5 June 1987

To the participants in a conference on Responsible Procreation

The Holy Father received in audience on Friday, 5 June the participants in a study conference on responsible procreation.  The conference was sponsored by the “Centre for Studies and Research on the Natural Regulation of Fertility” of the Department of Medicine of the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart.  The Pope spoke to the group as follows:

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

1. I greet you most warmly and thank you for your presence, while I congratulate the “Centre for Studies and Research on the Natural Regulation of Fertility” of the Department of Medicine of the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart for having promoted again this year a conference for study and updating with regard to responsible procreation.

Your commitment enters into and participates in the mission of the Church, due to a pastoral concern which is among the most urgent and important.  It is a question of helping spouses to live their marriage in a holy way.  You have resolved to assist them in their journey towards holiness, so that they might completely fulfil their conjugal vocation.

It is well known that often one of the main anxieties that spouses encounter is realizing the ethical value of responsible procreation in their conjugal life, as the Second Vatican Council pointed out (cf. Gaudium et Spes, 51, 1). The Council itself places at the foundation of a just solution to this problem the truth that there cannot be a real contradiction between the divine law regarding the transmission of human life and authentic married love (cf. Ibid., 2).  To speak of a “conflict of values or goods” and of the consequent need to “weigh” them, choosing one and rejecting the other, is not morally correct, and generates only confusion in the consciences  of spouses.  Christ’s grace gives married couples the real capacity to fulfil the entire “truth” of their conjugal love.  You wish concretely to witness to this possibility, and thus to provide married couples with a precious form of help:  that of fully having their conjugal communion.  Notwithstanding the difficulties you may encounter, it is necessary to continue with generous dedication.

2. The difficulties  you encounter are of various kinds.  The first, and in a certain sense the most serious, is that even within the Christian community voices have been heard and are still being heard, which cast doubt upon the very truth of the Church’s teaching.  This teaching has been vigorously expressed by Vatican II, by the Apostolic Exhortation Familiaris Consortio and by the recent Instruction “The Gift of Life”.  A grave responsibility derives from this:  those who place themselves in open conflict with the Law of God, authentically taught by the Church, guide spouses along a false path.  The Church’s teaching on contraception does not belong to the category of matter open to free discussion among theologians.  Teaching the contrary amounts to leading the moral consciences of spouses into error.

The second difficulty is constituted by the fact that many think that the Christian teaching, though true, is yet impracticable, at least in some circumstances.  As the Tradition of the Church has constantly taught, God does not command the impossible, but every commandment also carries with it a gift of grace which assists human freedom in fulfilling it. However, there is need for constant prayer, frequent recourse to the sacraments and the exercise of conjugal chastity. Your efforts must not be limited, then, to the mere teaching of a method for monitoring human fertility.  This information must be inserted into the context of a complete educational proposal which addresses the person of the spouses, considered as a whole. Without this anthropological context, your proposal runs the risk of being misunderstood.  You are well convinced of this, because you have always made a proper anthropological and ethical reflection the base for your courses.

Today more than in the recent past, man is once again beginning to feel within himself the need for truth and for right reason in his daily experience.  Be always ready to speak, without ambiguity, the truth concerning the good and the evil of the individual and of the family.

With these sentiments I wish to encourage the important apostolate that you propose to realize in the dioceses and in centres for family formation. In educating towards responsible procreation, know how to encourage married couples to follow the moral principles intrinsic to the natural law and innate in healthy Christian consciences.  Teach men and women to seek and to love the will of God.  Encourage them to respect and to fulfil the sublime vocation of married love and of the gift of life.

I gladly bless all of you, your loved ones and your initiatives in the apostolate.

John Paul II