23 March 2013

Vatican II: Gaudium et Spes V

Wow, I'm running out of time here.  I can't believe that Holy Week is almost upon us.

The second major part of Gaudium et Spes addresses "problems of special urgency" in the modern world and what the Church teaches on these issues.  They begin with marriage and family life, which is the cornerstone of society.

Though the push for same-sex "marriage" had not yet begun at the time of the Second Vatican Council, there still were plenty of challenges to traditional notions of marriage and family life: widespread divorce, the "free love" movement, etc.  Acknowledging these problems at the outset, the Council Fathers provide a very nice exposition of the basis of Christian marriage:
The intimate partnership of married life and love has been established by the Creator and qualified by His laws, and is rooted in the conjugal covenant of irrevocable personal consent. Hence by that human act whereby spouses mutually bestow and accept each other a relationship arises which by divine will and in the eyes of society too is a lasting one. For the good of the spouses and their off-springs as well as of society, the existence of the sacred bond no longer depends on human decisions alone. For, God Himself is the author of matrimony, endowed as it is with various benefits and purposes.
In this area as well, the Fathers state that the most effective means of changing the culture around us is to give faithful and authentic witness to the ideals of Christian marriage:
Authentic conjugal love will be more highly prized, and wholesome public opinion created about it if Christian couples give outstanding witness to faithfulness and harmony in their love, and to their concern for educating their children also, if they do their part in bringing about the needed cultural, psychological and social renewal on behalf of marriage and the family. Especially in the heart of their own families, young people should be aptly and seasonably instructed in the dignity, duty and work of married love.
The primary function of married couples, as the Church has always taught, is to bring new life into the world and form it according to God's will.
Hence, while not making the other purposes of matrimony of less account, the true practice of conjugal love, and the whole meaning of the family life which results from it, have this aim: that the couple be ready with stout hearts to cooperate with the love of the Creator and the Savior. Who through them will enlarge and enrich His own family day by day.
Recognizing that, even at that time, the problems of abortion and contraception had already taken hold of the modern world, the Fathers devote a lengthy paragraph that prefigures what Pope Paul VI would write in Humanae vitae:
For God, the Lord of life, has conferred on men the surpassing ministry of safeguarding life in a manner which is worthy of man. Therefore from the moment of its conception life must be guarded with the greatest care while abortion and infanticide are unspeakable crimes. The sexual characteristics of man and the human faculty of reproduction wonderfully exceed the dispositions of lower forms of life. Hence the acts themselves which are proper to conjugal love and which are exercised in accord with genuine human dignity must be honored with great reverence. Hence when there is question of harmonizing conjugal love with the responsible transmission of life, the moral aspects of any procedure does not depend solely on sincere intentions or on an evaluation of motives, but must be determined by objective standards. These, based on the nature of the human person and his acts, preserve the full sense of mutual self-giving and human procreation in the context of true love. Such a goal cannot be achieved unless the virtue of conjugal chastity is sincerely practiced. Relying on these principles, sons of the Church may not undertake methods of birth control which are found blameworthy by the teaching authority of the Church in its unfolding of the divine law.
I wonder if the "Spirit of Vatican II" crowd knows that the Council documents contain a prohibition on birth control.

I will wrap up tomorrow with the Fathers' words on economic and foreign relations matters.

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