POPE ADDRESSES PARTICIPANTS IN CONFERENCE ON "HUMANAE VITAE"
Spouses are called to live the entire truth of "Humanae Vitae"
Pastors are to teach it without calling it into question
On Monday, 14, 1988, the Holy Father received in audience the participants
in the Fourth International Conference for the Family of Europe and of Africa.
The conference was held at the Medical School of the Catholic University of the
Sacred Heart on the theme, "For a Responsible Transmission of Human Life." The
Holy Father addressed the group, which was led by Professor Adriano Bausola,
Rector of the Catholic University, as follows:
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,
1. It is with great joy that I welcome you to this special audience which I
have gladly reserved for you, qualified representatives, on the occasion of the
International Conference convoked to recall the twentieth anniversary of the
Encyclical Humanae Vitae. I greet you most cordially, with particular
thanks to Professor Bausola for his opening address, and I wish to congratulate
most heartily the directors of the "Centre for Study and Research on the Natural
Regulation of Fertility" of the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart, who
have sponsored this initiative, which will be repeated in the city of Bologna
within a few days.
2. The twentieth anniversary of the Encyclical Humanae Vitae offers
the whole Church a fitting occasion for serious reflection on the doctrine
taught in it, a doctrine which I have taken up again in the Exhortation
Familiaris Consortio and on numerous other occasions. It is a question, in
fact, of a teaching which belongs to the permanent patrimony of the Church's
The uninterrupted continuity with which the Church has taught it derives from
her responsibility for the true good of the human person, of the human person of
the spouses, first of all. In fact, conjugal love is their most precious good.
The interpersonal communion established between two baptized Christians, by
virtue of that love is the real symbol of Christ's love for his Church. The
doctrine expounded in the Encyclical Humanae Vitae thus constitutes the
necessary defense of the dignity and truth of conjugal love.
As with every ethical value, man has a grave responsibility with regard to
conjugal love. It is first of all married couples themselves who are responsible
for their conjugal love, in the sense that they are called to live it in its
entire truth. The Church assists them in this task, enlightening their
consciences and assuring them, with the sacraments, of the strength necessary
for the will to choose good and avoid evil.
3. Still, I cannot pass over in silence the fact that many today do not aid
married couples in this grave responsibility of theirs, but rather place
significant obstacles in their path.
In this regard, no man or woman who has perceived the beauty and the dignity
of conjugal love can remain indifferent in the face of the attempts being made
to equate, in every respect, the conjugal bond with mere cohabitation. To equate
the two is unjust and destructive of one of the fundamental values of all civil
society--esteem for marriage. It is also harmful for the upbringing of the young
generations, who are thus tempted to embrace a concept of freedom and a way of
experiencing it which are radically distorted.
In addition, in their effort to live their conjugal love correctly, married
couples can be seriously impeded by a certain hedonistic mentality widespread
today, by the mass media, by ideologies and practices contrary to the gospel.
This can also come about, with truly grave and destructive consequences, when
the doctrine taught by the Encyclical is called into question, as has sometimes
happened, even on the part of some … pastors of souls. This attitude, in fact,
can instill doubt with regard to a teaching which for the Church is certain; in
this way it clouds the perception of a truth which cannot be questioned. This is
not a sign of "pastoral understanding", but of misunderstanding the true good
of persons. Truth cannot be measured by majority opinion.
The concern you have shown in your conference to situate the more technical
and scientific reflection on the natural monitoring of fertility within the
context of full theological, philosophical and ethical reflections must be
emphasized and praised. Another way to weaken the sense of responsibility of
married couples towards their conjugal love is, in fact, to supply information
on natural methods without accompanying it with the necessary formation
of consciences. Technical knowledge does not resolve ethical problems, simply
because it is not able to make the person better, Nothing can take the place of
education to chastity. Only the man and woman who have attained a true harmony
in the depths of their own personalities can love one another conjugally.
4. Twenty years after tile publication of the Encyclical, one can see clearly
that the moral norm taught in it does not defend merely the goodness and dignity
of conjugal love, and thus the good of the person of the spouses. It has an even
greater ethical significance. In fact, the logical consequence and the ultimate
root of the contraceptive act, which Paul VI had already pointed out
prophetically, have now become manifest. What logic? What root?
The anti-life logic: over the last twenty years, many states have renounced
their dignity as defenders of innocent human life, enacting laws permitting
abortion. A real slaughter of innocents is being carried out every day
throughout the world.
What root? It is the rebellion against God the Creator, the one Lord of the
life and death of human persons: it is the intrinsically absurd attempt to build
a world to which God is completely extraneous.
In the Encyclical Humanae Vitae, Pope Paul VI
expressed the certainty that the document constituted a contribution, because of
its defense of conjugal morality, to the establishment of a truly human
civilization (cf. n. 18). Twenty years after its publication, the foundation of
that conviction is truly borne out in many ways; in ways which can be verified
not only by believers, but by every man or woman who is thoughtful about the lot
of mankind, since anyone can view the consequences of man's disobedience to
God's holy law.
Your efforts, as well as those of so many other persons of good will, are a
sign of hope not only for the Church, but for all humanity.
As I invite each of you from my heart to persevere generously on the path you
have set out upon, I give all of you my blessing, invoking heavenly assistance