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By Mary Rezac, Catholic News Agency, March 26, 2018
Atchison, Kansas, Mar 26, 2018 / 03:45 pm (CNA) – Fifty years later, the teachings of Humanae Vitae are more relevant and necessary for the life of the Church than ever, participants at a recent symposium on the encyclical said.
The encyclical by Pope Paul VI affirms, among other things, the Church’s teaching on natural family planning methods and rejects contraception as a morally valid method for the planning and spacing of children.
The encyclical was the topic of the seventh annual Symposium on Advancing the New Evangelization at Benedictine College in Atchison, Kansas last weekend, a gathering of dozens of scholars, philosophers, theologians, students and lay people from throughout the United States.
The keynote speakers included Dr. Janet Smith from Sacred Heart Major Seminary; Dr. Brad Wilcox, director of the National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia; Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco; and Dr. Jennifer Roback-Morse, founder of the Ruth Institute.
While the message and teachings of Humanae Vitae on marriage and family are 50 years old, they remain a key part of the New Evangelization in today’s culture, participants said.
“I think we all know that it touches us at our core and we all know that it’s the answer to what has so gone wrong in our culture,” Teresa Kenney, a woman’s health nurse practitioner with the Pope Paul VI Institute and symposium speaker, told CNA.
But it’s not enough to just talk about Humanae Vitae, Kenney said, it needs to be lived out in the Christian community.
She said that she experiences the teachings of Humanae Vitae in the interactions that she has with each woman she encounters. “I feel so blessed and so grateful to be doing what I’m doing.”
The Pope Paul VI Institute is an international research, education, medical, and service center based in Omaha, Nebraska that provides women with fertility care via the Creighton Model FertilityCare™ System and NaProTechnology reproductive care, which “embodies the best principles of medicine and offers superior treatments to women and challenges mainstream medicine, which relies on contraception, in-vitro fertilization, and abortion.”
In her work there, Kenney said she has found that the biggest hurdle preventing people from accepting Church teaching and natural family planning methods is the false idea of full autonomy and freedom offered by contraception.
“We’re born and bred in this culture that you have personal freedom, and that really you should be able (to do whatever) as long as you’re not hurting anybody else,” Kenney said. But the best way Kenney has found to reach women “is just letting them know that it’s important to know about their body,” and by talking about the negative side effects of contraception that many women have personally experienced.
“We have to (help people) perceive the connection between love and life as an ultimate good, and we have to have people move toward it,” she added. “And as they move closer to the foundation of Humanae Vitae, we don’t need to do anything else because it changes the culture itself.”
Joel Feldpausch works as a missionary with The Culture Project International, a mission organization that speaks to high school and middle school students about virtue, dignity and sexual integrity.
As a missionary working with young people, Feldpausch said he decided to come to the symposium because understanding and communicating the truth of Humanae Vitae is essential in his mission to youth.
“The most fascinating thing about my job in dealing with middle schoolers and high schoolers is that Humanae Vitae, Pope Paul VI’s vision, the warnings of Our Lady of Fatima, the writings of John Paul II – they become more relevant,” he said.
Feldpausch said his approach to speaking to young people is to flip on its head the cultural narrative that suggests total autonomy and the freedom to do whatever one chooses are the keys to happiness.
“You’re finding now in our world, people are accomplishing those things that they think will make them happy, and they’re getting to that point and they’re realizing that they’re not happy,” he said.
“So it’s beautiful and enlightening to introduce them to [Humanae Vitae] and say hey, I understand where you’re coming from…but what if this Church and this faith and this beauty and love and truth…what if that is where your freedom lies? What if that is your fulfillment lies? Just think about that, just think for a minute.”
Reghan Methe, a student at Benedictine College, said she came to the symposium to learn how she could practically apply the teachings of Humanae Vitae in the world.
“I am interested in how to implement all these things that we’re learning here, because we have all of these great classes but that can keep it in a very abstract or intellectual level,” she told CNA. “So a lot of people here, with the primary focus being evangelization, it helps to make what you’re learning more concrete.”
Michele Chambers, who teaches Natural Family Planning in the diocese of Lincoln, Nebraska, told CNA that she found that the symposium was a time to learn from and reconnect with like-minded people before going back to the mission field.
“To have these myriads of people here all on the same team – which when you’re in your individual dioceses and parishes, you don’t see that as much – it’s nice to come and get filled so you can go back and try and do your job a bit better,” Chambers said.
She said the teachings of the encyclical continue to be relevant “because even 50 years later, we’re still struggling, and we struggled for years before,” she said. “Trying to live Humanae Vitae is a very difficult thing no matter what year you’re born in, and we have to give people that sign of hope that it can be done.”