The current, troubled moral state of the Western world vindicates the predictions of the late Pope Paul VI in the 1960s concerning what would happen if the use of contraception became widespread, says one of the world’s leading scholars on the issue.

Speaking at the Humanae Vitae 2006 – A New Beginning conference in Ottawa, staged by The Rosarium organization May 12-14, Dr. Janet Smith pointed out how Paul VI’s fears that there would be a general lowering of morality, less respect for women, coercive control by governments over sexuality and the treatment of bodies as machines have all come to pass.

Contraception, she said, violates nature, human relationships and our relationship with God. It also injures our physical and psychological health. She added the contraceptive mentality treats fertility as a defect, rather than a gift from God.

Smith is the Fr. Michael J. McGivney chair of life issues at Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit, Mich. She is the author of Humanae Vitae: A Generation Later and editor of Why Humanae Vitae Was Right: A Reader, as well as many articles on ethical and bioethics issues. Over 700,000 copies of her tape, “Contraception: Why Not?” have been distributed. She has taught at the University of Notre Dame and the University of Dallas and speaks nationally and internationally on several issues, especially the Catholic church’s teaching on sexuality. She is serving a second term as a consultor to the Pontifical Council on the Family.

Smith noted that all Christian churches were against contraception until 1930 and that the promulgation of the encyclical Humane Vitae by Paul VI in 1968 started the phenomenon of dissent in the Catholic church. While 66 per cent of Catholics did not contracept in 1960, 80 per cent did by 1995. This occurred in the face of facts that show natural family planning is effective and carries a number of benefits, including no bad physical side effects, enhanced communication between spouses, strengthened marriages, healthier societies and improved relationships with God.

In a talk on “The Culture of Life Versus the Culture of Death,” Smith quoted the late John Paul II in observing there is today a distorted notion of freedom, marked by emphases on sex, power, riches, pleasure and liberation. In a culture fixated on having unlimited choices, legalized abortion inevitably follows the availability of contraception, she said.

Several hundred people attended the Humanae Vitae conference, which was organized to help participants appreciate the Catholic church’s teachings and learn about the scientific and anthropological evidence supporting a culture that respects the natural sexual order.