Saturday, July 15, 2017

Pope Francis on Openness to Life

Lost in the many of the discussions of the post-synodal exhortation Amoris Laetitia has been Pope Francis' clear re-affirmation of the Church's traditional teaching on the openness to life of the sexual act within marriage.  This occurs in paragraph 80 of the document:

Nonetheless, the conjugal union is ordered to procreation “by its very nature”.  The child who is born “does not come from outside as something added on to the mutual love of the spouses, but springs from the very heart of that mutual giving, as its fruit and fulfilment”.  He or she does not appear at the end of a process, but is present from the beginning of love as an essential feature, one that cannot be denied without disfiguring that love itself. From the outset, love refuses every impulse to close in on itself; it is open to a fruitfulness that draws it beyond itself. Hence no genital act of husband and wife can refuse this meaning,  even when for various reasons it may not always in fact be-get a new life.
I'm very grateful to the Holy Father for such a clear re-affirmation, because this teaching of the Church is closely integrated with the whole body of Catholic teaching, a harmony that we call the analogia fide, or "analogy of faith."  Since the marital union is an icon of the Trinity, marital love must follow Trinitarian love.  And the love of Father and Son in the Trinity constantly constitutes a Third Person, the Holy Spirit.  The deep meaning of marriage follows this image: the love of two persons whose love constitutes a third.  Due to moral and natural evils in a fallen world, of course, the conjugal love of husband and wife does not always result in the conception of a third person, but the moral defect of contraception is the explicit and conscious refusal of the third person.  This damages or eliminates the Trinitarian iconography of the marital act. Nor is this merely theoretical, but the actual practice conjugal life and love has a very different dynamic with vs. without contraception, as those of us who have converted to the Catholic faith can attest.  Openness to life, when embraced, leads to a more profound and less superficial and carnal understanding of sexuality and the marital relationship generally.

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