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Teachers take fresh look at Humanae Vitae

Teachers, priests and religious from around the diocese met recently at Newmarket to study the Church’s teaching on marriage and family life.

Fr Paul Grogan of Leeds Diocese and Dr Bonnie Lander Johnson, the East Anglia Marriage and Family Life Coordinator, led the day on October 2, which looked especially at Pope Paul VI’s 1968 encyclical Humanae Vitae.

Dr Lander Johnson reports: “It has now been over 50 years since the publication of Pope Paul’s encyclical. In many ways the world has changed considerably, but some of the social and moral concerns that motivated the release of this encyclical are still very relevant, if not more relevant, for young people today.”

Yet, she points out, the teaching in Humanae Vitae is rarely discussed. “The release of this document in 1968 created such passionate disagreement among Catholics, that many still carry very real wounds. Out of proper sensitivity to that hurt, the Church in this country has remained largely silent on the document. But today’s teenagers and young adults had no direct experience of that trauma, and the Church’s silence on this teaching in particular might no longer be of service to them. Young people today have troubles of their own to face, and it is possible that Humanae Vitae might provide some of the answers they need.

“We have all witnessed the reality of increased divorce rates and sexual licence, the rapidly changing culture of identity politics, and more significant levels of loneliness, depression and anxiety. For those just embarking on their romantic lives, much of this new culture has created a deep uncertainty about how to configure significant relationships.

Humanae Vitae offers a vision of true love as the total gift of the self in loving union between husband and wife. Together with other marriage and family encyclicals, such as John Paul II’s Familiaris Consortio, it describes the human family as a school of holiness and social virtue, a place in which children, together with their parents, are called to a special kind of communion in which they can flourish to their full dignity and discover their deepest selves.”

Dr Lander Johnson noticed that the teachers at this Newmarket event were particularly keen to hear more about how the Church’s teaching tradition could help them to support families in crisis. “Our teachers routinely witness the pressures on young people through social media and the internet’s highly sexualised, and widely available, content,” she said. “They witness families who feel powerless to help and direct their children. For teachers in particular the diocese will be running subsequent events focussed on key issues relating to gender identity, the use of technology, and the dignity of the human person.”

Pictured above are the seminar at Newmarket (top) and the speakers (centre), Fr Paul Grogan and Dr Bonnie Lander Johnson