A Humanae Vitae Week In Los Angeles

Matthew Habiger OSB, PhD
October 6–14, 2001

Recently I participated in eight days of highly successful pro–life activity in the Los Angeles area. The objective was to promote GodŐs plan for human love and life.

For the past six months, Brian Murphy had been organizing this event which included two conferences for priests and deacons, and a program at all the Masses in two large parishes. Our organization is called GodŐs Plan for Life and is a non–profit 501 (C) (3). Its specific mission is to promote the preaching of the values of the encyclical Humanae Vitae from the pulpit. Visit our website at http://www.Godsplanforlife.org

There are changes in attitudes among Catholics in the United States that are almost too good to be true. Many are open to the values of Humanae Vitae and are either dubious about or disgusted with contraception. After a sermon on "The Ultimate Marriage Buster," I received open applause from the congregation at every Mass in two very large parishes! Parish volunteers sold over 200 copies of the encyclical after the Masses, again at both parishes. Our team signed up 17 couples for natural family planning classes at one parish, and 19 couples at the other. What we did at these parishes, and in other parishes over the past two years, could be duplicated anywhere in the country.

The times are changing! Continue reading, and discover what actually happened during our Humanae Vitae Week in Los Angeles, 6–14 October.

We are convinced that one of the greatest factors at work within the culture of death is contraception, which is a corrosive acid in a spousal relationship. In subtle but deadly effective ways, contraception is the root cause of millions of failed marriages by introducing selfishness into the core of the marital relationship. It steadily produces a diminished respect for human fertility and human life.

There is a direct link between contraception and abortion. Abortion is "failed contraception," and 60% of women who have aborted were on some form of contraception. Abortion clinics promote contraceptives, knowing full well that this increases the demand for abortions.

Because of the prevailing silence from the pulpits, especially in first world countries, there is much confusion in the minds of many Catholics about contraception and sterilization. Think of the last time you heard these issues addressed from the pulpit. The great silence has led some to believe that the Church has changed her teaching on these issues. This attitude is then reflected in parish marriage preparation classes, adult convert classes, CCD classes and in some Catholic high schools and colleges. Very few young couples learn natural family planning as part of their marriage preparation.

Contraception is deeply ingrained among American Catholics. In a survey of Catholics, Protestants and Jews, the Center for Disease Control has found that there are no significant differences among these groups in the use of contraception. 75% of married couples use some form of contraception or are sterilized. Today sterilization is the most popular form of birth control. You can prove this for yourself at any weekend at your parish. Large families are scarce, while small families abound. The use of NFP among Catholic couples is less than 5%.

There is a new attitude among Catholics today regarding HV. While many priests and deacons still carry the attitudes and scars of massive dissent since 1968, the majority of the Catholic faithful are ready for the proclamation of the values of Humanae Vitae. They intuitively know that something is wrong when 50% of marriages break up, one of every three pregnancies are aborted, and large families are not welcomed. This has been our experience over the past three years, wherever we put on conferences and weekends at parishes.

On 7 Oct 01, I preached on the topic "The Ultimate Marriage Buster" at five Masses at Mission San Juan Capistrano in California. At each of the five Masses, I received applause for presenting the values of GodŐs plan for human love! Brian Murphy, the founder of GodŐs Plan for Life, gave the presentation after communion at the three Spanish Masses, and was applauded! After each Mass, we had volunteers from the parish pro–life committee sell copies of Humanae Vitae at all the doors of the Church. All together, we sold over 200 copies of HV, both in English and Spanish.

We also provided sign–up sheets for couples who wanted to learn more about Natural Family Planning. 17 couples singed up. NFP teachers tell us this is the largest number of sign–ups for one event in all of Orange County.

The following Sunday we did the same thing at Blessed Sacrament parish in Westminister, CA. I spoke at five English Masses, and Brian spoke at two Spanish Masses, and again we received applause after each Mass! Volunteers assisted us in selling over 200 copies of the encyclical after the Masses. 19 couples signed up for more information on NFP. There is a large Vietnamese community at Blessed Sacrament. We were not prepared to address this community, but Mr. Dai Pham introduced himself and recorded a radio program with us that afternoon for broadcast that night to the Vietnamese community. Brian will collaborate with him in bringing this message to that community.

Are these parishes exceptional? Would it be difficult to find similar responses elsewhere around the United States? Fr. Daniel McCaffrey, the third member of the team, gives living proof that Catholics across the country are ready for this message. He works full time cris–crossing the entire country promoting the values of Natural Family Planning. Every weekend he preaches in a different parish, and receives the same welcome acceptance as did Brian and I. People no longer feel compelled to use the ultimate marriage buster. They feel a sense of betrayal.

It is safe to say that the vast majority of Catholic faithful are ready to give a serious hearing to the values and teaching of HV. Most have never read or studied the document. They are ready. But are we priests and deacons ready? Have we resolved our questions and doubts about this moral teaching? Have we found the language and imagery by which we can teach this message effectively? Have we discovered the remarkable theology of the body and Christian personalism which addresses these values so eloquently? This is the rationale for our Humanae Vitae conferences.

Between the two weekends, our team gave two 1–day conferences for priests and deacons on the values of HV. The first was at Prince of Peace Abbey in Oceanside, CA. The second was at the retreat house, El Poverello of Assisi, in San Fernando, north of Los Angeles. In both events the numbers were low, but the enthusiastic response by the participants was very high. We demonstrated how the encyclical is a reliable description of GodŐs plan for human love, how its predictions have all come true, and how defendable HV is in every aspect: demographically, sociologically, psychologically, spiritually and in full continuity with the ChurchŐs moral teaching.

Once the obstacles to assent were removed, we then explained the role of conscience in the Christian life, and the great need today for authentic formation of conscience. The pulpit is the place par excellence for forming consciences. Christians receive most of their on–going formation of conscience during homilies at Mass. If this formation is not offered, then the faithful wander through the thickets of modern day life without direction.

A third dimension of the conferences is practical experience and success stories from Fr. Daniel McCaffrey, who has proclaimed GodŐs plan for human love in hundreds of parishes, both here and abroad. Sometimes we have local priests give a homily, demonstrating how they present these values to their people.

Would your diocese want to sponsor our team? We can provide conferences for priests and deacons (for the laity also), and preach the values of HV at all the Masses in two parishes. For more information, consult our website: http://www.Godsplanforlife.org.

Part of the new evangelization for the 21st Century will be the Gospel of Life. This includes GodŐs plan for human love, human life, marriage and family. Embrace human life! Embrace Humanae Vitae! Then we shall see a repentance for the sins of contraception and a withering away of the culture of death.