a lifetime project. Engaging in "procreative" sex, on the other hand, is an act which bespeaks a more exclusive and profound commitment.

For when a man and woman engage in sexual intercourse without thwarting its procreative meaning, they are expressing a willingness to have children with each other, a willingness to effect a lifetime bond with one another.

 Contraception is also alienating because there is rarely "mutuality" in the use of contraception. Most often the woman bears responsibility for contraception and it is she who suffers most of the unpleasant "side-effects." Natural family planning (NFP) requires a loving and respectful relationship for successful use.

Whereas men who engage in contracepted sexual intercourse often come to view women as objects and desire to have them always at their disposal, men using natural family planning (NFP) learn self-mastery and begin to appreciate the woman and her cycles and her needs. Disenchanted former users of contraception and converts to NFP are often the most avid and eloquent defenders of the difference between them.

Today in the United States, where almost half of all marriages end in divorce, couples who use NFP experience an almost negligible divorce rate….

Still contraception makes infidelity easier and infidelity leads to divorce. And there is much evidence that couples using NFP communicate better and experience stronger bonds with each other. Contraception, then, rather than being a source of happiness in a marriage, may be assisting in the breakdown of marriages. …



Third Prophecy. Pope Paul VI also observed that the widespread acceptance of contraception would place a "dangerous weapon... in the hands of those public authorities who take no heed of moral exigencies."  The history of family planning programs in Third World nations is a sobering testimony to this reality. In these

countries many undergo sterilization unaware of what is being done to them. The forced abortion program of China shows the stark extreme to which governments can take population control programs… the world now face not a problem of overpopulation but a problem of underpopulation.11 Countries such as France and West Germany have tried without much success to adopt legislation that will make child-bearing more attractive to their citizenry.



Fourth Prophecy. The final warning Pope Paul VI gave about contraception is that it would lead men and women to think that they had limitless dominion over their own bodies and functions. Although he did not elaborate, his worry now seems well-grounded. For instance, sterilization is now the most widely used form of contraception in the United States; in the quest for control over their own bodies individuals do not hesitate to alter permanently the very make-up of their bodies.

Undoubtedly, we have not begun to realize the long-term physical and psychological ramifications of widespread sterilization. We are tampering unthinkingly with one of the chief sources of human happiness: the ability to have children.

The desire for unlimited dominion over one's body extends beyond contraception. Surely the making of babies in test tubes is an indication of a refusal to accept the limitations of the body. Demands for euthanasia and pleas for transplant organs from the nearly dead are strong indications of our lack of respect for the body and its nature.  Certainly, for each of the problems mentioned above there are a host of contributing factors. It is reasonable, though, to view contraception as a contributing factor to many of the problems society faces today problems contraception was predicted to help solve.



In Humanae Vitae Pope Paul VI also pointed to the good that would come from abiding by the Church's teaching on contraception. He acknowledged that spouses may have difficulty in acquiring the self-discipline or self-mastery needed to practice methods of family planning requiring periodic abstinence. But he believed this was possible, especially with the help of sacramental grace. In section 21, he remarked that


" ... this discipline which is proper to the purity of married couples, far from harming conjugal love, rather confers on it a higher human value. It demands continual effort yet, thanks to its beneficent influence, husband and wife fully develop their personalities, being enriched with spiritual values.

"Such discipline bestows upon family life fruits of serenity and peace, and facilitates the solution of other problems; it favors attention for one’s partner, helps both parties to drive out selfishness, the enemy of true love; and deepens their sense of responsibility.

"By its means, parents acquire the capacity of having a deeper and more efficacious influence in the education of their offspring; little children and youths grow up with a just appraisal of human values, and in the serene and harmonious development of their spiritual and sensitive faculties.


Throughout his teachings, Pope John Paul II explains the meaning of the human body and the human person as these bear upon sexuality. … In this original condition [ before original sin ]  they did not experience self-serving lust or disordered passions. Thus they were able to love each other authentically and without all the troublesome emotions and disordered passions men and women now experience.

After the fall, however, a great deal of selfishness entered into human relationships; individuals easily exploit and use one another in the realm of sex, as in other realms. If men and women are to regain the authentic loving relationships for which their hearts yearn, they must learn to control their disordered passions.

If they do not do so, they will be expressing lust rather than love in their sexual relationships. Rather than giving themselves and receiving each other as gifts, they will be imposing themselves on each other and using one another. But if they learn the self-mastery spoken of in Humanae Vitae, there will be tremendous fruits for their own relationship and for the other relationships of their lives, especially those within the family.

The passage cited earlier from Humanae Vitae indicates what some of these "fruits" are. It claims that spouses will be able to develop their personalities, which will be enriched with spiritual values. It speaks of the "serenity and peace" that comes with discipline, a discipline that flows to other areas of ones life. Perhaps most importantly, the spouses become unselfish; they become more concerned about the well-being of their spouses rather than about themselves.

Not to be underestimated is the witness spouses can give to their children and other young people. One practitioner of NFP told me what a great witness his commitment was to the young men at his place of work to whom he was trying to counsel restraint in sexual behavior. He found them most impressed with his argument, that if he could sleep in the same bed with the woman he loved and control his sexual desire, they could control their sexual desire for the women they were dating. Young people sense the attitudes about sex held by adults; if their parents have a reverence for the meaning of sex, if their parents have learned how to exercise self-control, surely they are more likely to be responsible about their sexuality.


NFP vs. CONTRACEPTION,  the Difference

Some think there is little difference between NFP and contraception, since both contraceptors and practitioners of NFP want to control their fertility. But users of NFP gain this control by self-mastery, by obtaining internal control over themselves; contraceptors seek this control by technological mastery of their bodies. Indeed users of contraception and users of NFP agree that there is a great difference between the two; neither switches easily or readily-to the other.

Contraceptors are generally reluctant to give NFP a try because they fear they will lose control over a very important part of their live that they will be casting their fate to the winds-or to their fertility, as it were. They do not take a lot of comfort in the reassurances that NFP is every bit as effective a form of family planning as the most effective forms of contraception. But apparent lack of trust in the method may conceal a lack of trust in themselves, their spouses and the strength of their marriage. Although they may have had to abstain many times in their marriage because of illness or prolonged separation, they do not think it is wise deliberately to plan to abstain….

Pope John Paul II recently spoke of the Church's teaching on contraceptive as part of the "permanent patrimony" of the Church. The above analysis tries to indicate that twenty years of neglect of Humanae Vitae have produced enough unpleasant consequences to enable us to recognize how foolish and dangerous it is to waste this patrimony. The successful marriages and happiness of couples who use NFP suggests that once we reclaim this patrimony, we shall begin to experience joys and benefits we have nearly forgotten. 

Pope Paul VI in Humanae Vitae implored priests, doctors, educators, and spouses to promote the teaching of the encyclical. Pope John Paul II has reiterated this plea. It is time we all do what we can to answer it, for the benefits will be ours and will be great.


Professor Smith teaches in the Program of Liberal Studies at the University of Notre Dame.

Also see

What Do We Do Now? Making the Switch from Contraception to Natural Family Planning

Abortion or Contraception,
Which Do We Fight ?


The Bible explains the types of marriages over which the Devil has Power.

Tobit Chapter 6: 16-22
“Then the angel Raphael said to him: Hear me, and I will shew thee who they are, over whom the devil can prevail.  For they who in such manner receive matrimony, as to shut out God from themselves, and from their mind, and to give themselves to their lust, as the horse and mule, which have not understanding, over them the devil hath power. … 22 And when the third night is past, thou shalt take the virgin with the fear of the Lord, moved rather for love of children than for lust, that in the seed of Abraham thou mayst obtain a blessing in children.”
Douay-Rheims Bible 


Papal Decisions in 

AD  1853, 1880

Casti Connubii,  (December 31, 1930)

Humanae Vitae   (July 25, 1968)

Veritatis Splendor   (October 5, 1993)


Humanae Vitae: A Challenge to Love
by Janet E. Smith, PhD

Janet Smith: Humanae Vitae and Conscience
Free  MP3

Contraception: Why Not? JANET E SMITH
Fee MP3,  Text,  Free Study Guide Discussion Questions  – Testimonials Suggestions for Classroom Use

Biblical Evidence
Against Contraception and For the Blessing of Many Children

Introduction: Adam and Eve after the pill     Trailer Video

Religious Freedom and Sexual LIberationism -
Helen Alvare at Franciscan University

Mary Eberstadt: Myths of the Sexual Revolution


Sermons on Contraception & Abortion


Buy New updated CD's by Janet Smith





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“Jessica Kern, who represents the group, explains why she cannot feel grateful for the circumstances of her birth. ‘When the only reason why you're in this world is a big fat paycheck, it's degrading.’ ”

Catholic World News - June 17, 2014