Humanae Vitae 19: Pastoral Directives

sperm and eggHumanae Vitae is online at the Vatican site, and the text highlighted below is © Copyright – Libreria Editrice Vaticana.

With today’s post, we leave behind the theology, and turn to “pastoral directives.” In these final thirteen sections, Pope Paul addresses people, couples, pastors, medical workers, and others. HV 19-20 serves as an introduction of sorts to the final theme of the encyclical letter.

The first pastoral directive given here is that of mercy, the quality extended by Christ to the people he encountered:

19. Our words would not be an adequate expression of the thought and solicitude of the Church, Mother and Teacher of all peoples, if, after having recalled (people) to the observance and respect of the divine law regarding matrimony, they did not also support (humankind) in the honest regulation of birth amid the difficult conditions which today afflict families and peoples. The Church, in fact, cannot act differently toward (people) than did the Redeemer. She knows their weaknesses, she has compassion on the multitude, she welcomes sinners. But at the same time she cannot do otherwise than teach the law. For it is in fact the law of human life restored to its native truth and guided by the Spirit of God. (See Rom 8)

If HV 7-18 laid out doctrinal principles–“teaching the law” as described here–this begins an important section that seems to recognize that some people will fail this standard. Does the Church then condemn, or even hobble those who fail to live up to what is acknowledged as a high and difficult bar? The question remains apt to this day: does mercy sabotage virtue?


About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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