The history of Humanae Vitae

On 25 July 1968 Pope Paul VI issued the encyclical 'Humanae Vitae' [Latin for Human Life] on "the Regulation of Birth". The encyclical restated traditional principles and, among other things, declared that the use of contraceptives was wrong in all circumstances and could never be justified 'because it goes counter to natural law'. It has caused immense confusion, opposition, intense suffering and alienation in the Catholic community.

The following TV presentation by Edward Stourton on the BBC documents the history of the encyclical: a mixture of commitment to key morality and of distrust of professional experts whether clerical or lay. Instead of real consultation, a group of Vatican traditionalists manipulated the process so that their own hard-line views came to be imposed on the faithful.

We owe this online presentation to the excellent Australian Catholica website ( and we will be streaming the video from their website.
Click on the image and click again when the opening page appears!

Next week Bad faith, muddle-headedness and mistiming