Humanae Vitae symposium

Attending parts of the Humanae Vitae symposium at Catholic University for the rest of the week, in light of the 50th anniversary of Pope Paul IV’s affirmation of Christian teaching on sex, marriage, and new life. It’s taking place in the student union building on campus, a short walk from the Basilica, and opened last night with powerful remarks from John Garvey, president of Catholic University, and Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of Philadelphia. They streamed those remarks here, and audio of their remarks is below:

I’ll be fitting in meetings and working on-and-off during this symposium, including a trip to Alexandria tomorrow to meet with Wesley J. Smith, one of the Terri Schiavo Life & Hope Network’s board members. Here are some photos from the past two days:

Every generation and age has its distinctive strengths and weaknesses; its challenges and hallmarks. One of those challenges in our time is answering, “What is the family?” Is it simply a contractual arrangement, which in some cases produces children in the same way that corporate partnerships might produce products? Or is it something deeper, and something that speaks more profoundly to our nature as creatures in this world that we’re called to conserve and pass along? Those are the sort of questions that Christians are trying to answer at this symposium.

Some background information on this event:

Symposium Purpose

This symposium explores Catholic teaching on human sexuality, marriage, conjugal love and responsible parenthood as articulated in the papal encyclical Humanae vitae upon its fiftieth anniversary (1968-2018).

The symposium is anchored in the view that, in and through Christ’s work of redemption, God’s original vision of the person, human sexuality, and marriage grounds human relationships and, after the fall, heals them. It seeks to elucidate the anthropological, philosophical, and theological underpinnings of the encyclical’s reaffirmation of the divine plan as expressed in Catholic teaching and advanced by Saint John Paul II, Pope Benedict XVI, and Pope Francis. Papers presented at the symposium will therefore assess the past, reflect upon the present, and consider the future. Presentations will be theoretical, empirical, and pastoral. They will draw upon the disciplines of history, philosophy, theology, and science, and will highlight effective catechetical practices. All presentations will treat major themes from Humanae vitae.

Symposium Objectives

  • To analyze the historical context in which Humanae vitae was promulgated and received. This includes consideration of the cultural, sociological, philosophical, theological, and empirical trends operative in the 1960s which fostered a more negative than positive reception of the encyclical in certain areas and even a rejection of God’s plan for married love.
  • To deepen the theological and philosophical understanding of Church teaching on human sexuality, marriage, conjugal love and responsible parenthood as articulated in Humanae vitae, with special attention paid to the later impact of the Theology of the Body and the magisterium of St. John Paul II, in addition to that of Benedict XVI and Francis.
  • To explore the scientific response to Humanae vitae’s call for developing viable methods of Natural Family Planning (NFP).
  • To look at effective catechetical practices devised to promote Church teachings on conjugal love and responsible parenthood and the moral prohibition of contraception.
  • To analyze negative trends in national and international policy that impact religious practice or expression regarding human sexuality, marriage, and family planning and to offer solutions.
  • To look for and assess hopeful signs for growing acceptance of the Church’s teaching both in the Church and in the culture and to make recommendations for the future.


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