Rorate Caeli

An influential address: 60 years of Pope Pius XII's speech to Italian midwives

This is the object of your profession, the secret of its greatness and of its beauty, dear daughters - to keep solicitous watch on that silent and dark abode in which God infuses an immortal soul in the flesh given by the parents, extending your care to the mother and preparing the child, that she carries within herself, and a successful birth.

Thus began the address of Pope Pacelli to the participants at the Congress of the Italian Catholic Union of Midwives, delivered on October 29, 1951. The address confirmed all aspects of Catholic doctrine on human life - and the firm lessons taught by his predecessor in Casti Connubii. What would make this allocution particularly noteworthy (and that would make it a pivotal document, mentioned in all documents in which such matters would be discussed thereafter - including Gaudium et spes, 51) and the basis of the doctrine further exposed in Humanae vitae, would be the following passage:


The matrimonial contract, which confers on the married couple the right to satisfy the inclination of nature, constitutes 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 peculiar value of their state, the . The individual and society, the people and the State, the Church itself, depend for their existence, in 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.


Serious motives, such as those which not rarely arise from medical, eugenic, 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 it 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 tile full their sensuality, can only be the result of a false appreciation of life and of motives foreign to sound ethical principles.

Except for the first paragraph mentioned above, the address, one of the most important and influential of the Pacellian years, is available in English here (the entire address is also available in the Vatican website in Italian and in Spanish).

28 comments:

  1. Matthew12:44 AM

    Wonderful and true words. Having recently entered into Holy Matrimony, I earnestly wish Churchmen and dioceses and their endless "programs" would more accurately present the teachings of the Church concerning the nature of Matrimony. All the diocesan literature we saw gave total promotion to Natural Family Planning techniques, and was even rather soft on the reasoning behind the evil and immorality of contraception.

    Much difficulty between my now wife and I in figuring out what the Church actually teaches on this and related subjects would have been spared had the "marriage prep" at the parish consisted of more than what amounted to a compatibility test. The void left in this area by those whose care our souls were entrusted to placed our own souls in danger and permitted the possibility of future souls to not be created.

    Thanks be to God we learned elsewhere in time. It shouldn't be so difficult for the average layman to be presented with the authentic teaching of the Church, especially when he earnestly desires it.

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  2. And some people say that it's OK to continuously live a childless marriage life via Natural Family Planning even if the couple could afford taking care of several children.


    NFP is not an excuse to put off having children (or even not having children at all).

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  3. Tripudians5:03 AM

    Very informative article on this topic in the recent issue of Faith magazine:

    http://www.faith.org.uk/Publications/Magazines/Sep11/Sep11ContraceptionAndTheImperfectionOfNaturalFamilyPlanning.html

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  4. Father AV11:09 AM

    No where else is the Church's teaching such a dead letter as on procreation and against contraception (while allowing a slight of hand depending on how you use NFP).

    I've been a priest for a few years now and I can tell you that with very few exceptions (even among "traditional" families) there is always always some form of artificial contraception being used when they deem it necessary, and for those who use NFP, the majority also just use it as a kind of contraceptive. And furthermore, out of those who do contracept in one way or another, few confess it.

    I have no idea what will happen with the Church's teaching on this subject but especially after so many years of banging this cymbal from the Paul VI years, through JP2 and today, any nuance in this teaching is impossible.

    Even Pope Benedict XVI can do no more than repeat the same dead-letter teaching when he is asked about condoms for the fight against AIDS in Africa, etc.. But where he has such substantial and insightful things to add to the discussion on other matters, his hands are tied and he really can't say anything else on this.

    I think that the fight is lost on this one but no one knows how to possible maneuver a way out of it and back to congruency between Catholicism lived and Catholicism officially taught.

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  5. The Church's clear and true teaching on sexual matters is one of the unspoken primary reasons for the wide-spread rebellion against and the hatred for Tradition which was sparked by Vatican II.

    "Modern man" wants folk music, banners, balloons, and nuanced teaching that doesn't say things that he does not want to hear.

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  6. Anonymous12:58 PM

    There is a charming typographical mistake in the English version: Instead of "prolis," the text says, "generatio et educatio prolix."

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  7. Anonymous1:13 PM

    Pius XII was a magnificent Pope! Extremely holy....Saintly!! So much more than was John Paul II-although he was holy in his own way also. But never to the heights of Pius XII.

    In his speeches, photo ops, ceremonies, Pius XII truely presented himself as Pope. John Paul II presented himself as everyone's pal. Alittle too earthy and common for the Papacy. Even John XXIII, who came from a family of farmers, had a regal atmosphere to him that John Paul II lacked.

    I once read that someone said of Pius XII that he was a Pope "who knew how to Pope".

    That says it all.

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  8. Anonymous2:40 PM

    This address also says some very important things regarding the attendant acts that lead up to conjugal union. Unfortunately, the conscience of many Catholics these days is being formed improperly, because they think they can do whatever they want and act like pagans as long as things end up where they are supposed to.

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  9. It seems that there are two schools of thoughts about bringing children into the world. One says that the parents should trust that God will provide, and procreate under any (or almost any) circumstances. The other says that married couples must use their common sense and self-control to ensure the size of their family matches their circumstances. It seems to me that the two schools of thought are unreconcileable, and I'm unsure whether both are valid, and if so, which is better. Can anyone advise? Thanks in advance

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  10. Anonymous3:05 PM

    While most Catholics today gladly take part in artificial contraception, we cannot forget about the well-intentioned but ignorant NFPers, who are still in a contraceptive mentality.

    Wanting to incomes to be able to afford a bigger house, a second BMW and the yearly vacation does not rise to a grave concern!

    God said go forth and multiply, not go forth and replace yourself.

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  11. Neal,

    One says that the parents should trust that God will provide, and procreate under any (or almost any) circumstances. The other says that married couples must use their common sense and self-control to ensure the size of their family matches their circumstances.

    It's the second one which is more correct and in line with Catholic teaching. The first one sounds too Pentecostal/charismatic.

    God has given us reason. We ought to use it. If situation is not permissible to have more children, then don't. This is exactly what was taught by Casti Connubii and Humanae Vitae.

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  12. There was no reason for Pius XII not to read the Secret of Fatima, make it public, and fulfill the simple request of Our Lady of the Rosary.

    The best world to have children born into would have been a peaceful world with a converted Catholic Russia!!!

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  13. Anonymous12:30 AM

    Being said ...

    You think the traditional Catholic attitude of letting God's will be done and that He will provide for as many souks as one brings into the world is Pentescostal or charismatic?

    Want to rethink that some more?

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  14. Eugenic‽ I'm confused...

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  15. "Eugenic" concerns would involve, for example, couples who can conceive children, but the children always have severe problems making it impossible for them to make it full term, or, say, a woman whose pregnancy would end not only with her death but also the death of her unborn child. There could be other similar extreme cases. My grandmother, after giving birth to my mother, had miscarriage after miscarriage after miscarriage after miscarriage, until finally the doctors told her if she got pregnant again her own life would be in very grave danger -- so my grandparents stopping trying to have more babies. (They weren't Catholic, and I have no idea if they abstained or rather used some contraceptive method available to them, but I mention them just as an example of medical or "eugenic" indications.) In such a case, per the teaching of Pius XII, a proper Christian response could be for a marriage couple to refrain altogether from conjugal relations until the wife has completed menopause.

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  16. Anonymous6:48 AM

    "Steve said...
    There was no reason for Pius XII not to read the Secret of Fatima, make it public, and fulfill the simple request of Our Lady of the Rosary.

    The best world to have children born into would have been a peaceful world with a converted Catholic Russia!!!

    10 October, 2011 23:46"

    Steve I totally agree with you, Pius XII with all the holiness attributed to him and rightly so, was not perfect and this proves it.

    I have read about Pope XII and I must say the Secret of Fatima was in his hands to reveal and he chose not to reveal it, just like it was in the hands of the all the other Popes beginning with Pius XI , sad but this mess we live in is not the responsability of only the Vatican II Popes.

    My comment might seem off topic but is not, I am only adding to Steve's comment.

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  17. Louise3:13 PM

    I grieve for the Catholic married couples who adopt a contraceptive mentality in their marriages...you suffer and miss out on so much.
    NFP has much to answer for.

    Give: and it shall be given to you: good measure and pressed down and shaken together and running over shall they give into your bosom. For with the same measure that you shall mete withal, it shall be measured to you again.
    Luke 6:38

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  18. Is it even possible to have a contraceptive mentality when the act in question is not contraceptive?

    http://newtheologicalmovement.blogspot.com/2011/09/natural-family-planning-with.html

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  19. Yes. The morality of human acts is affected by one's intention.

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  20. Alfredo,


    Yes. They just don't realize it.

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  21. Anonymous3:49 AM

    Being said ...

    First, it is Adfero, I'm not a sauce for pasta.

    Second, I think you need to truly read up and pray on what it means to be Catholic and trust in God.

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  22. Adfero is it?


    Should we then pray to God so He would heal our sickness instead of going to the doctor?

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  23. Anonymous1:49 PM

    Yes, it's Latin. Look it up.

    Should we pray for healing? Of course, why wouldn't we. My daughter this year was born almost 4 months early and was 1 pound. The doctors said she lived and thrived due to no scientific reason, all to God. She probably had literally 50 Masses said for her and countless rosaries and prayers.

    So would you now say we are Christian Scientists?

    You seem to have a fundamental distrust in God and should probably take that to your confessor.

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  24. Adfero,

    It goes without saying that I did not meant we should not pray.

    And your so called "distrust in God" accusation to me indicate that you're toying with fideism.


    Bottom line, go read Casti connubi and Humanae vitae. Nowhere in those two letters the faithful are taught pentecostal charismatic nonsense that they should "leave everything to God" (aka "leave everything to divine supernatural intervention") with regard to the number of children.

    We are to live our live ordinarily, not extraordinarily.


    PS
    It also goes without saying that by the last paragraph doesn't mean that we should not be open to extraordinary experience (ie. divine supernatural intervention).

    A downside to the occurrence of miracles is the lack of faith.

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  25. Anonymous7:57 AM

    Beng said the sentence which follows:

    A downside to the occurrence of miracles is the lack of faith.


    That certainly has no basis in Scripture or Tradition.

    I thought a downside to a lack of faith was the non-occurrance of miracles...

    --Zak

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  26. Anonymous3:57 PM

    "Bottom line, go read Casti connubi and Humanae vitae. Nowhere in those two letters the faithful are taught pentecostal charismatic nonsense that they should "leave everything to God" (aka "leave everything to divine supernatural intervention") with regard to the number of children."

    No one is saying a couple cannot take matters into their own hands and remain in a state of grace, under grave circumstances. What we're arguing here is that, when someone wants a new car or a bigger house, so they go childless or contracept after a couple, that is not a grave circumstance, and they should find true Faith and trust in God that He will provide.

    You're taking this way too far.

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  27. @Father AV
    I have some difficulty understanding what you mean by "congruency between Catholicism lived and Catholicism officially taught." It seems you are advocating some kind of change in Catholic teachings to bring them into line with what Catholics do in practice. Forgive me, I'm just a layman, but I thought Catholic teaching didn't change. It can develop, but not change.

    I presume that your ministry takes place in a regular diocesan parish, which might explain why contraception is so widespread. Take a trip to a traditional parish (FSSP or SSPX) and you might be pleasantly surprised. It is possible to respect Church teaching on this issue, and those who do so are richly rewarded.

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  28. Elmer4:00 AM

    I know this is an old post but the quote you display has a spelling mistake, and so does the EWTN link. Where it says

    "while continuing to satisfy to tile full their sensuality" it should actually read "while continuing to satisfy to the full their sensuality". The "to tile" must be a scanning error or something. The error seems to have perpetuated itself onto several websites using the EWTN link.

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