In a recent allocution the Pope addressed some questions concerning Humanae Vitae. I have selected a few key points (see full text).
“And it is here that knowledge of the natural rhythms of the woman’s fertility becomes important for the couple’s life. The methods of observation which enable the couple to determine the periods of fertility permit them to administer what the Creator has wisely inscribed in human nature without interfering with the integral significance of sexual giving. …We may ask ourselves: how is it possible that the world today, and also many of the faithful, find it so difficult to understand the Church’s message which illustrates and defends the beauty of conjugal love in its natural expression?…Indeed, as we well know, not even reason suffices: it must be the heart that sees. Only the eyes of the heart succeed in understanding the proper needs of a great love, capable of embracing the totality of the human being.”
Outstanding here is the use of thoughtful and compassionate language which contrasts with the usual tone of pronouncements on this subject. There is no condemnation but an aspiration that we should grow towards a fuller understanding. Yet there are points which I think need fuller discussion.
First, there is an implicit acceptance that human reason is inadequate to demonstrate the truth of the existing doctrine. That of course we already knew. But it is not clear what is meant by “the eyes of the heart”. If this, as it would appear, is a subjective realisation then something more needs to be said about the many holy people, lay and cleric, who do not have this subjective realisation or from where it might arise – and how such a realisation could be imposed as universal and unqualified law.
Second, the “wisely inscribed in human nature” needs some attention. The natural, average, rate of fertility is somewhere between eight and 10 births, as 19th century records show. In that, and earlier times, such a rate was necessary to ensure that the human race grew only at a moderate rate – because of high early mortality. So we simply evolved that way. But in most of the world today such a fertility rate would not be supportable. This overhang from our evolutionary past (and there are plenty of examples of such overhangs) is no longer appropriate. The phrase “wisely inscribed” does not fit well with the way in which God appears to work through the mechanism of evolution.
Or does it? I look for answers from you