Humanae Vitae (cont'd)

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Part II. New Aspects of the Question and the Competence ofthe Magisterium

A Total Vision of Man

7. The question of having children, like other questions regarding human life, cannot be addressed adequately by examining it in a piecemeal way, that is, by looking at it through the perspectives of biology, psychology, demography, and sociology. Rather, [the question] must be addressed in such a way that the whole Man and the whole mission to which he has been called will be taken into account, for this [mission] pertains not only to his natural and earthly existence but also to his supernatural and eternal existence.

Many who attempt to defend artificial ways of limiting the number of children give as their reason the demands of conjugal love or their duty to responsible parenthood. [Therefore[ it is necessary to provide a precise definition and explanation of these two important elements of married life. As We undertake to do this, We will keep foremost in Our minds what was taught about this matter with the highest authority in The Church In the Modern World [Gaudium et Spes], the pastoral constitution recently issued by the Second Vatican Council.

Conjugal Love

8. Truly, conjugal love most clearly manifests to us its true nature and nobility when we recognize that it has its origin in the highest source, as it were, in God, Who “is Love" 6 and Who is the Father, “from which all parenthood in heaven and earth receives it name.” 7

It is false to think, then, that marriage results from chance or from the blind course of natural forces. Rather, God the Creator wisely and providently established marriage with the intent that He might achieve His own design of love through Men. Therefore, through mutual self-giving, which is unique and exclusive to them, spouses seek a communion of persons. Through this communion, the spouses perfect each other so that they might share with God the task of procreating and educating new living beings.

Moreover, for the baptized, matrimony is endowed with such dignity that it is a sacramental sign of grace representing the union of Christ and His Church.

Characteristics of Conjugal Love

9. When these matters are placed in the proper light, we can clearly see the characteristic marks and requirements of conjugal love. It is of the greatest importance to have an exact understanding of these.

First of all, [this] love is human and therefore both of the senses and of the spirit. For which reason, it is a product not only of natural instinct and inclinations; it also and primarily involves an act of free will. Through this act of free will [the spouses resolve] that their love will not only persevere through daily joys and sorrows but also increase. Therefore it is especially important that they become one in heart and soul, and that they obtain together their human perfection.

Next, this love is total; that is, it is a very special form of personal friendship whereby the spouses generously share everything with each other without undue reservations and without i concern for their selfish convenience. One who truly loves his spouse not only loves her for what he receives from her but also for her own sake. This he does joyfully, as he enriches [his beloved] with the gift of himself.

Furthermore, conjugal love is both faithful and exclusive to the end of life. Such, in fact, do the bride and groom conceive it to be on the day of their marriage, when they freely and consciously unite themselves by means of the marital bond. Even if fidelity at times presents difficulties, let no one deny that it is possible; [rather] fidelity is always noble and of much merit. The example of many spouses throughout the ages has proved that fidelity is in accord with the very nature of marriage; even more, it has proved that intimate and lasting happiness flows from fidelity, just as from a fountain.

And finally, this love is fruitful, since the whole of the love is not contained in the communion of the spouses; it also looks beyond itself and seeks to raise up new lives. “Marriage and conjugal love are ordained by their very nature to the procreating and educating of children. Offspring are clearly the supreme gift of marriage, a gift that contributes immensely to the good of the parents themselves.” 8

Responsible Parenthood

10. For the above reasons, conjugal love requires that spouses be fully aware of their mission of responsible parenthood. Today's society justly calls for responsible parenthood; thus it is important that it be rightly understood. Consequently, we must consider the various legitimate and interconnected dimensions of parenthood.

If we consider biological processes first, responsible parenthood means that one knows and honors the responsibilities involved in these processes. Human reason has discovered that there are biological laws in the power of procreating life that pertain to the human person. 9

If then we look to the innate impulses and inclinations of the soul, responsible parenthood asserts that it is necessary that reason and will exercise mastery over these impulses and inclinations of the soul.

If we look further to physical, economic, psychological, and social conditions, responsible parenthood is exercised by those who, guided by prudent consideration and generosity, elect to accept many children. Those also are to be considered responsible who, for serious reasons and with due respect for moral precepts decide not to have another child for either a definite or an indefinite amount of time.

The responsible parenthood of which we speak here has another intrinsic foundation of utmost importance: it is rooted in the objective moral order established by God — and only an upright conscience can be a true interpreter of this order. For which reason, the mission of responsible parenthood requires that spouses recognize their duties toward God, toward themselves, toward the family, and toward human society, as they maintain a correct set of priorities.

For this reason, in regard to the mission of transmitting human life, it is not right for the spouses to act in accord with their own arbitrary judgment, as if ! it were permissible for them to define altogether subjectively and willfully what is right for them to do. On the contrary, they must accommodate their behavior to the plan of God the Creator, a plan made manifest both by the very nature of marriage and its acts and also by the constant teaching of the Church. 10

Respect for the Nature and Finality of the Conjugal Act

11. The conjugal acts by which spouses intimately and chastely unite, and by which human life is transmitted, are, as the recent council reiterated, “good and worthy of human dignity,” 11 Conjugal acts do not cease being legitimate if the spouses are aware that they are infertile for reasons not voluntarily caused by them; these acts remain ordained to expressing and strengthening the union of the spouses. Indeed, as experience shows, new life does not arise from every act of conjugal union. God has wisely arranged the natural laws and times of fertility so that successive births are naturally spaced. But the Church, which interprets natural law through its unchanging doctrine, reminds men and women that the teachings based on natural law must be obeyed and teaches that it is necessary that each conjugal act remain ordained in itself to the procreation of human life. 12

Two Inseparable Aspects: Union and Procreation

12. The doctrine that the Magisterium of the Church has often explained is this: there is an unbreakable connection between the unitive meaning and the procreative meaning [of the conjugal act], and both are inherent in the conjugal act. This connection was established by God, and Man is not permitted to break it through his own volition.

Therefore, because of its intrinsic nature the conjugal act, which unites husband and wife with the closest of bonds, also makes them capable of bringing forth new life according to the laws written into their very natures as male and female. And if both essential meanings are preserved, that of union and procreation, the conjugal act fully maintains its capacity for [fostering] true mutual love and its ordination to the highest mission of parenthood, to which Man is called. Men of our time, we think, are especially able to understand that this teaching is in accord with human reason.

Therefore, because of its intrinsic nature the conjugal act, which unites husband and wife with the closest of bonds, also makes them capable of bringing forth new life according to the laws written into their very natures as male and female. And if both essential meanings are preserved, that of union and procreation, the conjugal act fully maintains its capacity for [fostering] true mutual love and its ordination to the highest mission of parenthood, to which Man is called. Men of our time, we think, are especially able to understand that this teaching is in accord with human reason.

Faithfulness to the Design of God

13. People rightly understand that a conjugal act imposed on a spouse, with no consideration given to the condition of the spouse or to the legitimate desires of the spouse, is not a true act of love. They understand that such an act opposes what the moral order rightly requires from spouses. To be consistent, then, if they reflect further, they should acknowledge that it is necessarily true that an act of mutual love that impairs the capacity of bringing forth life contradicts both the divine plan that established the nature of the conjugal bond and also the will of the first Author of life. For this capacity of bringing forth life was designed by God, the Creator of All, according to [His] specific laws.

Thus, anyone who uses God's gift [of conjugal love] and cancels, if only in part, the significance and the purpose of this gift is rebelling against either the male or female nature and against the most intimate relationship; for this reason, then, he is defying the plan and holy will of God. On the other hand, the one who uses the gift of conjugal love in accord with the laws of generation acknowledges that he is not the lord of the sources of life but rather the minister of a plan initiated by the Creator.

In fact, Man does not have unlimited power over his own body in general. So, too, for good reason, he clearly does not have power over his generative faculties as such, for they by their very nature are directed to bringing forth human life, and God is the source of human life. Indeed, “Human life must be recognized as sacred by all Men” as Our Predecessor John XXIII declared; “Indeed, from its very beginning it requires the creative action of God.” 13

Morally Impermissible Methods of Regulating Birth

14. Thus, relying on these first principles of human and Christian doctrine concerning marriage, we must again insist that the direct interruption of the generative process already begun must be totally rejected as a legitimate means of regulating the number of children. Especially to be rejected is direct abortion — even if done for reasons of health. 14

Furthermore, as the Magisterium of the Church has taught repeatedly, direct sterilization of the male or female, whether permanent or temporary, is equally to be condemned. 15

Similarly, there must be a rejection of all acts that attempt to impede procreation, both those chosen as means to an end, and those chosen as ends. This includes acts that precede intercourse, acts that accompany intercourse, and acts that are directed to the natural consequences of intercourse. 16

Nor is it possible to justify deliberately depriving conjugal acts of their fertility by claiming that one is choosing the lesser evil. It cannot be claimed that these acts deprived of fertility should be considered together as a whole with past and future fertile acts and thus that they [should be judged to] share in one and the same moral goodness of the fertile acts [of marriage]. Certainly, it is sometimes permissible to tolerate moral evil — when it is the lesser evil and when one does so in order that one might avoid a greater evil, or so that one might promote a greater good. 17 It is never permissible, however, to do evil so that good might result, 18 not even for the most serious reasons. That is, one should never willingly choose to do an act that by its very nature violates the moral order, for such acts are unworthy of Man for this very reason. This is so even if one has acted with the intent to defend and advance some good either for the individuals or for families or for society. Thus, it is a serious error to think that a conjugal act, deprived deliberately of its fertility, and which consequently is intrinsically wrong∗, can be justified by being grouped together with the fertile acts of the whole of the marriage.

∗ “intrinsece inhonestum”

Morally Permissible Therapeutic Means

15. The Church, moreover, does allow the use of medical treatment necessary for curing diseases of the body although this treatment may thwart one's ability to procreate. Such treatment is permissible even if the reduction of fertility is foreseen, as long as the infertility is not directly intended for any reason whatsoever. 19

The Morality of Recourse to the Infertile Period

16. Nevertheless, there are some in our fumes who oppose the teaching of the Church concerning conjugal morality, as we noted above (HV 3). [They claim] that it is the right and function of human reason to restrain the irrational forces of nature and to direct them to achieving ends that are beneficial to Man. Now some may ask: in the present day, is it not reasonable to use artificial birth control in many circumstances? Suppose family peace and harmony might better be achieved and better provisions might be made for educating the children already born? This question deserves a clear answer: the Church, of course, is the first to praise and commend the use of the human intellect in an endeavor that allies Man, rational creature that he is, so closely with his Creator. But the Church affirms that this must be done in accord with the order of reality established by God.

Certainly, there may be serious reasons for spacing offspring; these may be based on the physical or psychological condition of the spouses or on external factors. The Church teaches that [in such cases] it is morally permissible [for spouses] to calculate [their fertility by observing the] natural rhythms inherent in the generative faculties and to reserve marital intercourse for infertile times. Thus spouses are able to plan their families without violating the moral teachings set forth above. 20

The Church is not inconsistent when it teaches both that it is morally permissible for spouses to have recourse to infertile periods and also that all directly contraceptive practices are morally wrong, even if spouses seem to have good and serious reasons for using these. These two situations are essentially different. In the first, the spouses legitimately use a faculty that is given by nature; in the second case, the spouses impede the order of generation from completing its own natural processes.

It cannot be denied that the spouses in each case have, for defensible reasons, made a mutual and firm decision to avoid having a child; and [it cannot be denied that] each of them is attempting to ensure that a child will not be born. Nevertheless, it must also be acknowledged that only in the first case are the spouses strong enough to abstain from sexual intercourse during the fertile time, when, for good reasons, offspring are not desired. And then, when the time is not apt for conception, they make use of intercourse for the sake of manifesting their mutual love and for the sake of maintaining their promised fidelity. Clearly, when they do this, they offer a witness to truly and completely upright love.

Serious Consequences of the Use of Artificial Methods of Birth Control

17. Responsible individuals will quickly see the truth of the Church's teaching [about contraception] if they consider what consequences will follow from the methods of contraception and the reasons given for the use of contraception. They should first consider how easy it will be [for many] to justify behavior leading to marital infidelity or to a gradual weakening in the discipline of morals. Not much experience is needed to understand human weakness and to comprehend that human beings, especially the young, are so susceptible to temptation that they need to be encouraged to keep the moral law. It is wrong to make it easy for them to violate this law. Indeed, it is to be feared that husbands who become accustomed to contraceptive practices will lose respect for their wives. They may come to disregard their wife's psychological and physical equilibrium and use their wives as instruments for serving their own desires. Consequently, they will no longer view their wives as companions who should be treated with attentiveness and love.

And then [let reasonable individuals] also carefully consider that a dangerous power will be put into the hands of rulers who care little about the moral law. Would anyone blame those in the highest offices of the state for employing a solution [contraception] considered morally permissible for spouses seeking to solve a family difficulty, when they strive to solve certain difficulties affecting the whole nation? Who will prevent public authorities from favoring what they believe to be the most effective contraceptive methods and from mandating that everyone must use them, whenever they consider it necessary? And clearly it will come about that Men who desire to avoid the difficulties that are part of the divine law, difficulties that individuals, families, or society may experience, will hand over to the will of the public authorities the power of interfering in the most exclusive and intimate mission of spouses.

Therefore, if we do not want the mission of procreating human life to be conceded to the arbitrary decisions of Men, we need to recognize that there are some limits to the power of Man over his own body and over the natural operations of the body, which ought not to be transgressed. No one, neither a private individual nor a public authority, ought to violate these limits. For these limits are derived from the reverence owed to the whole human body and its natural operations, according to the principles acknowledged above and according to a proper understanding of the so-called principle of totality, as explained by Our Predecessor, Pius XII. 21

The Church, the Guarantor of Authentic Human Values

18. It is possible to predict that perhaps not everyone will be able to accept a teaching of this sort easily. After all, there are so many critical voices — broadcast widely by modern means of communication — that are contrary to the voice of the Church. Therefore, it is not surprising that the Church finds herself a sign of contradiction 22 — just as was [Christ], her Founder. But this is no reason for the Church to abandon the duty entrusted to her of preaching the whole moral law firmly, and humbly, both the natural law and the law of the Gospel.

Since the Church did not make either of these laws, she cannot change them. She can only be their guardian and interpreter; thus it would never be right for her to declare as morally permissible that which is truly not so. For what is immoral is by its very nature always opposed to the true good of Man.

By preserving the whole moral law of marriage, the Church knows that she is supporting the growth of a true civilization among Men. She encourages Man not to abdicate human duties by overreliance on technology. In this way, she safeguards the dignity of spouses. Devoted to the example and teaching of the Divine Savior, the Church shows her sincere and generous love of Men as she strives to help them, even during their early pilgrimage, “to share, as sons [and daughters], the life of the living God, the Father of all Men.” 23

Next page: Part 3: Pastoral Directives
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