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William E. May

Michael J. McGivney Professor of Moral Theology

John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family

at The Catholic University of America

Washington, D.C. 20017

(This is the English text of the essay in Italian, “La ‘communio personarum’

e l’atto coniugale,” in Morale Coniugale e Sacramento della Penitenza:

 Riflessioni sul ‘Vademecum per i Confessori,

Eds. Alfonso Card. Lopez Trujillo and Francisco Gil Hellin,

Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 1998, pp. 135-150)

The one true God has revealed that he is himself a
communion of persons. He is the communion of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, a communion constituted by love, by the self-giving of the three Persons.

The first two chapters of Genesis contain the stories of what Pope John Paul II has called “the beatifying beginning of human existence in the world,” [1] and in these chapters God reveals to us that in creating “man” he has not created him as an isolated individual. He has created man to his own image and likeness, and in doing this he has created a communion of persons, as Genesis 1.27 makes clear: “God made man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them” (emphasis added).

John Paul II, more profoundly perhaps than any other Christian today, has probed the mystery of man, “the only creature on earth that God has wanted for its own sake” (inVatican Council II, Gaudium et spes, 24), precisely as a “communion of persons.” Therefore I will try first of all to summarize his rich meditations on this mystery and to follow this with reflections on marriage and on the “act proper and exclusive to spouses,” that is, the marital, spousal, conjugal act.

My purpose is to help married persons in particular to form their consciences correctly the matter of conjugal communion so that they can, as the Pontifical Council for the Family says, “to be aware of the path of their holiness and to carry out their mission.” [2]

Man and Woman: A “Communion of Persons”

In his reflections on the Yahwist account of the creation of man in Genesis 2, John Paul II focuses attention on the text in which the Lord God first formed man from the dust of the earth and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and “man became a living being” (Gen 2:7), and then said: “It is not good that the man should be alone” (Gen 2:18). The Holy Father makes the point: “when God-Yahweh speaks the words about solitude, it is in reference to the solitude of ‘man’ as such, and not just to that of the male.” The “man” cannot find anyone among the other living creatures who is his equal; as a result of this “man becomes aware of his own superiority, that is, that he cannot be considered on the same footing as any other species of living beings on the earth.” He is “alone, because he is ‘different’ from the visible world, from the world of living beings.” In recognizing this, the man “asserts himself as a ‘person’ in the visible world.” [3]

But in addition to being a sign of man’s dignity as a person, his original solitude “is the way that leads to that unity which, following Vatican II, we can define as communio personarum,” the communion of persons. Through his original solitude man not only “acquires a personal consciousness in the process of ‘distinguishing himself’ from all living beings (animalia) but also “opens himself up to a being akin to himself, defined in Genesis (2:18, 20) as a ‘helper fit for him.’…In the Yahwist narrative man’s solitude is presented to us not only as the first discovery of the characteristic transcendence peculiar to the person. It is also presented as the discovery of an adequate relationship ‘to’ the person, and therefore as an opening and expectation of a ‘communion of persons.’” [4]

Although Genesis 2, unlike Genesis 1, does not speak of man as the “image of God,” nonetheless in its own unique way it show us “that the complete and definitive creation of ‘man’…is expressed in giving life to that communio personarum that man and woman form.” Indeed, the Holy Father continues, from the text of Genesis 2 “we can deduce that man became the ‘image and likeness’ of God not only through his own humanity, but also through the communion of persons which man and woman form right from the very beginning. The function of this image is to reflect the one who is the model, to reproduce its own prototype. Man becomes the image of God not so much in the moment of solitude as in the moment of communion. Right ‘from the beginning,’ he is not only an image in which the solitude of a person who rules the world is reflected, but also, and essentially, an image of an inscrutable divine communion of persons. In this way, the second narrative could also be a preparation for understanding the Trinitarian concept of the ‘image of God.’” [5]

Marriage: A Communion of Persons

Moreover, there can be no doubt that the narratives of the “beatifying beginning of human existence” in the Genesis texts narrate not only the creation of man as the apex of the material universe, not only the creation of man as “male and female,” as a communion of persons made in the image of the Holy Trinity, but also the creation of marriage. These chapters of Genesis clearly reveal God as the author of marriage, as the one who gives it its “defining characteristics.” All created things, including man and marriage, have received from God their defining characteristics on their creation; each has received, from the hands of the creating God, the intrinsic conditions for its existence, its defining limits. Indeed, our Lord Jesus refers explicitly to both these chapters of Genesis when, in answering the question posed by the Pharisees about divorce and remarriage, he said that it was only because of the “hardness of their hearts” that Moses had permitted divorce and insisted that “from the beginning” this was not so, that divorce was totally contrary to God’s will. Why? Because, as these two chapters of Genesis tell us, “from the beginning of creation ‘God made them male and female’ (Gen 1:27) [and] ‘for this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one’ (Gen 2:24). So they are no longer two, but one. What therefore God has joined, let not man put asunder” (Mk 10: 6-9).

But what are the “defining characteristics” of marriage? One of its centrally important ones is that, in giving themselves to one another in marriage, a man and a woman actualize their vocation to love and through their own free and self-determining choice form a “communion of persons.”

The text of Genesis 2, as the Holy Father makes clear, shows that the reality of marriage begins to be when a man and a woman “give” themselves one to the other through the act of irrevocable personal consent. John Paul II shows this in his commentary on Genesis 2:24: “The formulation of Genesis 2:24 indicates that human beings, created as man and woman, were created for unity. It also indicates that precisely this unity, through which they become one flesh, has right from the beginning a character of union derived from a choice. We read: ‘A man leaves his father and mother and cleaves to his wife.’ If the man belongs ‘by nature’ to his father and mother by virtue of procreation, on the other hand he cleaves by choice to his wife (and she to her husband).” [6]

The act of matrimonial consent is an act of self-giving love. It is a freely chosen act, by means of which a man, forswearing all others, freely chooses this particular woman as the non-substitutable and irreplaceable person with whom he wills to share his life as a married man until death and by means of which a woman on her part freely chooses this particular man as the non-substitutable and irreplaceable person with whom she wills to share her life as a married woman until death. In and through this act of irrevocable personal consent the man and the woman bring into being the communion of persons that God has willed in creating man, masculine and feminine.

The Conjugal Act and the “Communion of Persons”

A man and a woman become husband and wife when they “give” themselves to one another in and through the act of irrevocable personal consent that makes them to be spouses. And in consenting to marriage, to being husband and wife, they consent to all that marriage implies and therefore they consent implicitly to the conjugal act, the act “proper and exclusive to spouses.” In and through the conjugal act husband and wife literally become “one flesh,” “one body.” In and through this act they come to “know” each other in a unique and unforgettable way, and they come to know each other precisely as male and female, in their masculinity and femininity.

Pope John Paul II offers a deepening of the truth that in and through the conjugal act husband and wife attain a unique “knowledge” of one another. In this act, first of all, “together they become almost the one subject of that act and that experience, while remaining, in this unity, two really different subjects.” Second, in and through this act “they reveal themselves to each other, with that specific depth of their own human self. Precisely this self is revealed also by means of their sex, their masculinity and femininity. Then in a unique way the woman ‘is given’ to the man to be known, and he to her….The reality of the conjugal union, in which the man and the woman become one flesh, contains in itself a new and, in a way, definitive discovery of the meaning of the human body in its masculinity and femininity.” [7]

The conjugal act is an act open to the “goods” or “blessings” of marriage. It is the kind or type of act in and through which conjugal love can be fittingly expressed and is the kind or sort of act in and through which new human life can be given and received. In short, it has two “meanings” or “significations”: the “unitive” and the “procreative.” I will return below to this characteristic of the conjugal act, when I reflect on it as a human and moral act, but first I want to reflect on the conjugal act as manifesting the sexual complementarity of man and woman.

The Conjugal Act and the Sexual Complementarity of Man and Woman

Man and woman, husband and wife, are called to a “communion of persons.” But the persons in this communion are two “different” and “complementary” “epiphanies” of God, whose full image is found in their communion. They are sexually differentiated into masculine and feminine, and their sexuality is complementary. Here I hope to specify more clearly the nature of their complementarity by reflecting on the nature of the marital or conjugal act.

The conjugal act, as we have already seen, is a kind of act sui generis. It is the personal act of two subjects, husband and wife. In it they “give” themselves to one another and “receive” one another. They do so, however, in different and complementary ways, insofar as this act is possible only by reason of their sexual differences. The wife does not have the male sexual organ; therefore, in this act of conjugal union, she is not able to enter into the  body, the person, of her husband, whereas he can and does personally enter into the body, the person, of his wife. He give his very self to her, and in doing so receives her. On the other hand, his wife is uniquely capable of receiving her husband personally into her own body, her own person, and in doing gives her very self to him. The wife’s giving of herself to her husband in this receiving sort of way is just as essential to the unique meaning of this act as is her husband’s receiving of his wife in this giving sort of way. The husband cannot, in this act, give himself to his wife in this receiving sort of way unless she gives herself to him by receiving him, and she cannot receive him in this giving sort of way unless he gives himself to her in this receiving sort of way. [8] As the philosopher Robert Joyce says, “the man does not force himself upon the woman, but gives himself in a receiving manner. The woman does not simply submit herself to the man, but receives him in a giving manner.” [9]

Moreover, in giving himself to his wife in the conjugal act, the husband releases into her body person millions of spermatozoa, which go in search of an ovum. If the wife is fertile and an ovum is present in her, one of the spermatozoa can succeed in uniting with it, becoming “one flesh,” bringing into being a new human person. These truths dramatically illuminate another dimension or aspect of the sexual complementarity of male and female. The man symbolizes the superabundance and differentiation of being, insofar as his superabundant spermatozoa are differentiated into those that can generate a male child or a female child, whereas the woman in her way symbolizes the unity of being insofar as ordinarily she produces only one ovum; she symbolizes what can be called the interiority and sameness of being. [10]

By reason of their sexuality man and woman are called to give themselves to one another and to receive one another and to do this in a way proper and exclusive to marriage. They are likewise called to be superabundant in their giving and to give to each other peace and rest by receiving and welcoming one another. But men and women give and receive one another in different and complementary ways. Human sexuality is indeed a giving and a receiving, but male sexuality emphasizes a giving in a receiving sort of way and the superabundance and otherness of being, whereas female sexuality emphasizes receiving in a giving sort of way and the withinness and interiority of being. [11]

As we have seen, man and woman are two different and complementary ways of being the image of God. He is both the superabundant Giver of good gifts and the One who is always with us and for us, and who greatly longs to welcome us and to give our hearts refreshment and peace. He is, as the beautiful hymn of Henry van Dyck puts it, “the Wellspring of the Joy of Living,” and “the Ocean Depth of Happy Rest.” [12] Both the man and the woman are called to image the living God in his superabundant goodness and peaceful immanence, to image him as the “Wellspring of the Joy of Living” and the “Ocean Depth of Happy Rest.” However, the man, in imaging God, is called above all to bear witness to his transcendence and superabundant goodness, his Glory as the “Wellspring of the Joy of Living,” while the woman, in her imaging of God, is called upon to bear witness to his immanence, his “interiority” or withinness, his Glory as the “Ocean Depth of Happy Rest.”He

The nature of feminine sexuality as “a receiving in a giving sort of way” is evident not only in the unitive dimension of the conjugal act, in which she “gives” herself to her husband precisely by welcoming and receiving him into her body person, but also in its procreative dimension, in her openness to the gift of human life. When new human life comes to be in and through the conjugal act, it comes to be within the body of the woman, of the wife, of the mother.

This new life, as Pope John Paul II says, is “entrusted to each and every other human being.” But in a special way this new life is entrusted to the “woman, precisely because the woman in virtue of her special experience of motherhood, is seen to have a specific sensitivity toward the human person and all that constitutes the individual’s true welfare, beginning with the fundamental value of life.” [13]  In other words, the mother “receives” or “welcomes” new life within her own body person and in doing so “gives” herself to the child: she receives in a giving way, thus revealing her sexuality. The husband-father, on the other hand, must give himself to this new life in the womb of his wife and in doing so “receive” it. He represents what is “other.” In fact, as the Holy Father says, “the man—even with all his sharing in parenthood—always remains ‘outside’ the process of pregnancy and the baby’s birth; in many ways he has to learn his own ‘fatherhood’ from the mother.” [14] He learns how to be a father precisely by “giving” himself to the mother and to the child and in doing so by “receiving” the child as a gift from the mother.

The Conjugal Act As a Human, Moral Act

The conjugal act can be considered merely in what St. Thomas called its “natural” species, i.e., according to its natural, physical structure as a genital act between a man and a woman who simply “happen” to be married. But as a human, moral act it is an act “proper and exclusive to spouses,” one made possible by their marital union. As a moral, human act it is “specified,” not by its physical structure, but by its “object,” [15] that is, precisely what the spouses are choosing to do in giving themselves to one another and receiving one another as spouses. The conjugal act, as a human, moral act, is an act that participates in the communion of the persons who are husband and wife, open to the “goods” or “blessings” of marriage. Non- married people can engage in genital sex because they have genital organs, but they are not capable of engaging in the conjugal act precisely because they are not married. The unmarried male cannot “give himself in a receiving way” to the woman nor can she “receive him in a giving way” precisely because they have failed to “give” and “receive” each other in and through an act of marital consent, an act of irrevocably giving and receiving each other. Their act of genital union does not and cannot, therefore, unite two irreplaceable and nonsubstitutable persons; it merely joins two individuals who are in principle replaceable, substitutable, disposable. Their act, which “mimics” the conjugal act, is, as Pope John Paul II has correctly said, “a lie.” [16]

But husbands and wives, by “giving” themselves irrevocably to one another in marriage and by  “receiving” each other in and through their consent to be spouses, make themselves “fit” to do what husbands and wives are supposed to do, and one of the things they are supposed to do is to become “one flesh” in the beautiful conjugal act.

A husband, in choosing to have sexual relations with his own wife, ought to have as the “object” of this choice the conjugal act, one open to the goods or blessings of marriage, and the same is true of the wife. But the husband (or the wife) can choose as the object of his (or her) choice merely the gratification of his sexual desires, not even caring whether the person who satisfies these desires is his own wife (or her own husband). If this occurs, the husband would not give himself in a receiving way to his wife, nor would she receive him in a giving way. Their sexual act would not be truly a conjugal act inasmuch as the spouse who chooses this kind of act changes the “object” freely chosen from “giving in a receiving way” or “receiving in a giving way” to “gratifying one’s sexual desires by making use of the body of a person of the opposite sex.”

A remarkable passage, frequently passed over in silence, in Pope Paul VI’s Encyclical Humanae vitae leads to this important truth. In it he said that everyone will recognize that a conjugal act (and here he was using this expression to describe the act in its natural and not moral species) imposed by one of the spouses upon the other without any consideration of that spouse’s condition or legitimate desires “is not a true act of love; they understand that such an act is opposed to the right moral order.” [17] In reality, it is not a spousal or conjugal act in the moral sense insofar as the “object” freely chosen is completely incompatible with and indeed is contradictory to the communion of the persons of husband and wife. It is opposed to one of the “goods” of marriage: faithful conjugal love—and is an act specified by an object that cannot participate in the reality of marriage itself.

Therefore, as Pope John Paul II has rightly noted, a husband can in a real sense commit adultery with his own wife is he uses her merely as a means of gratifying his own sexual concupiscence without any concern for her well- being. [18] In saying this, the Pope simply reaffirmed Catholic tradition. After all, a husband can look with lust at his own wife and commit adultery with her in his heart (and she with him), and if this is what he intends to do (if this is the “object” of his choice) in having sexual relations with her, then he commits adultery in the flesh as well. This was the common teaching of the Fathers of the Church and of St. Thomas, who said that if a man has sexual relations with his wife with no consideration whether she is his wife or not but is simply a woman whom he can use to satisfy his lust he commits mortal sin. [19] Marriage does not enable men and women to engage in lustful genital acts—their hard hearts do this—but it makes them capable of engaging in the conjugal act.

In short, as a human, moral act that participates in marriage itself and in the communion of persons that is marriage, the conjugal act participates in the blessings and goods of marriage. We have seen that, if one or the other spouse intentionally sets aside the good of conjugal love, substituting for it as his object of choice personal sexual gratification to the extent that it makes no difference whether his sexual partner is his own spouse, the chosen act can no longer be considered a conjugal act in a human, moral sense, but on the contrary a different kind of human act, one degrading and immoral.

But another good or blessing of marriage is the good of children. In fact, one of the principal reasons why God invented marriage is that he willed that new human life come to be in and through the conjugal act. Males and females who are not married can generate human life because they have genital organs. And the new life generated through acts of fornication or adultery (and now, through the laboratory generation of life by means of artificial insemination, in vitro fertilization and other procedures) is precious and inviolable. But it is not good for human life to come to be through such acts. Fornicators and adulterers have not made themselves “fit” to “welcome human life lovingly, nourish it humanely, and educate it in the love of service of God.”[20] They have not equipped themselves or made themselves “fit” to give to new human life the home of which it has a need and to which it has a right if it is to grow and develop.

But husband and wife, by giving themselves to one another irrevocably in marriage, have equipped themselves, made themselves “fit,” to do what spouses are supposed to do, and one of the things that spouses are supposed to do is to welcome life lovingly, nourish it humanely, and educate it in the love and service of God and neighbor. In fact, as Pope Paul VI noted with great insight, “through its intimate structure the conjugal act, while closely uniting the spouses, makes them fit [the Latin reads: “eos idoneos facit”] for the generation of new life according to laws written into their very being as man and woman.” [21]

By giving themselves to one another in the conjugal act, husband and wife open themselves up to the gift of new human life; they submit themselves to the blessing of fertility. The conjugal act, which uniquely expresses conjugal love, [22] is thus a kind of act understood to be welcoming of new human life, a marvelous and incomparable good. As Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me,  and do not hinder them” (Lk 18:16).

Consequently, just as husband and wife violate their marriage and render their sexual union non-conjugal if, in freely choosing to engage in genital sex, they deliberately set aside conjugal love and the unitive meaning of the conjugal act, so they likewise violate their marriage and render their sexual union non-conjugal if, in freely choosing to have genital sex, they deliberately repudiate its procreative meaning by intentionally making it closed to the transmission of new human life by contraception.

If spouses adopt by choice the proposal, whether in anticipation of their genital union, during it, or in the development of its natural consequences, to do something whether as end or means precisely to impede the procreation of new human life, [23] they contracept, an act that is anti-life insofar as it is one intentionally closed to the gift of new human life. [24] Moreover, as Pope John Paul II has emphasized again and again, contraception is an anti-love kind of act, opposed to the “self-giving” or the communion of persons that the conjugal act is meant to express. He says: “the innate language that expresses the total reciprocal self-giving of husband and wife is overlaid, through contraception, by an objectively contradictory language, namely, that of not giving oneself totally to the other. This leads not only to a positive refusal to be open to life but also to a falsification of the inner truth of conjugal love, which is called upon to give itself in personal totality.” [25]


Marriage is in truth a communion of persons. Thus, marriage through its very nature is an apt sign or symbol of the covenant of love, the communion of persons existing between the Triune God and his people. And Christian, sacramental marriage, the marriage of a husband and wife who are already, by virtue of their baptism, members of the body and of the spouse of Christ, the Church, is not only an apt sign or symbol of the life-giving, love-giving, grace-giving nuptial union of Christ with his Church but actually makes this saving reality efficaciously present within the world today so long as the spouses place no obstacles in the way.

Christian sacramental marriage, as a communion of persons, is in fact an anticipation of the eschatological union of the Triune God with the blessed in heaven.

The conjugal act, precisely as a human, moral act, participates in the marriage itself and in its goods or blessings. This act expresses and actualizes in a fitting way the communion of persons of husband and wife, opens them to the great gift of new human life, rendering them “fit” to “welcome life lovingly, nourish it humanely, and educate it in the love and service of God and neighbor.” If the spouses freely choose to repudiate these geat gods of conjugal love and of new human life to which the conjugal act is open and for which it is fitting, they render their act one that is no longer conjugal and violate their communion of persons.


1. See Pope John Paul II, “Nuptial Meaning of the Body,” General Audience of January 9, 1980, in Pope John Paul II, The Theology of the Body: Human Love in the Divine Plan (Boston: Pauline Books and Media, 1999), p. 61. In this text, Pope John Paul II is concerned explicitly with the account in Genesis 2, but the expression “beatifying beginning of human existence” can be applied to the narrative in Genesis 1 as well.

2. See Pontifical Council for the Family, Vademecum for Confessors Concerning Some Aspects of the Morality of Conjugal Life  (Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana,  1997), p.8.

3. Pope John Paul II, “The Meaning of Man’s Original Solitude,” General Audience of October 10, 1979, in The Theology of the Body, pp. 35-37.

4. Pope John Paul II, “By the Communion of Persons Man Becomes the Image of God,” General Audience of November 14, 1979, in ibid, pp. 45-46. The reference made to Vatican Council II in the text is to the Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World (Gaudium et spes), 12.

5. Ibid,  pp. 46-47.

6. John Paul II, “In the First Chapters of Genesis Marriage Is One and Indissoluble,” General Audience of November 21, 1979, in The Theology of the Body, p. 50.

7. John Paul II, “Analysis of Knowledge and of Procreation,” General Audience of March 5, 1980, in The Theology of the Body, p. 79.

8. When non-married men and women have sex they do not and cannot “give” and “receive” one another in this way. Their sexual act in no way expresses and symbolizes a “communion of persons,” precisely because they have refused to “give” and “receive” one another irrevocably in the act establishing them and non-substitutable and irreplaceable spouses. Their act of genital sex does not “unite” two irreplaceable and non-substitutable persons but merely joins two individuals who are in principle replaceable, substitutable, disposable.

9. Robert Joyce, Human Sexual Ecology: A Philosophy and Ethics of Man and Woman (Washington, D.C.: University Press of America, 1980), pp 70-71.

10.   See ibid, p. 71. "In normal coital intercourse, gametes…go forth from the body of the man and are received into the body of the woman. The woman’s gametes…remain within her. She emphasizes in this way the receiving power of her being and the withinness of every being in the universe. The man emphasizes, in his way, the giving power of his being and the otherness of every being in the universe. …The man naturally emphasizes (with his sperm-production) manyness, differentiation, and plurality. These characteristics are based on uniqueness and otherness, rather than oneness and sameness. The woman naturally emphasizes (with her ova-production) oneness and sameness. These characteristics are based on withinness or superrelatedness.”

11. As Joyce says: “I would define a man as a human being who both gives in a receiving way and receives in a giving way, but so structured in his being that he is emphatically inclined toward giving in a receiving way. The nature of being a man is an emphasis on giving in a receiving waiy. A woman is a human being who both gives in a receiving way and receives in a giving way, but is so structured in her being that she is emphatically inclined toward receiving in a giving way….the sexuality of the man and woman (their personal power to share the gift of self) is orientated in opposite but very complementary ways.” Ibid,  pp. 67-69. As Pope John Paul II has emphasized, the woman is God’s “gift” to the man, and the man, in receiving her, “gives” himself to her and is faithful to her. See “Man and Woman: A Gift for Each Other,” General Audience of February 6, 1980, in The Theology of the Body, pp. 69-72.

12. Henry van Dyck, “Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee,” in Poems of Henry van Dyck (New York: Charles Scribners’ Sons, n.d.). This beautiful hymn had been put to music , using as its musical score Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony.

13. Pope John Paul II, Apostolic Exhortation on the Vocation and the Mission of the Lay Faithful in the Church and in the World (Christifideles laici) (December 30, 1988), no. 51. See also his Apostolic Letter on the Dignity and Vocation of Women (Mulieris dignitatem) (August 15, 1988), no. 30: “The moral and spiritual strength of a woman is joined to her awareness that God entrusts the human being to her in a special way. Of course, God entrusts every human being to each and every other human being. But this entrusting concerns women in a special way—precisely by reason of their femininity—and this in a particular way determines their vocation.”

14. Pope John Paul II, Apostolic Letter on the Dignity and Vocation of Women (Mulieris dignitatem), no. 18.

15. On the crucial distinction between acts in their “natural” and in their “moral” species, see St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa theologiae, 1-2, q. 1, a. 3, ad 3; 2-2, q. 64, a. 7.

16. See Pope John Paul II, Apostolic Exhortation on the Role of the Christian Family in the Modern World (Familiaris consortio) (November 22, 1981), no. 11.

17. Pope Paul VI, Encyclical Humanae vitae (July 25,  1968), no. 13.

18. Pope John Paul II, “Establishing the Ethical Sense,” General Audience of October 1, 1980, in The Theology of the Body, pp. 152-156.

19. St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa theologiae, Supplement, q. 49, a. 6.

20. Centuries ago St. Augustine rightly observed that one of the major goods of marriage is that of children, who ought to be “welcomed lovingly, nourished humanely, and educated religiously,” i.e., in the love and service of God and neighbor.” See his De genesi ad literam 9, 7 (PL 34, 397).

21. Pope Paul VI, Encyclical Humanae vitae, no. 12; translation my own from the Latin text.

22. See Vatican Council II, Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World (Gaudium et spes), no. 49.

23. This is precisely how Pope Paul VI defines contraception in Humanae vitae, no. 14: “Equally excluded is every action which, either in anticipation of the conjugal act, in its carrying out, or in the development of its natural consequences, proposes [the Latin word is intendat], either as end or as means, to impede procreation [Latin: ut procreatio impediatur].”

24. On the anti-life nature of contraception see Pope Paul VI, Homily for the Feast of Sts. Peter and Paul, July 29, 1978, AAS 70 (1978); L’Osservatore Romano 30/6-1/7-1978. See also Pope John Paul II, Homily at the Mass for Youth, Nairobi, Kenya, August 17, 1985, in Insegnamenti di Giovanni Paolo II (Roma: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 1985), Vol. 8, Pt. 2, p. 453. On this matter see Germain Grisez, Joseph Boyle, John Finnis, and William E. May, “‘Every Marital Act Ought to Be Open to New Life’: Toward a Clearer Understanding,” The Thomist 52 (19889) 365-426.

25. Pope John Paul II, Apostolic Exhortation on the Role of the Christian Family in the Modern World (Familiaris consortio), no. 32.

Copyright ©; William E. May 2003

Version: 21st September 2003

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