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1968: Pope renews birth control ban
Pope Paul VI has confirmed a ban on the use of contraceptives by Roman Catholics in spite of a Church commission's recommendation for change.

Most members of the Pontifical Commission, set up by Pope Paul's predecessor Pope John XXIII, argued it was time for the Church to face the realities of the modern world.

They said that with the increasing emancipation of women and the introduction of safe contraceptives the time had come for the Church to change its position.

However, a minority disagreed and published their own report advocating Church policy remain unaltered.

The papal encyclical letter, entitled Humanae Vitae: On the Regulation of Birth - comes after two years of deliberation by Pope Paul.

He withdrew an earlier version after being warned by liberals within the Church it was too uncompromising and likely to alienate many Catholics.

However, the new version is said to differ little from the original.

'Rhythm method'

Pope Paul admitted the ruling on birth control might seem impossible to carry out: "Like all great beneficent realities, it demands serious engagement and much effort," he stated in the encyclical.

If the Roman Catholic Church were to permit the use of birth control "a wide and easy road" to conjugal infidelity would be opened up, Pope Paul concluded.

However, the Pontiff reaffirmed Pope Pius XII's edict that the "rhythm method" - total abstention of sexual intercourse during a wife's fertile period - was permissible.

A possible loophole in Pope Paul's directive is the use of contraceptives for medicinal reasons, such as regulating a woman's periods - one of the major applications of the Pill.

Pope Paul conceded a woman using a contraceptive for health purposes would not be in breach of Church policy, even if such use brought about temporary infertility.

However, the encyclical is still bound to cause dismay among the world's 600 million Roman Catholics - many had been pressing for a relaxation of the church's stance.

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Pope Paul VI
Pope says contraceptives could lead to infidelity

In Context
Humanae Vitae was the most controversial of seven encyclicals published by Pope Paul VI.

Its uncompromising position on birth control led to protests around the Catholic world and some national Roman Catholic church hierarchies openly modified the statement.

Pope Paul VI was born Giovanni Battista Montini in the Lombardy region of Italy in 1897, the son of a prominent newspaper editor.

He became pope in 1963 and continued the reforms of his predecessor John XXIII.

Pope Paul died in August 1978 and was succeeded briefly by Pope John Paul who died in October 1978.

In 1995 Pope John Paul II supported Pope Paul's view on birth control in his enclyclical, Evangelium Vitae: the Gospel of Life.

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