CONSTITUTION ON THE CHURCH
IN THE MODERN WORLD
(Gaudium et Spes)
Second Vatican Council
December 7, 1965
27. Coming down to practical and particularly urgent consequences, this
Council lays stress on reverence for man; everyone must consider his
every neighbor without exception as another self, taking into account first of
all his life and the means necessary to living it with dignity, so as not to
imitate the rich man who had no concern for the poor man Lazarus.
In our times a special obligation binds us to make ourselves the neighbor of
every person without exception, and of actively helping him when he comes across
our path, whether he be an old person abandoned by all, a foreign laborer
unjustly looked down upon, a refugee, a child born of an unlawful union and
wrongly suffering for a sin he did not commit, or a hungry person who disturbs
our conscience by recalling the voice of the Lord, "As long as you did it for
one of these the least of my brethren, you did it for me" (Matt. 25:40).
Furthermore, whatever is opposed to life itself, such as any type of murder,
genocide, abortion, euthanasia or willful self-destruction, whatever violates
the integrity of the human person, such as mutilation, torments inflicted on
body or mind, attempts to coerce the will itself; whatever insults human
dignity, such as subhuman living conditions, arbitrary imprisonment,
deportation, slavery, prostitution, the selling of women and children; as well
as disgraceful working conditions, where men are treated as mere tools for
profit, rather than as free and responsible persons; all these things and others
of their like are infamies indeed. They poison human society, but they do more
harm to those who practice them than those who suffer from the injury. Moreover,
they are a supreme dishonor to the Creator.
51. To these problems there are those who presume to offer
dishonorable solutions indeed; they do not recoil even from the taking of life.
But 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 authentic conjugal love.
God, the Lord of life, has entrusted to men the noble mission
of safeguarding life, and men must carry it out in a manner worthy of
themselves. Life must be protected with the utmost care from the moment of
conception: abortion and infanticide are abominable crimes.
Man's sexuality and the faculty of reproduction wondrously
surpass the endowments of lower forms of life; therefore the acts proper to
married life are to be ordered according to authentic human dignity and must be
honored with the greatest reverence. When it is a question of harmonizing
married love with the responsible transmission of life, it is not enough to take
only the good intention and the evaluation of motives into account; the
objective criteria must be used, criteria drawn from the nature of the human
person and human action, criteria which respect the total meaning of mutual
self-giving and human procreation in the context of true love; all this is
possible only if the virtue of married chastity is seriously practiced. In
questions of birth regulation the sons of the Church, faithful to these
principles, are forbidden to use methods disapproved of by the teaching
authority of the Church in its interpretation of the divine law. (1)
Let all be convinced that human life and its transmission are
realities whose meaning is not limited by the horizons of this life only: their
true evaluation and full meaning can only be understood in reference to man's
- Cf. Pius XI, Encycl. Casti Connubii: AAS 22 (1930), p.
559-561; DENZ., 2239-2241 (3716-3718); Pius XII, Address to Italian
Midwives, 29 Oct. 1951: AAS
43 (1951), p. 835-854; PAUL VI, Address to the Cardinals, 23 June
1964: AAS 56 (1964), p. 581-589.
Other Teachings of the Magisterium on Life