The seed planted by Humanae Vitae has borne much fruit in many ways, not the least of which is the revitalization of the Church's teachings on human sexuality and the virtue of chastity. This encyclical by Pope Paul VI, much derided and criticized at the time, has shown itself to be a beacon of truth in the darkness of our present sex-saturated society, which embraces a false idea of freedom and a distorted concept of love and intimacy, and sees sex as purely a recreational activity. Far from being a set of harsh prohibitions, Humanae Vitae and the rest of the Church's teachings on human sexuality are positive calls to authentic freedom, the freedom that stems from Truth and Love.
The Truth and Meaning of Human Sexuality
Guidelines for Education within the Family
Pontifical Council for the Family, December 8, 1995
The Truth and Meaning of Human Sexuality
Guidelines for Education within the Family
Pontifical Council for the Family, December 8, 1995
3. Love is a gift of God, nourished by and expressed in the encounter of man and woman. Love is thus a positive force directed towards their growth in maturity as persons. In the plan of life which represents each person's vocation, love is also a precious source for the self-giving which all men and women are called to make for their own self-realization and happiness. In fact, man is called to love as an incarnate spirit, that is soul and body in the unity of the person. Human love hence embraces the body, and the body also expresses spiritual love. Therefore, sexuality is not something purely biological, rather it concerns the intimate nucleus of the person. The use of sexuality as physical giving has its own truth and reaches its full meaning when it expresses the personal giving of man and woman even unto death. * * *
I. CALLED TO TRUE LOVE
8. As the image of God, man is created for love. “God inscribed in the humanity of man and woman the vocation, and thus the capacity and responsibility, of love and communion. Love is therefore the fundamental and innate vocation of every human being." * * *
Human Love as Self-Giving
9. The person is thus capable of a higher kind of love than concupiscence, which only sees objects as a means to satisfy one's appetites; the person is capable rather of friendship and self-giving, with the capacity to recognize and love persons for themselves. Like the love of God, this is a love capable of generosity. One desires the good of the other because he or she is recognized as worthy of being loved. This is a love which generates communion between persons, because each considers the good of the other as his or her own good. This is a self-giving made to one who loves us, a self-giving whose inherent goodness is discovered and activated in the communion of persons and where one learns the value of loving and of being loved.
Each person is called to love as friendship and self-giving. Each person is freed from the tendency to selfishness by the love of others, in the first place by parents or those who take their place and, definitively, by God, from whom all true love proceeds and in whose love alone does man discover to what extent he is loved. * * *
Love and Human Sexuality
10. Man is called to love and to self-giving in the unity of body and spirit. Femininity and masculinity are complementary gifts, through which human sexuality is an integrating part of the concrete capacity for love which God has inscribed in man and woman. "Sexuality is a fundamental component of personality, one of its modes of being, of manifestation, of communicating with others, of feeling, of expressing and of living human love." This capacity for love as self-giving is thus "incarnated" in the nuptial meaning of the body, which bears the imprint of the person's masculinity and femininity. * * *
11. Human sexuality is thus a good, part of that created gift which God saw as being "very good," when he created the human person in his image and likeness, and "male and female he created them" (Genesis 1:27). Insofar as it is a way of relating and being open to others, sexuality has love as its intrinsic end, more precisely, love as donation and acceptance, love as giving and receiving. The relationship between a man and a woman is essentially a relationship of love: "Sexuality, oriented, elevated and integrated by love acquires truly human quality." When such love exists in marriage, self-giving expresses, through the body, the complementarity and totality of the gift. Married love thus becomes a power which enriches persons and makes them grow and, at the same time, it contributes to building up the civilization of love. But when the sense and meaning of gift is lacking in sexuality, a “civilization of things and not of persons" takes over, "a civilization in which persons are used in the same way as things are used. In the context of a civilization of use, woman can become an object for man, children a hindrance to parents.” * * *
14. When love is lived out in marriage, it includes and surpasses friendship. Love between a man and woman is achieved when they give themselves totally, each in turn according to their own masculinity and femininity, founding on the marriage covenant that communion of persons where God has willed that human life be conceived, grow and develop. To this married love, and to this love alone, belongs sexual giving, "realized in a truly human way only if it is an integral part of the love by which a man and a woman commit themselves totally to one another until death". The Catechism of the Catholic Church recalls: "In marriage the physical intimacy of the spouses becomes a sign and pledge of spiritual communion. Marriage bonds between baptized persons are sanctified by the sacrament".
Love Open to Life
15. The revealing sign of authentic married love is openness to life: "In its most profound reality, love is essentially a gift; and conjugal love, while leading the spouses to the reciprocal 'knowledge'. . . . does not end with the couple, because it makes them capable of the greatest possible gift, the gift by which they become cooperators with God for giving life to a new human person. Thus the couple, while giving themselves to one another, give not just themselves but also the reality of children, who are a living reflection of their love, a permanent sign of conjugal unity and a living and inseparable synthesis of their being a father and a mother". From this communion of love and life spouses draw that human and spiritual richness and that positive atmosphere for offering their children the support of education for love and chastity.
II. TRUE LOVE AND CHASTITY
16. Sexuality "becomes personal and truly human when it is integrated into the relationship of one person to another, in the complete and mutual lifelong gift of a man and a woman." . . . Chastity is the spiritual power which frees love from selfishness and aggression. To the degree that a person weakens chastity, his or her love becomes more and more selfish, that is, satisfying a desire for pleasure and no longer self-giving.
Chastity as Self-Giving
17. . . . The chaste person is not self-centered, not involved in selfish relationships with other people. Chastity makes the personality harmonious. It matures it and fills it with inner peace. This purity of mind and body helps develop true self-respect and at the same time makes one capable of respecting others, because it makes one see in them persons to reverence. . . .
18. "Chastity includes an apprenticeship in self-mastery which is a training in human freedom. The alternative is clear: either man governs his passions and finds peace, or he lets himself be dominated by them and becomes unhappy." Every person knows, by experience, that chastity requires rejecting certain thoughts, words and sinful actions * * * Such self-mastery involves both avoiding occasions which might provoke or encourage sin as well as knowing how to overcome one's own natural instinctive impulses.
19. When the family is providing real educational support and encouraging the exercise of all the virtues, education for chastity is made easy and lacks inner conflicts, even if at certain times young people can experience particularly delicate situations.
For some who find themselves in situations where chastity is offended against and not valued, living in a chaste way can demand a hard or even a heroic struggle. Nonetheless, with the grace of Christ, flowing from his spousal love for the Church, everyone can live chastely even if they find themselves in unfavourable circumstances. * * *
III. IN THE LIGHT OF VOCATION
1. The Vocation to Marriage
27. Formation for true love is always the best preparation for the vocation to marriage. In the family, children and young people can learn to live human sexuality within the solid context of Christian life. They can gradually discover that a stable Christian marriage cannot be regarded as a matter of convenience or mere sexual attraction. By the fact that it is a vocation, marriage must involve a carefully considered choice, a mutual commitment before God and the constant seeking of his help in prayer.
Called to Married Love
28. Committed to the task of educating their children for love, Christian parents first of all can take awareness of their married love as a reference point. As the Encyclical Humanae Vitae states, such love "reveals its true nature and nobility when it is considered in its supreme origin, God, who is love (cf. 1 John 4: 8), 'the Father from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named' (Ephesians 3: 15). Marriage is not, then, the effect of chance or the product of evolution of unconscious natural forces; it is the wise institution of the Creator to realize in mankind his design of love. By means of the reciprocal personal gift of self, proper and exclusive to them, husband and wife tend towards the communion of their beings in view of mutual personal perfection, to collaborate with God in the generation and education of new lives. For baptized persons, moreover, marriage invests the dignity of a sacramental sign of grace, inasmuch as it represents the union of Christ and of the Church". * * *
29. As the Encyclical Humanae Vitae affirms, married love has four characteristics: it is human love (physical and spiritual), it is total, faithful and fruitful love.
These characteristics are founded on the fact that "In marriage man and woman are so firmly united as to become, to use the words of the Book of Genesis, one flesh (Genesis 2:24). Male and female in their physical constitution, the two human subjects, even though physically different, share equally in the capacity to live in truth and love. This capacity, characteristic of the human being as a person, has at the same time both a spiritual and a bodily dimension. . . . The family which results from this union draws its inner solidity from the covenant between the spouses, which Christ raised to a Sacrament. The family draws its proper character as a community, its traits of communion, from that fundamental communion of the spouses which is prolonged in their children. Will you accept children lovingly from God, and bring them up according to the law of Christ and his Church?, the celebrant asks during the Rite of Marriage. The answer given by the spouses reflects the most profound truth of the love which unites them." With the same formula, spouses commit themselves and promise to be "faithful forever" because their fidelity really flows from this communion of persons which is rooted in the plan of the Creator, in Trinitarian Love and in the Sacrament which expresses the faithful union between Christ and the Church. * * *
Parents Face a Current Concern
32. Through this remote formation for chastity in the family, adolescents and young people learn to live sexuality in its personal dimension, rejecting any kind of separation of sexuality from love -- understood as self-giving -- and any separation of the love between husband and wife from the family.
Parental respect for life and the mystery of procreation will spare the child or young person from the false idea that the two dimensions of the conjugal act, unitive and procreative, can be separated at will. Thus the family comes to be recognized as an inseparable part of the vocation to marriage.
A Christian education for chastity within the family cannot remain silent about the moral gravity involved in separating the unitive dimension from the procreative dimension within married life. This happens above all in contraception and artificial procreation. In the first case, one intends to seek sexual pleasure, intervening in the conjugal act to avoid conception; in the second case conception is sought by substituting the conjugal act with a technique. These are actions contrary to the truth of married love and contrary to full communion between husband and wife.
Forming young people for chastity should thus become a preparation for responsible fatherhood and motherhood, which "directly concern the moment in which a man and a woman, uniting themselves in one flesh, can become parents. This is a moment of special value both for their interpersonal relationship and for their service to life: they can become parents -- father and mother -- by communicating life to a new human being. The two dimensions of conjugal union, the unitive and the procreative, cannot be artificially separated without damaging the deepest truth of the conjugal act itself".
It is also necessary to put before young people the consequences, which are always very serious, of separating sexuality from procreation when someone reaches the stage of practicing sterilization and abortion or pursuing sexual activity dissociated from married love, before and outside of marriage.
Much of the moral order and marital harmony of the family, hence also the true good of society, depends on this timely education, which finds its place in God's plan, in the very structure of sexuality and the intimate nature of marriage. * * *
V. PATHS OF FORMATION WITHIN THE FAMILY
Formation in the Community of Life and Love
53. Basically, education for authentic love, authentic only if it becomes kind, well-disposed love, involves accepting the person who is loved and considering his or her good as one's own; hence this implies educating in right relationships with others. * * *
54. Chastity as a virtue is never reduced to merely being able to perform acts conforming to a norm of external behaviour. Chastity requires activating and developing the dynamisms of nature and grace which make up the principal and immanent element of our discovery of God's law as a guarantee of growth and freedom.
55. Therefore, it must be stressed that education for chastity is inseparable from efforts to cultivate all the other virtues and, in a particular way, Christian love, characterized by respect, altruism and service, which after all is called charity. Sexuality is such an important good that it must be protected by following the order of reason enlightened by faith: "The greater a good, the more the order of reason must be observed in it". From this it follows that in order to educate in chastity, "self-control is necessary, which presupposes such virtues as modesty, temperance, respect for self and for others, openness to one's neighbor." * * *
Decency and Modesty
56. The practice of decency and modesty in speech, action and dress is very important for creating an atmosphere suitable to the growth of chastity, but this must be well motivated by respect for one's own body and the dignity of others. * * *