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Catholic Social Science Review

Volume 22, 2017

John Joseph Williams
Pages 171-187

Bishops’ Conferences in the Wake of Humanae Vitae
Commentaries that Missed the Mark

Paul VI's encyclical Humanae Vitae (1968) failed to have an immediate positive impact on the decisions of Roman Catholics in many places. Statements issued after the encyclical by a number of episcopal conferences had a deleterious effect on the implementation of the traditional teaching reaffirmed by the pope during an era when its message was urgently needed. These commentaries deprived the encyclical of its energy to influence the course of contemporary culture. The article presents some texts emanating from four episcopal conferences—France, Canada, Indonesia, and Scandinavia—and offers observations. The statements drew liberally from the pool of contemporary theological thought and pastoral practices then circulating, and the complementarity of these and a number of other episcopal conference statements created a compounding effect.

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