Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Humanae Vitae

As a follow-up to yesterday's post, here are excerpts from Pope Paul VI's encyclical on the regulation of birth, Humanae Vitae (On Human Life), 1968. In particular, I have included the paragraph where the former Pope presents the "consequences of artificial methods" (contraception). Please go to the address at the bottom of this post for the full text.

7. The question of human procreation, like every other question which touches human life, involves more than the limited aspects specific to such disciplines as biology, psychology, demography or sociology. It is the whole man and the whole mission to which he is called that must be considered: both its natural, earthly aspects and its supernatural, eternal aspects. And since in the attempt to justify artificial methods of birth control many appeal to the demands of married love or of responsible parenthood, these two important realities of married life must be accurately defined and analyzed...

10... With regard to physical, economic, psychological and social conditions, responsible parenthood is exercised by those who prudently and generously decide to have more children, and by those who, for serious reasons and with due respect to moral precepts, decide not to have additional children for either a certain or an indefinite period of time...

16. If therefore there are well-grounded reasons for spacing births, arising from the physical or psychological condition of husband or wife, or from external circumstances, the Church teaches that married people may then take advantage of the natural cycles immanent in the reproductive system and engage in marital intercourse only during those times that are infertile, thus controlling birth in a way which does not in the least offend the moral principles which We have just explained...

Consequences of Artificial Methods

17. Responsible men can become more deeply convinced of the truth of the doctrine laid down by the Church on this issue if they reflect on the consequences of methods and plans for artificial birth control. Let them first consider how easily this course of action could open wide the way for marital infidelity and a general lowering of moral standards. Not much experience is needed to be fully aware of human weakness and to understand that human beings—and especially the young, who are so exposed to temptation—need incentives to keep the moral law, and it is an evil thing to make it easy for them to break that law. Another effect that gives cause for alarm is that a man who grows accustomed to the use of contraceptive methods may forget the reverence due to a woman, and, disregarding her physical and emotional equilibrium, reduce her to being a mere instrument for the satisfaction of his own desires, no longer considering her as his partner whom he should surround with care and affection...

20. The teaching of the Church regarding the proper regulation of birth is a promulgation of the law of God Himself. And yet there is no doubt that to many it will 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 the grace by which the goodwill 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...

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

True love means sacrifice

We've had many recent comments about vocations, mostly concerning religious vocations. My favorite one is, "Sorry to have to tell you this but there is already major shortage of the priesthood and even worse the nunhood (is that a word?)". I hear this kind of comment every so often (by the way, sisterhood is a word, nunhood is not). I hope that the anonymous blogger who wrote this is doing his/her part to foster vocations to the priesthood and religious life through prayer and fasting.

While it is true that there is a shortage of priests and nuns in the United States, it is also true that there is a lack of commitment in the other two vocations: married and single. The unfortunate and sad statistic that 50% of marriages end in divorce in this country is a major indication of that. Also, very, very few people seriously consider a permanent commitment to the single life. It's a vocations crisis across the board; a crisis in commitment.

Every one of us has a vocation. When God created the world, He had each one of us in mind. He has a Plan for all of humanity, and each one of us plays an important role in living out His Plan and doing His Will. Our job is to figure out to which vocation He is calling us: married, religious, or single. Most people are called to the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony, thanks be to God (we need to survive as a race!). Some are called to serve as priests or religious brothers and sisters, and some are called to give their lives in service to the Church as single men or women.

The obvious and earliest Scriptural basis for marriage as a calling from God is the Book of Genesis. God establishes the institution of marriage right away: "That is why a man leaves his father and mother and clings to his wife, and the two of them become one body" (2:24). In Matthew 19, Jesus reaffirms Genesis and presents marriage as a vocation: "what God has joined together, no human being must separate" (v.6). A few lines later, Christ indicates that celibacy is God's Plan for some people: "Some are incapable of marriage...because they have renounced marriage for the sake of the kingdom of heaven" (v.12).

As I told the junior high students in the school last week, Christ is to be the center of every vocation. If we center our lives on Jesus Christ, especially in the Eucharist, we will know our vocations and live them out. He is Love; Love is to be the center of every marriage, every priesthood, every religious life, and every single life. True love means sacrifice. But, if we are committed to Christ and His Eucharistic Sacrifice, then we will be committed to our vocations and lay down our lives for others.

"No one has greater love than this, to lay down one's life for one's friends" (Jn 15:13).

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