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Morality of Marriage Act Determined by Nature of the Act and of the Subjects

114 (of 129) - Catechesis by John Paul II on the Theology of the Body
General Audience, Wednesday 11 July 1984 - in Italian, Portuguese & Spanish

"1. The reflections we have thus far made on human love in the divine plan would be in some way incomplete if we did not try to see their concrete application in the sphere of marital and family morality. We want to take this further step that will bring us to the conclusion of our now long journey, under the guidance of an important recent pronouncement of the Magisterium, Humanae Vitae, which Pope Paul VI published in July 1968. We will reread this significant document in the light of the conclusions we have reached in examining the initial divine plan and the words of Christ which refer to it.

2. "The Church teaches as absolutely required that in any use whatever of marriage there must be no impairment of its natural capacity to procreate human life" (Humanae Vitae  11). "This particular doctrine, often expounded by the Magisterium of the Church, is based on the inseparable connection, established by God, which man on his own initiative may not break, between the unitive significance and the procreative significance which are both inherent to the marriage act" (Humane Vitae 12).

3. The considerations I am about to make concern especially the passage of Humanae Vitae that deals with the "two significances of the marriage act" and their "inseparable connection." I do not intend to present a commentary on the whole encyclical, but rather to illustrate and examine one of its passages. From the point of view of the doctrine contained in the quoted document, that passage has a central significance. At the same time, that passage is closely connected with our previous reflections on marriage in its dimension as a (sacramental) sign.

As I said, since this is a central passage of the encyclical, it is obvious that it constitutes a very important part of its whole structure. Therefore, its analysis must direct us toward the various components of that structure, even if it is not our intention to comment on the entire text.

4. In the reflections on the sacramental sign, it has already been said several times that it is based on the language of the body reread in truth. It concerns a truth once affirmed at the beginning of the marriage when the newlyweds, promising each other "to be always faithful...and to love and honor each other all the days of their life," become ministers of marriage as a sacrament of the Church.

It concerns, then, a truth that is always newly affirmed. In fact, the man and the woman, living in the marriage "until death," re-propose uninterruptedly, in a certain sense, that sign that they made—through the liturgy of the sacrament—on their wedding day.

The aforementioned words of Pope Paul VI's encyclical concern that moment in the common life of the spouses when both, joining each other in the marriage act, become, according to the biblical expression, "one flesh" (Gn 2:24). Precisely at such a moment so rich in significance, it is also especially important that the language of the body be reread in truth. This reading becomes the indispensable condition for acting in truth, that is, for behaving in accordance with the value and the moral norm.

5. The encyclical not only recalls this norm, but also seeks to give it adequate foundation. In order to clarify more completely that "inseparable connection, established by God...between the unitive significance and the procreative significance of the marriage act," Paul VI writes in the next sentence: "The reason is that the marriage act, because of its fundamental structure, while it unites husband and wife in the closest intimacy, also brings into operation laws written into the actual nature of man and of woman for the generation of new life" (Humanae Vitae 12).

We note that in the previous sentence, the text just quoted deals above all with the significance of marital relations. In the following sentence, it deals with the fundamental structure (that is, the nature) of marital relations. Defining that fundamental structure, the text refers to "laws written into the actual nature of man and of woman."

The passage from the sentence expressing the moral norm, to the sentence which explains and justifies it, is especially significant. The encyclical leads one to seek the foundation for the norm which determines the morality of the acts of the man and the woman in the marriage act, in the nature of this very act, and more deeply still, in the nature of the subjects themselves who are performing the act.

6. In this way, the fundamental structure (that is, the nature) of the marriage act constitutes the necessary basis for an adequate reading and discovery of the two significances that must be carried over into the conscience and the decisions of the acting parties. It also constitutes the necessary basis for establishing the adequate relationship of these significances, that is, their inseparable connection. Since "the marriage act..."—at the same time—"unites husband and wife in the closest intimacy" and together "makes them capable of generating new life," and both the one and the other happen "through the fundamental structure," then it follows that the human person (with the necessity proper to reason, logical necessity) must read at the same time the "twofold significance of the marriage act" and also the "inseparable connection between the unitive significance and the procreative significance of the marriage act."

Here we are dealing with nothing other than reading the language of the body in truth, as has been said many times in our previous biblical analyses. The moral norm, constantly taught by the Church in this sphere, and recalled and reconfirmed by Paul VI in his encyclical, arises from the reading of the language of the body in truth.

It is a question here of the truth first in the ontological dimension ("fundamental structure") and then—as a result—in the subjective and psychological dimension ("significance"). The text of the encyclical stresses that in the case in question we are dealing with a norm of the natural law."

After the catechesis, Papa Giovanni Paolo II greeted the pilgrims in various languages:

A gruppi francesi

Chers Frères et Sœurs,

Je suis heureux de saluer les pèlerins de langue française, particulièrement les jeunes. Puissent vos vacances et votre séjour romain vous aider à développer votre culture humaine et religieuse! De tout cœur je vous bénis.

A pellegrinaggi di espressione inglese

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

I wish to welcome all the English-speaking visitors coming from Ireland, South Africa, India, Canada and the United States. I am particularly happy to greet all the men and women religious who are present at today’s audience. And my special greeting goes to the Staffanskören mixed choir from Söderhamm, Sweden.

May the peace and joy of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all!

Ai pellegrini di lingua tedesca

Liebe Brüder und Schwestern!

Mit dieser kurzen Zusammenfassung meiner ausführlicheren italienischen Ansprache grüße ich sehr herzlich alle anwesenden Pilger und Besucher aus Deutschland, sterreich und der Schweiz. Für euren Rombesuch erbitte ich euch reiche Gnaden und wünsche euch zugleich schöne und erholsame Tage. Von Herzen erteile ich euch und euren Lieben in der Heimat meinen Apostolischen Segen.

Ai fedeli di lingua spagnola

Queridos hermanos y hermanas,

mi cordial enhorabuena ahora a los sacerdotes y religiosos de Jaén que celebran sus Bodas de Plata de sacerdocio. Sed fieles, queridos hermanos, a vuestra ofrenda al Señor. Es mi exhortación también para los religiosos de las Escuelas Pías aquí presentes.

* * *

Un saludo a las religiosas Esclavas del Sagrado Corazón y a las Hermanas Hospitalarias responsables del sector vocacional, a las que animo a trabajar con entusiasmo en tan importante tarea.

* * *

Agradezco su visita a los diversos grupos venidos de España, en especial a los jóvenes y estudiantes de Valencia, Madrid y Palencia, así como al coro de la Universidad de Salamanca. También a los peregrinos de México y de los otros Países saludo y bendigo de corazón.

Ai pellegrini di lingua portoghese

Caríssimos irmãos e irmãs de língua portuguesa,

sede bem-vindos a esta Audiência, já em clima de férias. Que ela vos aproveite para a vida cristã, que não sofre interrupções. Aos que me ouvem, mesmo em férias, desejo felicidades e que o Deus do amor e da paz encha os seus corações de amor e de paz.

Ai fedeli ungheresi

Vorrei salutare adesso in ungherese la corale della Basilica di Santo Stefano di Budapest.

Ai pellegrini provenienti dalla Polonia

Pragnę wyliczyć i powitać wszystkich pielgrzymów - a więc: z Krakowa - parafia Piaski, dusz pasterstwo akademickie księży pijarów z parafii Imienia Maryi; z archidiecezji gnie gnieźnieńskiej - pielgrzymka oraz kapłani-jubilaci (25-lecie i 30-lecie kapłaństwa); z Gniezna i Poznania; pielgrzymka z Tarnowa oraz szczególna pielgrzymka księży tarnowskich z okazji 10-lecia kapłaństwa; z Seminarium Duchownego w Nysie oraz księża z diecezji opolskiej; następnie z Pyrzyc, z diecezji szczecińskiej, pielgrzymka z parafii księży Chrystusowców; pielgrzymka uczennic liceum sióstr urszulanek czarnych z Poznania; pielgrzymka liceum św. Augustyna z Warszawy; pielgrzymka młodzieży oazowej, związanej z ośrodkami kapucyńskimi; pielgrzymka nauczycieli z Bielska-Białej i Mistrzejowic; z Wałbrzycha - pielgrzymka młodzieży i nauczycieli od księży Pallotynów; pielgrzymka z Racławic i Tarnobrzegu oraz Stalowej Woli (diecezja przemyska); wreszcie wszystkich pielgrzymów indywidualnych z kraju i z zagranicy, zwłaszcza z Chicago, serdecznie witam i pozdrawiam. . . . Proszę serdecznie pozdrowić wszystkich rodaków w Ojczyźnie, zwłaszcza młodzież uniwersytecką i szkolną: życzę wam dobrych wakacji - nie tylko w znaczeniu odpoczynku fizycznego, ale także w znaczeniu odpoczynku duchowego, zbliżenia się do Boga, odnalezienia siebie, pokoju we wnętrznego.

Ai fedeli provenienti dalle varie regioni italiane

Saluto  con affetto i vari gruppi parrocchiali di lingua italiana qui presenti. A tutti voglio dare un caloroso benvenuto e ringrazio per la loro presenza.

In particolare saluto i ragazzi e i giovani. Carissimi, mi è caro presentarvi oggi la figura di una giovinetta, tanto amata particolarmente dai romani e a noi non lontana nel tempo, che la Chiesa ha innalzato agli onori degli altari, e che abbiamo ricordato e pregato nella liturgia dei giorni scorsi: Maria Goretti. Il suo martirio rappresenta un esempio, fra i tanti, di un incoraggiante realtà: quando i giovani si propongono validi ideali, sanno affrontare anche l’eroismo, pur di raggiungerli.

Cari giovani, non abbiate paura di camminare sulla strada di Cristo, la strada che vi addita la Chiesa! In questo non facile cammino io vi sono vicino con la mia preghiera.

* * *

Uno speciale pensiero rivolgo al gruppo dei giovani Italiani del Movimento dei Focolari, riuniti a Roma in questi giorni per riflettere sulla prospettiva della vocazione sacerdotale. Mentre mi compiaccio per questa iniziativa, prego il Signore che illumini il vostro cammino e che la Vergine Santissima vi sia accanto per farvi comprendere meglio l’affascinante attrattiva che promana da questo alto ideale di servizio a Dio ed ai fratelli.

Vi accompagni la mia Benedizione.

* * *

Rivolgo pure il mio saluto agi ammalati, la cui presenza, seppure tanto discreta, nonostante i disagi della stagione calda, ci è di incoraggiamento a non lasciarci mai sopraffare dall’incalzare delle sofferenze, fisiche o morali.

L’infermità del corpo non vi impedisca, cari ammalati, di pensare che il Signore vi vuol bene, poiché vuol fare della vostra sofferenza uno strumento prezioso di redenzione.

Per questo vi invito a pregare con le parole che oggi leggiamo in una lettura della “Liturgia delle Ore”: “Ti rendiamo grazie o Padre Santo, per il tuo santo nome, che hai fatto abitare nei nostri cuori, e per la conoscenza, la fede e l’immortalità che ci hai manifestato per mezzo di Gesù, tuo servo. Gloria a te nei secoli!”.

La vostra preghiera è naturalmente anche la mia preghiera, mentre a tutti giunga una particolare Benedizione.

* * *

Rivolgo infine un saluto agli sposi novelli, presenti in questa piazza.

Pregare qui, sulla tomba di San Pietro e dei martiri romani, significa attingere la forza per vivere con coerenza gli impegni, che vi siete assunti, di amore e di fedeltà reciproca.

Questa preghiera si prolunghi poi nella vita di ogni giorno, e si traduca in testimonianza di autentico cristianesimo, oggi come sposi, e domani, se Dio vorrà, anche come genitori.

Tornando nella vostra nuova casa, portate anche, propiziatrice di celesti favori, la mia Benedizione.

Vorrei invitarvi a pregare per la Chiesa in Nicaragua, la quale nei giorni scorsi ha conosciuto un avvenimento doloroso particolarmente grave, che si aggiunge alle prove già sofferte: dieci sacerdoti sono stati improvvisamente allontanati dal Paese.

Per l’arcidiocesi di Managua, il cui clero non è sufficientemente numeroso rispetto alle vaste esigenze pastorali e caritative, si tratta di una grave perdita.

Esprimo la mia viva deplorazione e la mia intima partecipazione alla sofferenza di quella Chiesa, la quale continua, per parte sua, a proclamare il proprio impegno a promuovere nel Paese il rifiuto della violenza e a proseguire sulla via del dialogo e della riconciliazione.

Chiedo al Signore di illuminare le menti dei responsabili, affinché vogliano recedere da questa decisione, apertamente nociva alla Chiesa e alle necessità del popolo cattolico di Nicaragua. Nello stesso tempo supplico la Vergine Santissima di assistere con la sua materna protezione quelle care popolazioni e i ministri di Dio che, in piena comunione con i propri pastori, si dedicano al servizio delle esigenze spirituali e morali del Paese.

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