“Communicating hope and trust in our time.”

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Humanae Vitae needs no update, commission chair says

A view of St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City. BOHUMIL PETRICK/CNA

VATICAN, May 25, 2018–The professor who chaired a Vatican study group on Humanae Vitae stressed that the Bl. Paul VI’s encyclical “needs no updating.”

Professor Gilfredo Marengo, of the Pontifical Theological Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family, spoke with CNA at the presentation of his latest book, “Chiesa senza storia, storia senza Chiesa” (Church without history, history without the Church), which explores the implications and consequences of Gaudium et Spes, the Second Vatican Council’s pastoral constitution on the Church in the modern world.

Professor Marengo told CNA that, according to his studies, “one of the biggest knots in drafting Humanae Vitae was really that of going beyond the polarization between doctrine and pastoral issues.”

Professor Marengo added that Blessed Pope Paul VI “focused on this knowledge, and worked a lot to take the encyclical out of that polarization.”

Unfortunately, he said, polarization has increased in recent years, but, added that “the question cannot be solved by imagining a new doctrine or a new pastoral activity, but by going beyond the polarization.”

Professor Marengo stressed that “Humanae Vitae is an authoritative document of the Catholic Church, and it is part of the tradition. We are called to welcome it as it is, and to apply it with an intelligent pastoral plan.”

However, despite being “the most discussed encyclical in the last 50 years,” there is “no need to update it,” Professor Marengo stressed.

In the end, all that discussion might be framed into a general debate that took place after the Second Vatican Council, he said.

Professor Marengo heads a study group undertaking a historical-critical investigation into the drafting of Humanae Vitae. The aim is to reconstruct, as well as possible, the whole process of drafting the document.

As is widely known, the drafting of Humanae Vitae endured several pressures before its publication and even after its publication.

Beyond Professor Marengo, the study group on Humanae Vitae is reportedly composed of Msgr. Pierangelo Sequeri, head of the John Paul II Institute, Philippe Chenaux, a professor of Church history at the Pontifical Lateran University, and Msgr. Angelo Maffeis, head of the Paul VI Institute in Brescia.

In 2017, Professor Marengo told reporters that the group was given access to the Vatican Secret Archives for mid-1960s, the time of Humanae Vitae’s drafting.

Professor Marengo told CNA that “the Second Vatican Council has facilitated the resolution of polarization between pastoral and doctrinal issues.”

He added that Pope Francis “is investing a lot in this resolution,” as “one of the most meaningful aspects of Pope Francis’ biography is that he is the first post-conciliar pope: all the [recent] previous popes participated to the Council, but this pope did not, and so he can look at the Council with a less emotional viewpoint.” (CNA)

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