National Conference to commemorate 50th anniversary of Humanae Vitae coming to Diocese


By Sheila St. John

ONTARIO—The 50th Anniversary of the Papal Encyclical Humanae Vitae will be commemorated at a national conference held in the Diocese of San Bernardino on July 27-28.

 Written by Pope Paul VI, Humanae Vitae emerged from discussions that began in 1960 after the invention of the new birth control pill. It prompted an articulation of the Church’s teaching on the regulation of birth and responsible parenthood. By 1963 St. Pope John XXIII established the Pontifical Commission on Population, family and birth rate, known as the birth control commission.

After John XXIII’s death, Pope Paul VI continued the commission. After much discussion and to the surprise of many theologians, Pope Paul VI reaffirmed the Church’s position of staying “Faithful to God’s Design.”

 This theme will be explored at the Conference in great detail through keynote talks, exhibitors and other information. It promises to be an excellent reference point for those in ministry who are charged with articulating what the Catholic Church teaches about sexuality, family planning, and responsible parenthood. This might include those who teach Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA), Confirmation classes or Marriage Preparation classes.

 “Faithful to God’s Design” will be held at the Ontario Convention Center and there is still an opportunity to register for this enlightening Conference. Attendees from around the country will gather to hear in person from over 40 amazing speakers with great insights that will answer questions like:

 Are the teachings of Humanae Vitae relevant in today’s world?

 Are natural methods of family planning viable choices?

 Is the birth control pill healthy?

 How can we introduce young women to the changes encountered as they mature, in a way that empowers healthy choices? 

 What did Pope Paul VI predict would happen 50 years ago, if we embraced contraception as the norm? Has any of it happened? 

 Have we lost sight of the meaning of sex, gender, marriage and family? Can we regain it?

 Keynote speakers are San Francisco Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone, George Weigel, Professor Janet Smith, Christopher West, and Patrick Coffin. Friday evening will feature the premiere showing of the film “Unprotected,” and feature a live panel discussion by those featured in the film. Bishop Gerald Barnes will celebrate the closing Mass on Saturday, and Dr. Ray Guarendi will have us alternately pondering and giggling, with his banquet address: “Laughter, the Sanity of the Family.” 

 All keynotes will be simultaneously interpreted in Spanish, and every breakout slot includes a Spanish presentation. Those desiring translation can reserve a headset when registering. 

 The preceding days will feature pre-conferences held at the adjacent Doubletree Hotel, including a day just for clergy and seminarians, as well as the national meetings of the International Institute for Restorative Reproductive Medicine, and the American Academy of FertilityCare Professionals. 

 The event is endorsed by Bishop Barnes, and the entire California Catholic Conference of Bishops who have enthusiastically encouraged taking advantage of this opportunity.

 Detailed information on speakers, schedule, and topics, along with registration, is available at You will also find there are many other resources to enrich your understanding of God’s plan for love and life, including video testimony by ordinary people sharing how Humanae Vitae has impacted their life, and a blog with original contributions by speakers at the event, as well as a short newsletter you can share, that is posted monthly throughout this anniversary year. 

 Although considered one of the most controversial documents in modern times, Humanae Vitae continues to be vindicated in the writings of succeeding popes. St. Pope John Paul II’s Theology of the Body and Pope Francis’ Amoris Laetitia describe the unitive and procreative fulfilment of conjugal love in marriage (AL#80). In Humanae Vitae (HV#31) Pope Paul VI reminds us that “Man cannot find true happiness, for which he yearns with his whole being, unless he respects the laws inscribed in his nature by God” (HV#31), and prophesized that contraception would result in infidelity, a lack of respect for women and a general moral decline in personal relationships. Fifty years later his prophecy has manifested into what Pope Francis has coined the “throwaway culture.“

Sheila St. John is the Executive Director of the California Association of Natural Family Planning.