The Body as Anticipatory Sign: Commemorating the Anniversaries of Humanae Vitae & Veritatis Splendor

November 15, 2018 — November 17, 2018

At least formally, Paul VI’s Humanae vitae merely reaffirmed the Church’s perennial teaching. Yet its publication in late July of 1968 unleashed a torrent of criticism, perhaps unprecedented in its violence. These events laid bare the profound estrangement of that teaching from modern, liberal culture; it also provoked a fundamental ecclesial crisis. Misunderstanding and resistance to the teaching as a “discrete” norm of traditional sexual ethics could be anticipated. Less predictable perhaps were the fractures that emerged in wider and more obviously foundational areas of doctrine, such as fundamental moral philosophy and theology, philosophical and theological anthropology, and even (eventually) sacramental theology and ecclesiology. Granted that the forces in play were larger than the debate over Paul VI’s encyclical, the encyclical nevertheless appeared to unleash them. Why would such a seemingly minor part of Christian moral doctrine have such architectonic implications?

Twenty-five years later, Saint John Paul II attempted to remediate these fragmenting tendencies in his own landmark encyclical, Veritatis splendor. John Paul’s purpose was to unearth bedrock of Catholic thought obscured at least in part by the tsunami following Humanae vitae. He addressed crucial issues in fundamental moral thought, such as the relationship between freedom and truth, conscience and objectivity, moral thought and faith, the body and natural law, and nature and human action. While criticism of Veritatis splendor was neither as sustained nor as violent as the attack on Humanae vitae, the passage of time has witnessed attempts to at least profoundly qualify some of its central teachings.

The coinciding of these two major anniversaries affords a timely opportunity to engage in a deep and sustained reflection both on the shared ethical and anthropological teachings and missions of these seminal encyclicals and on the reasons why they have met such difficulty in our modern social and ecclesial environment.


Registration is now closed.


Video recordings from this event can be found here.


Thursday, November 15

(at the Saint John Paul II Shrine)


Keynote address

Archbishop Augustine DiNoia, O.P.

8:30 Reception

Friday, November 16

(Keane Auditorium, McGivney Hall)

8:30 a.m.

Check-in table open

Continental breakfast available


Forgetfulness and the Essentially Human: The Provocations of Humanae vitae and Veritatis splendor

Moderator: Rodney Howsare


Anthropological Foundations of Humanae vitae’s Teaching

  • Adrian Walker: "The Heart of Humanae vitae: The Inseparable Nexus Between the Unitive and Procreative Significations, Love and Fruitfulness"
  • Grzegorz Ignatik: "Humanae vitae in Context: The Two Commissions"

Moderator: Michael Pakaluk

12:30 p.m. Lunch

Nature and Practical Reason: Natural Law in Its Proper Milieu

  • David Crawford: "The Symbolic Meaning of Action"
  • Joseph Atkinson:  "Symbolism as the Agent of Ontology: The One-Flesh Union and its Relationship to the Nature of God and Holiness"

Moderator: John Grabowski


Freedom, Truth, and Objectivity

Moderator: Rev. Paolo Prosperi, F.S.C.B.

Saturday, November 17

(Keane Auditorium, McGivney Hall)

8:30 a.m. Continental breakfast available

The Good Life in a Liberal Order

  • Douglas Farrow: "The Good Life, the Absence of God, and Liberal Public Reason"
  • Michael Hanby: "Dominion and Techne: Responsible Parenthood in a Time of Technical Mastery"

Moderator: Jeanne Schindler


The Teaching of Humanae vitae and a Humanly Adequate Global Ethic 

  • Carlo Lancellotti:  "'Ideological Colonization': The Global Imposition of a Liberal Anthropology"
  • Margaret Harper McCarthy: "Humanae vitae and the Fragmentation of Sexuality in Western Liberal Societies"

Moderator: Donald Asci


Saturday, November 17

Alumni Reunion

(Heritage Hall, in Father O'Connell Hall)


Faculty Panel on the State of the Institute

5:15 Anticipated Sunday Mass (Caldwell Chapel)
6:30 Dinner


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