From the editor's desk
From the editor's desk > The problem with prophecy

20 June 2018

The problem with prophecy

Humanae vitae


This summer is the 50th anniversary of the anti-birth control papal encyclical Humanae Vitae, and a clamour of voices is to be heard declaring that Pope Paul VI’s teaching was “prophetic”. It offered an ideal of love between a husband and wife that in the context of the way the Catholic Church usually spoke about marriage in 1968 was certainly uplifting. Yet to describe the document as “prophetic” is distinctly problematic.

The one accurate prophecy made in 1968 about the impact of Humanae Vitae was not made by the Pope but by his critics, who predicted that its teaching would be widely ignored and trigger a sharp decline in respect for the magisterium. And what Paul VI predicted is not what is now being said he predicted.


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