The Family Under Attack
It remains to be seen how we should understand the statements in Humanae Vitae and later magisterial documents expressing ‘the pre-eminence of love.’ To do so, let us take as our starting-point a passage from Casti Connubii of Pius XI (1930), which seem to have served as a precedent for Humanae Vitae; ‘The love of husband and wife…pervade[s] all the duties of married life and holds pride of place in Christian marriage…In this internal and mutual formation of the spouses and in this assiduous application to the work of reciprocal perfection one can see in all truth, as the Roman Catechism teaches, the cause and primary reason for marriage, if matrimony is looked at not in the restricted sense as instituted for the proper conception and education of the child, but more widely as the blending of life as a whole and the mutual interchange and the sharing thereof’ (24).
Let us first consider the Roman Catechism. It is true that in its section concerning the motives and ends of marriage it considers the spousal relationship first, but this is clearly but a reflection of the fact that the spousal relationship is the primary reason for marriage on the part of the couple and in the order of chronology: it is what gives the prospective spouses the initial impulse, or motive, for marriage. The procreation and education of children, by contrast, remains the primary reason on the part of God and in the order of perfection.
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The Catechism expresses this latter truth when it states in the very next paragraph: ‘This was besides the only reason [the blessing of children] that God instituted marriage from the beginning’; when it states in the previous paragraph: ‘The following words of the Lord: Increase and multiply are intended to elucidate the reasons for the institution of marriage’; and in its later section on the blessings of marriage when it places the blessing of children in first place. Since God’s intention and the finis operis take precedence over man’s intention and the finis operantis, we can conclude that in the Roman Catechism procreation is the primary finality of marriage simpliciter.
In the passage from Casti Connubii the spousal relationship, or love, assumes greater importance: here constituting not the initial impulse for marriage, but rather informing the whole of marriage as such. Indeed the wording ‘blending of life as a whole and a mutual interchange and sharing thereof’ seems to suggest that love should become the very key-note of marriage, not only for the spouses but for all the members of the family.
Yet if love has assumed a primary importance here, it has done so only on the psychological or subjective level, for procreation remains primary on the objective level in the encyclical as when Pius XI speaks of the ‘natural and primeval right of marriage – the principal ends of marriage laid down in the beginning by God Himself in the words ‘Increase and multiply’ (8), or when he quotes St Augustine’s words that procreation is ‘the reason for marriage’, and that ‘the children hold pride of place amongst the goods of marriage,’ or again when he quotes Canon 1013 of the Code of Law (see above) and describes ‘as secondary ends the mutual aid, reciprocal love, and the remedy of concupiscence’ which ‘must remain subordinate to the primary end of marriage’.
For all that, we can admit that the passage quoted from Casti Connubii (23-4) lacks clarity, as Pius XI reputedly regretted in his later years (as reported by Fr. Boissard in footnote 43 to Q5 in his article quoted above). But any suggestion that the love of the spouses might be the primary end of marriage simpliciter was, as we have seen, later to be definitively rejected by Pius XII.
When we compare Humanae Vitae with Casti Connubii in the area in question, we see that both Pius XI and Paul VI accord love the pre-eminence on what the latter calls ‘the subjective evaluation of marriage’, but that whereas Pius XI accords procreation the pre-eminence on what we might call ‘the objective evaluation of marriage’, Paul VI does not. In fact by ignoring the objective evaluation of marriage, he implies that the subjective evaluation of love is dispositive.
Various elements of Magisterial Personalism are in evidence here: subjectivism, along with a preoccupation with psychology, love, and the person, the disregard for objectivity, along with Tradition, past Magisterial teaching, Sacred Scripture and Natural Law arguments (see the article by John Galvin referred to above). The consequence is that there is a return to ideas and modes of expression that had been superseded, and the secondary end of marriage moves thereby into the foreground and the primary end into the background.
On the basis of established Church teaching that the primary end of marriage is procreation, can we describe as anything other than misleading statements according the pre-eminence to love? – and the more misleading, the more they become enshrined in the Magisterium.
The original author of this blog passed away in July of 2016. RIP Father Carota.