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A Discipline that ennobles human love

120 (of 129) - Catechesis by John Paul II on the Theology of the Body
General Audience, Wednesday 29 August 1984 - in Italian & Spanish

"1. The Encyclical Humanae Vitae, while demonstrating the moral evil of contraception, at the same time fully approves of the natural regulation of fertility and, in this sense, it approves of responsible parenthood. Here one must exclude the possibility of describing as "responsible" from the ethical point of view that procreation in which recourse is had to contraception in order to regulate fertility. On the contrary, the true concept of responsible parenthood is connected with the right and lawful regulation of fertility from the ethical viewpoint.

2. We read in this regard: "The right and lawful ordering of the births of children presupposes in husband and wife first and foremost that they fully recognize and value the true blessings of family life, and secondly, that they acquire complete mastery over themselves and their emotions. For if with the aid of reason and of free will they are to control their natural drives, there can be no doubt at all of the need for self-denial. Only then will the expression of love, particular to married life, conform to right order. And this is especially true as regards the practice of periodic continence. But self-discipline of this kind is a shining witness to the chastity of husband and wife and, so far from being a hindrance to their love of one another, transforms it by giving it a more truly human character. And if this self-discipline does demand that they persevere in their purpose and efforts, it has at the same time the salutary effect of enabling husband and wife to develop to the full their personalities and be enriched with spiritual blessings..." (HV 21).

3. The Encyclical then points out the consequences of such a line of conduct not merely for the couple themselves but also for the whole family understood as a community of persons. It will be necessary to treat this subject again. The encyclical underlines that a right and lawful regulation of fertility demands above all from husband and wife a definite family and procreative attitude. That is to say, it requires "that they acquire and possess solid convictions about the true values of life and of the family" (HV 21). Beginning from this premise, it was necessary to proceed to an overall consideration of the question as the 1980 Synod of Bishops did (cf. On the Role of the Christian Family). Later, the doctrine concerning this particular problem of conjugal and family morality, treated of in the Encyclical Humanae Vitae, found its proper place and fitting perspective in the comprehensive context of the Apostolic Exhortation Familiaris Consortio. The theology of the body, especially as the pedagogy of the body, has its roots, in a certain sense, in the theology of the family and, at the same time, leads to it. This pedagogy of the body, whose key today is the Encyclical Humanae Vitae, is explained only in the full context of a correct vision of the values of life and of the family.

4. In the text quoted above, Pope Paul VI refers to conjugal chastity when he writes that the observance of periodic continence is the form of self-mastery in which conjugal chastity is manifested (cf. HV 21).

In undertaking now a deeper analysis of this problem, it is necessary to bear in mind the whole doctrine on chastity understood as the life of the Spirit (cf. Gal 5:25), already considered by us, in order to understand the respective statements of the encyclical on the theme of periodic continence. That doctrine remains indeed the real reason, beginning from which the teaching of Paul VI defines the regulation of births and responsible parenthood as ethically right and lawful.

Even though the periodicity of continence in this case is applied to the so-called "natural rhythms" (HV 16), the continence itself is a definite and permanent moral attitude. It is a virtue, and therefore the whole line of conduct guided by it acquires a virtuous character. The Encyclical emphasizes clearly enough that here it is not merely a matter of a definite technique, but of ethics in the strict sense of the term as the morality of conduct.

Therefore, the Encyclical opportunely sets out in relief, on the one hand, the necessity to respect in the above-mentioned line of conduct the order established by the Creator, and on the other hand, the necessity of an immediate motivation of an ethical character.

5. In regard to the first aspect we read: "To experience the gift of married love while respecting the laws of conception is to acknowledge that one is not the master of the sources of life, but rather the minister of the design established by the Creator" (HV 13). "Human life is sacred"—as our predecessor of holy memory, John XXIII, said in his Encyclical Mater et Magistra—"from its very beginning it involves directly the creative action of God" (AAS 53, 1961; cf. HV 13). As regards the immediate motivation, the Encyclical Humanae Vitae requires that "there exist reasonable grounds for spacing births, arising from the physical or psychological condition of husband or wife, or from external circumstances..." (HV 16).

6. In the case of a morally upright regulation of fertility effected by means of periodic continence, one is clearly dealing with the practice of conjugal chastity, that is, of a definite ethical attitude. In biblical language we could say that it is a case of living by the Spirit (cf. Gal 5:25).

The morally correct regulation is also called "the natural regulation of fertility," which can be explained as conformity to the natural law. By natural law we mean that order of nature in the field of procreation, insofar as it is understood by right reason. This order is the expression of the Creator's plan for man. It is precisely this that the encyclical, together with the whole Tradition of Christian teaching and practice, stresses in a particular way: the virtuous character of the attitude which is expressed in the natural regulation of fertility is determined not so much by fidelity to an impersonal natural law as to the Creator-Person, the Source and Lord of the order which is manifested in such a law.

From this point of view, the reduction to a mere biological regularity, separated from the order of nature that is, from the Creator's plan, deforms the authentic thought of the Encyclical Humanae Vitae (cf. HV 14).

The document certainly presupposes that biological regularity. Indeed, it exhorts competent persons to study it and to apply it in a still deeper way, but it always understands this regularity as the expression of the order of nature, that is, of the providential plan of the Creator, in the faithful execution of which the true good of the human person consists."

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

Ai pellegrinaggi di lingua francese

Chers Frères et Sœurs,

Voilà les vœux que je forme pour l’ensemble des foyers. Et je salue tous les pèlerins de langue française. Parmi eux, je souhaite spécialement la bienvenue au groupe de catholiques et d’orthodoxes venus de Grèce: que notre foi commune au Seigneur Jésus et notre commune vénération des Apôtres Pierre et Paul, André et Jean, nous entraînent à nous aimer comme des frères!

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Je salue aussi le pèlerinage canadien et française de la “Famille du Sacré-Cœur de Jésus”. Je vous encourage, chers amis, à promouvoir la prière quotidienne centrée sur le Cœur de Jésus, sur son Eucharistie, sur son amour et sa miséricorde.

Leur présence ravive en moi la pensée du Canada que je m’apprête à visiter.

A tous, je donne ma Bénédiction Apostolique.

Ai fedeli di lingua inglese

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

I wish to greet all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors present at this audience. In a special way, I welcome the group of Australian pilgrims from Queensland, the Don Orione pilgrimage of the blind and handicapped from England, as well as "The Sacred Heart Church Choir" from Port of Spain, Trinidad.

May the grace and peace of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.

A un piccolo gruppo di fedeli giapponesi

Sia lodato Gesù Cristo!

Dilettissimi insegnanti di Hiroshima e Osaka,

mi auguro che i frutti, da voi colti dai pellegrinaggi in Terra Santa e qui a Roma, lascino una duratura impronta sui giovani che voi educate.

Ora, invocando la protezione materna di Maria, imparto volentieri la Benedizione Apostolica su tutti voi e sulle vostre scuole.

Sia lodato Gesù Cristo!

Ai pellegrini di lingua tedesca

Liebe Brüder und Schwestern!

Zugleich grüße ich noch einmal alle Pilger und Besucher aus den Ländern deutscher Sprache, darunter vor allem den Madrigalchor aus Zell am See in Osterreich. Herzlichen Dank und aufrichtige Anerkennung für die guten Proben eures Könnens! Gott segne euch und eure Familien!

Ai fedeli provenienti dalla Spagna e dall’America Latina

Amadísimos hermanos y hermanas,

Deseo saludar ahora a todos los peregrinos de lengua española, venidos de España y de algunos Países latinoamericanos. En primer lugar, a las parroquias de Bañolas y de Pozo Cañada, y especialmente a la de Cristo Rey de Zamora, que ha querido celebrar aquí los 25 años de su creación; en vosotros agradezco a todos los feligreses este gesto de comunión con el Sucesor de Pedro.

Un saludo particular a los representantes de la Federación Nacional de Charros y de la Compañía Aeroméxico, que celebran los 50 anos de su fundación. Vuestra presencia me hace revivir los inolvidables momentos pasados en México; que en vuestro caminar por el mundo seáis portadores de paz y felicidad.

A todos vosotros y a vuestras familias doy de corazón mi Bendición Apostólica.

Ai pellegrini polacchi

Witam serdecznie wszystkie pielgrzymki i wszystkich pielgrzymów, a więc pielgrzymkę diecezjalną z Gniezna; z Warszawy; z Zakopanego, z parafii św. Krzyża; z Warszawy, z parafii św. Dominika; z Łodzi, z parafii Najświętszego Serca Pana Jezusa; z Bydgoszczy, z parafii Matki Boskiej Częstochowskiej; z Legnicy, z parafii Świętej Trójcy, z parafii Królowej Polski; pielgrzymkę współpracowników ojców Pijarów; pielgrzymkę wspólnoty akademickiej ojców Jezuitów; duszpasterstwo akademickie ze Szczecina, z parafii św. Kazimierza; grupę studentów Akademii Medycznej z Krakowa; grupy turystyczne PKS i Orbisu; z emigracji - grupę z Los Angeles oraz pielgrzymów indywidualnych zarówno z Polski, jak i z emigracji. Wszystkich obecnych tu rodaków serdecznie pozdrawiam, a za pośrednictwem was obecnych pozdrawiam również wszystkich rodaków w Ojczyźnie i na emigracji.

Ai pellegrini italiani

Mi rivolgo ora agli italiani: li saluto tutti, singole persone e gruppi, e tutti ringrazio per la loro cara e gradita presenza.

Ma un particolare saluto va ai membri dell’Associazione Italiana Educazione dei Sordi, di Verona, partecipanti al loro 30° Convegno Nazionale di aggiornamento. Carissimi Sacerdoti, Religiosi, Religiose e Laici, altamente qualificati in quest’arte difficile e importante, che vi dedicate con amore e con perizia a tale missione! Mi compiaccio sentitamente del vostro quotidiano lavoro e del vostro impegno di perfezionamento, per venire sempre più e sempre meglio incontro ai bambini ed alle persone audiolese, al fine di metterli in contatto con la vita normale e con la cultura. Il Signore vi dia ogni giorno pazienza e coraggio e vi conforti! Nel suo Nome vi benedico di cuore, insieme con tutti i vostri Allievi!

* * *

Una parola di compiacimento e di incoraggiamento giunga poi al parroco ed ai fedeli della Parrocchia di San Michele Arcangelo di Vallecorsa, in diocesi di Veroli-Frosinone, che hanno recato con sé le nuove porte di bronzo della Chiesa parrocchiale, modellate dallo scultore Tommaso Gismondi, per essere da me benedette. Vi ringrazio della vostra presenza e della vostra premura: il signore vi ricompensi! Fate sì che la Chiesa Parrocchiale sia d’ora in avanti sempre di più luogo di preghiera comune e fervorosa, cattedra di insegnamento, centro di carità!

* * *

E ora una parola ai numerosi giovani qui convenuti. Carissimi, ho pensato molto a voi nei giorni scorsi, quando, come forse sapete, ho scelto il tema per la Giornata della Pace 1985 e l’ho espresso nel motto “La Pace e i Giovani camminano insieme”. Sì, penso che voi siete chiamati non solo a rendere possibile il cammino verso la pace, ma proprio a camminare insieme alla pace.

Vi inviterò altre volte a pregare e a riflettere su questo argomento. Ma fin d’ora desidero riconfermare la mia fiducia nel vostro entusiasmo e nelle vostra generosità, mentre vi esorto ad essere sempre maggiormente, nell’ambiente in cui vivete, operatori di pace e testimoni autentici di Cristo. Vi accompagno con la mia Benedizione.

* * *

Anche a voi, carissimi ammalati, desidero porgere il mio saluto particolarmente affettuoso. Penso alle vostre sofferenze; penso soprattutto all’esempio di pazienza e di coraggio che continuate a donare. Sono convinto che il vostro sacrificio è tra le ricchezze più preziose della Chiesa; e vorrei che anche voi foste persuasi che quanto state vivendo, nel corpo e nello spirito, è straordinariamente fecondo per tutti. Sappiate che io prego per voi e chiedo al Signore che vi lasciate conformare pienamente al Cristo sofferente.

Benedico voi e tutte le persone che con dedizione vi assistono.

* * *

Un pensiero molto affettuoso, infine, ai carissimi sposi novelli presenti a questa Udienza. A tutti porgo felicitazioni sincere; per ognuno formulo fervidi auguri di ogni bene.

Sentite con voi e su di voi la presenza di Dio; sappiate vivere nell’amicizia del Signore che ha benedetto il vostro amore e lo ha reso indissolubile con il sacramento del matrimonio; siate convinti che solo nella preghiera quotidiana potrete attingere forza per la vostra vita cristiana e serenità di fronte a qualsiasi situazione. Vi benedico tutti di cuore.

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