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Document Details :
Title: The Origin of Humanae Vitae and the Impasse in Fundamental Theological Ethics
Author(s): BARBERI, Michael J. , SELLING, Joseph A.
Journal: Louvain Studies
Volume: 37 Issue: 4 Date: 2013
Recent publications and translations have brought to light convincing evidence that the major influence on Pope Paul VI’s composition of Humanae Vitae was Cardinal Karol Wojtyla, later Pope John Paul II. After the pope’s ‘birth control commission’ finished its work, and two working papers referred to as majority and minority reports were published, Wojtyla organized his own commission in Kraków to study the question of regulating fertility. The findings of that commission, which closely resembled the earlier writings of the cardinal, were condensed into a memorandum and sent to Paul VI months before he promulgated his encyclical. Three of the four major themes upon which Humanae Vitae is based are uniquely found in Karol Wojtyla’s early writings, in the Kraków memorandum, and subsequently in the writings of John Paul himself. This substantiates the critique that the teaching of the encyclical, in particular the importance of the so-called inseparability principle, was not based upon the ‘constant teaching of the church’ but rather upon the thinking of a single cardinal, writing from a very specific cultural context, under the influence of a very small number of advisors. The same four principles that reflect the early work of Karol Wojtyla, that were sent to Paul VI in the Kraków memorandum, and that anchor the teaching of Humanae Vitae, have created an impasse for the development of fundamental ethics in the post-conciliar church and has left the issue of regulating fertility unresolved for 45 years.