DENVER – Acknowledging that reaction to Pope Paul VI’s 1968 document affirming the Church’s ban on artificial birth control was “mixed” at the time, Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila of Denver nevertheless insists the text was “prophetic” in the way it “defended the integrity of married love.”
To mark the 50th anniversary of Humane Vitae this year, Aquila released a Feb. 2 pastoral letter on married love, saying “it is crucial to reaffirm our commitment to the truth, goodness and beauty of Christ’s teaching on marriage and sexuality.”
The 67-year-old Aquila, who was appointed to Denver in 2012, said that when he was the bishop of Fargo, North Dakota, he had engaged couples complete a course on natural family planning during their marriage preparation instruction, and he’s done the same since coming to Denver.
NFP, referring to techniques for regulating births that don’t involve artificial contraception, is a focus for him in the letter as well as in his dioceses. He thanks those who teach it several times, saying they are “a great gift to the Church.”
“These are people who have experience the priests and bishops themselves don’t and can’t have,” he wrote.
Aquila said he wrote the letter to underline the idea of the family as “the foundation of society, and when it is undermined, society itself is threatened with collapse.”
The letter is divided into three sections, with an introduction and conclusion.
Part I, “Light and Darkness through the Last Fifty Years,” focuses on the developments since Humanae Vitae was published, including an accent on the “gift of human sexuality” in the teachings of the last three popes.
Again, Aquila emphasizes the importance of NFP in their teachings and in anecdotes he’s heard in his own dioceses.
This section also focuses on the developments he sees as negative, especially the effects of the birth control pill and other contraception devices. He expresses his belief that contraception has led to the objectification of women, climbing divorce rates, and declining fertility. He also argues that Pope Paul was justified in his belief that contraception would not lead to increased happiness, but instead to the decline of the family.
Aquila claims that developments accompanying artificial contraception, such as “the widespread use of pornography,” has disordered sexuality, “with a loss of libido and even a movement towards intercourse with robots, as reported in the media.”
Part II of the pastoral letter, “The Goodness of Sexuality: The Dignity of the Person,” discusses Church teachings celebrating human sexuality, the body and love. Again, Aquila relies especially on the teachings of the last three popes, as well as personal anecdotes, to drive home the Church’s positions on these aspects of life.
In addition, he once again discusses the differences between NFP and artificial contraception, highlighting the positive effects of the former.
Part III is titled “Proclaiming the Splendor of God’s Love” and discusses the evangelization opportunities of married people, doctors and nurses, lawyers and politicians, communicators, teachers and even artists, through sharing their knowledge of the gifts of “God’s vision of the human person and marriage.”
He singles out instructors of natural family planning again to thank them for “the very important work you do in supporting couples in understanding their fertility.” He hopes they will not “get discouraged by the difficulty of this work, but know that God is blessing you and your ministry.”
Aquila concludes by reminding his readers that on this anniversary of Humanae Vitae, they should “thank God for the gift of our humanity, for creating us male and female, for the gift of marital love, and for the blessings of new life and family.”