Internationally recognized Humanae Vitae expert Dr. Janet Smith delivered a lecture at Christendom College on Monday, February 5, speaking on “Humanae Vitae, 50 Years Later: Progress or Regress?” Smith engaged her audience throughout the talk, as she spoke on the roots of Humanae Vitae‘s groundbreaking publication and why the encyclical matters now, more than ever.
“The Church has realized that if it doesn’t fight for religious freedom in regard to contraception, it won’t be able to fight for any religious freedom,” said Smith. “Places like Christendom would not be able to exist without Humanae Vitae.”
Smith, the author of Humanae Vitae: A Generation Later, began her talk by taking the audience back to the 1960s – a time very similar to today. The legalization of abortion was being pushed harder, protests were rampant, and contraception had just been legalized in the United States. Due to all these factors, Pope Paul VI wrote the encyclical Humanae Vitae in 1968, which reaffirmed the Church’s traditional teaching on married love and its natural end: the unitive and the procreative. The encyclical shook the world, leading to protests and dissent in sectors of Catholicism, including many priests and faculty at the Catholic University of America. Smith was in college at this time and decided to make a stand for the orthodox teachings of the Church.
“I decided my contribution to the pro-life movement was to fight against contraception, which has led to rises in pornography and more since I joined this fight in 1968,” she said.
While some dissented, others came out strongly in defense of Humanae Vitae and Church teachings. The staunchest defender was Karol Wojtyla, later Pope John Paul II, whose writings on theology of the body, among others, guided the thoughts and arguments of faithful Catholics.
“There was nobody on the face of the Earth who could defend the Church’s teachings on sexuality better than John Paul II,” said Smith.
Concluding her talk, Smith pointed to the fruits of Humanae Vitae in its 50th anniversary year, and especially to the places that are helping form faithful Catholics who can promote and defend the orthodox teachings of the Church on matters of sexuality – places like Christendom College.
“Places like Christendom College are part of the good news and are making a difference in preparing people to be faithful Catholics,” she concluded.