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HomeLaura PerrinsThursday’s reading list: American assassinations plus the Pope and the Pill

Thursday’s reading list: American assassinations plus the Pope and the Pill


The reading list is back from holiday, and we return to 1968.

It is 50 years since the assassinations of Martin Luther King Jr and Robert Kennedy, the notorious Democratic Convention and Pope Paul VI’s encyclical Humanae Vitae (‘Of Human Life’).

First, to Rome, or in modern times the empire of the United States of America. This piece by Patrick J Buchanan in the Wall Street Journal reminds us once again of 1968, The Year America Came Apart.

The Vietnam War was raging, the Democrats were deeply divided and the Democratic Convention in Chicago descended into chaos. One estimate said that Chicago Mayor Richard J Daley called out 7,500 members of the Illinois National Guard to reinforce the 12,000 police officers at the convention.

Buchanan was an aide to Nixon at the time and went on to coin the term ‘culture war’. He concludes this article: ‘Nixon would be re-elected in 1972 in a 49-state landslide. In four of the five presidential elections after 1968, Nixon’s new majority would crush the Democratic Party. By 1970, six years after Goldwater’s defeat, twice as many Americans would call themselves conservatives as liberals.

‘As the political wars of 1968 turned American politics upside down, a cultural war had broken out as well. Moral and social issues – abortion, affirmative action, busing, crime, drugs, feminism, gay rights – would tear apart families, communities and the entire nation. The culture wars had begun.

‘We are another country now, another people. The unity we knew in the Eisenhower-Kennedy era is gone. 1968 was the great divide. 1968 was the turning point.’

Returning to God, one of the few encyclicals known to non-Catholics was produced in 1968, titled Humanae Vitae, ‘the one that banned contraceptive use for Catholics’. That is not quite accurate, as explained in this piece.

In 1960 the US Food and Drug Administration approved the first birth control pill. Blessed Paul VI convened a commission to examine whether the historic Christian rejection of contraceptives would apply to the new technology. Most commission members advised the pope that it would not, but Blessed Paul eventually disagreed, saying in the encyclical that the contraceptive pill was prohibited birth control.

Even if you are not a Catholic, or a Catholic that disagrees with this teaching, this a very informative piece. For 50 long years the secular media and world have waited for the great Catholic surrender on this issue; it seems they will be waiting a few years yet.

In fact, ‘Because the church’s teaching often was not being followed prior to the encyclical, Archbishop Chaput said Blessed Paul offered four predictions if that trend continued: widespread infidelity and the general lowering of morality; loss of respect for women as they become viewed as instruments of selfish enjoyment rather than as beloved companions; public policies that advocate and implement birth control as a form of population policy; and humans thinking they had unlimited dominion over their own bodies, turning the person into the object of his or her own intrusive power.’

As I have pointed out before, in the era of Weinstein, #Metoo, and what the secularists call a ‘rape culture’, I will leave it to you to say how accurate these predictions were.

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