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The Importance of Harmonizing Human Love with Respect for Life

116 (of 129) - Catechesis by John Paul II on the Theology of the Body
General Audience, Wednesday 25 July 1984 - in Italian, Portuguese & Spanish

"1. Today we continue our reflections which are directed toward linking the Encyclical Humanae Vitae to our whole treatment of the theology of the body.

This encyclical is not limited to recalling the moral norm concerning conjugal life, reconfirming this norm in the face of new circumstances. In making a pronouncement with the authentic Magisterium through the encyclical (1968), Paul VI had before his eyes the authoritative statement of the Second Vatican Council contained in the Constitution Gaudium et Spes (1965).

The Encyclical is not only found to be along the lines of the Council's teaching. It also constitutes the development and completion of the questions contained there, especially regarding the question of the "harmony of human love with respect for life." On this point, we read the following words in Gaudium et Spes: "The Church issues the reminder that a true contradiction cannot exist between the divine laws pertaining to the transmission of life and those pertaining to the fostering of authentic conjugal love" (GS 51).

2. The pastoral constitution of Vatican II excludes any true contradiction whatsoever in the normative order. On his part Paul VI confirms this order by seeking at the same time to shed light on that "non-contradiction," and thus to justify the respective moral norm by demonstrating its conformity to reason.

Nevertheless, Humanae Vitae speaks not so much of the non-contradiction in the normative order as of the inseparable connection between the transmission of life and authentic marital love. It speaks from the point of view of the "two significances of the conjugal act: the unitive significance and the procreative significance" (HV 12), which we have already dealt with.

3. We could pause for some time here analyzing the norm itself, but the character of both documents leads rather to reflections that are at least indirectly pastoral. In fact, Gaudium et Spes is a pastoral constitution, and Paul VI's encyclical—with its doctrinal value—tends to have the same orientation. It is intended to be a response to the questions of modern man. These questions are of a demographic nature, and consequently of a socioeconomic and political nature, in relation to the population increase throughout the world. These questions begin from the field of particular sciences, and at the same rate are questions of modern moralists (theologians-moralists). They are above all questions of spouses which are already found at the center of attention in the conciliar constitution and are taken up again in the encyclical with all desirable precision. In fact, we read there: "Granted the conditions of life today and taking into account the relevance of married love to the harmony and mutual fidelity of husband and wife, would it not be right to review the moral norms in force till now, especially when it is felt that these can be observed only with the gravest difficulty, sometimes only by heroic effort?" (HV 3)

4. In the above text it is evident with what solicitude the encyclical's author tries to face the questions of modern man in all their import. The relevance of these questions presupposes a response that is proportionately thought out and profound. Therefore, if on the one hand it is right to expect a keenly sensitive treatment of the norm, on the other hand it can also be expected that no small weight be given to the pastoral arguments. These more directly concern the life of man in the concrete, of precisely those who are posing the questions mentioned in the beginning.

Paul VI always had these people before his eyes. The following passage of Humanae Vitae is evidence of this, among other things: "The teaching of the Church regarding the right ordering of the increase of a man's family is a promulgation of the law of God himself. And yet there is no doubt that to many it may appear not merely difficult but even impossible to observe. Now it is true that like all good things which are outstanding for their nobility and for the benefits which they confer on men, so this law demands from individual men and women, from families and from human society a resolute purpose and great endurance. Indeed it cannot be observed unless God comes to their help with that grace by which the good will of men is sustained and strengthened. But to those who consider this matter diligently it will indeed be evident that this endurance enhances man's dignity and confers benefits on human society" (HV 20).

5. At this point there is no more mention of the normative non-contradiction, but rather of the "possibility of observing the divine law," that is, of an argument that is at least indirectly pastoral. The fact that the law must be possible to observe belongs directly to the very nature of law and is therefore included in the framework of the normative non-contradiction. Nevertheless the possibility, understood as the feasibility of the norm, belongs also to the practical and pastoral sphere. In the text quoted, my predecessor speaks precisely from this point of view.

6. We can here arrive at a consideration of the fact that the whole biblical background, called the theology of the body, offers us, even though indirectly, the confirmation of the truth of the moral norm contained in Humanae Vitae, prepares us to consider more deeply the practical and pastoral aspects of the problem in its entirety. Were not the principles and general presuppositions of the theology of the body all taken from the answers Christ gave to the questions of his actual audience? And are not Paul's texts—as, for example, in the Letter to the Corinthians—a small manual on the problems of the moral life of Christ's first followers? In these texts we certainly find that rule of understanding which seems so indispensable in the face of the problems treated in Humanae Vitae and which is present in this Encyclical.

Whoever believes that the Council and the Encyclical do not sufficiently take into account the difficulties present in concrete life does not understand the pastoral concern that was at the origin of those documents. Pastoral concern means the search for the true good of man, a promotion of the values engraved in his person by God. That is, it means observing that rule of understanding which is directed to the ever clearer discovery of God's plan for human love, in the certitude that the only true good of the human person consists in fulfilling this divine plan.

One could say that, precisely in the name of the aforementioned rule of understanding, the Council posed the question of the "harmony of human love with respect for life" (GS 51). Humanae Vitae then not only recalls the moral norms that are binding in this area, but is also fully concerned with the problem of the possibility of observing the divine law.

The present reflections on the nature of the document Humanae Vitae prepare us to deal then with the theme of responsible parenthood."

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

Ai fedeli di espressione francese

Je suis heureux d’accueillir ici les personnes et les groupes de langue française, auxquels je souhaite les joies de saines vacances et la grâce de relations plus vivantes avec le Seigneur si proche de nous, et avec son Eglise, représentée ici dans son universalité. De tout cœur je vous bénis.

A vari pellegrinaggi provenienti da aree anglofone

I wish to welcome all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors present at the audience today. In a special way, I would like to greet:

- the pilgrim groups from Australia, Indonesia and Nigeria;

- the group of sick and handicapped people who have come from Malta;

- the group of young people from the "Children International Summer Village";

- the participants of the Thirty-seventh Congress of the Inter-Allied Federation of Reserve Officers, and the Thirty-eighth Congress of the Inter-Allied Federation of Medical Reserve Officers;

- and the group of foreign refugees living at Ladispoli, Italy.

I pray that the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ will fill your hearts with joy and peace. God bless you all.

Ai fedeli di lingua tedesca

Von herzen grüße ich alle deutschsprachigen Teilnehmer an dieser Audienz. Mit besten Ferienwünschen erbitte ich euch Gottes ständigen Schutz und Beistand mit meinem besonderen Apostolischen Segen.

Ai fedeli provenienti da Paesi di lingua spagnola

Y ahora un cordial saludo a las personas y grupos de lengua española presentes en esta audiencia. En especial a las Religiosas, entre ellas las del Amor Misericordioso, y a los grupos venidos de Murcia y de otras ciudades de España. También a los peregrinos de Tampico y de otras partes de México, así como a los procedentes del Ecuador y de los demás Países de América Latina. A todos os bendigo de corazón.

Ai fedeli di lingua portoghese

Quero saudar, agora, um numeroso e selecto grupo de Juristas do Brasil, de passagem em Roma: desejo-vos felicidades e que Deus ilumine sempre os caminhos da vossa vida e actividade. -me grata a vossa presença. Sois intérpretes e, de alguma maneira, garantes das leis: tarefa delicada, mas importante. Que vos guiem sempre pensamentos de paz, amor e fraternidade, no vosso agir, a serviço da dignidade e do maior bem da pessoa humana, na salvaguarda do bem comum. E que Deus vos abençoe!

Ad alcuni gruppi giovanili ucraini

Saluto cordialmente i gruppi giovanili ucraini provenienti dagli Stati Uniti, dal Canada e dalla Polonia.

Li benedico paternamente insieme con tutti i loro cari.

Sia lodato Gesù Cristo.

L’amnistia in Polonia diventi un elemento del rinnovamento sociale

Pragnę dzisiaj przypomnieć słowa, jakie wypowiedziałem w dniu 17 czerwca 1983 roku w Belwederze: “Odnowa jest nieodzowna dla podtrzymania dobrego imienia Polski w świecie, jako też dla wyjścia z wewnętrznego kryzysu i dla zaoszczędzenia cierpień wielu synów i córek Narodu”.

Dzisiaj powtarzam te słowa w związku z ogłoszoną w Polsce amnestią.

Pragnę, aby stała się ona elementem “odnowy społecznej według zasad wypracowanych w takim trudzie w przełomowych dniach sierpnia 1980 roku i zawartych w porozumieniach”.

Wiem, że Episkopat Polski stale czyni niestrudzone wysiłki, ażeby głoszona przez Kościół zasada dialogu mogła stać się owocną podstawą zarówno pokoju wewnętrznego, jak też “dobrej współpracy” pomiędzy Polską a innymi narodami Europy i świata.

Ojczyznę moją i wszystkich Rodaków polecam Matce Jasnogórskiej oraz świętym Patronom Polski.

Witam serdecznie pielgrzymów z Krakowa, z Woli Duchackiej, z Wieliczki - z parafii św. Klemensa, z Dębicy - z diecezji tarnowskiej, z okolic Rzeszowa, z diecezji przemyskiej - Boguchwała, pielgrzymkę rowerową ze Świętochłowic - diecezja katowicka, także pielgrzymkę rowerową Klubu Inteligencji Katolickiej z Poznania oraz rowerową pielgrzymkę z Gdyni - diecezja chełmińska, grupę “Orbisu” z całej Polski, grupę PKS z Warszawy i całej Polski, pielgrzymów indywidualnych z Polski oraz z emigracji, w szczególności z Belgii, z Libii i Stanów Zjednoczonych.

Traduzione italiana del saluto rivolto dal Pontefice ai pellegrini polacchi

Desidero oggi ricordare le parole che ho pronunciato il 17 giugno 1983 al palazzo Belvedere di Varsavia:

il “rinnovamento è indispensabile per mantenere il buon nome della Polonia nel mondo, come pure per uscire dalla crisi interna e per risparmiare le sofferenze di tanti figli e di tante figlie della nazione”.

Ripeto oggi queste parole in relazione all’amnistia proclamata in Polonia.

Auspico che tale amnistia diventi un elemento del “rinnovamento sociale . . . secondo i principi elaborati con tanta fatica nei giorni critici dell’agosto 1980 e contenuti negli accordi”.

So che l’episcopato della Polonia fa costantemente sforzi instancabili, affinché il principio del dialogo, annunziato dalla Chiesa, possa diventare un fondamento fruttuoso della pace interna, come anche della “buona collaborazione” tra la Polonia e le altre nazioni dell’Europa e del mondo.

Raccomando la mia patria e tutti i connazionali alla Madre di Jasna Gora e ai santi patroni della Polonia.

Ai gruppi di lingua italiana

Rivolgo ora il mio saluto a tutti i pellegrini di lingua italiana, e li ringrazio per la loro presenza.

In particolare, desidero menzionare il “Gruppo Sportivo Fanini-Wührer-Sibicar”, con l’augurio che i suoi dirigenti e componenti ottengano meritate affermazioni nelle fare agonistiche, ma soprattutto nel campo della loro vita spirituale, dimostrando sempre una chiara coerenza con la loro fede cristiana.

* * *

Ricordo anche i partecipanti al corso per animatori ed animatrici vocazionali, organizzato dal Centro di Spiritualità “Rogate”. Nell’esprimervi il mio sincero compiacimento per tale importante iniziativa di carattere ecclesiale, auspico che il vostro zelo ottenga i frutti sperati, e che molti ragazzi, in numero crescente, sappiano rispondere generosamente alla chiamata di Gesù.

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Sono poi presenti a questa Udienza le Missionarie del Sacro Cuore di Gesù, fondate da Santa Francesca Saverio Cabrini, e le Figlie di Nostra Signora al Monte Calvario, che in questo periodo stanno svolgendo i lavori dei rispettivi Capitoli Generali. E’ questo, carissime Sorelle in Cristo, un tempo privilegiato e carico di responsabilità per le vostre Congregazioni Religiose; tempo di meditazione, di studio, di preghiera, ma specialmente tempo di impegnative scelte per la vita e il dinamismo interiore dei vostri Istituti. Siate profondamente fedeli al carisma originario e date al mondo contemporaneo una efficace testimonianza della vostra gioiosa e totale donazione a Dio! La mia Benedizione Apostolica vi accompagni sempre!

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Mi rivolgo poi ai giovani qui convenuti da più Paesi, per incontrarsi col Papa presso le memorie di Pietro! Carissimi, le strade che voi e tanti vostri coetanei percorrete con fatica ed entusiasmo, in questo periodo estivo, nei luoghi più suggestivi, siano un invito continuo a vivere le esperienze più belle della giovinezza, tenendo sempre la mente e il cuore orientati a Cristo, meta suprema del cammino della vita.

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Una affettuoso saluto anche a voi carissimi ammalati, venuti a Roma per vivere una esperienza salutare di fede, nei luoghi del martirio dei Santi Apostoli Pietro e Paolo.

Vi auguro di tornare alle vostre case rinfrancati nella salute e nello spirito, affinché questo pellegrinaggio a Roma vi dia quella carica interiore che vi deve aiutare, giorno dopo giorno, ad affrontare la fatica e il peso della vita, accettando la croce per la redenzione del mondo.

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Infine, mi è’ particolarmente gradito salutare voi, carissimi sposi novelli, in questi giorni così intensi di spirituale letizia, a motivo del sacramento appena ricevuto.

Sappiate essere sempre, l’un l’altro, strumenti di grazia, nei doveri quotidiani della vita coniugale, nei momenti di gioia come in quelli del dolore, con la consapevolezza che il Dio dell’Amore e della Vita vuole abitare nei vostri cuori e nelle vostre case.

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