SUMMARY OF HUMANAE VITAE

(Encyclical Letter on the Regulation of Births, by Pope John VI, 25 July, 1968)1 This letter is composed of thirty one articles, with three major divisions aside from the Introduction. Part one talks about the New Aspects of the Problem and Competency of the Magisterium. Part two discusses thoroughly the Doctrinal Questions, and Part three gives out the Pastoral Directives. INTRODUCTION (Article 1) This part clearly speaks about transmission of life being a serious duty of married couples. However, it also points out the complexity of such an obligation mainly due to the ´recent evolution in human societyµ and must be given proper attention. I. NEW ASPECTS OF THE PROBLEM AND COMPETENCY OF THE MAGISTERIUM (Articles 2 ² 6) First of all, it points out the ´rapid increase in populationµ2 as one of the sources of such a problem in the transmission of human life. This can ´induce public authorities to be tempted to take radical measuresµ3 to attempt to stop such a danger. In addition, there is also the alarming development as regards man·s capacity to manipulate nature, especially the physical body, so that he can truly dominate his life. The document poses several relevant questions that require ample reflection, especially in reference to the time-honored moral and ethical principles that are being upheld by the Church. Role of the Magisterium Paul VI then points out the competency of the Magisterium as far as the proper interpretation of the natural moral is concerned. He pointed out the in the Church tradition, several popes have taught that ´Jesus Christ, when he communicated his divine power to Peter and the other apostles and sent them to teach all nations his commandments, constituted them as authentic guardians and interpreters of the whole moral law«µ4 It also mentions Church·s role as the Guarantor of True Human Values, basing on the teaching of Jesus Christ.5 Opinions from the Special Commission and some Bishops and Church·s Reply There was a special Commission set up by the previous Pope, John XXIII, in March 1963. Composed of married couples and lay experts in the fields related to the problem, its main task
1 This is based on Flannery, Austin, gen. ed, Vatican Council II: More Post Conciliar Documents, Vol. 2 (Pasay City: Paulines Publishing House, 1982), 397-416. 2 Art. 2 3 Art. 2 4 Art. 4 5 Art. 18

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was to examine views and opinions on married life, with a special slant on birth regulation. Other opinions from several Bishops were also sought out. All these expert opinions were then received by the Magisterium, which then set out to examine their reasonableness and set out to examine the whole matter herself. II. DOCTRINAL QUESTIONS (Articles 7 ² 18) This part is actually contains the foundational principles in tackling the problem of regulating human birth. Principle of Totality One of the main issues pointed out in this document is that of justifying artificial means of controlling human birth. In considering this problem, it points out the importance of considering the bigger picture: ´It is the whole man and the whole complex of his responsibilities that must be considered, not only what is natural and limited to this earth, but also what is supernatural and eternal.µ6 Marriage: Its Nature and Obligations The document specifies that every marriage has a special dignity of a ´sacramental sign of grace, for it represents the union of Christ and his Church.µ7 Hence, the love that must be found in every sacramental marriage has four important qualities: (a) human, (b) total, (c) faithful and exclusive, and (d) creative of life. Married love must be human because not only the aspect of natural instinct or emotional drive is considered but also the act of free will. Moreover, it must total insofar as personal friendship between husband and wife is involved and that there is a sharing of everything between them, without any selfish motivations. Married is also faithful and exclusive in that there is fidelity of husband and wife even amidst great difficulties. Lastly, love must be creative of life inasmuch as every marriage is ordained towards procreation and bringing up of children. Hence, it is of utmost importance that married couples should be fully conscious of their obligations as far as responsible parenthood is concerned. In other words, ´they are bound to ensure that what they do corresponds to the will of God the Creator.µ8 Aside form ensuring at all times this marital obligation, there is also a need to respect the marital act or sexual union that necessarily proceeds from a Christian marriage. In doing the sexual act, married couples must not hinder its ´natural capacity to procreate human life.µ9 In this way, the inherent link of the unitive as well as the procreative aspects in the marital act remains intact. The document goes
Art. 7 Art 8 8 Art. 10 9 Art. 11
6 7

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on to say that this teaching does not go against both human reason and God·s design. Any act which impedes the ability of transmitting life absolutely goes against God·s will.10 Unlawful ways of Regulating Birth and their Grave consequences The document uncompromisingly points out some of the unlawful means of regulating birth considered to be objectively unethical: (a) direct interruption of generative process, (b) direct and therapeutic abortion, (c) direct sterilization of either man or woman, whether permanent or temporary, (d) any action before, during and after sexual union that prevents procreation, and (e) using contraceptives or artificial birth control during the marital act. It is also noteworthy to mention that the Church forewarns the fact that those men who often use contraceptives can possibly forget that their marital partner, i.e. the women, are human beings who must be treated with reverential dignity. Moreover, giving those public authorities who adhere to artificial birth control the go signal can give them unlimited power and, thus, can possible impose their will on their subjects without reverence to the freedom due to each individual person. What is Lawful There is however the appraisal of the natural means of regulating human birth. The Church teaches that ´married couples may take advantage of the natural cyclesµ within the human reproductive system. Couples may do the marital act during those times when the woman is infertile.11 III. PASTORAL DIRECTIVES (Articles 19 ² 31) The Church truly recognizes her role as the ´Mother and Teacher of all nationsµ12. She sees to it that the law of God is faithfully carried out. She also continues to exhort all families to be diligent in following these precepts that uphold the dignity of the human person. There is the fundamental duty of the husband and wife to ´fully recognize and value the true blessings of family life and to master one·s self. Self-discipline on the part of the husband and wife can help them observe chastity and be enriched with spiritual blessings.13

An Appeal To Those With Great Responsibilities The Magisterium of the Church addresses all those who are involved, whether directly of indirectly, so that they may carry out their duties accordingly, keeping in mind the important
Art 13 Art. 16 12 Art. 19 13 Art. 21
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ethical and moral principles. They are the (a) educators, (b) rulers of nations, (c) men of sciences, (d) Christian husbands and wives, (d) doctors and nurses, (e) priests, and (g) bishops. As far as the educators are concerned, they need to provide an atmosphere that favors the growth of chastity and the safeguarding of the moral law.14 On the part of the heads of state, they must never allow public morals to be undermined. This implies that every government must not introduce any legislation that is corrupted and completely opposed to the divine law.15 Persons in the field of science should do research and studies to make clear the human conditions ´favourable to a lawful regulation of procreation.µ16 With special attention, the Church addresses Christian husbands and wives. They must keep in mind their fundamental vocation to the Christian life³one that is geared towards sanctity and is intrinsically connected with Baptism and made more explicit in the Sacrament of Marriage. They have the weightier task of keeping the God-given precepts in the area of lawful regulation of births because they are directly involved. If they find it burdensome, then they have the duty to humbly beg divine help through prayer and the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist. Married couples are then enjoined to share their own fruitful experiences to other families for the propagation of moral values and right conduct as Christians.17 Doctors and nurses have the responsibility of fulfilling the ´demands of their Christian vocationµ18 before any selfish motives. They must offer married couples solutions that are congruent to Christian ethics. To priests, the Pope sternly tells them of their principal duty of explaining to the people the teachings of the Church regarding marriage in its entirety. Likewise, priests ´must teach married couples the necessary way of prayerµ19 and make them approach the sacraments of Eucharist and penance for the grace the couples truly need. Lastly, bishops are asked to zealously safeguard the holiness of marriage. They must have pastoral programs that promote a concerted effort, especially in their particular dioceses, to promote the sacredness of life, the dignity of marriage and to do battle against the evil of artificial ways of birth control. The last article is a final appeal made by Pope Paul VI to all peoples to join in the effort of observing the divine law, while bestowing upon all his Apostolic Blessing.

Art. 22 Art. 23 16 Art. 24 17 Art. 25 ² 26. 18 Art. 27 19 Art. 28 ² 29
14 15

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