Humanae Vitae — the start of the modern crisis in participation...
PLEASE NOTE: This page contains heavy multi-media content. The video download is nearly 20Mb and this page will only be comfortably viewable by people with broadband connections. Dial-up users can access an alternative page that contains the same content, including the pdf file containing the chapter from the book under discussion, but without the video download. It can be found HERE.
I have gone through considerable soul-searching over what I am about to present today — principally from a copyright point of view as I am presenting a significant excerpt from both a book and a television series. The matters that are raised are significant enough to warrant pushing the boundaries of the allowable uses within copyright law to do this though. At the moral and ethical level I do trust that these excerpts may lead some readers to actually go to the trouble of either buying the full book, or the dvd of the television series, or borrowing them from a library. I am not seeking to plagiarise or exploit the works of the legitimate copyright owners but rather to further promote their work.
What I am about to present is the segment from Edward Stourton's book and television series "Absolute Truth –The Catholic Church in the World Today" that deals with the Humanae Vitae controversy in the immediate aftermath of the Second Vatican Council.
Leaving aside the recent scandals to do with sexual abuse, I sincerely believe the root of the current challenges the Church faces today in holding on to its flock can be traced to the calamitous mistake made in the promulgation of this Encyclical by Pope Paul VI in 1968.
While Edward Stourton's book examines a far broader canvas of the issue as to why so many people have lost faith in the Church as the fount and protector of Absolute Truth, this relatively small section of the book — it occupies one chapter of the 16 in the book and approximately 16 minutes of the 200 minute television series — is, I believe, key to understanding where the significant disenchantment first became entrenched amongst the educated and reflective sectors of the faithful in the Western world.
Before leaving you to your own reflections on this quite significant body of material — at least in terms of the length of our normal daily reflections — I should point out that it is worth both viewing the television segment and then reading the chapter which I have provided in pdf format. The written work provides considerably finer detail, particularly in the statistics of what went on in the Vatican leading up to the promulgation of Humanae Vitae. On the other hand the video material gives a much more human face to the people who were key players on the Birth Control Commission and who express their opinions and recollections in both the book and the video.
The particular issue on the line here is actually not so much the issue of contraception. It is the issue of authority and the respect within which the faithful hold our ecclesial leaders as both interpreters and custodians of ultimate truth. I would particularly draw your attention to the opinions of the late Cardinal Basil Hume and the late Archbishop Denis Hurley expressed on this question of authority at the end of the video segment.
To read Chapter 4 of Edward Stourton's book, Absolute Truth (Viking 1998), please click the image at right. The text expands considerably on the material presented on screen.
The book should be readily available at all good booksellers. I originally purchased my copy at the ABC shop. As far as I can determine from a Google search the documentary series has not been released on vhs or dvd. The copy I have is of low quality recorded off-air when it was broadcast in Australia in 1998 or 1999. You might make enquiries of BBC Enterprises, 50 Berry Street, NORTH SYDNEY (Phone: 02 9957 3777) to indicate interest for the series to be released on dvd. I did notice the television series does seem to be available in some university libraries. Those copies were possibly recorded off-air also.
PHOTO CREDITS: The images used to illustrate this article have been taken from the book or the video..
Tom Scott is the pen name of the editor and publisher of Catholica, Brian Coyne.
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