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Pope Pius XII: Address to Midwives

The Address of Pope Pius XII to the Conference of the
Italian Catholic Union of Obstetricians in Collaboration with
the National Federation of Colleges of Catholic Midwives
October 29, 1951

[Other online translations of this document are substantially incomplete; they omit a number of paragraphs found in the original Italian text on the website. The material found in curly brackets {} is that portion of the Italian text from the website which is not found in other online translations. These translations also add text as headings for various subsections of the document. These headings are not found in the Italian Vatican edition, so the present edition omits them. -- editor, Ronald L. Conte Jr. April 2nd, 2012]

{1. Watch with solicitude over that cradle of silence and obscurity, in which the new life, provided by the parents, is infused by God with an immortal soul. Lavish your care, in order to prepare the mother, and the child that she carries within herself, for a happy birth. Behold, beloved daughters, the object of your profession, the secret of its grandeur and its beauty.}

2. When one thinks of this admirable collaboration of the parents, of nature and of God, from which is born a new human being in the image and likeness of God [cf. Genesis 1:26-27], how can the precious contribution which you give to such a work not be appreciated? The heroic mother of the Maccabees admonished her children: "I do not know how you were formed in my womb. For I did not give you spirit, nor soul, nor life; neither did I construct each of your limbs. Nevertheless, the Creator of the world, who formed the nativity of man...." [2 Maccabees 7:22-23].

3. Therefore, he who approaches this cradle of life's origin, and exercises his action in one way or another, must know the order which the Creator wishes maintained and the laws which govern it. For here it is not a case of the purely physical or biological laws that blind forces and irrational agents obey, but of laws whose execution and effects are entrusted to the voluntary and free cooperation of man.

4. This order, fixed by the supreme intelligence, is directed to the purpose willed by the Creator. It embraces the exterior work of man and the internal assent of his free will; it implies action and dutiful omission. Nature places at man's disposal the concatenation of the causes from which will rise a new human life. It is for man to release its loving force; it is for nature to develop its course and bring it to completion. When man has completed his part and has placed in action the marvelous evolution of life, his duty is to respect its progress in a religious manner; it is a duty which forbids him to arrest nature's work or to halt its natural development.

5. In such a way, nature's part and man's part are distinctly determined. Your professional formation and experience place you in a position to know the action of nature and that of man, no less than the rules and the laws to which both are subject. Your conscience, illuminated by reason and faith, under the guidance of the Authority established by God, teaches you how far lawful action extends, and when, instead, there is strictly imposed the obligation of omission.

{6. In light of these principles, we ourselves now propose to explain some considerations of this apostolate, to which your profession is committed. In fact, each profession bears a mission, willed by God, namely to implement, in the same profession, the thoughts and intentions of the Creator, and to help people to understand the justice and holiness of the Divine plan, and the good which they derive for themselves from that obligation.


{7. In the first place, your professional apostolate is exercised by means of your person.

{8. Why are you called? Why are you convinced that you know your art? You know what the mother and baby need, that both are exposed to such perils, and how these perils can be avoided or overcome. Your advice and help is expected, not absolutely of course, but within the limits of human knowledge and ability, according to the progress and present state of science and of the practice of your specialty.

{9. If all this can be expected of you, it is because you have faith in yourself, and this faith is, above all, a personal thing. Your person must be inspired. And so, this faith will not be in vain. For not only is this your heartfelt desire, but it is also a requirement of your office and your profession, and thus a duty of your conscience. Therefore, you must strive to elevate your specialized knowledge to its utmost limits.

{10. Now your professional abilities are a necessity and one form of your apostolate. What trust would there be in your word, on moral and religious questions connected with your office, if you were apparently deficient in your professional knowledge? On the other hand, your intervention in moral and religious matters will have an altogether different weight, if you know that you instill respect by your superior professional capability. By the favorable judgment that you will earn by your merit, you will add to the spirit of those who come to you the well-founded belief that Christianity, practiced with conviction and faithfulness, far from being an obstacle to professional values, is instead a stimulus and a guarantee. They will see clearly that, in the exercise of your profession, you have an awareness of your responsibility before God, and that, by your faith in God, you have the strongest motive to assist with greater commitment, the greater the need, and that, from this solid religious foundation, you draw a steadfastness to oppose any unreasonable and immoral pretense (regardless of the source) with a calm, but fearless and unwavering, "No".

{11. Being valued and appreciated for your personal conduct, no less than for your knowledge and experience, you will commit yourself, with a good heart, to the care of mother and child. And, perhaps without you noticing it, they themselves will experience a profound, often silent, yet very effective, apostolate of Christianity lived. As great, in fact, may be the moral authority due to the strictly professional quality, as is due to the person-to-person interaction, which takes place above all by the double seal of true humanity and true Christianity.


{12. The second aspect is the zeal of your apostolate in supporting the value and inviolability of human life.

{13.a. The present world is in urgent need of being convinced by the triple attestation of intelligence, of heart, and of deeds. Your profession offers you the opportunity to provide such a witness, and therein lies your duty. Sometimes, this is one simple word, spoken opportunely and sensitively to the mother or to the father. But still more often, your entire conduct and your conscientious way of acting provides an influence over them, discreetly, even silently.}

13.b. You, more than others, can appreciate and realize what human life is in itself, and what it is worth before right reason, to your moral conscience, civil society, the Church, and above all what it is worth before the eyes of God. God created all earthly things for man; and man himself, as regards his being and his essence, has been created for God and not for any other creature, even if, as regards his actions, he has obligations toward the community as well. The child is "man", even if he is not yet born, in the same degree and by the same title as his mother.

14. Besides, every human being, even the child in the womb, has the right to life directly from God and not from his parents, not from any society or human authority. Therefore, there is no man, no human authority, no science, no "indication" at all -- whether it be medical, eugenic, social, economic, or moral -- that may offer or give a valid judicial title for a direct deliberate disposal of an innocent human life, that is, a disposal which aims at its destruction, whether as an end in itself or as a means to achieve an end, even if it is in no way unlawful [i.e. under human law]. Thus, for example, to save the life of the mother is a very noble act; but the direct killing of the child as a means to such an end is illicit. The direct destruction of so-called "life without value", already born or still in the womb, practiced extensively a few years ago, can in no way be justified. Therefore, when this practice was initiated, the Church expressly declared that it was against the natural law and the positive law, and consequently that it was unlawful to kill, even by order of the public authorities, those who were innocent, even if, on account of some physical or mental defect, they were useless to the State and a burden upon it. The life of an innocent person is sacrosanct, and any direct attempt or aggression against it is a violation of one of the fundamental laws without which secure human society is impossible. We have no need to teach you in detail the meaning and the gravity, in your profession, of this fundamental law. But never forget this: there rises above every human law and above every "indication" the indefectible law of God.

15. The apostolate of your profession imposes upon you the duty to communicate to others the knowledge, esteem, and respect for human life that you nurture in your heart by your Christian convictions. You must, as needed, defend resolutely, and protect, when necessary and in your power, the helpless yet hidden life of the child, finding support in the strength of the precept: Non occides: "You shall not kill" [Exodus 20:13]. Such a defensive function is sometimes most urgently needed. It is not, however, the nobler and more important part of your mission, which, in fact, is not merely negative, but above all constructive, as it tends to promote, edify, and strengthen.

16. Infuse into the spirit and heart of the mother and father the esteem, desire, joy, and loving welcome of the newborn, right from its first cry. The child, formed in the mother's womb, is a gift of God [Psalm 126:3], who entrusts its care to the parents. With what delicacy, with what agreeableness does Sacred Scripture show the gracious crown of children, united around the father's table! Children are the recompense of the just, and sterility is very often a punishment for the sinner. Hearken to the Divine word, expressed in the unsurpassed poetry of the Psalm: "Your wife is like an abundant vine on the sides of your house. Your children are like young olive trees surrounding your table. Behold, so will the man be blessed who fears the Lord." [Psalm 127:3-4], while of the wicked it is written: "May his posterity be in utter ruin. In one generation, may his name be wiped away." [Psalm 108:13].

17. Immediately after birth, be quick to place the child in the father's arms -- as the ancient Romans were accustomed to do -- but with a spirit incomparably more elevated. For the Romans, it was the affirmation of the paternity, and of the authority which is derived from it. Here it is a grateful homage to the Creator, the invocation of Divine blessings, and the promise to fulfill, with devout affection, the office that God has committed to him. If the Lord praises and rewards the faithful servant for having yielded him five talents, what praise, what reward will He reserve for the father who has guarded and raised for Him the human life entrusted to him, which is greater than all the gold and silver of the world?

18.a. Your apostolate, however, is directed above all to the mother. Undoubtedly, nature's voice speaks in her, and places in her heart the desire, joy, courage, love, and will to care for the child. But to overcome the influence of fearfulness in all its forms, that voice must be strengthened and must take on, so to speak, a supernatural accent. It is your duty to cause the young mother to enjoy, less by your words than by your whole manner of acting, the greatness, beauty, and nobility of that life which begins, is formed, and lives in her womb, that child which she bears in her arms and suckles at her breast, so as to make shine in her eyes and heart the great gift of God's love for her and for her child. Sacred Scripture makes us understand, with many examples, the echoes of suppliant prayers, and next the songs of grateful happiness, of many mothers who, after having longingly and tearfully implored the grace of motherhood, finally obtained it.

18.b. Even the pains which, after original sin, a mother has to suffer to give birth to her child, only serve to further tighten the bond that unites them: the more the pain has cost her, so much more is her love for her child. He who formed mothers' hearts, expressed this thought with moving and profound simplicity: "A woman, when she is giving birth, has sorrow, because her hour has arrived. But when she has given birth to the child, then she no longer remembers the difficulties, because of the joy: for a man has been born into the world." [John 16:21]. Through the pen of the Apostle, St. Paul, the Holy Spirit also points out the greatness and joy of motherhood. God gives the child to the mother, but, together with the gift, He helps her to cooperate effectively at the unfolding of the blossom, for He has placed a new life in her womb. And this cooperation becomes a path that leads her to her eternal salvation: "Yet she will be saved by bearing children" [1 Timothy 2:15].

19. This perfect accord of reason and faith gives you the guarantee that you are within the fullness of truth, and that you may continue your apostolate of respect and love for incipient life with unconditioned security. If you succeed in carrying out your apostolate at the cradle wherein rests the newborn child, it will not be too difficult for you to obtain what your professional conscience, in harmony with the laws of God and of nature, obliges you to prescribe for the welfare of mother and child.

20. On the other hand, it is not necessary for Us to show you, who are well experienced, how much this apostolate of respect and love for new life is necessary today. Unfortunately, cases are not rare in which it is sufficient only to hint at the fact that children are a "blessing" so as to provoke contradiction and even derision. More often, in word and thought, the idea of the great "burden" of children is predominant. Inasmuch as this mentality is opposed to God's plan and to Scripture, so is it also contrary to right reason and contrary to the sentiments of nature! If there are conditions and circumstances in which parents, without violating God's law, can avoid the "blessing" of children, nevertheless these unavoidable and exceptional cases do not authorize anyone to pervert ideas, to despise values, or to treat with contempt the mother who had the courage and honor to give life.

21.a. If what We have said up to now concerns the protection and care of natural life, even more so must it concern the supernatural life, which the newborn receives with Baptism. In the present economy [i.e. the economy of salvation], there is no other way to communicate that life to the child who has not attained the use of reason. Above all, the state of grace is absolutely necessary at the moment of death; without it, salvation and supernatural happiness -- the beatific vision of God -- are impossible. An act of love is sufficient for the adult to obtain sanctifying grace and to supply the lack of baptism. But to the as yet unborn and to the newborn, this way is not open. Therefore, if one considers that charity toward our fellow man obliges us to assist him in case of necessity, then this obligation is so much more important and urgent when the good to be obtained or the evil to be avoided is the greater, and to the degree that the needy person is incapable of helping or saving himself with his own powers. And so, it is easy to understand the great importance of providing for the baptism of the child who is deprived of any use of reason, and who finds himself in grave danger or on the threshold of death.

21.b. Undoubtedly this duty binds the parents in the first place. But in case of necessity, when there is no time to lose or it is not possible to call a priest, the sublime office of conferring baptism is yours.

{21.c. Therefore, do not fail to provide this service and exercise of charity, which is an active apostolate of your profession. May you be comforted and encouraged by the words of Jesus: "Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy." [Matthew 5:7]. And what greater or more beautiful mercy is there, than to ensure, for the child's soul -- between the threshold of life that has been crossed, and the imminent threshold of death -- its entry into glorious and blessed eternity!


{22. A third aspect of your professional apostolate, as it may be called, is the assistance that you can provide to the mother in carrying out her willing and generous maternal role.}

23. At the moment that she understood the Angel's message, the Virgin Mary replied: "Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. Let it be done to me according to your word." [Luke 1:38]. A "fiat," a burning "Yes" to the call to motherhood! A virginal maternity, incomparably superior to any other. But a real maternity, in the true and proper sense of the word. Therefore, when reciting the Angelus, after having recalled to mind Mary's acceptance, the faithful immediately reply: "And the Word was made flesh." [John 1:14].

24. One of the fundamental demands of the true moral order is a correspondence between the use of the marital rights and the sincere internal acceptance of the function and duties of motherhood. With this condition, the woman walks in the path, traced out by the Creator, toward the goal that He has assigned to His creature. He makes her, by the exercise of this function, a partaker of His goodness, wisdom, and omnipotence, in accord with the Angel's message: "concipies in utero, et paries filium -- you will conceive and bear a son". [Luke 1:31].

25. If such, then, is the biological foundation of your professional activity, the urgent object of your apostolate must be to maintain, reawaken, and stimulate the meaning and love in the function of motherhood.

26.a. When husband and wife value and appreciate the honor of producing a new life, whose coming they await with holy impatience, your part is a very easy one. It is easy enough to cultivate in them this interior sentiment, and then the readiness to welcome and cherish that nascent life follows spontaneously. This is unfortunately not always the case. Often, the child is not wanted. Worse still, it is dreaded. How can there be a ready response to the call of duty in such conditions? Your apostolate, in this case, must be exercised both efficiently and efficaciously: first of all, negatively, by refusing any immoral cooperation, and secondly, positively, by turning your delicate care to the task of removing those preconceived ideas, various fears or faint excuses, to removing as far as possible the obstacles, even if external, which may make the acceptance of motherhood painful.

26.b. If recourse is had to you for advice and help in order to facilitate the birth of new life, to protect it and set it on its path toward full development, you can unhesitatingly lend your help. But in how many cases are you, instead, called upon to prevent the procreation and preservation of this life, regardless of the precepts of the moral order? To accede to such requests would be to debase your knowledge and your skill by becoming accomplices in an immoral act. It would be the perversion of your apostolate. This requires a calm but unequivocal "No" that prevents the transgression of God's law and of the dictates of your conscience. Hence, your profession obliges you to have a clear knowledge of this law, so that it may be observed without excess or defect.

27. Our Predecessor, Pius XI, of happy memory, in his Encyclical Casti Connubii, of December 31, 1930, once again solemnly proclaimed the fundamental law of the conjugal act and conjugal relations: that every attempt of either husband or wife in the performance of the conjugal act or in the development of its natural consequences which aims at depriving it of its inherent force and hinders the procreation of new life is immoral; and that no "indication" or need can convert an act which is intrinsically immoral into a moral and lawful one.

28. This precept is in full force today, as it was in the past, and will be in the future also and always, because it is not a simple human whim, but the expression of a natural and law.

29. Let Our words be a sure rule for all those cases which require of your profession and your apostolate a clear and firm decision.

30.a. It would be more than a mere lack of readiness in the service of life, if an attack made by man were to affect not only a single act, but the body itself, so as to deprive it, by means of sterilization, of the faculty of procreating a new life. Here, too, you have a clear rule in the Church's teaching to guide your behavior both interiorly and exteriorly. Direct sterilization -- that is, whose aim tends as a means or as an end at making procreation impossible -- is a grave violation of the moral law and therefore illicit. Not even the public authority has any right, under the pretext of any "indication" whatsoever, to permit it, and still less to require it or to have it used to the detriment of innocent human beings.

30.b. This principle is already proclaimed in the above mentioned Encyclical of Pius XI on marriage. Thus, when ten years or so ago sterilization came to be more widely applied, the Holy See saw the necessity of expressly and publicly declaring that direct sterilization, either perpetual or temporary, in either the male or the female, is illicit according to natural law, from which, as you well know, not even the Church has the power to dispense.

31. As far as you can, oppose, in your apostolate, these perverse tendencies, and do not give them your cooperation.

32. Today, besides, another grave problem has arisen, namely, if and how far the obligation of being ready for the service of maternity is reconcilable with the increasingly widespread use of periods of natural sterility, the so-called "agenesic" [i.e. infecund] periods in woman, which seems a clear expression of a will contrary to that precept.

33. You are expected to be well-informed, from the medical point of view, in regard to this new theory and the progress which may still be made on this subject. And it is also expected that your advice and assistance shall not be based upon mere popular publications, but upon objective science and the authoritative judgment of conscientious specialists in medicine and biology. It is your function, not the priest's, to instruct the married couple, through private consultation or serious publications, on the biological and technical aspects of the theory, without however allowing yourselves to be drawn into unjust and unbecoming propaganda. But in this field also, your apostolate demands of you, as women and as Christians, that you know and defend the moral law, to which the application of the theory is subordinated. In this, the Church is competent.

34. It is necessary first of all to consider two hypotheses. If the application of that theory implies that husband and wife may use their matrimonial right even during the days of natural sterility, no objection can be made. In this case, they do not hinder or jeopardize in any way the consummation of the natural act and its ultimate natural consequences. It is exactly in this that the application of the theory, of which We are speaking, differs essentially from the abuse already mentioned, which consists in the perversion of the act itself. If instead, husband and wife go further, that is, limiting the conjugal act exclusively to those periods, then their conduct must be examined more closely.

35. Here again we are faced with two hypotheses. If one of the parties contracted marriage with the intention of limiting the matrimonial right itself, and not only its use, to the periods of sterility, in such a manner that, during the other days, the other party would not even have the right to ask for the debt, then this would imply an essential defect in matrimonial consent, which would result in the marriage being invalid, because the right deriving from the marriage contract is a permanent, uninterrupted, and continuous right of husband and wife with respect to each other.

36. However, if the limitation of the act to the periods of natural sterility does not refer to the right itself, but only to the use of the right, the validity of the marriage does not come up for discussion. Nonetheless, the moral lawfulness of such conduct of husband and wife should be affirmed or denied according to whether their intention, in observing those periods constantly, is or is not based on sufficiently morally-sure motives. The mere fact that husband and wife do not offend the nature of the act, and are even ready to accept and bring up the child, who, notwithstanding their precautions, might be born, would not itself be sufficient to guarantee the rectitude of their intention and the unobjectionable morality of their motives.

37. The reason is that marriage obliges the partners to a state of life, which, even as it confers certain rights, so it also imposes the accomplishment of a positive work concerning the state itself. In such a case, the general principle may be applied that a positive act may be omitted if grave motives, independent of the good will of those who are obliged to perform it, show that its performance is inopportune, or prove that it may not be claimed with equal right by the petitioner -- in this case, mankind.

38. The matrimonial contract, which confers on the married couple the right to satisfy the inclination of nature, establishes them in a state of life, namely, the matrimonial state. Now, on married couples, who make use of the specific act of their state, nature and the Creator impose the function of providing for the preservation of mankind. This is the characteristic service which gives rise to the particular value of their state, the 'bonum prolis' [the good of offspring]. The individual and society, the people and the State, the Church itself, depend for their existence, on the order established by God, on fruitful marriages. Therefore, to embrace the matrimonial state, to use continually the faculty proper to such a state and lawful only therein, and, at the same time, to avoid its primary duty without a grave reason, would be a sin against the very nature of married life.

39. Serious motives, such as those which not rarely arise from medical, eugenic [i.e. concerns related to the health of the offspring], economic, and social so-called "indications," may exempt husband and wife from the obligatory positive debt for a long period, or even for the entire period of matrimonial life. From this it follows that the observance of the natural sterile periods may be lawful, from the moral viewpoint -- and is lawful in the conditions mentioned. If, however, according to a reasonable and equitable judgment, there are no such grave reasons, either personal or deriving from exterior circumstances, the will to avoid the fecundity of their union, while continuing to satisfy to the full their sensuality, can only be the result of a false appreciation of life and of motives foreign to sound ethical principles.

40. Perhaps now you will press the point, however, observing that, in the exercise of your profession, you find yourselves sometimes faced with delicate cases, in which there cannot be a demand that the risk of maternity be undertaken, a risk that in certain cases must be avoided absolutely, and in which as well the observance of the agenesic periods either does not give sufficient security, or must be rejected for other reasons. Now, you ask, how can one still speak of an apostolate in the service of maternity?

41. If, in your sure and experienced judgment, the circumstances require an absolute "No", that is to say, the exclusion of motherhood, it would be a mistake and a wrong to impose or advise a "Yes". Here, it is a question of basic facts, and therefore not a theological but a medical question; and thus it is within your competence. However, in such cases, the married couple does not desire a medical answer, of necessity a negative one, but seeks an approval of a "technique" of conjugal activity which will not give rise to maternity. And so you are again called to exercise your apostolate, inasmuch as you should leave no doubt whatsoever that, even in these extreme cases, every preventive practice and every direct attack upon the life and the development of the new life is, in conscience, forbidden and excluded, and that there is only one way open, namely, that of complete abstinence from every performance of the natural faculty. Your apostolate in this matter requires that you have a clear and certain judgment, with a calm firmness.

42. It will be objected that such an abstention is impossible, that such a heroism is asking too much. You will hear this objection raised; you will read it everywhere. Even those who should be in a position to judge very differently, by reason of either their duties or their qualifications, are ever ready to bring forward the following argument: "No one is obliged to do what is impossible, and it may be presumed that no reasonable legislator can will his law to oblige to the point of impossibility. But, for husbands and wives, long periods of abstention are impossible. Therefore they are not obliged to abstain; Divine law cannot have this meaning."

43. In such a manner, from partially true premises, one arrives at a false conclusion. To convince oneself of this, it suffices to invert the terms of the argument: "God does not oblige anyone to do what is impossible. But God obliges husband and wife to abstinence if their union cannot be completed according to the laws of nature. Therefore, in this case, abstinence is possible." To confirm this argument, there can be brought forward the doctrine of the Council of Trent, which teaches, in the chapter on that observance which is necessary and possible, in reference to a passage from St. Augustine: "God does not command the impossible, but when He commands, He warns you to do what you can, and to ask for the grace for what you cannot do, and He helps you so that you may be able". [Council of Trent, Session 6, Chapter II, Denzinger, n. 804; St. Augustine, On Nature and Grace, chapter 43, n. 50.]

44. Do not be disturbed, therefore, in the practice of your profession and apostolate, by this grand talk of impossibility. Do not be disturbed in your internal judgment, nor in your external conduct. Never lend yourselves to anything which is contrary to the law of God and to your Christian conscience! It would be a wrong toward men and women of our age to judge them incapable of continuous heroism. Nowadays, for many a reason, -- perhaps constrained by dire necessity, or even at times oppressed by injustice -- heroism is exercised to a degree and to an extent that, in the past, would have been thought impossible. Why, then, if circumstances truly demand it, should this heroism stop at the limits prescribed by the passions and the inclinations of nature? It is clear: he who does not want to master himself is not able to do so, and he who wishes to master himself, relying only upon his own powers, without sincerely and perseveringly seeking help, will be miserably deceived.

45. Here is something that concerns your apostolate: winning over married people to a service of motherhood, not in the sense of an utter servitude under the promptings of nature, but unto the exercise of the rights and duties of married life, governed by the principles of reason and faith.


46. The final aspect of your apostolate concerns the defense of both the right order of values and the dignity of the human being.

47. "Personal values," and the need to respect these, are a theme which, over the last twenty years or so, has been considered more and more by writers. In many of their works, even the specifically sexual act has its place assigned, that of serving the "person" of the spouses. The proper and most profound sense of the exercise of conjugal rights would consist in this, that the union of bodies is the expression and the realization of personal and affective union.

48. Articles, chapters, entire books, conferences, especially dealing with the "technique of love", are intended to spread these ideas, to illustrate them with advice to the newly-married as a guide in matrimony, in order that they may not neglect, through stupidity, or a false sense of shame, or unfounded scruples, that which God, who also created natural inclinations, offers them. If, from their complete reciprocal gift of husband and wife, there results a new life, it is a result which remains outside, or, at the most, on the border of "personal values"; a result which is not denied, but neither is it desired as the center of marital relations.

49. According to these theories, your dedication for the welfare of the still-hidden life in the womb of the mother, and your assistance in its happy birth, would only have but a minor and secondary importance.

50. Now, if this relative evaluation were merely to place the emphasis on the personal values of husband and wife, rather than on that of the offspring, it would be possible, strictly speaking, to put such a problem aside. But, however, it is a matter of a grave inversion of the order of values and of the ends imposed by the Creator Himself. We find Ourselves faced with the propagation of a number of ideas and sentiments directly opposed to the clarity, profundity, and seriousness of Christian thought. Here, once again, is the need for your apostolate. It may happen that you receive the confidences of the mother and wife, and are questioned on the more secret desires and intimacies of married life. How, then, will you be able, aware of your mission, to give weight to truth and right order in the appreciation and action of the married couple, if you yourselves are not furnished with the strength of character needed to uphold what you know to be true and just?

51. Now the truth is that matrimony, as an institution of nature, in virtue of the Creator's will, does not have, as its primary and intimate end, the personal perfection of the spouses, but rather the procreation and education of a new life. The other ends, inasmuch as they are intended by nature, are not equally primary, but are much less superior to the primary end, and essentially subordinated to it. This is true of every marriage, even if no offspring results, just as of every eye it can be said that it is destined and formed to see, even if, in abnormal cases arising from special internal or external conditions, it will never be possible to achieve visual perception.

52. It was precisely to end the uncertainties and deviations which threatened to diffuse errors regarding the scale of values of the purposes of matrimony and of their reciprocal relations, that a few years ago (March 10, 1944), We Ourselves drew up a declaration on the order of those ends, pointing out what the very internal structure of the natural disposition reveals. We showed what has been handed down by Christian tradition, what the Supreme Pontiffs have repeatedly taught, and what was then in due measure promulgated by the Code of Canon Law [*1917 Code of Canon Law 1013, n. 1]. Not long afterwards, to correct opposing opinions, the Holy See, by a public decree, proclaimed that it could not admit the opinion of some recent authors who denied that the primary end of marriage is the procreation and education of offspring, or who teach that the secondary ends are not essentially subordinated to the primary end, but are equal in principle and independent of it. [S. C. S. Officii, 1 aprile 1944 - Acta Ap. Sedis vol. 36, a. 1944, n. 103].

53. Would this lead, perhaps, to Our denying or diminishing what is good and just in personal values resulting from matrimony and its realization? Certainly not. For the Creator has determined that, for the procreation of new life, human beings made of flesh and blood, gifted with soul and heart, shall be called upon as men, not as animals deprived of reason, to be the authors of their posterity. It is for this end that the Lord desires the union of husband and wife. Indeed, Holy Scripture says of God that He created man in His image, and He created him male and female, [Genesis 1:27] and He willed -- as is repeatedly affirmed in Holy Writ -- that "a man shall leave behind his father and mother, and he shall cling to his wife; and the two shall be as one flesh." [Genesis 2:24; cf. Matthew 19:5, Ephesians 5:31].

54. All this is therefore true and desired by God. But, on the other hand, it must not be divorced completely from the primary function of matrimony -- the procreation of offspring. Not only the common work of external life, but even all personal enrichment -- spiritual and intellectual -- all that in married love as such is most spiritual and profound, has been placed by the will of the Creator and of nature at the service of posterity. The perfect married life, by its very nature, also signifies the total devotion of parents to the well-being of their children. And married love, in its power and tenderness, is itself a condition of the sincerest care of the offspring and the guarantee of its realization.

55. To reduce the common life of husband and wife, and the conjugal act, to a mere organic function for the transmission of seed would be to convert the domestic hearth, the family sanctuary, into a biological laboratory. Therefore, in Our allocution of September 29, 1949, to the International Congress of Catholic Doctors, We expressly excluded artificial insemination in marriage. The conjugal act, in its natural structure, is a personal act, a simultaneous and immediate cooperation of husband and wife, which, by the very nature of the agents and the capacity of the act, is the expression of the reciprocal gift, which, according to Holy Writ, effects the union "in one flesh".

56. But this is much more than the union of two gametes, which can be effected even by artificial means, that is, without the natural act of husband and wife. The conjugal act, ordained and intended by nature, is a personal cooperation, to which husband and wife, when contracting marriage, exchange the right.

57. Therefore, when this act, in its natural form, is from the beginning perpetually impossible, the object of the matrimonial contract is affected by an essential defect. This is what we said on that occasion: "Let it not be forgotten: only the procreation of a new life according to the will and the design of the Creator carries with it, to an astounding degree of perfection, the intended ends. At the same time, this is in conformity with the spiritual and bodily nature and the dignity of the married couple, in conformity with the happy and normal development of the child." [Acta Ap. Sedis vol. 41, 1949, p. 560].

58. Advise the fiancée or the young married woman who comes to seek your advice about the values of matrimonial life that these personal values, both in the sphere of the body and its senses, and in the sphere of the spirit, are truly genuine. But that the Creator has placed them, not in the first, but in the second degree of the scale of values.

59. To these considerations must be added another which tends to be forgotten. All these secondary values of the procreative sphere and activity fall within the specific office of the spouses, which is to be the authors and educators of a new life. A high and noble duty! Yet one which does not pertain to the essence of a complete human being, because, if the natural generative tendency does not come to its realization, there is no diminution of the human person, in any way or degree. The renunciation of this realization is not -- especially if made for more sublime purposes -- a mutilation of personal and spiritual values. Of such free renunciation for the love of the kingdom of God, the Lord has said: "Non omnes capiunt verbum istud, sed quibus datum est -- Not everyone is able to grasp this word, but only those to whom it has been given." [Matthew 19:11].

60. To exalt beyond measure, as is often done today, the generative function, even in the just and moral form of married life, is therefore not only an error and an aberration, it also bears within itself the danger of intellectual and affective error, capable of preventing and stifling good and lofty sentiments, especially in youth, which is still without experience and ignorant of life's illusions. For what normal man, healthy in body and soul, would like to belong to the number of those deficient in character and spirit?

61. May your apostolate enlighten minds, and inculcate in them this just order of values, wherever you exercise your profession, so that men may conform to it in their judgments and conduct!

62. This explanation of Ours on the functions of your professional apostolate would be incomplete, if We did not add yet a few more words about the defense of human dignity in the use of the procreative faculty.

63. The same Creator, who in His bounty and wisdom willed to make use of the work of man and woman by uniting them in matrimony for the preservation and propagation of the human race, has also disposed that, in this function, the spouses should experience pleasure and happiness in body and spirit. Therefore, the spouses, by seeking and enjoying this pleasure, do not do anything wrong. They accept what the Creator has intended for them.

64. Nevertheless, here also, the spouses must know how to keep themselves within the limits of a just moderation. As with the pleasure of food and drink, so also with the sexual, they must not abandon themselves without restraint to the impulses of the senses. The right rule is this: the use of the natural procreative disposition is morally licit only in matrimony, in the service of, and in accordance with, the ends of marriage itself. Hence it follows that only in marriage, with the observing of this rule, is the desire and fruition of this pleasure and of this satisfaction lawful. For the pleasure is subordinate to the law of the act from which it is derived, and not vice versa -- the act from the law of pleasure. And this law, so very reasonable, concerns not only the substance, but also the circumstances of the act, so that, even when the substance of the act remains morally safe, it is possible to sin in the way it is performed.

65. The transgression of this law is as old as original sin. But in our times, there is the risk that one may lose sight of the fundamental principle itself. At present, in fact, it is usual to support in words and in writing (and this by Catholics in certain circles) the necessary autonomy, the proper end, and the proper value of sexuality and of its realization, independently of the purpose of procreating a new life. There is a tendency to subject to a new examination and to a new norm the very order established by God, and not to admit any other restraint to the way of satisfying the instinct than by considering the essence of the instinctive act. In addition, there would be substituted a license to serve blindly and without restraint the whims and instincts of nature, in place of the moral obligation to dominate the passions. And this, sooner or later, cannot turn out to be other than a danger to morals, conscience, and human dignity.

66. If nature had aimed exclusively, or at least in the first place, at a reciprocal gift and possession of the married couple in joy and delight, and if it had ordered that act only to make happy in the highest possible degree their personal experience, and not to stimulate them to the service of life, then the Creator would have adopted another plan in forming and constituting the natural act. Now instead, all this is subordinated and ordered to that unique great law of the "generatio et educatio prolis," [the generation and education of offspring] namely the accomplishment of the primary end of matrimony as the origin and source of life.

67. Unfortunately, unceasing waves of hedonism invade the world and threaten to submerge, in the swelling tide of thoughts, desires, and acts, the whole of marital life, and not without serious dangers and grave prejudice to the primary duty of husband and wife.

68. This anti-Christian hedonism too often is not ashamed to elevate itself to a doctrine, inculcating the ardent desire to make always more intense the pleasure, in the preparation and in the performance of the conjugal union, as if in matrimonial relations the whole moral law were reduced to the normal performance of the act itself, and as if all the rest, in whatever way it is done, were justified by the expression of mutual affection, were sanctified by the Sacrament of Matrimony, and made worthy of praise and reward before God and conscience. There is no thought at all of the dignity of man and of the Christian -- a dignity which restrains the excess of sensuality.

69. No; the gravity and the sanctity of the Christian moral law do not allow for an unchecked satisfaction of the sexual instinct, tending only to pleasure and enjoyment. They do not permit rational man to let himself be mastered to such an extent, neither as regards the substance, nor the circumstances of the act.

70. There are some who would allege that happiness in marriage is in direct proportion to the reciprocal enjoyment in conjugal relations. Not so; happiness in marriage is in direct proportion to the mutual respect of the spouses, even in their intimate relations. It is not that they refuse and deem as immoral what nature offers and what the Creator has given, but rather that this respect, and the mutual esteem that it engenders, is one of the strongest elements of a pure love, and, for this reason, is all the more tender.

71. In the performance of your profession, do your utmost to repel the attack of this refined hedonism, devoid of spiritual values and thus unworthy of Christian married couples. Show that nature has given, it is true, an instinctive desire for pleasure, and has sanctioned it within lawful marriage -- not as an end in itself, but rather for the service of life. Banish from your heart that cult of pleasure, and do your best to prevent the spread of any literature which considers as its duty the description in full of the intimacies of married life under the pretext of instructing, guiding, and reassuring. In general, common sense, natural instinct, and a brief instruction on the clear and simple maxims of the Christian moral law, are sufficient to give peace to the tender conscience of the spouses. If, in certain circumstances, a fiancée or a young married woman were in need of further enlightenment on some particular point, it is your duty to give them a tactful explanation, in conformity with natural law and with a healthy Christian conscience.

72. This teaching of Ours has nothing to do with Manichaeism and Jansenism, as some would have people believe in order to justify themselves. It is only a defense of the honor of Christian matrimony and of the personal dignity of the married couple.

{73. To serve such a purpose, especially in our days, is an urgent duty of your professional mission.

{74. With this, we arrive at the conclusion of what we intended to explain.

{75. Your profession opens up a vast field, with many of the aspects of an apostolate -- an apostolate not so much of words, as of action and guidance -- an apostolate which is able to be exercised usefully only if you are well aware of the end of your mission and the means to achieve it, only if you are equipped with a firm and resolute will, founded on a profound religious conviction, inspired and enriched by Christian faith and love.

{76. Invoking upon you the powerful help of Divine light and Divine strength, I heartily bestow that pledge and hope of the most abundant heavenly graces: Our Apostolic Blessing.}

Pope Pius XII
29 October 1951

* 1917 Code of Canon Law, Canon 1013, n. 1:
Matrimonii finis primarius est procreatio atque educatio prolis; secundarius mutuum adiutorium et remedium concupiscentiae.
The primary end of marriage is the procreation and education of offspring; secondary are mutual aid and a remedy for concupiscence.

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