There is no document issued by a pope in the last 50 years that has been met with as much conflict as Humanae Vitae. Countless couples have bought into the lie told by the culture—along with the erroneous teaching handed onto them by some members of the clergy, religious, and the laity—who told them contraception use is acceptable and that sex is the highest good.

Contraception is opposed to Christ’s teaching and its use is a mortal sin that cuts us off from the happiness we are made for in God. God’s moral teachings are not meant to be a list of “thou shalt nots” that seem to keep us from enjoying things in this life; rather, the moral law leads us to our ultimate happiness. It is God alone who knows what will ultimately make us happy.

The opposition to Humanae Vitae by so many within the Church stems from an erroneous understanding of the happiness we are made for by God. Too many people have convinced themselves that the goods of this life must negate any suffering or sacrifice on our part. Our happiness should come at all costs, which is closer to utilitarianism than it is to authentic Catholic teaching. The idea is, since sex is meant to be enjoyed, it must be enjoyed freely without any impediment. This same view undergirds those who think contraception should be allowed in marriages since—in theory—sex should be freely enjoyed without any restrictions within a marriage.

This view contradicts central aspects of Christianity, most especially the reality that the very center of our faith rests on the crucifixion of Our Lord, Jesus Christ; the Son of God who told us to pick up our cross and follow Him. Authentic love is most fully expressed through a participation in the Cross of Christ offered freely in love. The self-emptying love couples promise to one another on their wedding day is a reflection of our call to the Cross. We are called to lives of self-emptying love that is grounded in sacrifice. It is through this self-emptying where we grow in deeper union with God and our ultimate happiness is realized.

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