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Sr Burns and Humanae vitae

The article that Sr Helena Burns wrote in America Magazine, the United States periodical, is called “How Humanae vitae helped one nun find her feminist voice”. “As a young woman I thoroughly rejected most church teaching and was planning on leaving the Catholic Church. I thought the Church was a draconian institution that oppressed women, wanted us barefoot and pregnant, and told us to sit down and shut up. I believed that secular culture was what gave women dignity and rights. But, ever so slowly, I gave the Catholic Church a second chance. I began reading and studying and listening to intelligent Catholic women who found liberation in the Church’s teachings. I began to realize that female contraception suppressed feminity, as though women were born wrong and had to ‘fix’ their bodies to be like men’s bodies…. I then decided to seriously reconsider Humanae vitae. Maybe its prescriptions were not so farfetched after all. What alternatives to the pill did it offer for spacing out births? The answer, natural family planning, makes the man attentive to a woman’s cycle. A period of abstinence is observed during the woman’s fertile time. Mother Nature has cycles: it’s not always spring and summer – there’s fall and winter. Mother Church has cycles: it’s not always Christmas and Easter – there’s Advent and Lent. Women have cycles – we are not always available. To say otherwise is the lie of porn, prostitution, male domination and a mistaken understanding of the Scriptures”. And Sr Burns concludes: “I had a lesser view of myself, body and soul, when I believed in contraception”. 

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St. Peter’s Square

Nov. 17, 2018

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