Appeared in Spring 1993, Vol. XIX, No. 1

The following paper was delivered in an address to the student body, faculty and administration of Christendom College in Front Royal, VA on April 20, 1993. Msgr. Albacete’s talk was arranged and sponsored by the theology department.

I. Introduction

In 1968, when the encyclical Humanae Vitae was promulgated, I was an applied physicist working for the Navy department. An applied physicist is a creature somewhere between a physicist and an engineer. He (or she) does not have the consolation of thinking that he is pursuing knowledge for its own sake, nor the satisfaction of actually constructing something. Instead, the applied physicist is the madam who runs the house of ill repute where pure science without money surrenders to technology in order to survive. But in 1968, this was a glamorous profession. We were the high priests of the secular city, the bridge between the ineffable realm of pure science and the concrete satisfaction of people’s desires.

The subject of the encyclical, contraception, did not interest me per se. Although I had already met the woman with whom I was later to consider marriage, I had given no thought to questions of this kind. Instead, the contraception controversy was interesting to me only as part of the nature of the changes taking place in the post-Conciliar Church in order, or so it was said, to better dialogue with people like me.

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