Yesterday, Pope Paul VI was beatified by Pope Francis at St. Peter’s Square. He was accompanied by Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI who was made a cardinal by Paul Vi.
Blessed Paul VI was born Giovanni Battista Enrico Antonio Maria Montini on September 26 1897 and died on August 6, 1978. He took the name Paul in honor of the great evangelist who worked hard to spread the Gospel. Montini wanted to be like Paul in the new modern world that was full of so many challenges for the Church.
Blessed Paul VI took the helm after the passing of St. John XXIII. He took on the task of continuing the Vatican II councils and implemented many changes in order to better help the Church transmit the Gospel to the world which was clouded with sophism. He wanted the council to focus on giving a better understanding of the Catholic faith, bring about Church renewal, promoting Christian unity and having a more open dialog with the world. Blessed Paul VI worked hard to bring about fruit in ecumenism. He met with the Patriach in Jerusalem as a sign that the Catholic Church was serious about Christian unity. He wrote 6 encyclicals:
- Mense Maio – dealt on the Virgin Mary
- Ecclesiam Suam – dealt with the teaching of the Church as the Mystical Body of Christ
- Mysterium Fidei – dealt on the mystery of faith and defended the teaching that the Eucharist is literally the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Christ.
- Sacerdotalis Caelibatus – dealt with priestly celibacy.
- Populorum Progressio – a social justice document dealing with the development of people in the global setting.
- Humanae Vitae – document on human life which condemned artificial birth control and prophetically warned of the dangers it would bring to the family and world.
The latter is probably what is most known for. Humanae Vitae is a prophetic document that warned the world about the dangers of artificial birth control. We have been seeing Blessed Paul VI’s words come true decades after his death! This encyclical was very controversial and probably is what created the taboo that the Catholic Church is “out of touch” with the world.
Since Blessed Paul VI condemned artificial birth control, many organizations that deal with development attacked him and his words saying that they would cause problems with world population and the prevention of diseases. Even some bishops, cardinals and theologians condemned the encyclical saying it was too invasive and not realistic. Saint John XXIII had a commission investigate birth control and the report was presented to Pope Paul VI. The recommendation was that the Church should allow the use of artificial birth control. Instead of complying with the report, Blessed Paul VI rejected it and said, “therefore, having attentively sifted the documentation laid before us, after mature reflection and assiduous prayers, we now intend, by virtue or the mandate entrusted to us by Christ, to give our reply to these grave questions.” His reply was NO.
The Holy Spirit spoke through Pope Paul VI in Humanae Vitae because what he warned about is what happened. Some considered his warnings a slippery slope fallacy, but they came true and are still coming to fruition today. The institution of artificial birth control gives men and women a false sense of control. They feel they can do whatever they want with their bodies. Children become products instead of lives.
Because artificial birth control was made available, women became the “sex toy” of the man. Divorces skyrocketed and today’s world has pushed love aside in place of sexual pleasure and pursuits of individual happiness at the expense of others. This false sense of autonomy brought about the idea that we can have relationships with anyone, including those of the same gender. Since artificial birth control was pushed as the norm, abortion easily followed because children can be “delayed” when the couple feels like it. Artificial birth control devalues the human person. It makes the human a commodity to be used to please another.
Blessed Paul VI was almost assassinated by a man who stabbed him
at the airport in Manila in 1970. The Vatican never disclosed this until years later. Many have compared Blessed Paul VI with Pope Francis. Both loved the poor and preferred to use simple things instead of heavily ornate vestments. Blessed Paul VI even sold the Papal tiara and donated the money to the poor.
When Blessed Teresa of Calcutta asked him for help to care for the poor, he gave her his car so she can sell it to use the money for her ministry to the poor and sick. Pope Francis has never stopped bringing up the need to care for the poor. He too prefers less ornate vestments and wants priests to live simply. He was also the first Pope to visit the United States of America. The first Papal Mass ever in the “new world” was in the Bronx at the old Yankee Stadium.
May Blessed Paul VI pray for us in these trying times.