Never before published letter of Cardinal Wojtyla to Paul VI on Humanae Vitae

Never before published letter of Cardinal Wojtyla to Paul VI on Humanae Vitae

Diane Montagna

According to Msgr. Livio Melina, former president of the Pontifical John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family in Rome, Wojtyła’s letter to Paul VI is also decisive as it demonstrates that Humanae vitae “is not a matter of advice entrusted to the interpretation of conscience, but of a binding doctrinal teaching.”

The letter was published for the first time in Italian in March, as part of a new book by Fr. Paweł Stanisław Gałuszka, titled Karol Wojtyła and Humanae Vitae. The book examines the contribution that Karol Wojtyła and the Polish bishops made to the editing and reception of Humanae Vitae when Wojtyła was Archbishop of Krakow.

The book contains several never-before-published documents, including the letter Cardinal Wojtyła sent to Paul VI in 1969, after numerous episcopates voiced their opposition to Humanae Vitae. It was launched at the Lateran University in Rome, with key Vatican figures in attendance.

Msgr. Melina, a highly regarded moral theologian and successor to now-deceased Cardinal Carlo Caffarra as president of the John Paul II Institute, wrote the preface to Gałuszka’s book.

In comments to LifeSiteNews, he said Wojtyła’s letter to Paul VI is decisive on three points:

First, that moral law and therefore also the norm of Humanae vitae [the ban on contraception] is the expression of a truth about good and not the arbitrary imposition of a legislator, so that the Church herself has no power to change it (against nominalistic legalism); second, that Humanae Vitae is an infallible and irrevocable teaching, by universal ordinary Magisterium, even if not by a solemn defining act (ex cathedra)”; and third, that Humanae Vitae is not a matter of advice, entrusted to the interpretation of conscience, but of a binding doctrinal teaching.

Today’s publication in English of Cardinal Wojtyła’s 1969 letter to Paul VI comes as new facts emerge about the origins of Humanae Vitae. The recent findings, contained in a new book, The birth of an Encyclical. Humanae Vitae in the light of the Vatican Archives, are based on a “secret” Vatican commission’s investigation of archived documents relating to the preparatory work of the encyclical.

Its author,  Monsignor Gilfredo Marengo, is a member of the commission appointed by Pope Francis.

In Msgr. Melina’s view, Marengo’s book attempts to “diminish the importance” of Wojtyła in the preparation of Humanae Vitae, “and in the estimation of Paul VI.” Its “challenge” of Fr. Pawel Gałuszka’s book, Melina said, can be seen in Marengo’s interpretation, which tends to “emphasize instead the influence of the French (Martelet, SJ first and then Poupard and Martin, of the Secretariat of State).”

“Marengo would like to support a more nuanced (anthropological — renewed theological) interpretation of Humanae vitae, against what he calls ‘moralistic’ and casuistic positions,” Melina told LifeSiteNews but they “ultimately prevailed under negative influences of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (and Wojtyla?).”

Msgr. Melina pointed out that Marengo’s new book offers “objective data” from the Vatican Archives. If presented properly, he said, this data would allow the reader to “appreciate the Cardinal of Krakow’s influence.”

The Italian moral theologian said there are “three important facts” that Marengo has reported but to which he does not attribute sufficient significance. First, that Paul VI sent the initial draft of what eventually became Humanae vitae (a draft called De nascendae prolis) to only two prelates: one was Cardinal Felici and the other, Cardinal Wojtyła (Marengo, 99-ff).

Secondly, that in the documentation sent to Paul VI, as a dossier for final editing, in addition to the contribution of Cardinal Wojtyla there was also the Krakow memorandum (Merengo, 101), to which Wojtyła refers in his letter.

Lastly, he said, is the fact that “even though Paul VI ultimately did not accept Cardinal Wojtyla’s suggestion to publish a Pastoral Instruction in response to reactions to Humanae vitae,” Paul VI had a commentary by the Cardinal of Krakow published in the Osservatore Romano, and “encouraged him to publish the Instruction in Poland (Marengo, 129).”

“These three essential facts,” reported by Marengo, “contradict his interpretation that Wojtyła had little influence on the preparation of the encyclical,” Melina said.

Today, on this 50th anniversary of Humanae vitae, here below we publish in full, for the first time in English, Cardinal Wojtyła’s letter to Pope Paul VI.

The text is available here and here (pdf). 

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