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.


To register for the conference online via credit card, please click here. You may also register by mail using the appropriate form available for download at the right.

Institute alumni who also wish to register online for the alumni reunion on Saturday evening, Nov. 17, should click here.


Thursday, November 15

(at the Saint John Paul II Shrine)

6:30 p.m. Registration table open

Keynote address

Archbishop Augustine DiNoia, O.P.

8:30 Reception
Friday, November 16
8:30 a.m. Continental breakfast available

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


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"
12:30 p.m. Lunch

Nature and Practical Reason: Natural Law in Its Proper Milieu

  • Mark Shiffman:  "Sources of Moral Truth: The Problem of Natural Law without Nature"
  • David Crawford: "The Symbolic Meaning of Action"

Freedom, Truth, and Objectivity

Saturday, November 17
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"

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"
Alumni Reunion Saturday, November 17

Faculty Panel on the State of the Institute

5:15 Anticipated Sunday Mass
6:30 Dinner


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