Fonds F16 - Papal Commission on Population and Birth Control fonds

Identity area

Reference code

CA ON00389 F16


Papal Commission on Population and Birth Control fonds


  • 1964 - 1985, predominant 1964 - 1966 (Creation)

Level of description


Extent and medium

38 cm of textual records

Context area

Name of creator

Biographical history

Dr. Laurent Potvin and his wife Mrs. Colette Potvin were lay members of the Papal Commission on Population and Birth Control.

The Papal Commission met in Rome from 1963 to 1966. The Commission was initially convened by Pope John XXIII and continued by Pope Paul VI after Pope John’s death in 1963. Originally, six members were appointed to the Commission and the group was later expanded into a two-part 79 member commission comprised of 64 lay persons (i.e. people who are not bishops, priests, or deacons in the Church) and 15 clerics. The mission of the Commission was to determine how the Church could change its position on birth control, due to rapid population growth, without undermining papal authority.

After three years of deliberation, the Commission concluded that it was not possible to make this change without undermining papal authority, but that the Church should change their position on contraception and birth control. The lay members voted 60 to 4 for change, and the clerics, 9 to 6 for change. Chairman of the Commission, Rev. Henri de Riedmatten, produced a final report, often referred to as the “Majority Report”, that reflected this call for change.

Despite the overwhelming vote of the members of the Commission, Pope Paul refused to alter the Vatican's stance on birth control citing that to do so would fundamentally undermine papal infallibility and, in 1968, wrote the ''Humanae Vitae'' encyclical which emphasized the continuation of the Vatican's opposition to contraception.

Archival history

Immediate source of acquisition or transfer

The materials are believed to have been donated to by Dr. Laurent Potvin and his wife Mrs. Colette Potvin

Content and structure area

Scope and content

Fonds consists of materials accumulated by Dr. Laurent and Mrs. Colette Potvin involving the Papal Commission on Population and Birth Control. The records cover the time period 1964 to 1966. The records consist of preliminary papers and drafts, research and reference material, studies and reports pertaining to the Commission that were sent to the Potvins, correspondence with Commission members and representatives of the Church, as well as reports presented by and to members during Commission sessions.

The fonds is composed of three series:

  1. Correspondence
  2. Research and reference material
  3. Session reports and presentations

Appraisal, destruction and scheduling


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Alternative identifier(s)

Accession Number

2011 01

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Dates of creation revision deletion

Revised by S Rogers, 25 September 2019.




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