The Promise of Humanae Vitae

by Ed Harpring

The Promise of Humanae Vitae Realized at the Pope Paul VI Institute: Better Health, Better Marriages, Better Families and a Better Society

This year, the Church celebrates the 50th anniversary of the of the encyclical Humanae Vitae. Humane Vitae reaffirmed the Church’s teaching regarding married love, responsible parenthood, and the moral concerns of artificial contraception.

Many articles have been written about the negative outcomes that Pope Paul VI predicted if artificial contraception became widely accepted. Pope Paul VI prophetically foresaw the following looming societal consequences including marital infidelity, general lowering of moral standards, sexual objectification of women, and government coercion toward contraception and abortion.

As we now know, 50 years later, Pope Paul VI’s prophecies have sadly rung true with contraception being the catalyst to a host of social ills that has exponentially accelerated abortion, human trafficking, divorce, and domestic abuse.

And while Humanae Vitae is known by some skeptics as simply a ban on contraception, it is also a ratification of the Church’s high regard for marriage and how the sacramental union of husband and wife point to the ultimate sign of man’s union with God, “The marriage of those who have been baptized is, in addition, invested with the dignity of a sacramental sign of grace, for it represents the union of Christ and His Church.”

And yet, Pope Paul VI was not blind to the modern-day struggles of marriage, especially those couples who experience infertility. He spoke directly to scientists and medical professionals to provide “right counsel and to point them in the proper direction.”

A doctor, who heard this call, eventually developed some of the most promising fruits of Humanae Vitae. “When I first read Humanae Vitae, I was a senior medical student attending the University of Minnesota, and Pope Paul VI’s words struck a real chord with me, both as a Catholic and as a soon-to-be member of the medical profession. In the Humanae Vitae, he appealed directly to doctors and healthcare professionals to “pursue only those solutions that are in accord with faith and right reason.” ( Years later, the inspiration of Pope Paul VI led to the creation of the Pope Paul VI Institute. Founded in 1985 by Thomas W. Hilgers, MD, the Pope Paul VI Institute has advanced breakthrough discoveries in women’s health care through its major developments – Creighton Model FertilityCare System and NaProTECHNOLOGY.

However, like most dreams, Dr. Hilgers path to founding the Pope Paul VI Institute was full of road blocks and direct conflicts with his Catholic Pro-Life beliefs:

He was released from the residency Program at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota when he refused to participate in an abortion procedure. Next, he entered the Navy school of Medicine residency, but there too, he was required to perform abortions and he refused. Eventually, he graduated from the University of Minnesota School of Medicine in 1969. Finally, Dr. Hilgers, began his ground-breaking research into fertility awareness at St. Louis University and eventually Creighton University where the Creighton Model Fertility Care System (CrMS) “Creighton” method” name was coined. However, even at Creighton, a Catholic College, he ran into obstacles, when he suggested a stand alone research institute for fertility awareness. They said it was “too singular point of view” which he took to mean as “too Catholic.”

Despite this major setback, Dr. Hilgers persisted. By 1985, he had the money to open his own small facility.

“We were crammed into about 1,000 square feet,” he recalled. He admits that, at first, they had no idea of what they were doing, and by year’s end, they were $250,000 in debt. “But what proved to be the salvation of the institute was really good medicine.” 

The institute has grown to a bustling three-story brick building on Omaha’s Mercy Road, with a chapel on the top floor where the Blessed Sacrament is reserved.

NaProTECHNOLOGY is especially appealing because trained physicians diagnose the root causes of reproductive diseases and conditions including infertility, recurrent miscarriage, and many others. Once a problem is identified, it is treated with NaPro’s medical and surgical practices. Unlike traditional medicine that typically treats most women’s problems with dangerous synthetic hormones (similar to birth control pills), NaProTECHNOLOGY (Natural Procreative Technology) is a new women’s health science that monitors and maintains a woman’s reproductive and gynecological health.

NaProTECHNOLOGY provides medical and surgical treatments that cooperate completely with the reproductive system in many areas of women’s healthcare including Infertility evaluation and treatment, recurrent ovarian cysts, repeated miscarriages and postpartum depression.

Astonishingly, Dr. Hilgers’s team has helped more than 80 percent of couples to successfully achieve a pregnancy. Women now have an opportunity to know and understand the causes of the symptoms from which they suffer.

The Pope Paul VI Institute has trained nearly 1000 skilled NaProTechnology surgeons and Creighton practitioners.   It offers a fellowship program for obstetricians. Dr. Hilgers has written several books on NaProTECHNOLOGY including, In Their Own Words: Women Healed “Testimonies of 50 women (and their husbands) whose lives have been enriched by the medical care, education and research efforts” of the institute. (

The Pope Paul VI Institute has been an answer to prayer for many couples who thought they would never conceive children. The Institute’s website provides testimonies of women who desperately sought out a variety of fertility options, including IVF, but eventually turned to Dr. Hilgers and the institute.

One woman writes: “I had always dreamed of becoming a mother. Holding my child in my arms, rocking her to sleep, with that unmistakable scent a baby has, with the wisps of hair on her nearly bald head, and those tiny hands, just thinking about it puts a smile on my face.”

Promising Indeed!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s