Diocese sets conference Aug. 18 to revisit ‘Humanae Vitae’ on its 50th anniversary

Pope Paul VI is pictured in this undated photo. In conjunction with the 50th anniversary of the late pope's landmark encyclical, "Humanae Vitae," the Diocese of Peoria is sponsoring a daylong conference Aug. 18 to explain why the teaching remains more relevant than ever. (CNS photo/Vatican Media)

It may be 50 years old but don’t let the age of “Humanae Vitae,” the groundbreaking document by Pope Paul VI, fool you. It’s more relevant today than ever before, according to diocesan officials who are planning a conference for Saturday, Aug. 18, to help people understand why.

Sponsored by the diocesan Office of Respect Life and Office of Evangelization and Faith Formation, the conference will be held from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., starting at the Spalding Pastoral Center, 419 N.E. Madison Ave., in Peoria. The speakers will be Msgr. Mark Merdian, episcopal vicar for health care for the Diocese of Peoria and pastor of St. Pius X in Rock Island, and Damon Owens, founder and executive director of Joy to Be and the former executive director of the Theology of the Body Institute.

Msgr. Mark Merdian

“This encyclical taught so much and tried to prevent so much suffering for the family,” said Sister Ana Pia Cordua, SCTJM, executive director of Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Peoria and interim director of the Office of Evangelization and Faith Formation.

“The church wanted to prevent what is happening to families, what is happening to marriages, what’s happening with contraception. Now we can see it and say, ‘The church was right.’ But we can’t stay there,” she told The Catholic Post.

“We’ve gone far away from God’s plan for humanity. We have to be formed to be able to do something,” Sister Ana Pia said. “You cannot transform what you don’t know.”

Damon Owens

At the conference, Msgr. Merdian will address that by talking about the encyclical, subtitled “On the Regulation of Birth,” and what it taught. Owens will follow with three presentations that develop the day’s goal of “bringing light to the body as a temple of the Lord.”

Participants will move to nearby St. Mary’s Cathedral for a Holy Hour at 3 p.m. The sacrament of reconciliation will be available.

Bishop Daniel R. Jenky, CSC, will celebrate Mass for the parish respect life representatives, natural family planning providers, directors of religious education and catechists, teachers, students, women religious, clergy and lay faithful at 4 p.m.

Spanish translation will be provided throughout the day.

“PROPHETIC” DOCUMENT

“Prophetic” is the word Cecilia Soñé, director of the Office of Respect Life and NFP director under the Office of Evangelization and Faith Formation, uses when she talks about “Humanae Vitae.”

Pope Paul VI was prophetic when he said contraception would lead to an increase in infidelity and a loss of respect for women, she said, noting that this can be seen in the #MeToo movement.

The pope also predicted an abuse of power, she added, pointing to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services mandate that has sought to force employers to provide contraception for their employees, regardless of religious beliefs. The Little Sisters of the Poor have been at the forefront of that issue, fighting in court to have their ethical and religious values upheld.

“I really believe it was an encyclical for our times.  I think everyone has a place within that encyclical to meditate and really see how they can reach out and continue to build up this culture of family, of life, of love, the way God intended it to be.” — Cecilia Soñé, director of the Office of Respect Life

Soñé also mentioned Pope Paul VI’s warning about how that abuse of power could lead to “unlimited dominion” — destroying life in the womb and the attempt to regulate family size, as has happened in China.

“I really believe it was an encyclical for our times,” she said. “I think everyone has a place within that encyclical to meditate and really see how they can reach out and continue to build up this culture of family, of life, of love, the way God intended it to be.”

BROKEN “BRICKS”

“The family is the domestic church. Therefore the church in itself is formed of families,” Sister Ana Pia said. “Each family is an integral unit — it is a brick, a living brick in the structure of the church.”

“The church wanted to prevent what is happening to families, what is happening to marriages, what’s happening with contraception. Now we can see it and say, ‘The church was right.’” — Sister Ana Pia Cordua, SCTJM, executive director of Catholic Charities 

The problem is, many of these “bricks” are broken, she said.

“Each family is a matter of care and love and support for the church, and the church cares about what happens in each one of the lives of the members of the church,” Sister Ana Pia said, speaking of the church as a mother. “No mother wants her children to suffer.”

The cost to attend “The 50th Anniversary of ‘Humanae Vitae’” is $25, while NFP providers, parish respect life representatives and students may attend for $10. There is no charge for clergy and women religious, but they must register.

All registrations include lunch.

This conference takes the place of the annual fall gathering for the parish respect life representatives, Sister Ana Pia said.

The deadline for registration is Aug. 11. Visit https://cdop.weshareonline.org/50HV or contact Suzie Meismer at (309) 966-0385 or smeismer@ccdop.org.

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SPALDING PASTORAL CENTER | 419 NE MADISON AVENUE | PEORIA, IL 61603 | PHONE (309) 671-1550 | FAX (309) 671-1595
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