Forty-two years ago, in the face of the sexual revolution, the Catholic Church rejected artificial birth control. Its definitive encyclical, Humanae Vitae, presented the issue as a choice between morality and technology. The church's message, according to Pope Paul VI, was that man must not "betray his personal responsibilities by putting all his faith in technical expedients."
Today, in his reflections on condoms and HIV, Pope Benedict XVI sees a more complex relationship between technology and responsibility. Condom use, he acknowledges, can be a manifestation of conscience. And down this road lies a more difficult truth: Contraception isn't what Pope Paul thought it was. It's more than a technical expedient. It can and should be a moral practice.
Humanae Vitae saw contraception as a gateway to license and chaos. It "could open wide the way for marital infidelity and a general lowering of moral standards," Pope Paul warned.