Today I offer my first movie review! In the future, I also plan to write book reviews and blog reviews as a way of providing a variety of resources that impart wisdom and hope to single girls.
The movie “Paul VI: The Pope in The Tempest” is about the life of Pope Paul VI. First let me warn you that the movie is only available in Italian. This language hurdle would have normally been a show-stopper for me. But, since there are English sub-titles, I found it very easy to understand. To give you an idea of how easy it is to grasp this movie, even in Italian, our 7 year-old was able to follow (read) along and he loved the movie (he is a history buff). So, I am confident that you will also be able to easily follow along.
Rather than attempting to summarize the whole movie, I’ve decided to provide this Editorial Review directly from Amazon.com:
“Pope Paul VI was a leader in the Catholic Church as a priest, bishop, cardinal and pope through one of the most difficult periods in its history from the Fascist regime and World War II to the constitution of the Italian Republic, from the Second Vatican Council to the protests and the terrorist attacks of the 1960s and 1970s.
His papacy ran from 1963 to 1978, during which he wrote the prophetic, controversial document Humane Vitae that strongly proclaimed the Church’s teaching on the sacredness of married love and human life, and the evil of contraception which the Pontiff said would open the door to abortion if allowed. He was the first travelling Pope who began to visit the dioceses of the 5 continents like no pope had ever done before.
This exciting and insightful film covers fifty years of history that changed the Catholic Church and the world. Paul VI: The Pope in the Tempestis a story that draws emotion and lessons from history itself, dramatically mixing stunning reconstructions and real film footage.”
You may be wondering why we should care about this man who died over 30 years ago? I think there are many reasons but I will offer two. First, he was a modern-day prophet and second, he understands women and reveals us to ourselves. Hey, anyone that can explain me to me is definitely worth a study!
A Difficult Period In History
My review will focus on the topics in the bolded text above. Specifically, Pope Paul VI’s prophetic encyclical, Humanae Vitae and the impact our Holy Father’s wisdom had on the Church and on the world.
The Editorial Review above states that he was Pope of the Catholic Church during “one of the most difficult periods in its history.” I agree with this evaluation. Before watching this movie, I had very little insight into the historical relevance and timing of Humanae Vitae and the difficulty that the Pope endured as a result of releasing the encyclical.
Hidden Treasures of God’s Wisdom
“He (Christ) is the key that opens all the hidden treasures of God’s wisdom and knowledge. I tell you, then, do not let anyone deceive you with false arguments, no matter how good they seem to be.” Col 2: 3-4
Up until The Lambeth Conference in 1930, all Christian faiths were against contraception and believed it to be morally wrong. Protestants like Luther, Calvin, Zwingli, Wesley, Melancthon Jacobus, Matthew Henry, Christian Gottlob Barth, the Synod of Dort, Jerhard Gerhard, William Dodd, Alfred Edersheim, and a bunch of other Protestant theologians all saw Genesis 38 (the spilling of the seed to impede conception) as a condemnation of birth control. But, the Lambeth Conference surprisingly allowed for contraception in limited circumstances for Anglican Protestants. By 1960, a mere 30 years later, most Mainline Protestant denominations had removed prohibitions against artificial contraception.
By the 1960’s many of the Catholic laity, theologians, priests, Cardinals and Bishops were unable to see a problem with artificial birth control. I say “unable to see” because most, at that time, saw artificial birth control as a good thing and their arguments in support of it seemed to be good. But, Pope Paul VI found the hidden treasure of God’s wisdom and was not deceived with false arguments.
Humanae Vitae, released by Pope Paul VI in 1968, reaffirmed the Catholic Church’s traditional view of marriage and marital relations and condemned the use of artificial birth control. The encyclical states that “of its very nature (artificial birth control) contradicts the moral order” and that “it is a serious error to think that a whole married life of otherwise normal relations can justify sexual intercourse which is deliberately contraceptive and so intrinsically wrong.”
As you can imagine, the encyclical did not go over well and was very controversial!
Even the Pontifical Commission on Birth Control, formed by the Pope for the purpose of studying the topic, disagreed with the Pope’s conclusion. The Commission recommended the Pope go against the consistent historical teaching of the Church and allow artificial birth control. But, Pope Paul VI courageously went against the recommendation of the Pontifical Commission and went forward with the encyclical.
This is one of many examples in history where Jesus’ words ring true:
“When the Spirit of truth comes, He will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on His own but will tell you what He has heard. He will tell you about the future.” John 16:13
Indeed, the Holy Spirit did tell Pope Paul VI about the future and guided him in truth; a truth which others found impossible to see. The Pope predicts, with amazing accuracy, that wide-spread acceptance of artificial methods of birth control will result in several negative societal, marital and spiritual consequences, including an increase “need” for abortion. The specific consequences he predicted, all of which have come true, were:
- a “general lowering of moral standards” resulting from sex without consequences, and
- the danger that men may reduce women “to being a mere instrument for the satisfaction of [their] own desires” and
- abuse of power by public authorities and
- a false sense of autonomy
His Wise Words
In the movie, you can feel the pressure Pope Paul VI was under and the inner conflict he experienced. But, it is his words that I will forever remember.
During one of the meetings with the Pontifical Commission, Pope Paul VI said, “Sterilizing the poor makes the rich feel less guilty.” This was in response to the Commission trying to make the point that artificial birth control would allow poor families control over their fertility.
Pope Paul VI also said to them, “We are trying to understand the meaning of Love. What is more important than that? Be strong!”
In a different conversation, a priest said to the Pope,
“The world has long awaited an encyclical that discusses sex. You cannot publish one that says the same things that a Pope would have said a century ago. What will our followers and women in particular, think when they read: ‘Any action that impedes procreation must be avoided.’? How much longer can we ignore the needs of the modern world?”
In response, Pope Paul VI said,
“I didn’t write this encyclical to discuss sex but to talk about Love…about Life…about men and women. I’ve asked myself, “What’s the value of love and life and of men and women? What will become of this civilization of love, of men and women? What will a population in search of personal pleasure be like? Won’t these contraceptive methods make us lose respect for women? Won’t they transform women into an object of pleasure? Won’t they give us the illusion of freedom in exchange for losing faith in the parental roles? How can love deny the transmission of life? Isn’t life the greatest gift God has given us? The Pope cannot say something is right if it is not.”
Chastity and Superabundance
What is the connection to Chastity? The most basic definition of Chastity is the virtue of saving sex for marriage and remaining open to life within marriage. Artificial birth control has made it very easy for sex to take place outside of marriage with the false notion that it is ‘consequence free.’ Here we are, almost 50 after the introduction of the pill, and premarital sex is pretty much a given in relationships.
Abortion is a tragic but normal part of our reality and it is a natural consequence of failed contraception. Contraception has led today’s society to believe that sex should not result in babies and when it does, they are perplexed. How did this happen? Now, they must get rid of this baby. In the United States, about 3,000 babies are aborted each day. That equates to 1,350,500 a year. That is one every 24 seconds. For every 100 births in the United States, there are 31 abortions.
Within marriage, artificial birth control breaks the unitive and procreative meaning of the marital embrace. Artificial birth control blocks the channel of grace that is supposed to be available to us when we are open to life. This channel of grace is what produces the fruit of Superabundance. Artificial birth control cuts off access to grace and Superabundance. Superabundance is what gives the marriage life. Without it, marital love dies.
There are so many other severe consequences to the contraceptive mentality, some of which are not felt until it is too late. The Pope predicted this.
The controversy concerning contraception and abortion is still going on today. But, as the Pope said, it is not about sex. It is about love. It is about life and the greatest gift God has given us: The ability to be co-creators with Him and to participate in the transmission of life.
“How can love deny the transmission of life?” Pope Paul VI
It is about Love.
Thank you, Pope Paul VI. Thank you, Holy Spirit of Truth.