To those not paying attention, it may not seem newsworthy that a Catholic college would honor a papal encyclical, but Humanae Vitae is no ordinary encyclical, and Benedictine is no ordinary Catholic college.
Benedictine’s 7h Annual Symposium on Advancing the New Evangelization takes place March 23 and March 24 on the Benedictine campus in Atchison. The subject this year is “Humanae Vitae 50 Years Later: A Call to Self Gift.”
When Pope Paul Vi issued Humanae Vitae in 1968, liberals in and outside of the church had high expectations. After a decade of sweeping change, they expected more change still on the subject of human sexuality.
Dr. Ian Jessiman, who attended the second Vatican Council that ended five years before the encyclical, captures the liberal enthusiasm for that period: “What a change it was to be! The whole church, certainly in western Europe, moved from initial bewilderment through joyful elation to a tremendous feeling of enthusiasm and mutual love.”
“Into the centre of this,” Jessiman continues, “and almost completely out of the blue came Humanae Vitae.” The encyclical affirmed the Church’s position against artificial birth control and abortion and dismayed liberals like Jessiman. “Sadly.” he claims, “there can be little doubt that Humanae Vitae was a disaster for the western Church.”
Today, most Catholic universities have few qualms hosting shows like “The Vagina Monologues” but would shudder at the thought of hosting a symposium on Humanae Vitae. This is what makes Benedictine’s decision so bold.
One of the speakers, Dr. Janet Smith, makes a strong case for the encyclical. “The Pope first noted that the widespread use of contraception would ‘lead to conjugal infidelity and the general lowering of morality.'” she writes. “That there has been a widespread decline in morality, especially sexual morality, in the last 25 years, is very difficult to deny. The increase in the number of divorces, abortion, out-of-wedlock pregnancies, and venereal diseases should convince any skeptic that sexual morality is not the strong suit of our age.”
More topically still, Smith notes,” Paul VI also argued that ‘the man’ will lose respect for ‘the woman’ and “no longer (care) for her physical and psychological equilibrium’ and will come to “the point of considering her as a mere instrument of selfish enjoyment and no longer as his respected and beloved companion.” A few months into the Harvey Weinstein era, this argument would be hard to deny even at Georgetown or Notre Dame.
The symposium is open to the public. To register click here.