Statement of Episcopal Conferences on Humanae Vitae

Author: Episcopal Conferences of Ireland and India



During our meeting in Maynooth, we have had under consideration the great amount of public comment which has been made on the Holy Father’s recent Encyclical: Humanae Vitae. We feel bound in duty to our people to make the following short statement.

The Second Vatican Council teaches that "a religious submission of mind and will must be given to the authentic teaching of the Pope, even when he is not speaking ex cathedra". (Lumen Gentium, n. 25)

This Encyclical contains the authentic teaching of the Pope. We are confident that our people will accept it as such and give it that wholehearted assent which the Second Vatican Council required.


The Pope speaks not as one theologian among many, but as the Vicar of Christ who has the special assistance of the Holy Spirit in teaching the Universal Church. Moreover, in what he says on contraception, the Holy Father merely reaffirms what the Church has always taught as a precept of God's law.

Regarding the role of conscience in this matter, we think it well to quote the actual words of the Second Vatican Council. They are is follows: "Husband and wife, in their mutual relations, may not act arbitrarily but have always to be governed by conscience which must be conformed to the Divine Law, submissive to the teaching authority of the Church, which authentically interprets that law in the light of the gospels". (Gaudium et Spes, n. 50). "The faithful may not employ methods of regulating procreation which are found blameworthy by the teaching authorities of the Church in its unfolding of the Divine Law". (Gaudium et Spes, n. 51).


We ask our people to believe that we are deeply and painfully aware of the delicate and personal problems and intellectual difficulties to which this teaching may give rise for some and we are especially conscious of the difficult decisions which may face doctors in particular cases. We ask that every effort should be made, by study and prayer, to appreciate and live the whole Catholic teaching on marriage and the family, and to see the condemnation of contraception in this life-giving context. We know that our priests, especially in the confessional, will, without compromise of principle, show that understanding and sympathy which Our Divine Lord Himself always displayed.

To help people to live their married life in its entire human and Christian fullness we shall encourage the development of educational counselling and other services and we ask our priests and people to work together towards this more complete vision.

Finally, we appeal to all, in the charity of Christ, to have regard for the welfare of the Church at the present time, to pray that God may give strength and peace of soul to those for whom "this teaching is hard" (Jo. 6:60) and to pray in a special way for Our Holy Father, the Pope.


At a meeting of the Standing Committee of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of India held in Bangalore from 30th September to 4th October, 1968, the following statement was released:

1. The Standing Committee of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of India, in addition to the agreement already expressed by individual Bishops, pledges loyal adherence to the teaching of the Encyclical on the Regulation of Birth by Pope Paul VI.

2. The Standing Committee earnestly urges all priests and religious and laity to spread as widely as possible the text of the Encyclical both in English and in the vernaculars. They should, in keeping with the directives of the Holy Father, speak without ambiguity, and speak the same language; and in all dealings with the faithful, let them adhere to the norms clearly indicated by the Holy Father:

"To diminish in no way the saving teaching of Christ constitutes an eminent form of charity for souls. But this must ever be accompanied by patience and goodness, such as the Lord Himself gave example of in dealing with men. Having come not to condemn but to save, He was indeed intransigent with evil, but merciful towards individuals. In their difficulties married couples always find, in the words and in the heart of a priest, the echo of the voice and the love of the Redeemer " (n. 29).

For their practical guidance it is hoped to issue a " Directory " as early as possible.

3. The Standing Committee proposes to issue in due course a full-length Statement which would apply the teaching of the Encyclical to the situation as it exists in India, namely,

a) to an economically developing country;

b) with a government-sponsored family-planning programme;

c) in a traditionally slow-moving society.

Consequently, it is intended to present a positive pastoral approach in regard to the Encyclical, for the Encyclical is not concerned merely with birth control, but with the whole theology of marriage, training for the same, and training in chastity.

4. We draw the attention of all men of goodwill to the words of Pope Paul VI in his Encyclical " On the Development of Peoples":

"It is true that too frequently an accelerated demographic increase adds its own difficulties to the problems of development: the size of the population increases more rapidly than available resources, and things are found to have reached apparently an impasse. From that moment the temptation is great to check the demographic increase by

means of radical measures. It is certain that public authorities can intervene, within the limit of their competence, by favouring the availability of appropriate information and by adopting suitable measures, provided that these be in conformity with the moral law and that they respect the rightful freedom of married couples ".

Accordingly the Standing Committee expects Governmental and public bodies not to penalize or impose disabilities on such as have conscientious objection to the methods employed by Government to promote its Family Planning Campaign. The Church, on its part, in advising Responsible Parenthood by lawful means, seeks to co-operate with Government in the solution of what has come to be known as the Population Problem.

Taken from:
L'Osservatore Romano
Weekly Edition in English
31 October 1968, page 4

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