Skip to Main Content

God’s Vision for Us Reaffirmed: TOB and Humanae Vitae

April 12, 2024

Time after time we see evidence of the harmful consequences when Catholic moral teachings are ignored by the culture. It’s as if God knows exactly what is best for us and is protecting His church from error! Take the real-world experience and negative effects of the pervasiveness of women taking oral contraceptives.  There has been a recent uptick of such women sharing via social media their struggles, as well as the negative physical and mental side effects of artificially trying to control their perfectly healthy hormonal cycles (instead of honoring and respecting God’s design).

Consequently, some women are ditching their hormonal contraceptives, evidentially affirming what Catholics will recall as the Church’s strongly worded prophetic encyclical, Humanae Vitae from 1968, warning of the consequential dangers of the foreboding acceptance of hormonal birth control on the culture at large.

After the publication one of the most contentious papal documents, Pope Paul VI’s prescient 1968 encyclical Humanae Vitae, our Catholic Church found itself facing a growing misunderstanding and rejection of God’s revelations on marital love and the sanctity of human life. In the years following the “sexual revolution” including in these modern times, many have dismissed Humanae Vitae as outdated, and out-of-touch, because they fail to grasp the profound wisdom and beauty it contains in its proclamations protected and conveyed by Christ’s Church.

It was in this context that Pope St. John Paul II set out to reclaim the foundational dignity and identity of the human person through the lens of a wholistic vision drawn from scriptural reflections and the rich theological traditions of the Church in his writing of the “Theology of the Body.” Pope St. John Paul II elucidates upon a vision of the human person as a unity of body and soul, created in the image of God for love and relationship in order to be free to flourish. This is a sacramental view of the human person because our bodies are a visible sign of an invisible reality: our soul.

At the heart of this sacramental view of mankind was the recognition that human identity and marital love are not merely biological realities, but reflections of the deepest longings of the human heart with spiritual ramifications, because we are a body-soul composite. The complementarity of husband and wife grants us the opportunity to grow in grace, generosity, and self-sacrificial love especially in the profound miraculous ability to co-create with God in the body/soul design to conceive new life and bring more love into the world by being a gift-of-self. The challenges of the differences inherent in the human nature of men and women certainly provides plenty of opportunities to grow in holiness and be the “helper” God made each of us to be for one another to attain eternal life in heaven, the ultimate desire of the human heart actualized.

However, the pervading culture has reduced the marital embrace (and even the very meaning of life!) to the mere pursuit of pleasure, often to the point of use and exploitation. “The transposition of “artificial means”… deprives man of the subjectivity proper to him, and turns him into an object of manipulation“(TOB 123:1). The human person then becomes enslaved to his/her feelings and impulses rather than being free to pursue the good for themself, others, and society at-large. In this context, the Church’s teaching on the inseparable connection between the unitive and procreative purpose of marital love, as expressed in Humanae Vitae, is being dismissed as regressive, even oppressive as a “barrier” to one’s immediate gratification in pursuit of pleasure only. Man is separating what God has joined.

Pope St. John Paul II’s Theology of the Body offers a powerful antidote to this reductionist view of human dignity, identity, and sexuality. By situating ourselves within the broader context of God’s plan for the human person, he has shown us how the Church’s teaching on chastity, contraception and responsible parenthood is not a mere set of rules, but a profound invitation to embrace the full dignity of our embodied existence. They are God’s guardrails built from the authentic love of a generous, compassionate, and just Father. It is indeed his loving plan and design in helping us to follow his will and thrive in this earthly life, as we navigate our way ultimately to him.

Moreover, Pope St. John Paul II recognized that many crises facing the human person, marriage and family life are not merely moral ones, but spiritual ones. The false promises of the current secular views have led to unprecedented rates of divorce, abortion, and pornography use. All of which were predicted outcomes to the pervading culture’s acceptance of the use of artificial contraception, including the birth control pill, in Pope Paul VI’s Humanae Vitae. The top of the slippery slope for so many of today’s avoidable detriments and unnecessary sufferings.

Ultimately, Theology of the Body is not just a defense of Humanae Vitae, but a total vision of the human person, created male or female in the image of a loving God and called equally to the heights of holiness. By reclaiming the dignity of the body, the beauty inherent in male and female complementarity, and God’s gift of marriage, Pope St. John Paul II offers a path of true freedom and fulfillment, rooted in the self-giving, self-sacrificial love at the heart of the Catholic message. We hope you are inspired not only to integrate within your heart God’s plan of love and fulfillment for you, but to help us spread this truthful message throughout all of your relationships.

Written by, Evie Estes,
Curriculum Production Manager, Editor, Sales & Website Support
at Ruah Woods Institute



Evie Estes