Dr Gabriel Seow shares about the wisdom behind the papal encyclical, Humanae Vitae, as a physician

Humanae Vitae (“Of Human Life”) is an encyclical issued by Blessed Pope Paul VI 50 years ago on July 25, 1968. Subtitled “On the Regulation of Birth”, it reaffirms the constant teaching of the Church regarding abortion, contraception and other issues pertaining to human life and love.

In this document, Blessed Pope Paul VI predicted a number of consequences should contraception be accepted and promoted, one of which was “how easily this course of action could open wide the way for marital infidelity and a general lowering of moral standards ... [A] man…may forget the reverence due to a woman, and…reduce her to being a mere instrument for the satisfaction of his own desires”.

I realise how uncannily prophetic Humanae Vitae has been during these 21 years in my general practice:


Over the years, I have seen an increase in requests for contraceptives or the morning after pill among teenagers. Sadly, in medical decision making nowadays, I have to assume that a teenager is sexually active until proven

I can’t forget the many cases whereby young women burst into tears when their pregnancy tests turn out positive and how the guys are dazed and at a loss as to what to do. Almost invariably abortion follows.

I have noticed how difficult it is to counsel contracepting couples (even married couples) to keep their babies. Their minds seemed made up. Another child appears to be too much of a burden in modern life.

Sexually transmitted infections

I am also treating an increasing number of STI (sexually transmitted infections) in husbands working overseas who sheepishly admitted they would not otherwise have taken a risk with prostitutes if not for the false sense of security offered by condoms. Some go on to infect their wives with incurable diseases like genital herpes.

I have witnessed families destroyed as the wives become depressed and suspicious while others end in divorce.

A chore

How often have I heard wives resent the fact that sex is just another chore to them. The most vivid description I recall must be this: “He knows I’m always available ... If not he’d go look for someone else.” It’s certainly sad to see what is so beautiful degenerate to such a state.

Natural Family Planning

In contrast, I am edified by the wonderful stories of couples who practise NFP (Natural Family Planning).

These wives often express that they feel loved and respected, not used. There is that certain self-mastery that develops in the husband that reassures the woman that she has married an exceptional and faithful man.

Not only is NFP effective in helping couples plan their families generously and responsibly, but stories abound of how they rejoice in their babies as gifts, whether in anticipation or in retrospect. It is wonderful for me to witness how their marital relationships have blossomed with the passing of time by faithfully practising NFP proposed by Humanae Vitae.

It is now clear to me now how contraception opposes the total, faithful and fecund gift of self to one’s spouse, hence frustrating God’s beautiful plan. How could the Church possibly have known these 50 years ago? To me, the inspiration of the Holy Spirit is the only adequate explanation.

Looking back, I can only thank God that He left us His Church as our infallible guide through the moral storms of our earthly sojourn.

I exhort my brothers and sisters in Christ to learn and promote NFP, study Humanae Vitae (it takes two hours to read it), pray it, live it and share its life-giving message.

We will then, in our little way, be fulfilling Christ’s command to “proclaim the Good News to all of creation”.

Dr Seow and his wife Teresa are family physicians. They both serve in the Catholic Medical Guild and the Marriage Preparation Course in the archdiocese.

For more information about an upcoming Humanae Vitae conference on July 14, visit www.hv50sg.info

The Singapore Natural Family Planning website is at http://naturalfamilyplanning.sg/site/

The Humanae Vitae document is at http://w2.vatican.va/content/paul-vi/en/encyclicals/documents/hf_p-vi_enc_25071968_humanae-vitae.html

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