For the philosopher Ralph McInerny, 1968 was “The Year the Church Fell Apart”. For Peter Steinfels, it saw the beginning of “the Vietnam War of the Catholic Church”. These apocalyptic descriptions – there are many more – refer to a single event: Pope Paul’s release on July 25, 1968, 50 years ago this week, of his encyclical on contraception, Humanae Vitae.

 
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