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Continence Frees One from Inner Tension

125 (of 129) - Catechesis by John Paul II on the Theology of the Body
General Audience, Wednesday 31 October 1984 - in Italian & Spanish

"1. We are continuing the analysis of continence in the light of the teaching contained in Humanae Vitae. It is often thought that continence causes inner tensions which man must free himself from. In the light of the analyses we have done, continence, understood integrally, is rather the only way to free man from such tensions. It means nothing other than the spiritual effort aimed at expressing the "language of the body," not only in truth but also in the authentic richness of the manifestations of affection.

2. Is this effort possible? In other words (and under another aspect) the question returns here about the feasibility of the moral law, recalled and confirmed by Humanae Vitae. It constitutes one of the most essential questions (and currently also one of the most urgent ones) in the sphere of the spirituality of marriage.

The Church is totally convinced of the correctness of the principle that affirms responsible fatherhood and motherhood, in the sense explained in previous catecheses. This is not only for demographic reasons but for more essential reasons. We call that fatherhood and that motherhood responsible which correspond to the personal dignity of the couple as parents, to the truth of their person and of the conjugal act. Hence arises the close and direct relationship that links this dimension with the whole spirituality of marriage.

Pope Paul VI, in Humanae Vitae, expressed what had been affirmed elsewhere by many authoritative moralists and scientists, even non-Catholics(1), namely, that precisely in this field, so profoundly and essentially human and personal, it is necessary above all to refer to man as a person, the subject who decides by himself, and not to means which make him the object (of manipulations) and depersonalize him. It is therefore a question here of an authentically humanistic meaning of the development and progress of human civilization.

3. Is this effort possible? The whole question of the Encyclical Humanae Vitae is not reduced simply to the biological dimension of human fertility (the question of the "natural cycles of fertility"), but goes back to the very subjectivity of man, to that personal "I" through which the person is man or woman.

Already during the discussion in the Second Vatican Council, in relation to the chapter of Gaudium et Spes on the "Dignity of Marriage and the Family and its Promotion," the necessity was discussed for a deepened analysis of the reactions (and also of the emotions) connected with the mutual influence of masculinity and femininity on the human subject.(2) This question belongs not so much to biology as to psychology. From biology and psychology it then passes into the sphere of the spirituality of marriage and the family. Here this question is in close relationship with the way of understanding the virtue of continence, that is, self-mastery and especially of periodic continence.

4. A careful analysis of human psychology allows us to arrive at some other essential affirmations. (Psychology is at the same time a subjective self-analysis and then becomes an analysis of an "object" accessible to human knowledge.) In interpersonal relationships in which the mutual influence of masculinity and femininity is expressed, there is freed in the psycho-emotive subject in the human "I," alongside a reaction distinguishable as excitement, another reaction that can and must be called emotion. Although these two kinds of reaction appear joined, it is possible to distinguish them experimentally and to differentiate them with regard to their content or their object.(3)

The objective difference between the one and the other kind of reaction consists in the fact that the excitement is above all corporeal and in this sense sensual. On the other hand, even though aroused by the mutual reaction of masculinity and femininity, emotion refers above all to the other person understood in the person's integrality. We can say that this is an emotion caused by the person, in relation to the person's masculinity or femininity.

5. What we are stating here with regard to the psychology of the mutual reactions of masculinity and femininity helps in understanding the role of the virtue of continence, which we spoke about previously. Continence is not only—and not even principally—the ability to abstain, that is, mastery over the multiple reactions that are interwoven in the mutual influence of masculinity and femininity. Such a role would be defined as negative. But there is also another role (which we can call positive) of self-mastery. It is the ability to direct the respective reactions, both as to their content and their character.

It has already been said that in the field of the mutual reactions of masculinity and femininity, excitement and emotion appear not only as two distinct and different experiences of the human "I." But very often they appear joined in the sphere of the same experience as two different elements of that experience. The reciprocal degree to which these two elements appear in a given experience depends on various circumstances of an interior and an exterior nature. At times one of the elements is clearly prevalent; at other times there is rather a balance between them.

6. As the ability to direct excitement and emotion in the sphere of the mutual influence of masculinity and femininity, continence has the essential task to maintain the balance between the communion in which the couple wish to mutually express only their intimate union and that in which (at least implicitly) they accept responsible parenthood. In fact, on the part of the subject, excitement and emotion can jeopardize the orientation and the character of the mutual language of the body.

Excitement seeks above all to be expressed in the form of sensual and corporeal pleasure. That is, it tends toward the conjugal act which (depending on the natural cycles of fertility) includes the possibility of procreation. Emotion, on the other hand, caused by another human being as a person, even if in its emotive content it is conditioned by the femininity or masculinity of the "other," does not per se tend toward the conjugal act. But it limits itself to other manifestations of affection, which express the spousal meaning of the body, and which nevertheless do not include its (potentially) procreative meaning.

It is easy to understand what consequences arise from this with respect to the question of responsible fatherhood and motherhood. These
consequences are of a moral nature."

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

Ai pellegrini di lingua tedesca

Liebe Brüder und Schwestern!

Nach diesen kurzen Überlegungen grüße ich noch besonders herzlich die große Pilgergruppe der Kirchenchöre des Cäcilienverbandes der Erzdiözese Freiburg unter der Leitung des Herrn Weihbischofs Karl Gnädinger, alle übrigen anwesenden Kirchenchöre sowie das Sinfonieorchester und den Jugendchor des Robert Schumann-Gymnasiums in Dillingen/Saar. Die Musik, die als solche den Menschen innerlich erhebt, wird in der Liturgie in einer besonderen Weise Teil und Ausdrucksform des Lobpreises Gottes der betenden Gemeinde. Euer Gesang selbst wird zum Gottesdienst. Schenkt ihm deshalb nicht nur eure Stimmen, sondern auch euer Herz und laßt auch euer Leben selbst stets mit darin einklingen.

Ferner richte ich einen aufrichtigen Willkommensgruß an die Teilnehmer der Romreise der Kirchenzeitung für das Bistum Aachen und der katholischen Familienzeitschrift ”Leben und Erziehen“. Gern ermutige ich ihre verantwortlichen Herausgeber und deren Lesergemeinden zur vertrauensvollen Zusammenarbeit für ein immer wirksameres Presseapostolat in den Familien und Gemeinden. Möge dadurch der Glaube vertieft und das gemeinsame Zeugnis für Christus und die Kirche immer kraftvoller und überzeugender werden.

Schließlich begrüße ich noch herzlich den Sonderzug der Katholischen Arbeitnehmer-Bewegung Westdeutschlands. Ich freue mich über euer Kommen als Ausdruck eurer Treue zu Christus in der Welt der Arbeit. Christus, der durch seiner eigenen Hände Arbeit in Nazaret die menschliche Arbeit geheiligt hat, ist stets an eurer Seite. Heiligt ihr mit ihm eure tägliche Arbeit, steht in christlicher Solidarität zu euren Kollegen am gleichen Arbeitsplatz und tragt vor allem Sorge für diejenigen, die ohne Arbeit sind, besonders die Jugendlichen. Wißt, daß die Kirche euch stets nahe ist und in ihrer Soziallehre eure berechtigten Sorgen und Anliegen würdigt und verteidigt.

Von Herzen erteile ich euch und allen hier anwesenden Pilgern und Besuchern aus den deutschsprachigen Ländern für Gottes bleibenden Schutz und Beistand meinen besonderen Apostolischen Segen.

Ai fedeli di lingua inglese

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

i extend warm greetings to the new students of the Venerable English College. As you begin your studies for the priesthood here in Rome, I pray that the love of Christ will grow ever stronger in your hearts through faithfulness to prayer and diligent study of God’s word. May God’s grace sustain you, and I ask God’s special blessing, too, upon the Sisters of Mercy who have recently come to work at the College.

It is a joy to welcome the group of priests and religious from Indonesia. Your presence here today reminds me of the Four Hundred and Fiftieth Anniversary of Evangelization in your country, which you recently celebrated. I assure you of my prayers as you continue the vital task of proclaiming the Gospel of salvation. May God’s Kingdom of justice and peace ever flourish in your land.

I offer a special word of welcome to the pilgrims from India, and I greet all the English-speaking visitors who are present at this audience. May the Lord bless you all.

A Buddisti giapponesi

Dilettissimi membri della Etsumikyokai di Tenrikyo, Vi ringrazio di cuore per essere venuti a trovarmi qui in Vaticano.

Collaboriamo insieme per la pace nel mondo, con la preghiera e con l’azione sociale.

Di nuovo vi ringrazio per la vostra visita. E portate il mio saluto a tutti i giapponesi.

Ai pellegrini di espressione spagnola

Queridos hermanos y hermanas,

y ahora, deso dirigir mi saludo cordial a todos los peregrinos de lengua española provenientes de los diversos países de América Latina y de España. Y en especial a los componentes del grupo numeroso venido a Roma para agradecer mi reciente visita a España. Vaya a todos los hispanohablantes, junto con mi recuerdo en la oración, mi afectuosa Bendición Apostólica.

Ai fedeli polacchi

Pozdrawiam pielgrzymóz parafii św. Szczepana w Krakowie; z parafii Matki Bożej Fatimskiej z Tarnowa; z parafii św. Antoniego ojców Franciszkanów we Wrocławiu; pielgrzymkę katedralną z Poznania; grupę kolejarzy z Katowic; indywidualnych pielgrzymów oraz grupy turystyczne Orbisu, Sport-Touristu, Turysty i PTTK.

W perspektywie uroczystości Wszystkich więtych oraz Dnia Zadusnego, myśli moje podążają - wraz z wami, drodzy pielgrzymi z Polski, oraz wszyscy drodzy Rodacy - na te rozliczne cmentarze, na których spoczywają nasi bliscy. Wiele tych cmentarzy jest na ziemi polskiej, wiele poza Ojczyzną.

Wszystkich, którzy na nich spoczywają, ogarniamy wiarą, nadzieją i modlitwą do Tego, który jest “Ojcem przyszłego wieku” - do Tego, “dla którego wszystko żyje”.

Włączamy w naszą modlitwę w szczególności osobę tego Kapłana, którego śmierć wstrząsnęla opinią i sumieniem ludzi w Polsce i na całym świecie. Choć w ludzkim rozumieniu doznał on kaźni, nadzieja nasza pełna jest nieśmiertelności. Oddajmy mu ostatnią posługę z chrześcijańską godnością i spokojem. Pragnę w obliczu tej śmierci przypomnieć słowa wypowiedziane w Warszawie podczas ostatniej pielgrzymki: “Chrześcijanin powołany jest w Jezusie Chrystusie do zwycięstwa. Zwycięstwo takie nieodłączne jest od trudu, od cierpienia, tak jak Zmartwychwstanie Chrystusa jest nieodłączne od Krzyża.

A zwycięył już dziś - choćby leżał na ziemy (przytaczam słowa Kardynała Stefana Wyszyńskiego) - ten, kto jak Chrystus oddaje serce swoje, a nawet życie za braci” (24-6-1966 r.).

Vivit Victor sub gladio . . .

Oddajmy ostatnią posługę księdzu Jerzemu Popiełuszce z chrześcijańską godnością i pokojem. Niech wielka moralna wymowa tej śmierci nie zostanie niczym zakłócona ani przesłoniona.

Ai pellegrini italiani

Il mio affettuoso saluto a tutti i gruppi e associazioni di lingua italiana, presenti a questa Udienza. In particolare desidero rivolgermi ai membri del pellegrinaggio della parrocchia di Santa Maria delle Grazie di Afragola, arcidiocesi di Napoli, i quali hanno portato la venerata effigie della Madonna, che avrò la gioia di benedire e di incoronare.

Vi esprimo, carissimi fratelli e sorelle, il mio vivo compiacimento ed affido tutti voi e i fedeli di Afragola al materno patrocinio della Vergine Santissima.

* * *

Il mio pensiero va anche alle Religiose ed ai gruppi del Movimento Eucaristico Riparatore delle Suore del patrocinio di San Giuseppe, presenti a Roma per la chiusura del primo centenario della morte della fondatrice, Madre Victorine Le Dieu de la Ruaudière, la quale coltivò e diffuse una profonda devozione al Santissimo Sacramento e realizzò una feconda opera caritativa a favore dei ragazzi poveri, orfani o abbandonati.

Con l’auspicio che il carisma della Madre Victorine animi sempre la vostra vita, invoco sulle vostre persone e sulle vostre attività l’effusione dei doni celesti.

Con la mia Benedizione Apostolica.

* * *

Saluto carissimi giovani! Alla vigilia della Solennità liturgica di Tutti i Santi il saluto, che vi porgo con grande affetto, è unito alla viva esortazione di riflettere sulla vocazione alla santità. Infatti, il Signore ci ha creati intelligenti e liberi perché vuole il nostro amore totale ed esclusivo, e perciò - dice il Concilio Vaticano II - “tutti i fedeli di qualsiasi stato o grado sono chiamati alla pienezza della vita cristiana ed alla perfezione della carità” (Lumen Gentium, 40).

Anche per voi risplenda dunque sempre questo sublime ideale! I Santi, che sono già in Paradiso, vi sono di esempio ed intercedono per voi, affinché camminiate con coraggio e con gioia nella via della vostra santificazione! Vi sia di aiuto anche la mia Benedizione.

* * *

Saluto cordialmente anche voi, carissimi malati, insieme con i vostri parenti ed accompagnatori, e a vostro conforto ed incoraggiamento addito i Santi, che godono già in Paradiso la stessa felicità di Dio. La certezza dell’eterna gioia ci dà forza morale per accettare con pazienza e rassegnazione le sofferenze della vita. Vi auguro che la Solennità di Tutti i Santi, a cui ci prepariamo con fervore, porti ad ognuno di voi copiosi doni di serenità e di fiducia! E vi accompagni sempre la mia Benedizione.

* * *

Infine, ricevete anche voi il mio cordiale saluto, carissimi sposi novelli, che vi porgo con l’augurio più affettuoso per la nuova vita, che avete iniziato! La missione di genitori e di educatori che vi attende è stupenda ed impegnativa: Dio vuole per mezzo vostro creare dei Santi, che lo amino in terra e lo godano per sempre in Cielo. Accettate con consapevolezza questa meta sublime; e la devozione ai Santi, particolarmente a quelli di cui portate il nome, vi sia di conforto e di stimolo alla generosità. Con questi voti, benedico di cuore voi e i vostri propositi!

Nel corso dell’udienza generale, il Santo Padre ricorda nell’Aula “Paolo VI”, alla presenza di numerosi pellegrini italiani ed esteri, la tragica morte di Indira Gandhi e del sacerdote polacco P. Jerzy Popieluszko, con le seguenti parole.

Ancora un grave gesto di violenza ha scosso stamane l’opinione pubblica: la Signora Indira Gandhi, Primo Ministro dell’India, è caduta vittima di un attentato. Un nuovo, tristissimo anello si aggiunge alla catena di atrocità che insanguina il mondo, suscitando in tutti orrore e sgomento. Nell’esprimere la mia profonda deplorazione per l’atto criminoso, desidero manifestare la mia sincera partecipazione al dolore dei familiari ed alla costernazione della grande Nazione indiana, alla quale mi sento particolarmente vicino in questo momento difficile, auspicando che sappia affrontare con la dignità e saggezza che le sono proprie questa dura prova.

Affido alla misericordia di Dio Onnipotente lo spirito della Signora Gandhi ed invito anche voi ad unirvi con me nella preghiera.

1) Cf., for example, the statements of the "Bund fur evangelisch-katholische Wiedervereinigung" (L'O.R., 19-9-1968, p. 3); Dr. F. King, Anglican (L'O.R., October 5-10-1968, p. 3); and also the Muslim, Mr. Mohammed Cherif Zeghoudu (in the same issue). Especially significant is the letter written on November 28, 1968, to Cardinal Cicognani by Karl Barth, in which he praised the great courage of Paul VI.

2) Cf. the interventions by Card. Leo Suenens at the 13th General Congregation on September 29, 1968: Acta Synodalia S. Concilii Oecumenici Vaticani II, vol. 4, part 3, p. 30.

3) In this regard we should recall what St. Thomas says in a final analysis of human love in relation to the "concupiscible" and to the will (cf. Summa Theologiae, I-II, q. 26, art. 2).

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