The "converted unbelievers". Catholics in family planning in French-speaking Belgium (1953-1973)

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Medical History cover
Anne-Sophie Crosetti
issn: 0025-7273
Cambridge University Press
Medical History

This paper looks at the journey of eleven counsellors in marital counselling centres in French-speaking Belgium, from the creation of the centres in 1953, to the 1970s, when contraception became legal, and abortion became a public issue. At the time of Humanae Vitae, groups of volunteers, working within Catholic organisations where counselling took place, began to structure their activity around Carl Rogers’s ethics of client-centered therapy, placing their religious ideology in a secondary position to focus on the problems experienced by the couples and women they were receiving in the centres. These were often challenges they were experiencing themselves in their own lives. The reiteration of the Catholic orthodox view on contraception through Humanae Vitae marked a gap between the counsellors and the Church. This contribution questions the identity-related tension of Catholics working in conjugal counselling centres and the type of commitments they made to both the conjugal centres and the Church in a moment where family planning was debated both in the Church and politically.