Sunday, July 13, 2008

Litany of Heresies #10

Claiming that, until Vatican II, the Church's teaching regarded the sole purpose of marriage as having children. There was no concept of the relationship of husband and wife beyond that.

The error in the above topic is actually two-fold. First, it is incorrect to say that the Church ascribed no purpose to marriage other than procreation until calling of the Second Vatican Council. The writings of the Fathers demonstrate this. Tertullian wrote the following to his wife:

How can I ever express the happiness of a marriage joined by the Church, strengthened by an offering, sealed by a blessing, announced by angels, and ratified by the Father? . . . How wonderful the bond between two believers, now one in hope, one in desire, one in discipline, one in the same service! They are both children of one Father and servants of the same Master, undivided in spirit and flesh, truly two in one flesh. Where the flesh is one, one also is the spirit.[1]

St. Theophilus of Antioch stated that:

God created Adam and Eve in order that they might have the greatest possible love for each other, reflecting the mystery of divine Unity. . .[2]

The idea of mutual help and spousal well-being was therefore present in the Church’s teaching from the earliest days. These are not isolated teachings, left untouched until the time of Vatican II, though. Papal statements re-affirmed this concept consistently prior to the Council.

Prior to Vatican II , Pope Leo XIII wrote:

Secondly, the mutual duties of husband and wife have been defined, and their several rights accurately established. They are bound, namely, to have such feelings for one another as to cherish always very great mutual love, to be ever faithful to their marriage vow, and to give one another an unfailing and unselfish help. The husband is the chief of the family and the head of the wife. The woman, because she is flesh of his flesh, and bone of his bone, must be subject to her husband and obey him; not, indeed, as a servant, but as a companion, so that her obedience shall be wanting in neither honor nor dignity. Since the husband represents Christ, and since the wife represents the Church, let there always be, both in him who commands and in her who obeys, a heaven-born love guiding both in their respective duties. For "the husband is the head of the wife; as Christ is the head of the Church. . . Therefore, as the Church is subject to Christ, so also let wives be to their husbands in all things."[3]

Pope Pius XI continued this defense of the unitive aspect of marriage:

For matrimonial faith demands that husband and wife be joined in an especially holy and pure love, not as adulterers love each other, but as Christ loved the Church. This precept the Apostle laid down when he said: "Husbands, love your wives as Christ also loved the Church," that Church which of a truth He embraced with a boundless love not for the sake of His own advantage, but seeking only the good of His Spouse. The love, then, of which We are speaking is not that based on the passing lust of the moment nor does it consist in pleasing words only, but in the deep attachment of the heart which is expressed in action, since love is proved by deeds.[26] This outward expression of love in the home demands not only mutual help but must go further; must have as its primary purpose that man and wife help each other day by day in forming and perfecting themselves in the interior life, so that through their partnership in life they may advance ever more and more in virtue, and above all that they may grow in true love toward God and their neighbor, on which indeed "dependeth the whole Law and the Prophets." For all men of every condition, in whatever honorable walk of life they may be, can and ought to imitate that most perfect example of holiness placed before man by God, namely Christ Our Lord, and by God's grace to arrive at the summit of perfection, as is proved by the example set us of many saints.[4]

The above clearly shows that procreation was not the sole marital interest prior to Vatican II. It also provides a context for the second error regarding the Church’s teaching on marriage. This error is the statement that Vatican II somehow changed the Church’s traditional teaching on the proper ordering of marital values. In other words, the mutual support of spouses now holds a spot of primacy above that of procreation and the proper rearing of children. This is contrary to fact.

Disregarding for a moment the consent of the Fathers on this issue, as well as the teachings of the Ordinary Magisterium,[5] consider the words of the Council itself:

. . . [T]he institution of matrimony itself and conjugal love are ordained for the procreation and education of children, and find in them their ultimate crown. . .[6]

Marriage and conjugal love are by their nature ordained toward the begetting and educating of children. Children are really the supreme gift of marriage and contribute very substantially to the welfare of their parents. The God Himself Who said, "it is not good for man to be alone" (Gen. 2:18) and "Who made man from the beginning male and female" (Matt. 19:4), wishing to share with man a certain special participation in His own creative work, blessed male and female, saying: "Increase and multiply" (Gen. 1:28). 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.

Parents should regard as their proper mission the task of transmitting human life and educating those to whom it has been transmitted. They should realize that they are thereby cooperators with the love of God the Creator, and are, so to speak, the interpreters of that love.[7]

This certainly does not bespeak of some sort of new teaching in the realm of marital relationships. Continuing the Council’s discussion on the issue, Pope John Paul II wrote:

The task of giving education is rooted in the primary vocation of married couples to participate in God's creative activity: by begetting in love and for love a new person who has within himself or herself the vocation to growth and development, parents by that very fact take on the task of helping that person effectively to live a fully human life.[8]

That the Church’s position has not changed becomes more clear when one notes the cited authority in the Catechism of the Catholic Church regarding fecundity.[9] The Catechism cites to the entirety of Pope Pius XI’s encyclical Casti Connubii, which re-affirms the primacy of procreation and child-rearing.

[1] Tertullian, Ad Uxorem, Chapter VIII.
[2] Theophilus of Antioch, Ad Autolyc 2:28. See also St. John Chrysostom, On Marriage.
[3] Pope Leo XIII, Arcanum §11.
[4] Pope Pius XI, Casti Connubii §23. See also §7; Pope Pius XII, Allocution to Mid-wives.
[5] See notes 58-59, supra.
[6] Second Vatican Council, Gaudium et Spes (Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World) §48.
[7] Id. at §50. See also Pope John Paul II, Evangelium Vitae §43.
[8] Pope John Paul II, Apostolic Exhortation Familiaris Consortio §36.
[9] Catechism of the Catholic Church 2366.

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