'The institution of marriage'
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By Matt C. Abbott
The following "weekly note" - a good one! --comes from the July 1, 2007 bulletin of St. Mary of the Angels Parish in Chicago. It was written by associate pastor Father Joe Landauer.
'We are looking at the institution of marriage. Today we will study the second characteristic of God's plan for it: openness to children.
'Genesis 1:28 defines this element of marriage: 'And God blessed them, and God said to them: 'Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it.'' The Catechism of the Catholic Church elaborates on this point: 'Since God created him man and woman, their mutual love becomes an image of the absolute and unfailing love with which God loves man. It is good, very good, in the Creator's eyes. And this love which God blesses is intended to be fruitful and to be realized in the common work of watching over creation: 'And God blessed them, and God said to them: 'Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it'' (#1604).
'We see now a clear connection between the previous characteristic of marriage (self-giving) and children. A couple, when they give themselves to each other, also give to each other the possibility of children. The marital union of husband and wife and the possibility of procreation are, therefore, linked together by nature. This is the reason why Pope Paul VI tells us: '[I]t is necessary that each and every marital act must of necessity retain its intrinsic relationship to the procreation of human life' (Humanae Vitae #11).
'Any direct action that would separate the possibility of procreation from the marital union would violate God's initial plan and, therefore, be sinful: '[E]very action which, whether in anticipation of the conjugal act, or in its accomplishment, or in the development of its natural consequences, proposes, whether as an end or as a means, to render procreation impossible is intrinsically evil' (Humanae Vitae #16). Sterilization, in the form of a vasectomy or tubal ligation, would then be sinful. Birth control, in the form of pills or any object used by either the man or the woman to impede pregnancy, would be sinful. Onanism, the act of withdrawal during the marital act and depositing the male's seed outside of the womb, would also be sinful.
'The Catechism gives us criteria about periodic continence. 'Periodic continence, that is, the methods of birth regulation based on self-observation and the use of infertile periods, is in conformity with the objective criteria of morality. These methods respect the bodies of the spouses, encourage tenderness between them, and favor the education of an authentic freedom' (#2370). And what criteria should govern these decisions? 'A particular aspect of this responsibility concerns the regulation of births. For just reasons, spouses may wish to space the births of their children. It is their duty to make certain that their desire is not motivated by selfishness but is in conformity with the generosity appropriate to responsible parenthood' (#2368).
'Some couples are not able to have children. Pope John Paul II addresses this situation: 'It must not be forgotten however that, even when procreation is not possible, conjugal live does nor for this reason lose its value. Physical sterility in fact can be for the spouses the occasion for other important services to the life of the human person, for example, adoption, various forms of educational work, and assistance to other families and to poor and handicapped children' (Familiaris Consortio #14).
'And, lastly, let's say a few words about single people. Many feel that God has called them to marriage but have not yet found the right person. For the moment, they need to accept God's design for them and seek to use their time in the service to others. They too have to make a gift of themselves to others in order to find their fulfillment.'
(Matt C. Abbott is a Catholic columnist with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Communication, Media and Theatre from Northeastern Illinois University in Chicago, and an Associate in Applied Science degree in Business Management from Triton College in River Grove, Ill. He is the former director of public affairs for the Chicago-based Pro-Life Action League and the former executive director of the Illinois Right to Life Committee. He was a contributor to The Wanderer Catholic newspaper and had numerous letters to the editor published in major newspapers, including the New York Times, USA Today, the Wall Street Journal, the Chicago Tribune, and the Chicago Sun-Times. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)
Matt C. Abbott
https://www.catholic.org IL, US
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