Archbishop, Bishop Battersby affirm Church’s teaching about human sexuality

Humanae Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron talks with a woman holding a baby after Mass on April 22 at St. Mary Parish in Royal Oak. Archbishop Vigneron and Detroit’s four auxiliary bishops are using the 50th anniversary of Blessed Paul VI’s encyclical Humanae Vitae as an opportunity to preach about the benefits and wisdom of the Church’s teaching on human sexuality.Joe Pelletier | Archdiocese of Detroit

Homilies stress importance of ‘Humanae Vitae’ in promoting Catholic vision of life and love

Royal Oak — There are many voices in contemporary culture about life, marriage and human sexuality, and not all of them agree with the Catholic Church.

From contraception and abortion to broken marriages and a “throwaway culture” that devalues true intimacy and love, modern attitudes toward sex have often veered from the ideals of Christ-centered love put forth by the Church.

Yet, 50 years after Blessed Pope Paul VI issued his landmark encyclical, Humanae Vitae, the Church’s wisdom has proven time and again to lead to fruitful, happy and fulfilled lives.

On April 22 and April 29, Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron and Auxiliary Bishop Gerard Battersby kicked off the first two of five homilies given by Detroit’s bishops on the subject of human sexuality, as part of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ efforts to increase awareness of the Church’s teachings.

Archbishop Vigneron, who preached April 22 at St. Mary Parish in Royal Oak, told the congregation — which included many young adults and families — that he wasn’t there to chastise, but to encourage and uplift.

Humanae 2 Archbishop Vigneron speaks from the pulpit at St. Mary Parish in Royal Oak on April 22 about Blessed Paul VI’s Humanae Vitae. Mike Stechschulte | The Michigan Catholic

“I want you to know I’m not at St. Mary’s because I think you’re all messed up and that I need to be here especially, and not like those people over at Shrine who have it all right,” Archbishop Vigneron joked. “That’s not the point. I’m here because this gives me an opportunity to make a proclamation I want to share with the whole archdiocese.”

During the Easter season especially, focusing on Jesus’ resurrection is the key to understanding the Church’s teaching about sex, Archbishop Vigneron said.

“This isn’t about trying to replicate the ethics of Queen Victoria, where we just keep ‘tsk tsking’ and saying ‘No, no, we don’t do that here,’” Archbishop Vigneron said. “It’s about Christ, that Jesus has conquered sin and death, and he’s an invincible strength for us to live according to God’s plan for us.”

That plan is ultimately about human happiness, despite portrayals of the Church as a “spoilsport,” the archbishop said.

“As you know, in the encyclical the pope wrote 50 years ago, he reaffirmed that according to God’s plan, only when each act of marital intimacy is an expression of love and is open to bringing forth new life is that an authentic expression of how God created us to be. In the encyclical, the pope was offering a kind of defense about what will make us happy, and a warning that while there are a lot of voices that have other ideas about the nature of marital life and human sexuality, to veer from God’s plan is to lead to disaster,” Archbishop Vigneron said.

Advances in natural family planning, as well as St. John Paul II’s Theology of the Body, have emerged to help Catholics live up to this teaching, the archbishop added.

“St. John Paul’s insight is that marriage is always a gift, a man and a woman giving themselves totally to one another, holding nothing back,” Archbishop Vigneron said. “Marriage is not a contract, a 50/50 proposition. Christ has taught us it’s a 100/100 proposition. Everything from the wife belongs to the husband, and everything from the husband belongs to the wife, including their ability to bring forth new life.”

At St. Charles Borromeo Parish in Newport the following weekend, Bishop Battersby continued the message, stressing that the Church’s authority on teaching about such matters is rooted in the lordship of Jesus Christ.

“The Catholic Church was founded by Christ, and she is a worthy teacher of the truth,” Bishop Battersby said. “Not because her people, her bishops and her priests are impeccable or without sin, but because Jesus is risen. Because He is Lord. And despite all the scandal, in spite of the absence of charity that abounds at times through the ages, He is still risen. He is still Lord. And He has founded a Church to be both bride and mother.”

Bishop Battersby acknowledged that many might roll their eyes and “tune off” such preaching about contraception from the pulpit, but he challenged the congregation to consider the effects artificial birth control has had on society.

“During a time of revolution, or should I say devolution, of morals and practices in our country and our world, perhaps a second look at this document of Church teaching is in order,” Bishop Battersby said.

Bishop Battersby highlighted the costs Pope Paul VI predicted would come from the widespread acceptance of artificial contraception — the separation of the procreative aspect from the marital act — including greater marital infidelity and a disassociation between husbands and wives, and between human beings and God.

Humanae 3 Auxiliary Bishop Gerard Battersby preaches April 29 at St. Charles Borromeo Parish in Newport about Humanae Vitae. Dan Meloy | The Michigan Catholic

“Blessed Paul warned of the consequences of these actions on society and the family, and children in particular,” Bishop Battersby said. “He worried contraceptive practices would diminish the respect of women among husbands, among men, no longer caring for her physical and psychological equilibrium, and making men more selfish and no longer respecting women as loving companions.”

Bishop Battersby said the Church’s teaching on contraception and sexuality isn’t borne out of some outdated concept of morality or antiquated societal norms, but rather from a loving teacher who wants everyone to live according to God’s design for a happy and healthy life.

“As we celebrate Easter and Christ’s victory over sin and death, perhaps it’s a good time to rejoice in our own faith, in the truth of the resurrection and its application in our daily lives,” Bishop Battersby said. “We need to re-examine what we believe about the Church. Is it simply an institution or hierarchy of power? Or is she the bride of Christ, the one who is given power so the gates of hell may not overcome her, who has given her the sacraments so her children might have life? (Christ) has given her grace, so that she might teach the truth.”

‘Humanae Vitae’ homilies

This weekend, Detroit’s three other auxiliary bishops will give homilies regarding Blessed Paul VI’s encyclical, Humanae Vitae, and the Church’s teaching about contraception and human sexuality:

Bishop Robert Fisher — Saturday, May 5, 4:30 p.m., St. Isidore Parish, 18201 23 Mile Road, Macomb

Bishop Donald Hanchon — Saturday, May 5, 5 p.m., Gesu Parish, 17180 Oak Drive, Detroit

Bishop Arturo Cepeda — Sunday, May 6, 9 a.m. (in Spanish), St. Vincent de Paul Church (St. Damien of Molokai Parish), 46408 Woodward Ave., Pontiac

In the coming weeks, all five bishops’ homilies will be available to listen or download at

Natural Family Planning

For resources on natural family planning, including an upcoming series on achieving or avoiding pregnancy, as well as contact information for fertility specialists, visit