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The intentions of Pope Paul VI with Humanae Vitae

pope_paulviIn the book “Night-time conversations in Jerusalem. On the risk of faith” (2008), Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini accused Paul VI of not being totally honest, leaving it to theologians and pastors to fix things by adapting precepts to practice: “I knew Paul VI well. With the encyclical, he wanted to express consideration for human life. He explained his intention to some of his friends by using a comparison: although one must not lie, sometimes it is not possible to do otherwise; it may be necessary to conceal the truth, or it may be unavoidable to tell a lie. It is up to the moralists to explain where sin begins, especially in the cases in which there is a higher duty than the transmission of life.”

In effect, the Cardinal continues, “after the encyclical Humanae Vitae, the Austrian and German bishops, and many other bishops, with their statements of concern followed a path along which we can continue today.” It is a stance that expresses “a new culture of tenderness and an approach to sexuality that is more free from prejudice.”

But after Paul VI came John Paul II, who “followed the path of rigorous application” of the prohibitions in the encyclical. “He didn’t want there to be any doubts on this point. It seems that he even considered a declaration that would enjoy the privilege of papal infallibility.”

And after John Paul II came Benedict XVI. Martini does not name him, and does not seem to have much confidence in him, but he hazards this prediction:

“Probably the Pope will not revoke the encyclical, but he might write one that would be its continuation. I am firmly convinced that the Church can point out a better way than it did with Humanae Vitae. Being able to admit one’s mistakes and the limitations of one’s previous viewpoints is a sign of greatness of soul and of confidence. The Church would regain credibility and competence.”

Luca Badini Confalonieri