GENERAL AUDIENCE OF WEDNESDAY, 1 AUGUST 
On Wednesday morning, 1 August, at the general audience in St Peter's
Square, Pope John Paul II continued his analysis of Paul VI's "Humanae
Vitae" and the Conciliar document "Gaudium et Spes", in the context of
his theme, responsible parenthood. Following is our translation of the
Holy Father's address.
1. For today we have chosen the theme of responsible parenthood in the
light of Gaudium et Spes and of Humanae Vitae. In
treating of the subject, the Council document limits itself to recalling
the basic premises. However, the papal document goes further, giving a
more concrete content to these premises.
The Council text reads as follows: "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" (GS 51).
The Council adds: "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" (GS 51).
Ruled by conscience
2. Before the passage quoted, the Council teaches that married
couples "shall fulfill their role with a sense of human and Christian
responsibility, and the formation of correct judgments through docile
respect for God." (GS 50). This involves "common reflection and effort;
it also involves a consideration of their own good and the good of their
children, already born or yet to come, an ability to read the signs of
the times and of their own situation on the material and spiritual
level, and finally, an estimation of the good of the family, of society
and of the Church." (GS 50).
At this point words of particular importance follow, to determine with
greater precision the moral character of responsible parenthood.
We read: "It is the married couple themselves who must in the last
analysis arrive at these judgments before God" (GS 50).
And it continues: "Married people should realize that in their behaviour
they may not simply follow their own fancy but must be ruled by
conscience ought to be conformed to the law of God in the light of the
teaching authority of the Church, which is the authentic interpreter of
divine law. For the divine law throws light on the meaning of married
love, protects it and leads it to truly human fulfilment" (GS
3. The Council document, in limiting itself to recalling the necessary
premises for responsible parenthood, has set them out in a completely
unambiguous manner, clarifying the constitutive elements of such
parenthood, that is, the mature judgment of the personal conscience in
relationship to the divine law, authentically interpreted by the
Magisterium of the Church.
True conjugal love
4. Basing itself on the same premises, Humanae Vitae goes
further and offers concrete indications. This is seen, first of all,
in the way of defining responsible parenthood (cf. HV 10). Paul VI
seeks to clarify this concept by considering its various aspects and
excluding beforehand its reduction to one of the "partial aspects, as is
done by those who speak exclusively of birth control." From the very
beginning, Paul VI is guided in his reasoning by an integral concept of
man (cf. HV 7) and of conjugal love (cf. HV 8, 9).
Under different aspects
5. One can speak of responsibility in the exercise of the function of
parenthood under different aspects. Thus he writes: "In relation to the
biological processes involved, responsible parenthood is to be
understood as the knowledge and observance of their specific
functions. Human intelligence discovers in the faculty of procreating
life, the biological laws which involve human personality" (HV 10). If,
on the other hand, we examine "the innate drives and emotions of man,
responsible parenthood expresses the domination which reason and will
must exert over them" (HV 10).
Taking for granted the above-mentioned interpersonal aspects and adding
to them the "economic and social conditions," those are considered "to
exercise responsible parenthood who prudently and generously decide to
have a large family, or who, for serious reasons and with due respect to
the moral law, choose to have no more children for the time being or
even for an indeterminate period" (HV 10).
From this it follows that the concept of responsible parenthood contains
the disposition not merely to avoid a further birth but also to
increase the family in accordance with the criteria of prudence. In
this light in which the question of responsible parenthood must be
examined and decided, there is always of paramount importance "the
objective moral order instituted by God, the order of which a right
conscience is the true interpreter" (HV 10).
6. The commitment to responsible parenthood requires that husband and
wife, "keeping a right order of priorities, recognize their own duties
toward God, themselves, their families and human society" (HV 10). One
cannot therefore speak of acting arbitrarily. On the contrary the
married couple "must act in conformity with God's creative intention" (HV
10). Beginning with this principle the encyclical bases its reasoning on
the "intimate structure of the conjugal act" and on "the inseparable
connection of the two significances of the conjugal act" (cf. HV 12), as
was already stated. The relative principle of conjugal morality is,
therefore, fidelity to the divine plan manifested in the "intimate
structure of the conjugal act" and in the "inseparable connection of the
two significances of the conjugal act."