Anniversary reawakens my contraception battle with Church
The Papal declaration that artificial birth control is inherently wrong affected the lives of the most vulnerable
Last week saw the 50th anniversary of Humanae Vitae, the encyclical issued by Pope Paul VI which ended the hopes of Catholics throughout the world that there would be a softening of the Catholic Church's position on contraception.
The encyclical itself was a follow-up to the Commission which had been set up in 1963 by Pope John XXIII to investigate the whole area of contraception. It split, but a majority was in favour of freedom and that seeped out into everyone, not least in Ireland. The disappointment was really acute when in July 1968 the ruling came out banning all artificial means of contraception.
This should be all put in context. The mid to late 1960s had seen an opening up, a flowering, in Ireland of opinions and a hope that we were entering into an age of freedom, so to speak. In 1966, Donogh O'Malley, the Fianna Fail Minister for Education, had opened up wide vistas of education to post-primary school young boys and girls in Ireland by declaring that it would be free, and with that freedom had come, as I said, a flowering. Maynooth College had opened up to extern students and I was one such student who went back as an adult, aged 29, to do a H Dip in Education, following on my BA from UCD nine years earlier.