"Decisive moments in history shape the lives of individuals and institutions, for good or ill," writes psychologist Sidney Callahan in the foreword to Robert McClory's 1995 book Turning Point: The Inside Story of the Papal Birth Control Commission, and How Humanae Vitae Changed the Life of Patty Crowley and the Future of the Church.
"For good or ill." On whichever side one falls on that question, few would dispute the assertion by Callahan and McClory, a longtime NCR correspondent who died in 2015, that Pope Paul VI's issuing of Humanae Vitae in July 1968 was a history-shaping moment.
This multipart series by NCR contributors maps the influence of Humanae Vitae, the impact this teaching on birth control has had in the Catholic community and where it might be pointing us in the future.
Distinctly Catholic: Though it was reduced to "Pope Bans Pill" the second it was issued, Humanae Vitae is actually a powerful reflection on the dangers to human life posed by the lingering Malthusian temptation to view human life as something we can exert mastery over.
Documents in the Vatican Secret Archives and the archives of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith prove it was a "myth" that Blessed Paul VI largely set out on his own in writing Humanae Vitae, the 1968 encyclical on married love and the regulation of births.