Virtual Reading Group: The Encyclical Humanae Vitae: A Sign of Contradiction

A two week reading group through the The Encyclical Humanae Vitae: A Sign of Contradiction with Catherine Yanko.

Meetings will take place through Zoom over the course of two consecutive Mondays (Nov 29 & Dec 6) from 12:00 - 1:00 PM ET.


Virtual Format

All meetings will be conducted live in Zoom. Links for each session will be sent out ahead of time.

To allow for rich discussion, the group is limited in size to a maximum of 20 participants. Once the group is full, additional registrations will be placed on a waitlist.

All participants are expected to have a copy of the text and to come prepared to each session having done the weekly reading (15-45 pages per week). The weekly reading schedule is available on the right-hand sidebar.


Reading groups are free to attend.

If you are able, we invite you to make a donation to help defray the costs of organizing (reading groups cost the Hildebrand Project ~$900 for a four-week group). We are committed to making reading groups accessible to all; therefore, participation is not contingent on a donation.

Your gift support this reading group, our publications, web resources, and other events, all of which contribute to bringing the vital, life-giving witness of personalist philosophy into new and uncertain times.

About the Text

Dietrich von Hildebrand’s The Encyclical Humanae Vitae: A Sign of Contradiction was published mere months after Pope Paul VI promulgated the eponymous encyclical. The much-anticipated encyclical quickly proved to be among the most contentious papal documents ever published; the uproar against it was immediate, intense, and widespread—even, perhaps especially, among Catholic intellectuals and clergy in Western countries.

It was in this milieu that Dietrich von Hildebrand published his The Encyclical Humanae Vitae: A Sign of Contradiction, and in doing so, became one of the first Catholic intellectuals of public stature to defend the encyclical.

“To read The Encyclical Humanae Vitae: A Sign of Contradiction by Dietrich von Hildebrand some five decades later is a very consoling experience,” writes Tracey Rowland, in her foreword to the book. “It bears testimony to the fact that at least one Catholic married man had the necessary spiritual and intellectual capital to make the right judgment call and explain it within the broader context of the Church’s understanding of the sacrament of marriage and the work of the human conscience.”

Rowland goes on to say: “As one reads this reflection on Humanae Vitae one senses that Hildebrand had a connatural knowledge of his subject. There is nothing excruciatingly abstract about his defense of the encyclical. There is no smart logic chopping as if something so complex could be reduced to the dimensions of a syllogism. There is no casuistry. Hildebrand supports Humanae Vitae because he believes that ‘the sinfulness of artificial birth control is rooted in the arrogation of the right to separate the actualized love-union in marriage from a possible conception, to sever the wonderful, deeply mysterious connection instituted by God.’”

About the Facilitator

Catherine Yanko is a Graduate Fellow of the Hildebrand Project. Currently she is PhD Student at the Catholic University of America where she studies Moral Theology/Ethics. Her main interests are in theological/philosophical anthropology, action and virtue theory, and metaethics. She was first introduced to Dietrich von Hildebrand as an undergraduate Student Fellow of the Hildebrand Project; she has continued to study his work, notably in the development of his concept of reverence in her recently presented paper: "Hildebrandian Reverence for the Defects of Christ: A Thomistic Inquiry of the Reception of Christ’s Salvific Act" at the Thomistic Institute’s conference, “Thomas Aquinas and the Crisis of Christology”.


Two Sessions


November 29 & December 6, 2021


12:00 - 1:00 PM EDT


Suitable for beginner and intermediate: primarily discussion.


Week 1: Pages 1-40
Week 2: Page 41 to end

To Attend: