Papal Magisterium, Natural Law, and Humanae Vitae

Author: Joseph Costanzo S.J.


by Joseph Costanzo S.J.

We examine the supposition, openly or implicitly avowed by some critics of Humanae vitae, that when the Roman Pontiff teaches a moral doctrine that is based on the divine natural law, he is philosophically accountable to the faithful. Or, in other words, when the Vicar of Christ presents a rational argumentation, acceptance and submission by the faithful depends on its conclusive demonstrative force. This supposition, we shall explain, is a misconstruction of the nature and function of the papal teaching authority, and, besides, proceeds from overweening rationalist pretensions.

1. Integrality of the Supernatural. A Historical Conspectus

From the first centuries of Christianity almost down to modern times, official Church documents record scant mention of the natural law. In 473 A.D., Lucidus, the presbyter, recanted in a letter submitted to the Synod of Arles (473 A.D.) errors of the universality of the salvific will of God and the redemptive merits of Christ by confessing to the divine dispositions of salvation for those who lived before Christ by twice referring to the 'Law of nature" but not without relating it to the coming of the Redeemer: "per primam Dei gratiam, id est per legem naturae, in adventum Christi esse salvatos," (DS 160a), "alios lege naturae, quem Deus in omnium cordibus scripsit, in spe adventus Christi fuisse salvatos" (DS 160b). But substantive verities of the natural law of human nature were implicitly and unavoidably affirmed during the great Christological controversies of the fourth and fifth centuries: against Arius (Nicaea 1, 325 A.D.), Nestorius (Ephesus, 431 A.D.), Eutyches (St. Leo, the Great, 449 A.D.), the Monophysites (Chalcedon, 451 A.D.). Implications on the natural law of human nature are also to be found in papal and conciliar teaching against Pelagius and the Semipelagians on Original Sin, Grace, and Predestination. In the Late Middle Ages, we find documentary condemnations of carnal impurities and perversions by the unmarried and the married because they are in contravention of the natural law and not sinful because of divine or ecclesiastical will which could have otherwise arbitrarily decreed their moral liceity.

In the middle of the nineteenth century, the rationalist denigration of the supernatural, the miraculous, of divine revelation, the Church itself, prompted in reaction Pius IX's pronouncements on the capabilities, and limitations, and liabilities of human reason, of the concordance between faith and reason, and of the compatibility of faith and science. (Qui pluribus, 1846; Singulari quidem, 1854; Eximiam tuam, 1857; Gravissimas inter, 1862; Tuas libenter, 1863; Quanta cura, 1864). The First Vatican Council pronounced on the authentic dynamism and ordination of human reason to accord with revelational verities, i.e., on the natural law governing the operation and functions of human intellection. And in turn, the Council taught that for the present condition of fallen mankind, revelation is by moral necessity an indispensable auxiliary to reason, even within areas of its own competence.

From Leo XIII to John XXIII, the Second Vatican Council, and Paul VI, there is an increasing frequency of referrals to the natural law motivated in part by the modern insistence on reasonableness apart from religious pronouncements -- (a riposte to the rationalists. Was not the Medieval Age of Faith an Age of Reason more truly than the Age of Enlightenment?). Besides, the social, economic, and political inequities and disorders were to be righted hardly because of the faith of the people. The encyclicals were to the whole world. The problems of peace and war, the confrontation with totalitarian regimes, social justice, ethnic and racial relations, underdeveloped countries, marital relations, medical-moral questions -- all these were to be answered in terms of the natural dignity of man and the inherent rights of human nature.

In the generality of papal pronouncements there is one constant - the natural law is authentically existential as a constituent of evangelical morality. There is no dichotomy, no separatism between the two except as a methodological requirement of the philosopher's speculation. The distinction of the moral realities endures authentically through a gradation of orders, in the unity of one final end of man. Patently, the supernatural means a superiority of status to the merely natural. But it is in relating properly in conceptual terms the two orders that constitutes the classic opposing perspectives of Augustinians and Thomists, on nature and grace, and correspondingly, philosophy and theology, reason and faith. Be that as it may, grace does not absorb nature but grace does penetrate its inner being; grace is not opposed to nature, but on the contrary, besides elevating and sanating it, grace facilitates human understanding (illumination, an Old and New Testament term) and confers power to the will (a Johannine and Pauline term) in order that men may become sons of God. Human nature without grace will never attain the beatific vision of God. Grace without the employment of the spiritual and moral capabilities of man does not sanctify. The evangelical morality presupposes and perfects the natural law even as it goes beyond it.

The early apologetes and Fathers of the Church who perforce had to philosophize with their contemporaries gave expression to this integration of the supernatural in a logical succession of bolder affirmations. St. Justin's Dialogus cum Trypho, Lactantius' Institutiones, St. Ambrose's De Officiis Ministrorum, and, to a lesser degree, Minucius Felix's Octavius, Athenagoras' Legatio pro Christianis, Irenaeus' Adversus Haeresis, and Clement of Alexandria's Stromates insisted on the compatibility of reason and Christianity, then, on the beneficent effects of Christian revelation on reason, further-reason finds its own fulfillment and highest achievements in the Christian truths -- indeed, classical wisdom itself -- Plato, Aristotle, the Stoics, had been providentially motivated by the advent of Christ. Had not St. John written that the "Word enlighteneth every man who comes into this world"? The Petrine exhortation to give reason for the faith, an invitation to apologetics, is given a new development best epitomized by St. Augustine's De Utilitate Credendi. St. Anselm made more forceful affirmations -- fides quaerens intellectum, credo ut intelligam.

The conceptual history of the natural law began with the Greeks who saw it as an immanent entelechy at work within the natural processes striving towards self-fulfillment. The Romans projected this connatural teleology against the overall design of the cosmos where the logos conferred on each being its "due" place in a hierarchical structure of the universe. This natural order was to find its counterpart in the harmony and rectitude of human conduct.

The Catholic canonists, civilists, and theologians strove with scholastic vigor to systematize the various categories of law -- natural eternal, civil, and ecclesiastical into a coherent pattern of obediences. But for all their zeal for definitions and distinctions, the moral problematic was compounded by the status of man before and after the Fall. Gratian's Concordia Discordantium Canonum was successful in forging considerable order out of the mass of disparate laws, but even he could not avoid hyphenations between the natural, divine, and human laws. The canonists gratefully took their cue from Gratian and identified natural law with scriptural commandments. They were thus able to ignore Ulpian's all-comprehensive definition of the natural as inclusive of the instincts of the animal kingdom and accentuate at the same time the rationality that sets man uniquely apart from it. Aquinas' masterly treatise in his Summa Theologica defined four categories -- eternal, natural, human and divine positive law with a separateness that eliminated hyphenations, but withal affirmed a harmonious and orderly interrelationship between them. By prescinding from Original Sin which had complicated the problem for his predecessors and contemporaries, Aquinas could distinguish animal appetites from sinful concupiscentia. By this method he was able to show a spiritual continuity of the natural appetites of man-all of human biology, with the rational and moral, and thus affirm their authentic goodness and capability to be infused with grace despite the wounds inflicted by Original Sin. Plato's heavenly paradeigma had become Augustine's eternal law of the all- provident God which neither the Platonic Absolute Good nor the Aristotelian Unmoved Movers could even dimly suggest. God's will entered into the realm of human conduct per modum cognitionis, not merely by being subjected to it without choice, per modum actionis et passionis. For what is the natural law of human nature but the eternal law brought into human psychology. With this the decisive philosophic break with cosmological necessitarianism was accomplished. Yet even Aquinas for all the neatness of definition could not shunt off his philosophical speculations entirely from revelational data. He held, reluctantly, no doubt, that the institution of slavery was justifiably permissive as a result of sin.

The difficulty of the pre-Thomists in disengaging the various classifications of law from one another ought not to be attributed simply to a less ingenious philosophical acumen than that of Aquinas. Rather it took root from the existential integration of the natural in the supernatural. And this in turn explains the mutual reliance of philosophy and theology, of reason and faith. This found its classic expression in Vatican I. The existence of God can be known by reason in accordance with Paul's Epistle to the Romans (1:20). God nonetheless revealed Himself to the human race "in another and supernatural way" (Heb. i:iff.) (DS 3004). Then, the Council proceeded further to affirm the moral necessity of divine revelation in the present condition of mankind that those religious truths which are by their nature not impervious to reason may be known more readily by all, with firm certitude, and without any admixture of error (DS 3005). This proposition has been repeated practically verbatim by our natural law Pontiffs and Council (Pius XI, Casti Connubii, AAS 22 [1930] 579-80; Pius XII, Humani generis, AAS 42 [ I 952] 561 -62; Second Vatican Council, Dei verbum, n. 6).

There are certain discernible characteristics in the referrals to the natural law in official Church documents: (i) papal and ecclesial teaching authority (there is no other teaching authority in the Catholic Church) has identified a natural law precept as deriving from a natural law principle as distinguishable from the evangelical ethic; (ii) the particular concrete application is warranted by a moral obligation proceeding from that same source; (iii) the designation of the natural law invariably (as best as I have been able to ascertain) appears in context related to the lex Christi. This is done in one of three ways: (a) Either by general all-comprehensive terms that in context preclude the exclusion of one or the other -- "all his (man's) actions, insofar as they are morally good or evil," "the moral order," "the entire moral law," "moral issues," "the total deposit of truth," etc. (b) By explication-"the entire moral law, both natural and evangelical," "authentic interpreters of all moral law, not only that is, of the law of the Gospel, but also of the natural law," etc. (c) And by conjunction: "natural law and divine law," "a teaching founded on the natural law, illuminated and enriched by divine revelation," "moral and religious," etc. (iv) In none of the pontifical and conciliar documents do we find a systematic corpus of natural law doctrine or an identification of the Church's traditional natural law with any particular system or theory of a school of natural law-(save the pontifical counsels that seminaries follow St. Thomas as a guide in philosophical and theological inquiries, not, however, as Pius XI admonished without that "honorable rivalry with just freedom from which studies make progress," cf. Leo XIII, Aeterni Patris, DS 3135, Pius X, Doctoris Angelici, DS 3601, Pius XI, Studiorum Ducem, DS 3665). (v) The competence and authority to declare what is contained and the extent of the deposit of truth committed to it belongs to the magisterium solely. Private "theologians" are free to opinionate on the matter but what they say that is at variance with papal and ecclesial doctrine should have no validity with the faithful. They have received no apostolic mandate from Christ. Indeed, for centuries theologians in the technical sense did not exist. (vi) Whenever the Church teaches natural law doctrine or a specific application of it to a concrete moral issue, it does so by virtue of the Petrine commission, and not as eminent philosophers or world-renown metaphysicians. We cannot too strongly stress these propositions because it explains why we have said critics of Humanae vitae who require a philosophically conclusive demonstration as a condition for acceptance are misconstruing the scope and function of the divinely established magisterium. The Church does give reasons for its condemnations of totalitarism, abortion, artificial contraception, of economic exploitation, racial discrimination, etc. But the motive for submission to the Church's doctrinal teaching by the faithful is the divine investiture of the magisterium with Christ's promise of inerrancy, and not the intrinsic merits of its arguments, the persuasiveness of its ratiocinations or the conclusiveness -- as each may judge-of its demonstration. But even these philosophic expectations are unwarranted.

II. Rationalist Pretensions

The natural law is so called not because it is discernible by a natural faculty, human reason, but because it is the law of the nature of man. Nor is it called natural law because it is the law of human reason -- but because it is the will of the divine legislator made manifest in the exigencies of human nature as an obligatory norm of moral conduct. To speak of the "appeal to reason" and the "law of reason" in the context of natural law should not suggest more than a methodological approach. No human reason has the power or the authority to legislate its own morality.

The naturalness of our nature's moral law is unaffected by the cognitive process by which we come to know it. It may be known by natural information (rational speculation, philosophy, synderesis) and by a divine didactic (revelation). God may reveal philosophical truths, doctrinal and moral, as well as supernatural. If the knowledge of these truths is necessary to salvation, then God must will a way by which men may come to know them with certitude and without error. It is within the boundaries of these propositions that we situate the natural law doctrine of Humanae vitae as taught by virtue of the apostolic authority of the Roman Pontiff.

It has been customary to speak of philosophy as the knowledge of reality by "unaided reason." This may be misleading. Who, for example, can preclude the hidden action of grace in human thought? Who will deny the influence of religious faith on philosophical inquiry? Did not St. Thomas Aquinas, the philosopher, succeed where Plato, Aristotle, and the Greek and Roman Stoics had failed because of the undoubted assistance of his Catholic Faith on the nature and existence of a personal God, on the divine attributes - eternity, infinity, omniscience, omnipotence, universal and specific providence-and on the personal immortality of every man? "Unaided reason" may mean no more than a conscious, deliberate effort of the Christian believer who philosophizes, not to admit an authoritarian proposition as an intrinsic element in the process of reasoning. Even here, we encounter an intriguing experience. In his classic treatise on Law (Summa Theologica, I- II, Quaestiones 90-109), in discoursing on the Essence of Law, the Various Kinds of Law, on the Effects of Law, on the Power of Human Law, on Change in Law, St. Thomas Aquinas, the philosopher, totally dedicated to a purely rational approach to natural law ethics, frequently cites and quotes Aristotle -- "according to the Philosopher," "as the Philosopher teaches," "as is stated in Metaphysics," "according to Ethics," This is not unexpected. What is striking are St. Thomas' more prolific citations and quotations from the Old and New Testament. A cursory review numbers at least eighty-nine biblical references. A more attentive check might yield a higher count. Not only are the number and frequency of scriptural texts impressively notable but even more so the wide diversity of scriptural sources employed in a philosophical treatise on Law: Exodus, Leviticus Deuteronomy, Kings, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Isaiah, Osea Matthew, Luke, John, Acts, Romans, Corinthians, Galatians, Timothy, Hebrews, Peter. Though they are hardly quoted as authoritative supports -- they are used under Objection as well as under Reply -- surely they are brought into the flow of philosophic argument for the content and cogency of expression and, will it or not, as respectable propositions worth noting even in an inquiry of "unaided reason." When a Christian reasons, it is a Christian who reasons. "Unaided reason" is not so "unaided" after all.

The second rationalist pretension is even more unwarranted than the first. Should not a natural law precept, one that is grave and necessary for salvation within the subsumption of the higher evangelical law, be demonstrable and compelling upon each conscience?

Such an expectation is unfounded. In maintaining the existence, intelligibility, and obligatory force of the law of human nature, philosophers within and outside the Church have never affirmed that all men, or the generality of men, or the majority of men-are possessed by the same knowledge and convictions on the same moral precepts and on identical practical applications. Further, we may well question how many "proofs" and "demonstrations" which are conclusive to a philosopher are equally so for the generality of philosophers -- not to mention the non-philosophizing minds. We may go yet further and ask whether there is any one "proof" that has won general acceptance. How many proofs are there, for example, on the existence of God and personal immortality that is beyond contestation among all philosophers? We are speaking of Catholic philosophers who hold firmly to the same doctrinal propositions but who challenge one another's demonstrations. One need only recall what vicissitudes have befallen the quinque viae of St. Thomas. What is most intimate to our very being is not necessarily more readily evident to general acceptance. The philosopher's "proof" is not as appealing as the empirical evidence of the scientist nor does it appear as conclusive as the mathematician's Q.E.D.

Another rationalist pretension bears the credentials of reasonableness. It is supposed that by collective and collaborative discourse a general consensus might be reached on a moral norm and its practical application. Here the history of human experience dispels any such hopeful expectations. It is naive to believe that human consciences would be held bound in a grave matter of morality by a general consensus, that a majoritarian determination would be subscribed to and acted upon by the dissenting minority, an expectation most unlikely in an atmosphere of the inviolability of the individual conscience. Compromise and general consensus belong to the political process which knows no political absolutes, but expediency, opportuneness, effectiveness, in the choice of any number of morally good means and goals. These political choices are reversible according to preestablished procedures but the specific determination must ever accord with the exigencies of the moral order.

Philosophic consensus is no less a myth than theological consensus. The history of philosophy as well as the history of theology and religion discloses a centrifugal tendency to division, and proliferation. When we speak of philosophia perennis, we are referring to a constellation of basic philosophical propositions which thinkers have held in common across the span of centuries. Philosophia perennis may or may not prevail at different periods in history but it is never beyond challenge and rejection. Theological consensus within Christianity has been a derivative of the Teaching Authority of the Catholic Church. Outside its fold, theological doctrinal differences and ecclesial divisions have multiplied to the hundreds especially since the sixteenth century.

In place of these rationalist pretensions that seem unwarranted to us, ought not the reasonable expectation to be the divine provision of an unfailing Teaching Authority to interpret and apply the moral imperatives of the natural law which are not so easily discernible by "unaided" human reason? The philosophizing dissidents have required of the Vicar of Christ what philosophers have never achieved themselves. With benefit of the Christian vision, reason can have no illusions as to its limits. Least of all should the philosopher forget the indebtedness of reason to revelation and on certain natural verities its moral necessity. This moral necessity is fulfilled by the ecclesial Magisterium, iure divino. There is no other Teaching Authority of divine revelation on earth.

The task of authentically interpreting the word of God, whether written or handed on, has been entrusted exclusively to the living teaching Church, whose authority is exercised in the name of Jesus Christ (Dei verbum, n. 10, italics supplied).

"Lord, that I may see" is a prayer which the philosopher and the theologian no less than the blind may sincerely utter.

III. Christian Pedagogy

Our Divine Lord did not establish a Platonic Academy, an Aristotelian Lyceum, the Stoic's Porch, nor a Schoolmen's university where reason, the appeal to reason, and the intrinsic merits of an argumentation were the principal warrant for acceptance through personal persuasion and conviction. Our Divine Lord did not say, "He who agrees with you agrees with me, " but, "He who hears you hears Me. " The expectation that the faithful should have of the successor of Peter is not a philosophical accountability when as Supreme Pastor of the Universal Church he teaches a moral doctrine of the natural law to be binding in conscience. The solemn definitive teachings of the popes and of the councils in union with him are not surprisingly similar to the pedagogy of the Divine Master.

When Our Lord is discursive, it is to illustrate by means of similes, metaphors, parables, and examples drawn from daily experience the necessity of a prudential judgment which is no less necessary to the spiritual life than to earthly concernments. But when He teaches truths, doctrinal and moral, i.e., His divinity, the Trinity, the Blessed Eucharist, the indissolubility of marriage, charity, compassion, forgiveness, etc., He does so by simple declaration. "The Father and I are One," "Unless you eat My Body and drink My Blood, you shall not have life in you," "What God has joined together let no man pull asunder." His auditors were "scandalized" at His "hard sayings" and many "walked no more with Him." He did not call them back and reason with them-save in exceptional instances of the briefest apologetics. "If you do not believe what I say, believe My works." "If I do the works of Beelzebub, then his kingdom is divided against itself." Nor will it do to counter that Our Lord could not explain divine mysteries adequately in human terms whose acceptance depended wholly on faith in His divinity. The issue before us is whether there are not some natural verities (opus creationis) which are necessary to salvation (opus recreationis) which are not easily within the capacity of all to discern clearly and with certitude. Whether this general intellectual incapacitation constitutes the moral necessity for the exercise of the Teaching Authority of the Church in such moral matters. If human reason has been auxiliary to revelational theology, it is no less true that revelation has been not only auxiliary to reason but also in certain issues, doctrinal and moral, an indispensable associate -- by the grace of divine provision.

The pedagogy of Scripture is Kerygma, proclamation, and didache, teaching. When St. Peter exhorted the early Christians "to give reason" for their Faith, he gave impetus to apologetics -- the pedagogy of rationally explaining the credentials of Christianity. But this was hardly an educational exchange of philosophical accountability. The four Gospels and the Epistles are declarative, authoritarian, affirmatory and prohibitory in their pedagogy. We are considering the nature and manner of "teaching" by the Roman Pontiffs and the councils. In none of the solemn definitions of the councils from Nicaea on were the arguments-even these were in considerable part authoritarian in kind -- of the controverted doctrine ever inserted into the ultimate formulation of the doctrinal proposition. This is no less true of Vatican II. Though given more to discursiveness than any of the preceding ecumenical councils, its discursiveness is addressed to those who already hold to certain beliefs and convictions. Its discursiveness is expository, hardly demonstrative. Two of the Council's documents which may be described as uniquely modern, The Declaration on Religious Freedom (Dignitatis humanae) and the Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World (Gaudium et spes) are resonant with such authoritarian phrases as "this Vatican Synod declares," "Synod further declares," "Religious bodies also have the right," "the Council affirms," "this sacred Synod likewise professes," "the Church sincerely professes," "the Church recognizes" -- when speaking of the natural law explicitly or by implication, when discoursing about the dignity of all men (created in the image of God) and their connatural rights as being rooted in their very being, or when teaching about conjugal love. The occasional "therefore" and "hence" are but concatenations in a continuity of progressions of judgments and not the conclusion of a syllogistic demonstration nor may they be construed as such.

Both the clarity and certitude of the natural verities, doctrinal and moral, taught by the Council are put beyond all rational challenge not by an irrefutable philosophic demonstration but by reliance upon biblical revelation and principally upon Christian revelation. The Decree on Ecumenism (Unitatis integratio) with its practical norms for promoting the restoration of unity among all Christians is immediately situated in the Introduction and Chapter I within the boundaries of Catholic dogmas: the divine establishment of the Church; the Petrine commission; the primacy and universal jurisdiction of his successors, together with a repetition of those scriptural texts upon which the infallibility of Peter and his successors is based (here, too, note the recurrent theme underlying collegiality of Lumen gentium -- "the bishops with Peter's successor at their head"); "the unity of the Church of God"; non-Catholic Christians are brought through Baptism "into a certain, though imperfect, communion with the Catholic Church"; "it is through Christ's Catholic Church alone, which is the all-embracing means of salvation, that the fullness of salvation can be obtained"; "that unity of the one and only Church which Christ bestowed on His Church from the beginning. This unity, we believe, dwells in the Catholic Church as something she can never lose", "the Catholic Church has been endowed with all divinely revealed truth and with all the means of grace"-all these dogmatic affirmations are made in advance before the Council Fathers proceed to express their reverence for the sincerity and piety of non-Catholic Christians with whom they exhort the faithful to join to charitable discourse and mutual understanding as a practical program that may hopefully and prayerfully conduce to the unity of faith of all Christians within the Church of Christ. Much is professed because far more is presupposed. It is not without significance that the Decree on Ecumenism was promulgated on the same day as the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, November 21, 1964. One can search in vain for any philosophic proof or demonstrations in any of the sixteen official documents of the Second Vatican Council. (Italics supplied.)

All of our preceding reflections may best be pursed together by a passage from the Declaration on Religious Freedom:

In the formation of their consciences the Christian faithful ought carefully to attend the sacred and certain doctrine of the Church. The Church is, by the will of Christ, the teacher of truth. It is her duty to give utterance to, and authoritatively to teach, that Truth which is Christ Himself, and also to declare and confirm by her authority those principles of the moral order which have their origin in human nature itself (n. 14, italics supplied).

The Fathers of the Council state that the Church is divinely established to teach truth. The Fathers draw no distinction between papal ex cathedra definitions, solemn definitions of councils with the approval of the Roman Pontiff, definitions of the ordinary, i.e., constant and universal teaching of the Church, and the authentic and authoritative noninfallible pronouncements. The prefatory phrase, "sacred and certain doctrine," should in context be understood in all its comprehensive meaning. The Church has "the duty to give utterance to, and authoritatively to teach, that Truth which is Christ Himself" and on that same level of authoritative teaching-"also to declare and confirm by her authority those principles of the moral order which have their origin in human nature itself." The omission of the distinctions noted can scarcely be considered an oversight.

It is notable that only in three paragraphs of the sixteen official documents do the Fathers speak of infallibility (Lumen gentium, n. 25). Everywhere else the texts read, "the teaching office of the Church," "teaching authority of the Church," "duty to give utterance to truth," "authoritatively to teach," and of itself, this Sacred Synod "declares," "professes," "proclaims." If ecumenical councils of the past were noted for their solemn definitions, the Second Vatican Council is uniquely renowned for elevating the demands of the authentic and authoritative "teaching" of the Church not formally characterized as infallible upon the religious submission of the mind and will of the faithful. It is such authoritative "teaching" not formally avowed as infallible that is to be the spiritual instrumentalities of achieving the council's triple objective: giving witness to God in the modern world; to build up the Mystical Body of Christ, His Church on earth; and to restoring the unity of faith among all Christians within the fold of the Catholic Church. The dissidents have missed the forest for the tree.

IV. The Natural of the Supernatural

Historians of philosophy within the Church might ponder with profit how much more we have come to know about the nature of man through revelation of his supernatural vocation than was known in the pre-Christian period or since the advent of Christianity in ignorance or rejection of it. This would in no small measure point to the moral necessity of revelation for natural verities about man (and God) and explain, too, why natural law principles of morality are within the deposit of truth committed by Christ, Our Lord, to the Teaching Authority of the Church to teach all men to the end of time. Before looking into the biblical basis of the natural law tradition, we ought to note that the early Church carried out its evangelization of Jews and Gentiles for a span of years without any written Gospels and Epistles. It underscores the unique charism with which the magisterium of the Church was invested by its Divine Founder.

In his Epistle to the Romans (1:19-21; 2:14-15), St. Paul declares the knowability of God from creation (1: 19) and then abruptly states the Gentiles actually had knowledge of God (1:20). The Apostle does not say by what specific manner of reasoning, i.e., analogy, causality -- man can come to know God from the contemplation of the universe-if he averted to the question at all. But their acknowledgement of the existence of God by the use of reason is such as to hold them inexcusably guilty for failing to worship Him as they ought. In Romans (2:13-15), St. Paul points to a second source of rational cognizance of God, the human conscience, through "the law written in their hearts" (i.e., synderesis) (an expression that will reappear repeatedly in Church documents). Moral depravity darkens both man's intelligence and his conscience. Certain reflections are here in order. When St. Paul speaks of natural law morality, he is far from admitting to a natural morality. The validity of the existence, intelligibility, and the obligatory force of the natural law does not constitute natural morality. Within the context of the supernatural its authenticity is preserved, "taken up," so to speak, within the Gospel ethic. Historically, natural law morality alone more often than not fails. The Church since the days of Augustine taught the necessity of divine grace for the integral fulfillment of the natural law. As a salvific force it is completely insufficient and ineffective. There is only one way of salvation for all men -- through the redemptive merits of Jesus Christ, Our Redeemer. There is only one saving morality, the evangelical, of which the natural law moral precepts are existentially a constituent part.

When St. Paul preaches natural law morality he is far from teaching a duality of moral orders. He makes it clear in his other epistles that natural law precepts are taken up within the evangelium. This is clearly evident in his first Epistle to the Thessalonians (4, 1-12), where natural law morality is contributory to sanctification within the Christian dispensation. Philippians (4, 9) summarily purses together the totality of human conduct. ". . . all that is true, all that deserves respect, all this is honest, pure, admirable, decent, virtuous, or worthy of praise." I Corinthians (7, 10) affirms the indissolubility of marriage, a natural law precept, and speaks of it as "the Lord's commandment."

In the apostolic Church we find recorded evidence of natural law proscriptions in the Didache or Teaching of the Twelve Apostles, the first-century summary of the teachings of the Apostles for the catechumens. In the category of mortal sins listed under the Way of Death (5, 2) is the extinction of life by contraceptive drugs (pharmakeia) and abortion ("child-murderers"). The identical condemnations are to be found in the Epistle to Barnabas (20, 2), Clement of Alexandria (Paedagogus, 2, 10, 91, 2), Marcus Minucius Felix (Octavius, 30, 2), Lactantius (Divinae Institutiones 6, 20, 25), St. Justin (Apologia 1, 29) Athenagoras (Legatio pro Christianis 33). Neither contraception nor abortion is explicitly mentioned in the New Testament writings, yet they, as no one doubts, are human acts under the governance of the moral law. Nearer to our modern times, during the pontificate of Alexander VII, we find in the Errores doctrinae moralis (Propositiones Decreti, 24 Sept. 1665, DS 2021 ff.), condemnations of duelling (n. 2), killing by private judgment and authority (ns. 17, 18, 19), unnatural sexuality (n. 24), concubinage (n. 41). A decade later, Pope Innocent XI condemned Erroes doctrinae moralis laxioris (Decr. S. Officii 2 Mar. 1679. DS 2101 ff.): that there is no moral obligation to love our neighbor by internal as well as formal, external acts (ns. 10, 11); denial of the need to give alms from superfluities (n. 12); satisfaction on the misfortunes of others because of personal advantage accruing therefrom (ns. 13, 14); oathtaking without intention of meaning to do so (n. 25); false witness, concealment of truth, lying (ns. 26, 27); Killing on private judgment and personal execution (n. 30); killing as an excessive punishment disproportionate to the offense (ns. 31, 32); abortion (ns. 34, 36); stealing (ns. 36-39); usury (ns. 4042; false testimony (ns. 43, 44); fornication (n. 48); the denial of the intrinsic evil of immoral sexuality (n. 49); collusion in illicit sexuality (ns. 50, 51). If someone should object that some of these proscriptions have a biblical origin, the objection is prompted by a misconception. A natural law precept does not lose its naturalness because it is divinely revealed. The naturalness is not transmuted by the cognitive process. God may choose to reveal His will by a divine didactic other than by its evidentiary manifestations in the works of His creation.

V. Incarnation and the Natural Law

The truth is that only in the mystery of the Incamate Word does the mystery of man take on light. For Adam, the first man, was a figure of Him who was to come, namely Christ the Lord. Christ, the final Adam, by the revelation of the mystery of the Father and His love, fully reveals man to man himself and makes his supreme calling clear. It is not surprising, then, that in Him all the aforementioned truths find their root and attain their crown.... Since human nature as He assumed it was not annulled by that very fact it has been raised up to a divine dignity in our respect, too. For by His Incarnation the Son of God has united Himself in some fashion with every man. He worked with human hands, He thought with a human mind, acted by human choice, and loved with a human heart. Born of the Virgin Mary, He has truly been made one of us, like us in all things except sin (Gaudium et spes, n. 22, italics supplied).

In the Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World, the Council addressed itself "to the whole of humanity" and concerned itself principally with "man himself, whole and entire, body and soul, heart and conscience, mind and will" (n). The central theme is that the natural dignity of man is better understood through the revelation of the supernatural dignity of man and above all and much more so by the Incarnation whereby the Son of God in the awesome mystery of the hypostatic union assumed an unblemished human nature in the unity of one divine Person. Apart from the requirements of Redemption, the Incarnation is the greatest compliment paid to human nature. In Genesis God created man in His image. In the "fulness of time" the Son of God became the Son of man. In a paraphrase of the Second and Third Councils of Constantinople, the Council Fathers affirm dogmatically that the Son of God assumed a truly human nature -- and this is what constitutes the unitive likeness between the Incarnate Word and every man. Its authenticity is further confirmed by the fact that Christ, Our Lord, taught natural law obligations: redemption of debts, payment of taxes, obedience to civil authorities, the duty to alleviate our neighbors' burdens, daily sustenance for services rendered, etc. Our Divine Lord and St. Paul spoke of recompense for spiritual ministries, I Cor. 9: 4-1 8.

We cannot repeat too often that natural law is inseparable from the being of man and secondly, that natural law morality is not natural morality but within the supernatural status of man takes on a salvific force only as part of the lex Christi. It is in this light that exigencies of the natural law become part of that total deposit of truth committed to Peter and His successors to teach, interpret, and apply for the salvation of our eternal souls.

VI. Christian Vocation and the Natural Law

The invitation to the Christian vocation is intelligible in a twofold way, in its human articulation and in its resonant response in human capacity and experience. The lex Christi not only supposes the intelligibility and knowledge of the connatural exigencies of human nature but is built upon it as well as it incorporates and elevates it. The evangelical morality is communicated to man in that same human language within which the lex naturae is discerned and formulated judiciously. When God speaks to man, He speaks in human terms; there is no other way of communicating with man unless by the exceptional way of infused knowledge and even then God must do so within human conceptual intelligence. "If faith comes by hearing," as St. Paul wrote, what is heard must in some way be verbally cognizable so that auditors may "walk away" because of the "hard sayings" or follow Him because He is "Christ, the Son of God." Our Lord's parables are drawn from immediately felt experiences: the calculating sagacity of wise stewards; vigilance of shepherds against the thief in the night; reenforcement of garrisons against enemy assaults--the centrality of prudence against deception; true life is union with God--"I am the vine, you are the branches. Abide in Me and I in you"; the characteristic of love is above all unity of wills: "If you love Me keep My commandments"; "Not everyone who calls out, Lord, Lord, will enter into the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of my Father"; "Not My will but Thine be done." St. Paul's exhortation for husbands and wives to love one another as Christ loved His Church and gave His life for it can only be intelligible in terms of human ardor and total fidelity. Some Romans who admired courage were converted to Christianity by the example of martyrs in the Coliseum. The invitation to be a personal follower of Christ, Our Lord, does not exempt but presupposes the fulfillment of existing obligations. The rich young man was told to keep the commandments if he would attain eternal life. "All these have I kept; what is yet wanting to me?" Then, Our Lord answered, "If thou will be perfect, go, sell what thou hast, give to the poor, and follow Me" (Matt. 19, 21 ff.).

VII. The Supernatural and the Natural Law

Few words are self-definable as supernatural: that to which human nature is elevated, presupposes, conserves, and reveals human nature; otherwise it would be a contradiction in itself etymologically. The Supernatural does not miraculously transubstantiate us from the natural to a status of being that eliminates the authentic exigencies of human nature. The First Commandment calls upon man to love God "with all your heart, with all your soul, your whole mind, your whole strength" (Deut. 6, 4 and Levit. 19, 18). The summons to grace, the gratuitous gift of supernatural life and the beatific vision cannot be earned de condigno. It must nonetheless be worthy de congruo. The natural law is part of the whole moral order. The God of salvation is the God of creation and it is one and the same divine will which legislates the lex naturae and the lex Christi. Revelation on the Decalogue which the moral consciousness of man already prescribed bore the instruction that the natural moral law is divine law. As such, natural law is no less the object of theology, natural and revelational, as it is of philosophy. Every natural truth is revelabilia without losing its naturalness. When revealed or inextricably bound up with the way of salvation it belongs to the deposit of truth entrusted to the Church.

To repeat a caution: there is not a natural morality and a supernatural morality but only one salvific morality, evangelical morality of which natural law morality is existentially a part and as such is necessary to and leads men to their ultimate end, God, by sanctifying them through obedience to its moral precepts, and to those of the Gospel ethics. They are not separate or separable in the present dispensation except as a philosophical methodology. Christian revelation then, as Vatican II repeatedly affirms, adumbrates the whole of humanity, the natural dignity and its supernatural dignity. Rather, human nature as illumined by the Incarnation, restored by the Redemption, revealed as never before or since by the humanity of Christ, has been entrusted as a treasure "bought by a great price" to the care of His Church for its sanctification and salvation. The natural capability for virtue requires the supernatural as its necessary complement if it is to have any authentic relevance for the supernatural destiny of man. The connatural law of human nature is contained within the deposit of revealed truth either explicitly--as we have seen in the teaching of Our Lord and in St. Paul--or implicitly, or obscurely, of which the abiding presence of the Holy Spirit will give clearer and deeper understanding to the custodians whom Christ, Our Lord, has set over His Church "fully reveals man to man himself."

VIII. Human Biology Is of Human Life

A recurrent theme of Humanae vitae that is stated by a rich variety of expressions and iluminating insights is that man's sexuality is never merely biological. Carnal communion of the spouses is an act of "total love," "fully human" whose "biological laws . . . are part of the human person." It is preeminently personalist because it is expressive "of the reciprocal personal gift of self." This is unalterably true whether the spouses are young or old, fertile or sterile, whether the marital act is consummated during periods of natural sterility or during the brief intervals of fecundity. The Encyclical rejects as morally justifiable by whatsoever motivation the human initiative and complicity in artificial contraception.

It borders on the facetious to object that the Encyclical bases its morality on the biological process. Should it have ignored it? The biological structures, the organic functions and the course of the development of the natural consequences of carnal communion are a divinely designed pattern expressive of the divine will. When spouses refrain during the fertile period (and they may freely abstain at any time with mutual consent) and resort to the naturally infertile period, they are acting in conformity with the totality of God's will which has defined the whole ovulatory cycle of the woman. Artificial contraception is not part of that divine design.

Human biology is of human life. The marital act is procreative in "intent," in "ordination," in "meaning" whether fruitful or not. Conjugal love is not love plus sexuality but conjugal love is uniquely expressed in the totality of the marital act. It is never merely reproductive as an animal breeding. The natural moral law is not restricted to the rational which is intellect, to the spiritual as opposed to the physical. The natural moral law covers the whole man. His instincts are human instincts to subserve human purposes, his emotions are human emotions to enrich a human life, his intelligence is human reason to give richness and unity to human life, his physical composition -- the senses, the physical organs and functions, all these while serving partial purposes, all unite in the life-giving process. That is why Pope Pius XII forbade artificial insemination. Such conception is devoid of the fullness of human desire, the communion of beings, the one-in- flesh. In the Allocution of May 19, 1956, Pope Pius XII had anticipated the high synthesis of Humanae vitae

The child is the fruit of the conjugal union, when it is expressed in its fullness through the simultaneous functioning of the organic functions, of the sense emotions connected with it, and of the disinterested and spiritual love that animates it. It is in the unity of this human act that the biological conditions of procreation must be situated. It is never permitted to separate these different aspects to the point of positively excluding either the procreative intention or the conjugal relation.

It is evident that the scientist and the doctor have the right to concentrate their attention to its purely scientific elements and to resolve the problem in function of these data alone. But when we enter into the field of the practical applications to man, it is impossible not to consider the repercussions that the methods proposed will have on the person and his destiny.

The morality of human sexuality is biologically grounded, very much so. But it is a biology that is human and its morality derives from man's total humanity and his eternal destiny.

It is surprising that anyone should want to challenge a natural law morality that is biologically based at a time when so much of our moral anguish is about biological needs: material aid to underdeveloped countries, distribution of the earth's resources, nourishment, clothing, decent residence, employment, just wages, restrictions on the conduct of war, treatment of prisoners, etc.

IX. Constancy and Universality of Human Nature

A two-pronged effort has been initiated in some quarters to weaken certitude in religious belief and moral imperatives. For example, we are told that Semitic and Hellenic categories divide biblical anthropology and patristic and scholastic anthropology. Besides the conceptualization, the verbal articulation is not so reliable a medium for the inviolate transmission of the Word of God. Were not the Hebraic, Greek, and Roman theological propositions "historically and culturally conditioned" and their verbal formulations captive in Platonic conceptions and Aristotelian categories? (What Ayer had done for logical positivism, the theologues would do for the new theology.) All this is further compounded by an "ongoing process" of doctrinal development wherein doctrinal conformity and dissent interact much like the Hegelian triad to a synthesis that in turn is subject to the multiple variants of time, place, semantics, culture, historical circumstances and motivations. As for articles of religious creed, suffice at this time to ask, is it not possible for God to speak in time, place, and local language the same way of salvation to all men to the end of time without the hazards of serious distortion of His word? Could Christ Jesus, true God and true man, effectively guarantee that His Gospel can be preached to all men to the end of time inviolably as He promised, whatever the language, the attendant historical circumstances, the cultural differentiation? Ultimately the question is, is God the Redeemer capable of speaking to all men through His Church?

The assault upon the traditional natural moral law has the unenviable advantage of word appeal and a motivation that is sensitively humane. The traditional natural law is "static," "archaic," "closedin," prevents "progress," does not "keep up with the times."

Let us look at the traditional natural law which was above disfavor as recently as Pope John's Pacem in terris and Mater et magistra.

Human nature bears within itself the purpose of its existence for itself and for others. It is predetermined by its Maker what it ought to be and endowed with connatural energies and capacities, physical and spiritual, by whose exertions it may realize its own fulfillment or deviate from it. In a word, human nature is both normative and perfectible. We do not conceive of it as did the eighteenth century philosophes in a state of pure nature. Rather, it is an existential human nature constant and universal--of the savage, the barbarian, the civilized, the saintly, the wicked. Abstraction from particularities of each individual existence, and historical circumstances, does not reduce our human nature to a state of pure nature but is simply a philosophical method so that we may correctly answer the question, "is it a human being or an animal who was slaughtered?" The rational formulations of the exigencies implanted in man by God go appropriately by the name of the natural law, being at one and the same time, the law of the nature of man and a divine law. The constancy and universality of human nature and its laws are the ultimate basis why men in every generation have felt righteous anger against man's inhumanity to man, whether Nordic, Latin, African, Oriental. Looking at it in a brighter light, it is the reason why we take pride in Socrates, St. Francis of Assisi, Dante, Michelangelo, Shakespeare, Newton, etc., because they are one of us. We wonder at and pray to angels but we do not take pride in them because they are not one of us. Because of this constancy and universality of human nature, we condemn contraception, abortion, infanticide, euthanasia, genocide, slavery, human exploitation, etc. Constancy and universality are properties of the moral absolutes which envelop all men with immunity from the arbitrary, with inviolability of life and those accompanying liberties that are necessary for man's pursuit of temporal and eternal happiness. It is this transcendental referral that invests man with a unique dignity--to have been made in the image of God in a manner that no other earthly creature is and to be destined with eternal union with Him. This likeness to God is preeminently manifest in the human intellectual capacity to reach out to all truth, including God, and the ability to will all goodness, including God. By these capacities men have developed a variety of natural sciences astounding in their achievements and a rich diversity of arts wonderful to contemplate. Human nature is constant and universal, normative, perfectible--and progressive. Collective intellectual and spiritual maturity--as the history of "justice" among men testifies--is exceedingly slow and sluggish. But individual intellectual brilliance and heroic sanctity are to be found in every generation.

One is hard put to understand the charge that traditional natural law is static, archaic, unprogressive, when in fact, historically, men's struggle for rights and liberties was in the name of the inviolable law of their nature, newborn nations proclaimed their right to be, to originate in natural law, and so much of international law has advanced under the inspiration of the natural law. The capacity for perfectibility is not vitiated by the malicious ability to be perverse, the absoluteness of natural law moral imperatives is not compromised by the capricious arrogance to defy them. But if men are to respond to equality, fraternity, liberty for all, then the human struggle to actualize as much of these moral absolutes into historical realities as possible must make its appeal to a human nature, and its law that is identical, that affirms thereby the equality of all men, the inviolability of that human dignity that is connatural. We cannot consistently condemn Dachau--or any other human perversity of the past or foreseeable future without acknowledging these moral absolutes of man. When St. Paul taught there was no difference between Greek and Jew, Gentile and barbarian, he was not speaking only of his contemporaries.

X. Principle of Totality

The "positive" basis on which the dissidents rest is an expansionist interpretation of the principle of totality. An individual act of matrimonial intercourse might be morally permissible, they argue, even though the prospects for procreation were artificially precluded by the spouses for grave reasons provided that the totality of married life was sincerely governed by a habitual intention to beget children. These "grave reasons" are summarily a conjectural calculus of the total family good.

The papal principle of totality is substantially different. When a part of the body endangers the well-being or survival of the whole, that part is disposable It was on such a principle of totality that surgical operations of incurably diseased organs were morally justified. Pius XI for the most part applied the principle to the physical organism. The moral principle of totality indirectly denied absolute dominion over the body but affirmed a justifiably limited one. The excision of the incurably diseased organ was an exercise of a direct but restricted dominion over one's own body. The sexual organs and functions were never to be impaired.

The excision of an incurably diseased sexual organ would be morally justifiable by the same principle of totality in the exercise of adirect dominion. The excision of sexual organs or loss of their functions which are not physically disabled is morally allowable only as an indirect and unavoidable incidence of a directly intended surgical removal, i.e., of a cancerous womb. While the principle of totality warrants the direct disposition of individual members and functions of the body for the sake of the survival and well-being of the total person, the disposability of procreative faculties falls under a second moral principle, that of double effect. That is why directly intended sterilization, temporary or permanent, is morally forbidden. Contraceptive artifices and contraceptive uses of the anovulants are direct sterilization and as such are morally illicit means of restricting conception. The direct dominion over members and functions of the body is a limited one. It can never be morally arbitrary and as regards surgery a sufficiently justifying reason must exist. The direct dominion of spouses over their procreative faculties is restricted to their choice to engage in carnal communion or not. But once the marital act is begun (opus hominis), this limited direct dominion ceases. Thereafter the course of natural development and consequences (opus naturae) is totally inviolable against any human interference or frustration.

The principle of totality safeguards the human body against mutilations. Pius XII enlarged upon his predecessor's application of the principle and applied it to the totality of human personality. Questions beyond mere surgery, i.e., spiritual benefits, intellectual and emotional, that may ensue from sound psychiatric treatment were adjudged worthy of moral justification. The temporary arrest of the patient's free will and the facile disclosure of innermost thoughts, desires, fears, frustrations, and haunting memories to another's prying interrogations and temporary mastery are justifiable only if thereby the intent and conduct of the psychoanalysis were such as to release the patient from psychic disorders and perturbating indispositions. Pius XII's broadened principle also provided moral justification for transplants of organs from a donor to another not only to the advantage of the recipient but also as a profound expression of fraternal charity. The donor does not deprive himself of a biological function but rather shares it with another: blood transfusion, kidney transplant, skin and bone grafting, transplant of arteries and veins. The Second Vatican Council in the Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World (Gaudium et spes) stressed the unity and totality of man in body and soul to reaffirm that all of man is preeminently spiritual in his biological needs, in conjugal sexuality, in social relations.

Central to the papal principle of totality is the basic notion that nature is analogous. There are bodily organs which structurally and functionally exist to be, bonum esse, and whose reason to exist is to subserve other bodily organs and collaborate with the multiplicity of biological functions to the principal benefit of the entire human organism. They achieve partial goods and they are contributory participants in a superior all- enveloping good. When they threaten the survival and well-being of the whole person, they are disposable. Their activities are contingent; once initiated they may be interrupted. The marital act is uniquely different. The procreative faculties are not expressive of a partial good. They do not subserve a good higher than their own specific immanent "intent," "ordination," "essential and inseparable meanings" of the conjugal act. It is a totality in itself, expressive of a totality of being. This is the mystery of love revealed by God, that human love be an analogue of the eternal divine generation. The conceivable would be consubstantial with the father and mother, one with them in the unity of human nature, distinct from each. It is for these reasons that "each and every marriage act (quilibet matrimonii usus) must remain open to the transmission of life."

Xl. Unprincipled Totality

At no time prior to the contraceptive controversy -- neither in Pius XI, Pius XII, nor in the Pastoral Constitution (Gaudium et spes) of Vatican II-was the principle of totality ever extrapolated beyond the physical person to the collective or corporate personality of the family. Pope Paul analyzed this "so- called principle of totality" (H. V. n. 3) (which he contrasts with the correct understanding of the "principle of totality," n. 17), as follows:

. . . could it not be admitted that the intention of a less abundant but more rationalized fecundity might transform a materially sterilizing intervention into a licit and wise control of birth? Could it not be admitted, that is, that the finality of procreation pertains to the ensemble of conjugal life, rather than to its single acts? It is also asked whether, in view of the increased sense of responsibility of modern man, the moment has not come for him to entrust to his own reason and his will, rather than to the biological rhythm of his organism, the task of regulating birth (H.V. n. 3).

This conceptual innovation, together with studious inattention to the analogy of nature and unrestricted by the principle of double effect, rests on several questionable suppositions.

The first supposition suggests that each and every sexual act is not intrinsically valued morally and that a "materially sterilizing intervention" may be transformed into a morally acceptable act by virtue of a superseding principle of family calculus. But the point is that an intentionally contrived act of artificial contraception can scarcely be considered as "a materially sterilizing intervention." It is, morally, a formal act of intervention and as such intrinsically illicit. Further, the theory of moral conversion or transformation supposes that the act in itself is either invested with moral import or is morally indifferent until ennobled by a prudential calculus of family providence. The first meaning would entail a moral contradiction. As for the second meaning, this writer, for one, disallows the indifference of means. There is a coordinate correlation between the goodness of the means and the goodness of the end. Every means anticipates the end. The choice of a means is never in vacuo. There is a mutuality of goodness between means and ends. God's goodness is participated in no less by means than by ends. That said, we affirm that the carnal communication of the spouses is not a means but an end in itself. And any relationship between marital intercourse and the totality of family good is not a relationship of subordination but a logical relationship of time and consequences.

The second supposition denies at least implicitly the uniqueness of the matrimonial act as a totality in itself as an end in itself. Nor is the connotation of habitual intention to beget children in "the ensemble of conjugal life" relevant. A habitual intention is one which, if at a particular time it is not thought of, is nonetheless extant.

The third argument is one for responsible and providential parenthood, an end which the Encyclical itself commends. But planned parenthood is presumptive when it will not conform to God's own provision for natural limitation of family. While the lengthy period of natural sterility is for the benefit of recuperating the woman's energies and resettling her physical faculties, nonetheless this natural disposition provides that facility for corresponding human dominion with God's dominion over the bodies of spouses for regulation of families during infecund periods as well as for corresponding to God's will during the brief interval of fertility. This is collaboration, cooperation with God whensoever the spouses choose to join in carnal union.

It is much too facile to have recourse to the choice of the lesser of two evils. This principle is inapplicable to marital relations. Correctly understood, the lesser of two evils refers not to the personal commission of the lesser of two evils but to the tolerance -- say, by the state for houses of prostitution -- for the protection of individuals against rape. God never intends anyone to be placed in a forcible choice of one evil or another. In marital relations, the spouses are never confronted with such a choice. The underlying rationale for this unwarranted recourse to the lesser of two evils is that abstention during the short interval of fertility may be hazardous to marital fidelity. We think such fears to be unduly excessive.

Abstention is much a part of married life. The generality of doctors counsel abstention during the time of advanced pregnancy and for a time after the birth of the child. These acts of abstention are acts of tender regard for the child to be born and for the mother. Not infrequently spouses are hospitalized for lengths of time in their youth as well as in later years. There are many occasions of geographic separation -- business trips, visiting sick relatives, times of bereavement, military service. Continence during these interludes of separation are acts of fidelity and unfailing devotion. And what of excessive fatigue or that moderating restraint which a heart condition would strongly commend? A carnal act that is selfishly imposed would scarcely be expressive of conjugal love and may be deeply resented. And what of young widows and widowers- ought they not bear witness to God's commandments and the life of grace? Abstention is part and parcel of married life. It is hardly unnatural; rather, it fosters its own virtuous advantage, conjugal chastity. For those who abstain during the fertile period -- even with the addition of days to minimize miscalculation -- grow in that discipline of strength so necessary to them when occasions will occur for their temporary separations. Not every act of abstention is an act of frustration; rather it may be the manifestation of a deep compassionate love, a tender concern, a thoughtful unselfishness that cultivates a greater conjugal love and belief in one another's fidelity.

There has evolved in modern times a meaning of love that stresses affection more than devotion, the varieties of romantic expressions more than fidelity, thoughtfulness, daily providence - - it stresses enjoyment more than sacrifice, the temporal context of love almost to the exclusion of its eternal dimension. In antiquity love between spouses was not a consciously definable experience nor did it ever inspire a Greek or Latin Romeo and Juliet. The Pauline exaltation of conjugal love to the likeness of Christ's love for His Church and His self-expenditure for her sake does not readily suggest an accentuation upon the romantic or passionate. It may be that the most poignant remembrances of married life which constitute the humanitatis solatium in advanced age or after separation by death are those acts of tenderness, compassionate understanding, mutual trust, and the countless courtesies. Those who insist on recourse to artificially induced contraception during the brief periods of fertility rather than to abstinence motivated by a prudential calculus of the "total family good" are unduly overstating the urgencies of marital intercourse.

There is a totalitarian hazard, real and actual, immanent in the expansionist "principle" of totality that finds its justification in the name of communal, regional, and national interest. In our times, not a few public officials and some prominent citizens have advocated legally imposed fiscal restraints for families beyond a fixed limit. Pope Paul took full measure of a conjectural calculus of communitarian totality of self-interest that is regulated by artificially controlled procreation. He lays bare the inescapable logic of an a fortiori rationalizing moralism that takes as its premise and point of departure the permissiveness of artificial contraception for the sake of the family "good."

Let it be considered also that a dangerous weapon would thus be placed in the hands of those public authorities who take no heed of moral exigencies. Who could blame a government for applying to the solution of the problems of the community those means acknowledged to be licit for married couples in the solution of a family problem? Who will stop rulers from favoring, the method of contraception which they judge to be most efficacious? In such a way men, wishing to avoid individual, family, or social difficulties encountered in the observance of the divine law, would reach the point of placing at the mercy of the intervention of public authorities the most personal and most reserved sector of conjugal intimacy (H.V. n. 17).

XII. Bona Matrimonii

Critics of the Encvclical Point to the absence of any mention of the primary and secondary ends of marriage in the text on Marriage and Family (Gaudium et spes, ns 42-52). They infer that such a silence connotes a de-emphasis on procreation as the primary end of matrimony. They are correct in that ex litteris these terms do not appear at all in the Council document. But the inference they draw is baseless. At least twice the Council expressly states:

By their very nature, the institution of matrimony itself and conjugal love are ordained for the procreation and education of children (n. 48).

Marriage and conjugal love are by their nature ordained toward the begetting and educating of children (n. 50).

And again, God

wished to share with man a certain special participation in His own creative work. Thus He blessed male and female, saying: "Increase and multiply" (n. 50).

Parents should regard as their proper mission the task of transmitting human life and educating those to whom it has been transmitted (n. 50).

Indeed, the Council adds that "those merit special mention... who bring up suitably even a relatively large family" (n. 50). It is our considered judgment that the substantive content of the primary and secondary ends of marriage are stated unequivocally in the Council doctrine even if the terms do not appear verbatim. In fact, neither does Humanae vitae use the traditional terms primary and secondary ends of marriage, yet who could doubt that if each and every marriage act must remain open to the transmission of life (H.V. n. 11) the procreative purpose is the primary end of marriage? Still the question bears examination. What may have been the reasons why these terms, primary and secondary ends, were not mentioned in the Council document and later in Humanae vitae?

Let us first note the Fathers did not intend a comprehensive doctrinal presentation. They concentrated on "certain key points" of the Church doctrine (n. 47) and addressed themselves to those Christians and other men ". . . to keep sacred and to foster the natural dignity of the married state and its superlative value" (n 47 italics supplied). The Council in a word addressed its teaching on all valid marriages, of Christians and non-Christians, of the young and old, of the fertile and the infecund. This catholicity of vision while hardly minimizing the procreative purpose of marriage focuses on the ensemble of conjugal love, the "various ways" of "fostering this community of love," "this many-faceted love," which will endure "with unbreakable oneness" and "perpetual fidelity." It is "an intimate partnership," an "intimate union," of "mutual help and service to each other."' Christ's love and union with His Church are the model of matrimonial love and total dedication of the spouses to one another. This devotion is manifest "in bright days or dark" and bears the qualities of prayerfulness, "largeheartedness, and the spirit of sacrifice." In the marital act which "uniquely" -- but not exclusively-is expressive of conjugal love - there is so much more to the daily providence of matrimony than the marital act -- the spouses become cooperators with God. What seems to this writer to be the principal emphasis in this document of traditional doctrine on matrimony is that it is a way of sanctification. The spouses "increasingly advance their own perfection, as well as their mutual sanctification, and hence contribute jointly to the glory of God" (n. 48). It is a recurrent theme that weaves through every consideration: "growing in perfection day by day," "caught up into divine love," "this love can lead the spouses to God," "penetrated with the spirit of Christ," "human maturity, salvation, and holiness," "love, merging the human with the divine, strengthened by grace for holiness of life." Matrimonial love that is in the likeness of Christ's love and which cooperates with the love of the Creator could not but sanctify. The undoubtedly calculated omission of the terms "primary and secondary ends" does not constitute any novel doctrinal stance but is an act of prescinding completely in accord with the catholicity of perspective. "The work of mutual sanctification" pervades the totality of conjugal love. Those who marry in advanced age and those young whose marriage is barren of progeny are not inferior in the Christian vocation of marriage to those who are blessed with children. The matrimonial life of Elizabeth and Zachary is illustrative of the stirring aspirations and community of love of spouses.

XIII. A Historical Summary

Commentators point joyfully to the advance of the Second Vatican Council on preceding traditional teaching of the Church on marriage. Whatever may be this advance, this newness -- how much of it is indebted to traditional teaching?

From the first centuries of Christianity, we find condemnation of contraceptive purposes, and occasionally the similitude of the love of the spouses for each other to Christ's love for His Church (Ephesians 5:25). Clement of Alexandria, changing gender, used I Timothy (2:25): "He shall be saved by childbearing" (Stromata 2, 12, 19). St. John Chrysostom gave a more expansive attention to Ephesians (5) than any of the early Fathers. In Irenaeus, Jerome, and Ambrose marital intercourse is for procreative purpose. And among the apologetes, use of the Pauline loci classici on natural law struck a welcome resonance among the Roman adherents of Stoicism. But it is to St. Augustine (and later to St. Thomas) that we must turn for that language and the substantive doctrine on matrimony that prevailed unchallenged to our times in the generality of moral theology texts. The title of his work, The Good of Marriage (de bono conjugii) sets the tone. Proles, fides, sacramentum, these constitute the good of marriage. The primary and principal purpose is procreation, then, a bond of mutual indebtedness to supply one another's needs, and thirdly, the indissolubility of marriage doubly reenforced by the Christian sacrament. The Augustinian stress is on procreation, a higher and more intimate partnership of the spouses with God than in mere reproduction. And even procreation has a more extensive meaning. "The receiving of them (progeny) lovingly, the nourishing of them humanely, the educating of them religiously" (On Genesis 9, 7). Procreation is an expression of the natural "capacity for friendship" (de bono conjugii 1). And for the Christians there is the unique benefit of generation of the faithful. Procreation, not merely reproduction, rebirth, not merely birth. Augustine also taught that marriage is for an affectionate and compassionate companionship-humanitatis solatium - (de bono viduitatis 8, 11), a notion that goes beyond the basic remedium concupiscentiae. Some historians have suggested that the positive values implied in St. Augustine's bona matrimonii are not directly related to marital intercourse, or, put in another way, the positive meaning of marital coitus itself is not expatiated on. Further, they say the teaching of St. Augustine on marriage was forged as a polemic response to the Gnostics and Manichaeans' teaching on marital sexuality. The course of doctrinal development might have centered more on the centrality of love in carnal union of spouses had St. John Chrysostom's teaching prevailed instead. The insinuation is that St. Augustine's doctrine was historically conditioned, that is, directed to a specific objective, and formulated not as an exposition of the entire objective nature of marriage according to its natural institution and its Christian sacramental character. There is much to distinguish between a historically provoked moral teaching and a historically conditioned one. In a predominantly pagan society given to sexual degradations and perversions and even to a religious cult of sexuality which a darkened intelligence and stultified conscience had come to accept as moral (cf. Romans 1, 24-28), the Augustinian stress on procreative purpose is the necessary corrective of the pagan, Gnostic, and Manichaean distortion of human sexuality. But it is far from correct to suppose that Augustinian doctrine itself has been corrected by Vatican II and by Humanae vitae. On the contrary his essentials, his very terminology prevail through succeeding centuries, passed on by St. Thomas, and incorporated in Casti Connubii, Gaudium et spes, and Humanae vitae; proles, fides, sacramentum, amicitia conjugalis, pacto conjugalis, mutuum adiutorium. Latter-day criticism has placed St. Augustine in the exceptional company of St. Paul who has been faulted because of redditio debiti (1 Corinthians 7, 3) despite the highest exaltation of conjugal love in Ephesians (5, 25). The critics see redditio debiti as a cold legal exaction on the part of one spouse of the other. But the full context discloses that St. Paul is teaching against the selfish, capricious one-sided choice, the mutuality of marital rights and the union of consensual disposition on carnal communion or abstinence between the spouses, an astounding affirmation of equality in marital sex relations to a pagan society wherein the wife was in an inferior status sexually. The patristic bona matrimonii were analytically singled out by Schoolmen with a passion for distinction and systematization through hierarchy of ends. The distinction between primary and secondary ends of marriage could express -- as it etymologically does -- the concomitant sexual affectivities and consequent human solaces attendant upon a truly desirous procreative intent -- whether fruitful or not. "Delight follows operation," "Delight is the perfection of operation," so wrote Aquinas specifically of sexual pleasure (cf. On the Sentences 4, 31, 2; 4, 49, 3). When moralists discussed the bona in a context of conflict, the numerically suggestive terminology resolved the problem in a hierarchy of ends. This in no small part was historically prompted by the polemics against the Cathars, Albigensian, and Patarine's advocacy of sexual pleasure without seminal intromission. True human love, the most intimate human capacity of man, paradoxically had to wait for divine revelation of its nature in the adventof the Incarnate Word. It took centuries for our sluggish human nature to enlarge upon our concept of spiritual love to a noble and gallant romanticism and to incorporate it within married life itself. But this slow process belonged to human experience itself of all mankind and was not the resultant of restrictions of a moral doctrine on love in marriage.

XIV. Humanae vitae

The substantive context of the primary and secondary ends of marriage is in Gaudium et spes and in Humanae vitae. The absence of these terms in both these documents may be justified on the ground that they are no longer suitable to signify that fullness and richness of the bona matrimonii as enunciated in Humanae vitae. Pius XI had expressed it earlier:

This mutual interior formation of husband and wife, this persevering endeavor to bring each other to the state of perfection, may, in a true sense, be called, as the Roman Catechism calls it, the primary cause and reason of matrimony, so long as marriage is considered, not in its stricter sense, as the institution destined for the procreation and education of children, but in the wider sense as a complete and intimate life- partnership and association.

This much-ignored passage from Casti Connubii (ns. 24, 25) may rightly be considered a summary precis of numbers 47-51 of the Pastoral Constitution.

In Humanae vitae we have a radiant synthesis of the traditional teaching of the Church on marriage. It is ironical that his sublime document which give expression to the essential humanity of the biological processes of man, to -the companionship in salvation, to mutual personal perfection, to total self-donation, to responsible parenthood in collaboration with God's design both in the fertile and the nonfertile period, a total love which is "a very special form of personal friendship," to a totality of conjugal love that of its very nature cries out for similitude of the spouses -- whether fruitful or not -- that finds this totality in an openness to the transmission of life should have been criticized by the dissidents as too biological, unprogressive, nonpersonalist, etc. St. Thomas had written that God "has imparted His own goodness to created things in such a way that each of them could transmit to others what it has itself received. Consequently those who withdraw from things their own operations, do wrong to the goodness of God" (detrahere ergo actiones proprias rebus est divinae bonitati derogare" Contr. Gent. III. 69). This comprehensive principle is no less applicable to man's disposition of his own natural faculties as to his use or abuse of the operations of other beings.

The supernatural status of man, the assumption of human nature with all its connatural exigencies as well as its supernatural gifts in the mystery of the Incarnation, the undoubted teaching of natural law precepts by Our Divine Lord, the teaching of natural law precepts by St. Paul as part of the evangelical law, the presupposition of natural law obligations in the Christian vocation, the necessary ordination of certain grave natural law precepts to salvific dispensation, the papal and conciliar teaching of natural law precepts without ever designating any limitation of competence and authority to do so without error--all these considerations point to the inclusion of natural law precepts within the total deposit of truth committed to Peter and his successors for communication to all mankind, interpreting it, and applying it to concrete issues. Conversely, there is no evidence in any of the Church official documents that explicitly states or even implicitly suggests that there is an area of morality outside the teaching mission of the Church as divinely mandated. Nor is there any evidence in any official Church document that in natural law verities the ecclesial magisterium is philosophically accountable. Papal and conciliar magisterium rests wholly upon the Petrine commission and the obligation for acceptance on the part of the faithful relies primarily and principally upon the divine warrant of inerrancy. "He who hears you hears Me"--not--"He who agrees with you agrees with Me." What the Church may teach iure divino and with what degree of authoritative affirmation belong exclusively to the teaching authority of the Church to declare.

On the last day of the year when the Church of England decided by majority to vote to reverse its centuries-old moral ban on artificial contraception, December 31, 1930, Pope Pius XI promulgated the encyclical Casti Connubii. We conclude with his assessment of the Church in the modern world:

The Catholic Church, to whom God had entrusted the defense of the integrity and purity of morals, standing erect in the midst of the moral ruin which surrounds her, in order that she may preserve the chastity of the nuptial union from being defiled by this foul stain, raises her voice in token of her divine ambassadorship and through Our mouth proclaims anew: any use whatsoever of matrimony exercised in such a way that the act is deliberately frustrated in its natural power to generate life is an offense against the law of God and of nature, and those who indulge in such are branded with the guilt of grave

Each and every marriage act (quilibet matrimonii usus) must remain open to the transmission of life (AAS, 22, 559-560).

Taken from The American Joumal of Jurisprudence, Vol. 16 (1971), An International Forum for Legal Philosophy, Notre Dame Law School, Notre Dame, Indiana.

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