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There’s no ‘secret commission’ on Humanae Vitae

A banner referencing “Humanae Vitae,” the 1968 encyclical of Blessed Paul VI, is seen in the crowd at the conclusion of the beatification Mass of Blessed Paul celebrated by Pope Francis in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican Oct. 19. The Mass also concluded the extraordinary Synod of Bishops on the family. Blessed Paul, who served as pope from 1963-1978, is most remembered for “Humanae Vitae,” which affirmed the church’s teaching against artificial contraception. (Credit: Paul Haring/CNS..)

ROME – Tuesday marked the 49th anniversary of Humanae Vitae, the encyclical on birth control by Pope Paul VI that generated so much controversy, he never wrote another one in the remaining ten years of his pontificate.

In recent months there have been rumors, mostly circulated by (conservative) blogs spinning a piece by a highly-respected Italian journalist, about a “secret” commission created by Pope Francis to reinterpret that document in light of the pontiff’s apostolic exhortation Amoris Laetitia.

Humane Vitae was the first papal document of its kind to speak about responsible parenthood, which infuriated several people. It also confirmed the Church’s decision not to allow artificial contraception, which was flat-out opposed in many quarters.

Overnight, dissent became a front-burner issue. In their pastoral letter Human Life in Our Day, issued four months after the encyclical, the United Sates’ bishops conference even laid out norms for licit dissent.

Back to the present. According to the rumors, a commission to review the document was allegedly put together under the cover of darkness by Pope Francis and Italian Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, who last year was appointed by the pontiff to head the Vatican’s Academy for Life and to serve as Grand Chancellor of the John Paul II Pontifical Institute.

Paglia has denied that any such commission exists. Speaking recently with Argentine journalist Andrés Beltramo Álvarez, Paglia said, “There’s no commission, that’s all been made up.”

This interview was published online on July 13 in the Spanish Alfa y Omega. Paglia himself provided a translation into English via Twitter.

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Additional reading:

Theologians studying development of Humanae Vitae given access to Vatican Secret Archives – Catholic Herald

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