On Wednesday evening I went along to St Patrick's in Soho Square for Father Tim Finigan's talk entititled 'Humanae Vitae-a challenge to the culture'. If you haven't been to St Patrick's before I recommend a visit-it is one of London's most historically important Catholic churches. A beautiful building which resembles a Baroque Austrian or Italian church, it is also the 'mother church' (if you like) of the School of Evangelisation, and is an oasis of peace and charity in a troubled part of London.
There were quite a number of young (and one or two not quite so young) Catholics gathered in a fairly small room upstairs, leaving standing room only, and quite a few had to listen from outside. Fr Finigan had put together his talk very well with a powerpoint presentation, and demonstrated great articulacy and pastoral sensitivity, as well as a good sense of humour.
I will not reproduce my entire notes from Fr Tim's talk (namely because I don't have his permission to do so), so I'll give you a brief overview and emphasise a few points.
(NB-this is only an unofficial overview, and not by any means a word-for-word account. If there is any mistake then it is on my part and not on Fr Tim's. If you have any disagreements then please don't go and leave them on his blog, but leave your comments here)
Fr Tim pointed out that when writing Humanae Vitae, Paul VI was primarily addressing the question of contraception by married couples, whereas nowadays it is used vastly outside of marriage. His (Fr Finigan's) portayal of how much society in Britain has been transformed into what he described as a 'culture of lust' was depressingly accurate, highlighting how sex is viewed by many as either solely an expression of love, or as a dose of harmless fun. As a result, the procreation of children has been removed from the equation. As a consequence of this outlook, there has been a massive corruption of love, and a significant increase in the number of abortions.
One of the most telling symptoms of this cultural shift has been the attitude of many (especially in the government) towards sex education. In the face of the fact that Britain has more teenage pregnancies than any other country in Europe, a policy of "we're not providing adequate sex education and adequate information about avoiding pregnancies therefore we must do more" has been adopted-with worse consequences. The fact that condoms are not 100% effective is more or less ignored by a worrying number of people.
Fr Tim then reminded us of Christ and the Church's vision of love and of the need for a genuine 'cultural revolution'. People must recognise that they are not animals, recognise the spiritual side of love, and thus see genuine love as a loving concern for the other. Catholic teaching offers a deeper and more profound vision of love and marriage than that which our culture does, especially in its recognising of the grace which marriage offers.
As I said, this is only a brief overview of the talk, so I apologise to Fr Tim if I have missed out large sections or in anyway presented an inaccurate report. At any rate, it went down very well with the people gathered there. After a few questions and answers, the front of the room was given a quick transformation and prepared for a few minutes of Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. Afterwards a few stayed on for a little more talking and socialising. Altogether, a highly edifying evening. If you are able to go to any of the other talks in the series, I am sure they will be worth attending.
Providentially (I think at least), the next day I dropped into a church library and came across a book entitled The Encyclical Humanae Vitae-A sign of contradiction by the late philosopher Dietrich von Hildebrand (RIP). I haven't read much yet, but it looks like an excellent essay, and prompted me to read the encyclical itself last night. Again, it's recommended!