Natural Family Planning and Humane Vitae #13

Text from the translation:

  1. Men rightly observe that a conjugal act imposed on one’s partner without regard to his or her condition or personal and reasonable wishes in the matter, is no true act of love, and therefore offends the moral order in its particular application to the intimate relationship of husband and wife. If they further reflect, they must also recognize that an act of mutual love which impairs the capacity to transmit life which God the Creator, through specific laws, has built into it, frustrates His design which constitutes the norm of marriage, and contradicts the will of the Author of life. Hence to use this divine gift while depriving it, even if only partially, of its meaning and purpose, is equally repugnant to the nature of man and of woman, and is consequently in opposition to the plan of God and His holy will. But to experience the gift of married love while respecting the laws of conception is to acknowledge that one is not the master of the sources of life but rather the minister of the design established by the Creator. Just as man does not have unlimited dominion over his body in general, so also, and with more particular reason, he has no such dominion over his specifically sexual faculties, for these are concerned by their very nature with the generation of life, of which God is the source. “Human life is sacred—all men must recognize that fact,” Our predecessor Pope John XXIII recalled. “From its very inception it reveals the creating hand of God” (13).

In section 13, St. Paul VI  makes two appeals to a common moral sense.  First he points to a common recognition, at least among Christians, that marital rape and other imposed sexual acts are not true acts of love.  That is, the marriage act is not automatically a good thing.  There are conditions.  The marriage act ought to be a true marriage act, one which reflects the love and commitment of their marriage covenant.  If someone admits that there are conditions for moral goodness, they cannot rule out the condition of the act being open to the transmission of life.

The second appeal builds on the first.  Once we recognize that there are conditions for the marriage act to be morally good, we ought to recognize that these conditions come from our Creator and that we are called to respect His order of creation.  Our bodies are not our own playthings; we are called to be stewards of creation, and that includes our sexual powers.

The famous statement of St. Augustine when his conscience finally forced him to admit that he was not his own god certainly applies here:  “You have made us for Yourself alone, O Lord, and our heart is restless till it finds it rest in you.”

The recognition that we should be looking for and following God’s plan runs against the spirit of secularism that has been so strong in Western culture for the last 60 years.  Thus it is all the more important for parents and educators to teach the basic lessons of being a creature of God and being a disciple of the Lord Jesus.

Tomorrow: a close look at Humanae Vitae, section 14.

John F. Kippley
Sex and the Marriage Covenant


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