Humanae Vitae (cont'd)

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Part III. Pastoral Directives

The Church as Mother and Teacher

19. We would hardly be adequately expressing the thoughts and solicitude of the Church, the Mother and Teacher of all nations, if after encouraging Men to keep and respect the law[s] of God concerning marriage, We did not also offer them support in morally permissible methods of regulating their family size; [after all,] ours is a time when families and nations face harsh conditions. But the Church can only conduct herself as did the Divine Redeemer; she knows mankind's weakness; she has compassion on the multitude and she forgives their sins. She cannot, however, do otherwise than to teach the law that is proper to human life restored to its original truth and guided by the spirit of God. 24

The Possibility of Observing the Divine Law

20. The teaching of the Church about the proper spacing of children is a promulgation of the divine law itself. No doubt many will think this teaching difficult, if not impossible, to keep. And truly, just as with all good things outstanding for their nobility and utility, [keeping] this law requires strong motivation and much effort from individual Men, from families, and from society. Indeed, this law is not able to be kept without the abundant grace of God, on which the good moral choices of Men depend and from which they get their strength. Moreover, those who consider this matter thoroughly will see that [their] efforts [to keep God's law] increase human dignity and confer benefits on human society.

Self Mastery

21. Moral family planning requires that spouses recognize and value the true goods of life and the family and also that they acquire the habit of complete mastery of themselves and their desires. In order to control the drives of nature, the spouses need to become self-denying through using their reason and free will. Only then will the manifestations of love appropriate for married couples be what they ought to be. Self–mastery is especially necessary for those who practice periodic absention.

Truly, discipline of this sort — from which conjugal chastity shines forth — cannot be an obstacle to love. Rather, discipline imbues love with a deeper human meaning. Although [such control] requires continuous effort, it also helps the spouses become strong in virtue and makes them rich with spiritual goods. And this [virtue] fosters the fruits of tranquillity and peace in the home and helps in the solving of difficulties of other kinds. It aids spouses in becoming more tender with each other and more attentive to each other. It assists them in dispelling that inordinate self-love that is opposed to true charity. It strengthens in them an awareness of their responsibilities. And finally it provides parents with a sure and efficacious authority for educating their children. As [their] children advance through life they will come to a correct appreciation of the true goods of Man and employ peacefully and properly the powers of their minds and senses.

Creating an Atmosphere Favorable to Chastity

22. We would like to take this opportunity to advise educators and all others whose right and duty it is to be concerned about the common good. They need to work to create conditions favorable to the cultivation of chastity, so that the norms of the moral order might be kept and true freedom might prevail over license.

Therefore, all those who are concerned with improving civilization and all who wish to protect the most important human goods should condemn with one voice all the forms of entertainment in today's modern society that arouse Man's [base] passions and that foster dissolute morals, such as obscene literature and corrupt theatrical and film productions. It would be perverse if anyone were to attempt to defend depravity of this kind by appealing to the needs of art or learning 25 or by appealing to arguments of “freedom of expression” concerning what authorities may permit in the public arena.

Appeal to Public Authorities

23. And We must also address the rulers of nations, since they have chief responsibility for the common good and are able to work toward safeguarding good morals. [We say to them:] Do not allow the worthy morals of your own people to be corrupted; do not allow the law to be used to introduce into the family — that primary unit of the state — practices opposed to the natural and divine law. For surely civil authority can find and ought to use other means to resolve the problem of the increase of population: namely, they should legislate laws protective of the family and they should wisely educate the populace to safeguard both the moral law and the [true] liberty of the citizens.

Indeed We know well what a source of great difficulty [overpopulation is] for leaders of a state, especially in the developing nations. Indeed, we had these justifiable concerns in mind when We issued the encyclical letter Populorum Progressio. But here let Us reiterate the words of Our Predecessor John XXIII: “It is necessary to solve these problems in such a way that Man does not use methods and means opposed to the dignity of Man. [State authorities] ought not to fear rejecting [the views] of those who hold that Man himself and his life are in every respect only material realities. We think this problem ought to be resolved only through economic and social progress that both respects each and every individual and the whole of society and that also increases goods deserving of the name.” 26 Truly it would be a grave injustice to attribute to Divine Providence what seems, on the contrary, to be the result of unwise government policies, or of a rather weak sense of social justice, or of a hoarding of goods for one's selfish use, or finally of a careless negligence in undertaking the labors and task by which every people and all their offspring achieve a better standard of living. 27 Certainly some authorities have already begun to renew impressive efforts in regard to these matters; all authorities should energetically join these efforts. All members of the great human family should increase their zeal for coming to one another's assistance; [indeed] We think the opportunity for involvement by international aid organizations is nearly unbounded.

Appeal to Men of Science

24. Let Us also encourage scientists, who “are able to do much for the good of marriage and family and are able to assist peace of conscience if with their united efforts they attempt to clarify the conditions which favor a moral ordering of human procreation.” 28 This ought especially to be hoped for — a request made earlier by Pius XII — that medical science, through the observation of natural cycles [of fertility], strive to establish a satisfactorily clear basis for the moral regulation of offspring. 29 In this way scientists — and especially those who proudly claim to be Catholic — will make it clear through their own work that, as the Church teaches, “No true contradiction exists between the divine laws for transmitting life and those for fostering true conjugal love.” 30

Appeal to Christian Spouses

25. Now Our attention must be directed in a particular way to Our sons and daughters and especially to those whom God calls to serve Him in the state of matrimony. For the Church, who teaches the inviolable conditions of the divine law, also proclaims salvation and through the sacraments unlocks the sources of grace. [For it is by these means that] Man is made a new creature who responds with charity and true liberty to the heavenly plan of his Creator and Savior and who finds the yoke of Christ to be sweet. 31

Therefore, let Christian spouses humbly obey the voice of the Church and remember that their proper vocation in the Christian life began with baptism and was more fully specified and confirmed anew with the sacrament of marriage. For by the sacrament of marriage spouses are strengthened and, as it were, consecrated so that they might faithfully fulfill their duties, so that they might bring their vocation to its perfect end and so that, as befits them, they might openly offer the world a Christian witness. 32 To them the Lord entrusts the mission of making manifest to Men the holiness and indeed sweetness of the law that unites their mutual love and generous service closely to the love of God, the author of human life.

Certainly, we do not wish to ignore the difficulties, the sometimes serious difficulties that Christian spouses might encounter, since for them, as for everyone, “the gate is narrow, and the way is difficult that leads to life.” 33 Nevertheless, their way will be illuminated by the hope of this life, just as by the clearest light, as long as they strive courageously “to live wisely and justly and piously in this world,” 34 knowing that "the form of this world passes away." 35

Therefore, let spouses willingly take up the labors that have been assigned to them, strengthened both by faith and by hope, which “do not disappoint: because the charity of God is poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who is given to us.” 36 Let them constantly pray for divine assistance. And let them especially drink of grace and charity from the eternal font of the Eucharist. If, however, they are hampered by their sins, let them not lose heart, but let them humbly and constantly flee to the mercy of God, which the sacrament of penance abundantly provides. It is by this way of life that spouses will be able to advance toward perfection their married life, which the Apostle explains in these words: “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the Church . . . Therefore also husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. For he who loves his wife, loves himself. Indeed, no one is able to hate his own flesh; but he nourishes it and cares for it, as Christ does for the Church . . . And this is true for each and every one of you: let everyone love his wife as he loves himself; and let wives respect their husbands.” 37

Apostolate of Spouses

26. Moreover, great fruits are to be expected when the divine law is kept by a devout soul. The most outstanding of these fruits results from the frequent desire of spouses to share their experience with other spouses. Thus it happens that a new and especially worthy kind of apostolate is added to the already ample vocation of the laity; like will minister to like. That is, spouses will fulfill their apostolic mission in behalf of other spouses by becoming guides for them. Among all the forms of Christian apostolate this apostolate seems most suitable today. 38

To Doctors and Health Care Professionals

27. Let Us express Our highest admiration for doctors and those health professionals, who, in performing their mission, desire to safeguard what is compatible with their Christian vocation rather than what corresponds to some human advantage. Therefore let them constantly pursue only those solutions that are in accord with faith and right reason. And let them strive to gain the agreement and the compliance of their colleagues in this matter. Moreover, let them consider it their special mission to acquire all necessary learning in this difficult area. Thereby they may be able to give good advice to spouses seeking their counsel and to direct them along the right path. Spouses rightly seek such direction from them.

To Priests

28. With complete confidence We call upon you priests, Our beloved sons, you who are the advisers and spiritual guides of individuals and families. For it is your great and manifest mission — and We address especially those of you who are moral theologians — to promote completely and clearly the teaching of the Church concerning marriage. In performing your ministry you must be an example of the sincere obedience that must be given both inwardly and outwardly to the Magisterium of the Church. For truly, you know that you are bound to such obedience not only for the reasons given [in behalf of a teaching] but also on account of the light of the Spirit, whose guidance the Fathers of the Church particularly enjoy when setting forth the truth. 39 Nor let it escape you that it is of the utmost importance for safeguarding the peace of souls and the unity of the Christian people, that in moral as in dogmatic matters, all should obey the Magisterium of the Church and should speak with one voice. Wherefore, adopting the anxious words of the great Apostle Paul, We call upon you again with Our whole heart: “I beg you . . . you brothers through the name of our Lord Jesus Christ: that you might all speak as one and that there might be no division I among you: that you may be united in the same mind and the same judgment.” 40

29. Refusal to compromise anything concerning the saving doctrine of Christ is an outstanding act of charity to souls; yet at the same time it is necessary always to combine this with tolerance and charity. When He spoke and associated with Men, the Redeemer Himself exemplified this truth. Coming not to judge the world but to save it, he was severe against sin but patient and merciful to sinners. 41

Therefore, let spouses in their times of trouble find in the speech and hearts of their priests the image of the voice and love of our Redeemer.

So beloved sons, preach with full confidence and be certain that the Holy Spirit of God, who guides the Magisterium in its teaching, will illuminate the hearts of the faithful and invite them to give their assent. Teach spouses the indispensability of prayer; instruct them properly that they may come regularly and with great faith to the sacraments of the Eucharist and of penance and that they may never become discouraged because of their weakness.

To Bishops

30. Now, at the conclusion of this encyclical letter, Our mind reverently and lovingly turns to you [Bishops], beloved and venerable Brothers in the episcopal mission; with you We share very closely the care of the spiritual good of the people of God. We make this urgent request of you: We ask all of you to take the lead with the priests who assist your sacred ministry and all your faithful. With complete zeal and no delay, devote yourselves to keeping marriage safe and holy, so that the life of married couples may draw more closely to its proper human and Christian perfection. Truly consider this as the greatest responsibility of your mission and the greatest work committed to you at the present time. As you well know, [your] mission requires a certain coordination of pastoral ministry in all areas of human activity, including economic, social, and cultural matters. If progress is gained on all these fronts at the same time, then not only will family life of parents and children be more tolerable, it will be easier and happier. Once the plan God conceived for the world is faithfully kept, fellowship in society will be richer in fraternal charity and more safely grounded in a true peace.

Final Appeal

31. Venerable Brothers, most beloved sons, and all men and women of good will, We now call you to the splendid work of education and growth in charity. Relying on the unshakable teaching of the Church, We, as the successor to Peter together with the whole Brotherhood of Bishops, faithfully guard and interpret it. Truly, this is a great work, for it affects the good of the world and the Church. None can achieve true happiness, the happiness that they desire with the strength of their whole soul, unless they observe the laws inscribed on their nature by the Most High God. To be happy Man must prudently and lovingly cultivate these laws. Therefore, on this important work and on all of you and most especially on married couples, We invoke a wealth of supernatural graces given by our most holy and merciful God. As a pledge of these graces, We freely give you Our Apostolic Blessing.

Given at Rome, from St. Peter's on the twenty-fifth day of July, on the feast of St. James the Apostle, in the year 1968, the sixth year of our Pontificate.

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