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Responsible parenthood linked to moral maturity

121 (of 129) - Catechesis by John Paul II on the Theology of the Body
General Audience, Wednesday 5 September 1984 - in Italian, Portuguese & Spanish

"1. We have previously spoken of the right and lawful regulation of fertility according to the doctrine contained in the Encyclical Humanae Vitae (HV 19), and in the Exhortation Familiaris Consortio. The description of "natural," attributed to the morally correct regulation of fertility (following the natural rhythms, cf. HV 16), is explained by the fact that that manner of conduct corresponds to the truth of the person and therefore to his dignity. This dignity by "nature" belongs to man as a rational and free being. As a rational free being, man can and must reread with discernment that biological rhythm which belongs to the natural order. He can and must conform to it so as to exercise that responsible parenthood, which, according to the Creator's design, is inscribed in the natural order of human fecundity. The concept of a morally correct regulation of fertility is nothing other than the rereading of the language of the body in truth. The "natural rhythms immanent in the generative functions" pertain to the objective truth of that language, which the persons concerned should reread in its full objective content. It is necessary to bear in mind that the body speaks not merely with the whole external expression of masculinity and femininity, but also with the internal structures of the organism, of the somatic and psychosomatic reaction. All this should find its appropriate place in that language in which husband and wife dialogue with each other, as persons called to the communion of the union of the body.

2. All efforts directed to an ever more precise knowledge of those natural rhythms which are manifested in relation to human procreation, all efforts of family counselors and indeed of the couple themselves, are not aimed at making the language of the body merely biological (at reducing ethics to biology, as some have mistakenly held). But they are aimed exclusively at ensuring the integral truth of that language of the body in which husband and wife should express themselves in a mature way before the demands of responsible parenthood.

The Encyclical Humanae Vitae stresses several times that responsible parenthood is connected with a continual effort and commitment, and that it is put into effect at the cost of a precise self-denial (cf. HV 21). All these and other similar expressions show that in the case of responsible parenthood, or of a morally correct regulation of fertility, it is a question of the real good of human persons and of what corresponds to the true dignity of the person.

3. The use of the infertile periods for conjugal union can be an abuse if the couple, for unworthy reasons, seeks in this way to avoid having children, thus lowering the number of births in their family below the morally correct level. This morally correct level must be established by taking into account not only the good of one's own family, and even the state of health and the means of the couple themselves, but also the good of the society to which they belong, of the Church, and even of all mankind.

The Encyclical Humanae Vitae presents responsible parenthood as an expression of a high ethical value. In no way is it exclusively directed to limiting, much less excluding, children. It means also the willingness to accept a larger family. Above all, according to Humanae Vitae, responsible parenthood implies "a deeper relationship with the objective moral order instituted by God—the order of which a right conscience is the true interpreter" (HV 10).

4. The truth of responsible parenthood and its implementation is linked with the moral maturity of the person. Here, the divergence is very frequently revealed between what the encyclical explicitly regards as of primary importance and the general viewpoint on the subject.

The Encyclical places in relief the ethical dimension of the problem, by underlining the role of the virtue of temperance correctly understood. Within the scope of this dimension there is also an adequate method for acting. In the common viewpoint it often happens that the method, separated from the ethical dimension proper to it, is put into effect in a merely functional and even utilitarian way. By separating the natural method from the ethical dimension, one no longer sees the difference between it and the other methods (artificial means). One comes to the point of speaking of it as if it were only a different form of contraception.

5. From the point of view of the true doctrine expressed by the Encyclical Humanae Vitae, it is therefore important to present this method correctly, and the encyclical refers to this (cf. HV 16). Above all it is important to examine in depth the ethical dimension. For it is in reference to this that the method, as natural, acquires its significance as a morally correct, upright method. Therefore within the framework of the present analysis, it is fitting that we should turn our attention principally to what the encyclical states on the subject of self-mastery and on continence. Without a searching interpretation of that subject we shall not arrive either at the heart of the moral truth, or at the heart of the anthropological truth of the problem. It was already pointed out that the roots of this problem lie deep in the theology of the body. When it becomes, as it ought to, the pedagogy of the body, this constitutes in reality the morally right and lawful method of the regulation of births, understood in its deepest and fullest sense.

6. Later when describing the specifically moral values of the natural regulation of fertility (that is, lawful or morally right), the author of Humanae Vitae writes as follows: "This self-discipline...brings to family life abundant fruits of tranquillity and peace. It helps in solving difficulties of other kinds. It fosters in husband and wife thoughtfulness and loving consideration for each other. It helps them to repel the excessive self-love which is the opposite of charity. It arouses in them a consciousness of their responsibilities. And finally, it confers upon parents a deeper and more effective influence in the education of their children. For these latter, both in childhood and in youth, as years go by, develop a right sense of values as regards the true blessings of life and achieve a serene and harmonious use of their mental and physical powers" (HV 21).

7. The passage cited completes the picture of what the Encyclical Humanae Vitae means by "the right and lawful ordering of the births of children" (HV 21). As can be seen, this is not merely a mode of behavior in a specific field. It is an attitude which is based on the integral moral maturity of the persons and at the same time completes it."

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

Ai pellegrini provenienti dalla Francia

Chers Frères et Sœurs,

Au terme de cette réflexion partagée avec vous, je suis heureux de saluer les pèlerins de langue française et de les remercier pour l’attachement qu’ils manifestent au successeur de Pierre. Je salue en particulier les familles, les jeunes, les anciens et les malades.

A tous je souhaite que leur pèlerinage aux tombeaux des Apôtres soit une source d’inspiration pour leur participation à la vie de l’Eglise dans leur pays, pour leur dévouement a leurs taches diverses et leur fidélité a témoigner de l’Evangile.

Je salue particulièrement les Canadiens présents a Rome, en leur disant ma joie de me rendre dans leur pays d’ici quelques jours.

Ai gruppi di espressione inglese

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

i am happy to welcome all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors present at this audience. In particular, I greet the group of Marist Brothers taking part in a course of spiritual and apostolic renewal.

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My special greeting goes to the participants in the Third Scientific Consultation of the European Society for Ecumenical Research. You have met here in Rome to reflect on the continuity and renewal of the ecclesial confession of faith. A common witness to the apostolic faith is of great importance for the spreading of the Gospel. I pray that the Holy Spirit will assist you in your work.

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I also welcome the members of the European Society for Opinion and Marketing Research. May your days in Rome help you to discover new ways to serve the common good and to promote the welfare of the entire human community.

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My good wishes go also to the members of the folk dancing group "People-to-People Little Flowers" of Taiwan. I thank you for your presence here today and I ask God to bless you and your people.

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I am happy as well to greet the group of new seminarians at the North American College. I hope that your time in Rome will help you to grow in faith and in love for Christ and his Church.

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Finally, i welcome the Ukrainian pilgrims from Canada. In a few days I shall depart for Canada and I am looking forward to visiting the Ukrainian community in Winnipeg.

And to all of you who have joined me today from England, Ireland, Malta, Taiwan, Australia, Canada and the United States, I extend my special Apostolic Blessing.

Ai gruppi di pellegrini provenienti dal Giappone

Sia lodato Gesù Cristo!

Dilettissimi universitari della “Nanzan-University” e carissimi pellegrini del “Marian Center Rosary Tour”.

Vi ringrazio di cuore per avermi fatto visita durante questo vostro pellegrinaggio per la pace del mondo e l’amicizia fra i popoli.

Volentieri invoco su di voi la protezione della Madonna, affinché lo scopo che vi siete proposti ottenga il risultato sperato, mentre con tutto l’affetto vi imparto la mia Benedizione Apostolica.

Sia lodato Gesù Cristo!

Ad un gruppo tirolese

Liebe Bruder und Schwestern!

Nach dieser kurzen Zusammenfassung meiner eingehenderen Ausführungen in italienisch Grüße ich sehr herzlich alle heutigen deutschsprachigen Audienzteilnehmer: jeden einzelnen und alle Gruppen. Unter diesen als zahlenmäßig größte, namentlich die Pilgergruppe der Katholischen Männerbewegung der Steiermark, die Kursteilnehmer in Rocca di Papa aus den Diözesen Salzburg und Feldkirch sowie die Pilgergruppe der katholischen Frauengemeinschaft des Diözesanverbandes Essen.

Einen besonderen Willkommensgruß richte ich an den Pilgerzug aus der Diözese Trier zusammen mit Bischof Hermann Josef Spital anläßlich des 50jährigen Bestehens des Bistumsblattes ”Paulinus“. Ich beglückwünsche die Diözese, Redaktion und Verlag sowie alle Leser zu diesem Jubiläum. Diese Zeitung hat in den vergangenen Jahrzehnten wesentlich dazu beigetragen, die Menschen in der Kirche von Trier einander näher zu bringen; sie hat sie im Glauben gestärkt und ihnen Mut gemacht zu einem Leben aus dem Evangelium. Möge diese Jubiläumswallfahrt in die Ewige Stadt alle Verantwortlichen und Mitwirkenden in ihrem wichtigen Presseapostolat bestärken und neu ermutigen! Ihnen und der ganzen Lesergemeinde des ”Paulinus“ sowie allen hier anwesenden deutschsprachigen Pilgern erteile ich für Gottes steten Schutz und Beistand von Herzen meinen besonderen Apostolischen Segen.

Ai gruppi di lingua spagnola

Queridos hermanos y hermanas,

Saludo ahora cordialmente a todas las personas y grupos venidos de diversas partes de España. Un saludo especial dirijo a los Misioneros Claretianos que celebran un seminario sobre sus misiones. Reservo una particular acogida a la numerosa peregrinación de Costa Rica que lleva a Tierra Santa la imagen de su Patrona, Nuestra Señora de los Angeles. Y saludo asimismo al grupo Fundación Padre Pío, de Caracas, y a los peregrinos venidos del Ecuador. A todos bendigo de corazón.

Ai fedeli di lingua portoghese

Queridos irmãos e irmãs de língua portuguesa,

Sem preterir ninguém na muita estima em Cristo por todos, saúdo:

- os grupos de peregrinos, bem numerosos, vindos do Brasil, de São Paulo, de Porto Alegre e do Rio de Janeiro. No vosso calor humano revivo, gratamente, a visita a estas cidades; e em vós e por vós desejo aos queridos brasileiros tudo de bom, no amor de Deus;

- um grupo especializado, também do Brasil: os integrantes do “team” de futebol do “Sport Club Corinthians Paulista”. Que sejais felizes! E que, sendo esportistas e homens a cem por cento, sejais sempre mensageiros de humanidade, amor e alegria, como Deus quer!;

- ao grupo de Portugal, da paróquia de São João da Madeira: que o peregrinar a Roma vos fortaleça na fé e ilumine de esperança cristã os vossos caminhos, em fidelidade a Deus e aos homens-irmãos.

Levai saudades e uma bênção do Papa aos que vos são queridos.

Ai fedeli provenienti dalla Polonia

Pozdrawiam wszystkich obecnych: pielgrzymkę z Gdyni, z parafii Najświętszego Serca Pana Jezusa; z Bydgoszczy, z parafii Matki Boskiej Częstochowskiej; pielgrzymkę salezjańską laikatu z Lądu nad Wartą; pielgrzymkę Szczecińskiego Klubu Katolików; pielgrzymkę młodzieży od ojców Reformatów z Krakowa w drodze do Lourdes; pielgrzymkę głuchoniemych z diecezji tarnowskiej z ich opiekunem, ks. Adamem Nowakiem; pielgrzymkę akademickiego studium rodzin z kościoła św. Anny w Warszawie; z Wrocławia z parafii św. Maksymiliana; z Dzierżoniowa z parafii Matki Kościoła; pielgrzymkę ruchu “Chrystus, Komunia, Wyzwolenie”; pielgrzymkę rowerową duszpasterstwa akademickiego z Gdańska; grupę instruktorów harcerstwa z Krakowa; grupę studentów Almaturu; grupę kolejarzy z Rzeszowa; kolejarzy z Lublina; grupę nauczycieli Logostur z Warszawy i Krakowa; grupy turystyczne - PKS z Warszawy, Gdańska, Krakowa; “Orbis” z całej Polski, “Turysta” z całej Polski oraz indywidualnych pielgrzymów zarówno z Polski, jak i z emigracji ( . . .) Módlmy się za nasze małżeństwa i rodziny, ażeby były wierne Prawu Bożemu. Niech Bóg błogosławi wszystkich was, drodzy pielgrzymi, jako też wszystkich rodaków w Ojczyźnie i na emigracji.

Ai fedeli italiani

Desidero salutare anche tutti i Gruppi di lingua italiana, presenti a questa Udienza: i pellegrinaggi diocesani, quelli parrocchiali; i singoli fedeli, i sacerdoti e i religiosi, che li accompagnano.

In particolare, rivolgo il mio pensiero ai superiori e agli alunni del Seminario Minore di Bergamo e ai loro familiari; agli alunni della Terza Classe Media del Seminario Vescovile di Vicenza; al gruppo dei sacerdoti e religiosi appartenenti alla “Piccola Opera della Divina Provvidenza”, fondata dal Beato Don Orione, e provenienti da diversi Paesi del mondo.

Nell’esprimere a voi tutti il mio compiacimento, faccio voti che il vostro pellegrinaggio alla Sede di San Pietro sia sprone per un maggiore, costante impegno nella generosa risposta alla chiamata di Gesù ad una vita sempre più aderente al suo messaggio di donazione a Dio ed ai fratelli.

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Il mio saluto affettuoso si rivolge ora ai numerosi pellegrini della diocesi di Chiavari, i quali, insieme con il loro Vescovo Monsignor Daniele Ferrari, hanno voluto trasportare a Roma la preziosa e venerata Icona di Nostra Signora dell’Orto, Patrona della Città e della Diocesi.

Cari Fratelli e Sorelle di Chiavari! Affido al cuore materno di Maria Santissima, per la quale voi nutrite una tenera e forte devozione, il vostro Pastore, il clero, i religiosi, le religiose, tutti i fedeli della diocesi, i pellegrini presenti, tra i quali mi piace ricordare le Suore Gianelline e i benemeriti Ortolani con le loro famiglie!

A tutti la mia Benedizione Apostolica.

* * *

Saluto ora i ragazzi e i giovani, presenti in questa piazza. Carissimi, il periodo delle vacanze sta volgendo al termine. Molti di voi hanno avuto la possibilità di viaggiare, di ammirare quanto la grandezza e la mano provvida del Signore hanno generosamente donato all’uomo, di intessere nuove e gratificanti amicizie. Tali esperienze, dopo aver reso più ricco il patrimonio della vostra cultura, più matura la vostra personalità, più intense le trame dei vostri affetti, divengano ora stimolo per un impegno di gioiosa testimonianza nel mondo odierno.

Sono accanto a voi con la mia preghiera, e di cuore vi benedico.

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Intendo poi rivolgere il mio saluto più affettuoso a tutti gli ammalati qui presenti. Carissimi, la sofferenza dell’uomo non è inutile né assurda, ma, unita a quella di Cristo, è garanzia e certezza di premio e di risurrezione.

Vorrei invitarvi ad offrire le vostre sofferenze e le vostre preghiere per la Chiesa.

In particolare, vi invito a pregare perché apporti copiosi frutti di bene il Congresso Eucaristico Nazionale Croato, che avrà luogo Sabato e Domenica prossima in Jugoslavia, presso il Santuario di Marija Bistrica nell’Arcidiocesi di Zagabria.

Vi ricordo ogni giorno nella celebrazione eucaristica, e vi dono il conforto della mia Benedizione.

* * *

Rivolgo poi un caloroso augurio alle numerose coppie di sposi novelli che, sostando nella Città eterna, hanno voluto dare un significato particolare di fede al loro viaggio di nozze.

Carissimi, la promessa che vi siete recentemente scambiati davanti all’altare, vi ha abilitato, mediante la grazia sacramentale, ad essere testimoni di un amore che sgorga dall’impegno quotidiano di fedeltà, di mutuo rispetto, di donazione reciproca, di disponibilità al volere di Dio nel trasmettere la vita.

Camminando uniti a Cristo, attraverso la preghiera quotidiana, saprete quindi vincere ogni tentazione di egoismo, di divisione, vivendo la regalità vera di Figli di Dio, che rende liberi.

Tornando ora nelle vostre nuove case, portate con voi la mia Benedizione.

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