"I believe that Humanae Vitae is one of the great tests of the Church in our times. We live in days of moral laxity, where there is a shrinking from responsibility for rearing children and a love of carnal experience divorced from love of person. In that world where love and life are made discontinuous, Paul VI affirms the deep relatedness of one to the other. It was not an infallible decision; that would have too clearly separated sheep from goats; it was only a moral decision of the Chief Shepherd that the Vatican Council said the faithful should obey.
What happened was like the split in the People of Israel when the spies made their reports. Immediately, individuals alone or acting in concert with others rebelled against the decision of the Church. What was at stake was whether the moral Shepherd of the Church after much study and prayer, would be accepted or spurned.
The press and sometimes theologians said that the Holy Father should never have issued the letter because it divided the Church. Of course it divided the Church as Elijah divided those who had to choose either Baal or God; it divided the Church as the Lord divided it: “He that gathers not with Me, scatters.” Certainly, it thinned the ranks of the Church just as God’s order to Gideon, trimmed his army from 30,000 to 10,000 and from 10,000 to 300 to do battle with an army of about fifty thousand. Humanae Vitae, quite apart from its teaching, is perhaps the most important Church document in modern times. It enabled the Church to know how many would follow the flesh instead of the spirit.
The Lord may be thinning His ranks in preparation for a great conflict with the demonic forces of evil. Human character is not so often made from day to day by small choices, but by a few crises in life when there are great stakes. True Catholic life is not made from routine acts of piety, but by a crisis when a great choice is offered; we can be one with the Shepherd or against him. That is why these are great days in which to live. We can make decisions that will have a repercussion in eternity.”