This encyclical, issued by Pope Paul VI in 1968, is probably the most talked about of any papal
pronouncement. Paradoxically, few Catholics have actually read it, and although the encyclical is not
lengthy, nor difficult to read or understand, even fewer have studied it. Yet from the day it appeared it
provoked reactions and debate of historic proportions.
The work is divided into three chapters. Chapter I, New Aspects of the Question and the Competence of the
Magisterium; Chapter II - Doctrinal Questions; and Chapter III, Pastoral Directives.
In the introduction to her 1991 book,
Humanae Vitae - a Generation Later
, Professor Janet Smith observed
was written to reassert the Church's unbroken condemnation of the use of
is terse and compact; clearly it is not designed to present a full-scale defense
of Church teaching on the proper means of regulationg family size and related matters."
Professor Smith's book, published by Catholic University Press, expands the encyclical's arguments and
explains principles of Catholic moral thought on which Pope Paul VI based the document. (In 1993,
Professor Smith, who teaches philosophy at the University of Dallas, edited another volume on the subject,
Why Humanae Vitae Was Right
, published by
. WFF most strongly recommends both these
books for study and reflection by individuals or groups.)
An encyclical letter on the proper regulation of the propagation of offspring
To the Venerable Patriarchs, Archbishops, Bishops and to all the local Ordinaries, Who are in peace
and communion with the Apostolic See,
to the Clergy and the Christian Faithful of the whole Catholic realm and to all Men of goodwill
Pope Paul VI
July 25, 1968
Honored Brothers and Dear Sons, Health and Apostolic Blessing.
The Transmission of Life
God has entrusted spouses with the extremely important mission of transmitting
human life. In fulfilling this mission spouses freely and deliberately render a service to God, the Creator.