Tuesday, June 06, 2006

New Document of the Family and Human Procreation

The Pontifical Council for the Family, founded 25 years ago by John Paul II with the Motu Proprio "Familia a Deo Instituta," and presided by Cardinal Alfonso Lopez Trujillo, today published a document entitled: "Family and Human Procreation."

The text, according to an explanatory note written by Fr. Abelardo Lobato O.P., consultor of the pontifical council, "is destined to be an object of study, both for its doctrine and in its pastoral application." The document opens with "an introduction to the theme of the relationship between ... the family and procreation."

This theme is then developed over four chapters covering "procreation; why the family is the only appropriate place for it; what is meant by integral procreation within the family; and what social, juridical, political, economic and cultural aspects does service to the family entail" The fifth chapter presents the theme "from two complementary perspectives: the theological, in that the family is an image of the Trinity; and the pastoral, because the family lies at the foundation of the Church and is a place of evangelization."

"The document," the explanatory note continues, "makes reference above all to Vatican Council II, to Pope John Paul II who dedicated great attention to these matters, and to the recent 'Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church.' All this means that the document aims not only to find a doctrinal approach to the problem, but also to open doors to future research on the questions that are the object of discussion today."

The introduction evokes the words of John Paul II in Puebla, Mexico, in 1979, where "he affirmed that the Church possesses the truth about man and at the same time seeks the truth entire. Man is not just a 'rational animal,' he is also familial. The family is connatural to man and was instituted by God. But today man has become a great enigma to himself and lives through the most acute crisis of his history in its family dimension: the family is subject to attack as never before; the new models of the family destroy it; procreation techniques jettison human love; the politics of birth control lead to the current 'demographic winter.' ... Along these paths ... we deviate towards a 'post-human' world. It is necessary to save man."

An understanding of human procreation, the text goes on, may be attained from various perspectives: "the historical," reaffirming the value historically attached to having descendants, "the anthropological, ... and the religious, which places man before God the Creator, Who infuses a soul into each individual and relies on man's cooperation to achieve the fullness of human existence."

The explanatory note continues: "Procreation is the means of transmitting life by the loving union of man and woman," and it "must be truly human." This means that it must be the "fruit of the actions of man," and the "fruit of a human act, free, rational, and responsible for the transmission of life. ... The unitive act of man and woman cannot be separated from its connatural dimension, which is that of procreation and which makes responsible paternity and maternity possible. Only on this personal basis can conjugal morality be understood.

"The Church's doctrinal documents, such as the Encyclical 'Humanae vitae,' and the Apostolic Exhortation 'Familiaris consortio,' refer to the fundamental principle of the dignity of human beings and their ethical dimension." The condemnation of abortion, the inseparable nature of the two dimensions - the unitive and the procreative - and the view of sexuality as a procreative function, "have their foundation in individual beings and their dignity."

"This is the key to the solution: an integral understanding of what is human. Without a 'meta-anthropology' which touches the being, the substance, the spirit, there can be no integral understanding of what is human, because the concepts of person and being are emptied of content. Morals and religion, which are fundamental and decisive values, are reduced to a 'private matter.' The return of metaphysics is vital in order to regain a sense of what is human in man.

"The human being is a familial being," Fr. Lobato's note adds, "and for this reason has the characteristics of a social, political, economic, cultural, juridical and religious being. The family is involved with each of these aspects, which are essential to it. The family requires services, help, protection and constant promotion; and the document indicates how each of these elements should develop. It emphasizes the juridical dimension and recalls that in 1983 the Holy See published the first 'Charter of the Rights of the Family,' which is a solid defense of that institution."

"The doctrine concerning integral human procreation," the note concludes, "is corroborated by the theology of creation and by the mystery of salvation revealed in Jesus Christ and put into effect in the new evangelization. The Creator wished human beings to be two-in-one; the Redeemer assumed the familial condition in Nazareth reminding everyone of the nature of the family since the beginning of the divine plan: two in a single flesh."

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