Rorate Caeli

'The Council and the Eclipse of God' by Don Pietro Leone - Section II - Man - Chapter VI - MAN'S CHOICE OF LIFE

Part II




‘O youth, youth, you have no cares, all the riches of the world are thine, even misfortune comforts thee, even sorrow rests easy on thy brow. Thou art arrogant and proud, and thou sayest: Look at me! Look! I alone exist! - even as thy days race by and vanish without trace and without number, and everything in thee dissolves and melts away like wax in the sun, like the snow…’


                                                                                                                         Turgenev, First Love [1]



Having seen how the Council has attempted to amalgamate the Church and the World, we shall now see more closely how it informs this construct not with the spirit of the Church, the Spirit of Truth and Sanctification which is in effect the Holy Spirit, Her Soul; but with the spirit of the World, which is the spirit of fallen man. This latter spirit, as we said in the Preface, we consider the key to understanding the Council. We shall consequently proceed to present Council teaching on man: in the first chapter, man in the two forms of life in which he may realize himself on this earth: the married and the consecrated life, whether that of the priest or that of the religious; in the second chapter, man in his relation to God; in the third chapter, man in himself.


In this second part of the book we shall witness the work of destruction of Catholic doctrine, which we have seen above in regard to the Faith and the Church, continue in regard to the sacraments of marriage and the Holy Eucharist, and in regard to the priesthood and religious life.

Chapter VI



(The First Part)


In this chapter we examine the Council’s teaching of man’s choice of life, namely in:

                    A. Marriage;

                  B. The Priesthood;

                  C. The Religious Life.



A.    Marriage


The Holy Family by Faustini Modesto (St. Joseph at work). (Loreto).

Pope John Paul II played an important rôle in the writing of the document Gaudium et Spes and any-one acquainted with his personalistic doctrines, as manifest particularly in ‘Theology of the Body’ will find ample evidence of them in the document’s chapter on marriage and the family.


In this section we shall consider Council teaching on:


  1.    1.The Nature of Marriage;
  2.    2. The End(s) of Marriage;
  3.    3.The Dignity of Married Love;
  4.    4. Contraception;
  5.    5.The Equality of the Spouses;
  6.    6.Marriage as a Vocation;
  7.    7.‘Sex Education.’



  1. 1.The Nature of Marriage


‘The intimate partnership of life and the love which constitutes the married state…’ (GS 48)


The Council of Trent and its Catechism speak of marriage rather as a ‘bond’. The former states [1]: ‘The first father of the human race, inspired by the Divine Spirit, proclaimed the perpetual and indissoluble bond of matrimony…’, and the latter explicitly defines marriage in theological terms as a ‘bond’, vinculum.


The text may be criticized on the following counts:


a)      it is not a definition of marriage at all; indeed in Gaudium et Spes marriage is nowhere defined. Rather, it amounts only to a description of marriage, and that in the psychologizing terms characteristic of Personalism;


b)      it does not understand marriage as essentially something spiritual (the bond), but rather as something purely physical (a partnership);


c)      it makes no reference to any substance or concrete thing (the bond) but rather to an amorphous, fluid concept (that of a partnership of life and love). The detachment from Being is a characterisitic of Personalism, while the concept of some sort of life-flux recalls the Modernist doctrine of ‘vital immanence’;


d)      the description is anyway incorrect, for the Church permits married couples in certain circumstances to live without a ‘partnership of life’, that is to say separately; and a ‘partnership of love’ is not necessary for marriage either, if love is understood in a carnal sense as the Council seems to understand it (see below). For a couple is permitted to marry in order to pursue a common objective, while living together in perfect chastity. The most remarkable example of this is of course given to us by the Holy Family.

  1. 2. The End(s) of Marriage


Historical Context


The speech on this subject which had the greatest effect on the Fathers was that of Cardinal  Suenens: ‘Perhaps we have stressed the words of the Scripture: ‘Increase and multiply’ to the point of leaving in the shade the other divine words: ‘The two will be one flesh.’ It will be for the Commission to tell us if we have not emphasized the first end, which is procreation, to the detriment of a finality equally imperative, which is the growth in conjugal unity’ (RdM, V 10). The Cardinal re-inforced his argument by referring to the population explosion. Warm applause followed his words, orchestrated by Mgr. Helder Camara.


Cardinal Ruffini wrote to the Secretary of State, Cardinal Cicognani to complain of Cardinal Suenens’ ‘horrendous’ words, asking him to be removed from the function of Moderator, and asking if adaptation to to-day’s society could justify calling ‘moral’ that which had always been considered immoral. Pope Paul VI rebuked Cardinal Suenens in a private audience, and on the day following the latter’s speech, Cardinal Ottaviani spoke on a personal note of his father’s trust in Divine Providence in raising a family of 12 children despite their great poverty. His speech was followed by an allocution by Cardinal Browne, who expounded Catholic marital doctrine with exemplary clarity, explaining with great precision the meaning of married love, and the conditions for its proper exercise.


Unfortunately, however, it was not the traditional, clear, ascetic, and noble doctrine elevated by Faith, which came to be enshrined in the Council document, but, despite some reference made to Tradition, a doctrine new, unclear, and informed with the spirit of the World.   



Analysis of Texts


i) ‘By its very nature the institution of marriage and married love are ordered to the procreation and education of the offspring, and in them it finds its crowning glory (iisque veluti suo fastigio coronantur)’ (GS 48);


ii) ‘Marriage and married love are by nature ordered to the procreation and education of children.’ (GS 50).


Texts (i) and (ii) express a novel vision of the ends of marriage.


The Code of Canon Law of 1917, representing Traditional Catholic teaching, had stated [2]: ‘The primary end of marriage is the procreation and education of the offspring; the secondary is the reciprocal assistance and remedy of concupiscence.’ Subsequently it was asked [3]: ‘Can the teaching of certain modern authors be allowed who deny that the procreation and education of the child is the principal end of the marriage or that the secondary ends are not necessarily subordinate to the principal end but of equal value and independent of it? No, this teaching cannot be allowed.’ Finally Pope Pius X had declared [4]: ‘Marriage as a natural institution according to the will of God… is ordered to the procreation and education of new life. The other ends… are fundamentally subordinate to it.’  


We proceed to compare the two doctrines. The Traditional doctrine states (in the briefest possible outline): ‘Marriage is ordered to procreation and married love’; the new doctrine states, by contrast: ‘Marriage and married love is ordered to procreation.’ In the first case we have, then, A  → (B & C); in the second case we have (A & C) → B.


Taking the Traditional doctrine as the true Catholic teaching, we may conclude that the new doctrine is incorrect in associating marriage and married love too closely. The closeness of this association (which we have already seen in the description of marriage in the section above) suggests either that marriage is identical to married love, or that it encompasses it. This gives married love precedence over procreation, since the identity relation (or that of encompassment), which marriage would be purported to have to married love, is clearly closer than that of the causal relation that it has to procreation.


As to the causal relation between marriage and procreation, we may say that it is correctly expressed in text (ii) but incorrectly in text (i). For marriage is indeed ordered to procreation (as stated in text ii), but not as ‘its crowning glory’ (as stated in text ii). The reason for this is that if procreation is the ‘crowning glory’ of marriage, then it is merely a consequence of, or adjunct to, something else, that is to say of married love: wherefore in this case too married love is given precedence over procreation. This precedence is further manifest in the insistent attention given to married (carnal) love in the whole chapter on marriage and the family, which greatly outweighs that given to procreation.


The new doctrine may further be criticized for abandoning traditional, technical terminology such as that of the ‘end’ (finis), with its inherent reference to God’s designs and to the Natural Law; and that of ‘mutual assistance’, and ‘remedy of concupiscence’ in respect of married love. Instead of speaking in such terms, it does not define married love at all, but rather, by treating of it in its ordination to procreation, it presents it as carnal love. In these ways we see a shift away from objective reality precisely defined, to that psychologizing subjectivism characteristic of Personalism.


Subsequent to the Council, as is well known, the Code of Canon Law of 1983 (c. 1055) will give precedence to married love over procreation - by mentioning the former end before the latter - ‘The marriage contract… is ordered to the good of the spouses and to the procreation and education of the offspring’. The encyclical Amoris Laetitia (s. 80) will take a further step in explicitly presenting love as the primary end of marriage: ‘Marriage is firstly an ‘intimate partnership of life and love’ which is a good for the spouses themselves.’




  1. 3.The Dignity of Married Love


i) [Christ] ‘… abides with them in order that by their mutual self-giving spouses will love each other with enduring fidelity, as he loved the church and delivered himself for it. Authentic married love is caught up into divine love… with the result that the spouses… are helped and strengthened in their lofty role as fathers and mothers. Spouses are therefore fortified and as it were consecrated for the duties and dignity of their state by a special sacrament…’ (GS 48).


ii) ‘Married love is an eminently human love…it can enrich the sentiments of the spirit and their physical expression with a unique dignity…’ (GS 49).


iii) ‘Married love is uniquely expressed and perfected by the exercise of the acts proper to marriage. Hence the acts in marriage by which the intimate and chaste union of the spouses takes place are noble and honorable. The truly human performance of these acts fosters the self-giving they signify…’ (GS 49).


The Council in text (i) expresses the centrality of Christ and of sacramental grace to married love but gives more importance in the whole chapter to married love in its purely natural dimension.

This then is the first novelty that we find in the text; the second novelty is the sense that the Council lends to married love.


How does the Council understand married love? According to Tradition, married love, as we have seen above, is understood as ‘mutual assistance’ which is understood as the love of friendship; and, if the marriage encompasses conjugal union, also as ‘the remedy of concupiscence.’  According to the Council, by contrast, married love is principally the love of carnal, conjugal union, a love related to day-to-day spousal love as its guarantor and as the source of its fidelity.


This love of conjugal union is expressed by the Council equally as ‘mutual self-giving’ in text (i), as well (apparently) as in terms of the ‘human’ dimension of married love, in texts (ii) and (iii). There are in fact no less than seven occurrences of the phrase ‘mutual self-giving’ in the chapter (including the related concept of mutual self-surrender in GS 48, and ‘mutual and unreserved affection’ in GS 49) [5], and four usages of the term ‘human’ in the context of carnal love. To such a love is attributed ‘unique dignity’ in text (ii), and nobility and honor in text (iii), representing yet another novelty for Catholic marital ethics. Nothing is said of the lack of control inherent to such acts as a legacy of Original Sin, nor of the danger of seeking selfish pleasure in the exercise of such acts to the detriment of the love of friendship and to the holiness of Catholic marriage, to both of which the spouses are bound.


In short, the dignity of married love is viewed less in its relation to Our Lord, than in its sexuality [6]. The tenor of the whole chapter comes close to positions condemned by the Decretum de finibus matrimonii, such as the doctrine that ‘The mutual love of the spouses and their union, further developed and perfected by the physical and spiritual gift of their own person’ be the principal goal of marriage. We again see the subjectivist, personalist predilection for experience, psychology, and sense-love over objective truth. We will proceed to encounter a further example of this in the ambiguous phraseology with which the Council treats the matter of contraception.



  1. 4. Contraception


Historical Context


Professor de Mattei points out that the real drama for the West, particularly for Europe, in the decades succeeding the Council, was to be a decrease in population. And yet many of the Council Fathers had taken to heart the Malthusian warnings of a coming catastrophe for humanity, if a rigid policy of birth control were not implemented: science seemed to have offered the means to this end in the discovery of the so-called ‘pill’, and the Fathers maintained that the Church must here too recognize the ‘signs of the times’ and act accordingly (RdM V 9). 


Pope John XXIII had created a Commission to study the question of contraception, and Pope Paul VI asked the Council to address the question, but only in general terms. The novel conception of morality was presented by Maximos IV Saigh, who affirmed that the Middle Ages, mankind’s period of infancy, had now come to an end [7], and that the world was currently entering into the age of its maturity. How many adult Catholics believe any more that missing Sunday Mass without a motive is a mortal sin? Disciplines must change. ‘Christian morality should have a Christocentric character with an expression of love and freedom. It should educate all to a sense of personal and communitarian responsibility.’ The progressives gave prolonged applause, and Bishop Mendez Arceo expressed his agreement. He described as ‘signs of our times’ a growth in the sense of responsibility and freedom. ‘We must preach the spirit of freedom and love… let us concentrate on the essential, which is Paschal Joy.’


Three days later, Bishop Juan Hervas, in the name of 126 Fathers, denounced the schema’s naturalist and materialistic spirit: it spoke ‘too little and too timidly of supernatural Faith and trust in Divine Providence, of the love and acceptance of the Cross, which should illuminate Christian prudence’ so often referred to in the document in regard to the size of Catholic families.



Analysis of Texts


i) ‘Married couples should see it as their mission to transmit human life…This involves fulfilling their role responsibly… in a spirit of obedient respect for God… ; it also involves taking into consideration their own well-being, and the well-being of their children already born or yet to come, being able to read the signs of the times, and assess their own situation on the material and spiritual level… It is the married couple themselves who must in the last analysis arrive at these judgments before God. [They]… must be ruled by conscience… in accord with the law of God in the teaching authority of the church…with generous human and christian responsibility… But marriage was not instituted solely for the procreation of children… the mutual love of the partners [must] be properly expressed… Special mention should be made of those who… courageously undertake the rearing of a large family’ (GS 50).


Text (i), in accordance with the exhortation to married couples to ‘read the signs of the times’ serves as an opening to a new vision of the regulation of births. The raising of large families is commended, but is no longer presented as the Catholic norm. The principle for determining the number of children has instead become ‘responsibility’, a responsibility understood as indicating primarily the raising of small families, although the term is qualified later in the text as ‘generous’.


Criteria for the regulation of births are specified as:


-           the well-being of the spouses and of their children, present or potential;

-          ‘material and spiritual’ factors;

-          the demands of ‘mutual love’ (which must be ‘properly expressed’ – as though the Natural law which alternates fertile and infertile cycles for procreation did not permit spouses properly to express conjugal love).


At one moment, text (i) states that the couple itself ‘must in the last analysis arrive at these judgments’ (a phrase which Cardinal Ruffini described as ‘obscure and full of the most dangerous ambiguities’), at the next moment it states that they must decide according to the ruling of the conscience, in accordance with God’s law and the Church’s authority.


As we observed in chapter 5 of our book ‘Family under Attack’, the term ‘responsibility’ was beginning to be used by the hierarchy in the 1960’s in such a way as to favor small families and even contraception. ‘Responsible Parenthood’ was the name given to the Majority Report, produced by the Papal Commission prior to the encyclical Humanae Vitae, which in fact favors artificial contraception, and although Humanae Vitae does of course condemn such a practice, the word ‘responsible parenthood’ occurs in it seven times.


In text (i), then, the Council offers reasons for smaller families; it insinuates that birth control may be practiced and that couples are the ultimate arbiters of the matter; while, in apparent contradiction to these assertions, it invokes the law of God and the authority of the Church as guides of conduct.   



ii) ‘In questions of birth regulation the daughters and sons of the church, faithful to these principles, are forbidden to use methods disapproved of by the teaching authority of the church in its interpretation of the divine law’ (GS 51) [8];


The English peritus Charles Davis stated that: ‘On the methods of birth control the Council ‘deliberately refrained from committing itself. Its carefully worded references to the subject do no more than state the obvious truth that unlawful methods… are excluded.’ Indeed contraception is nowhere in the document stated to be an intrinsic evil, and nowhere explicitly condemned.

Paul VI was so disturbed by the document’s ambivalence that he sent four amendments to the scheme which the commission members were to read after the periti had been sent out of the room. Two of these amendments were that artificial contraception was to be specifically condemned and that a footnote should be added referring to the sections in Pope Pius XI’s document Casti Connubii and in Pope Pius XII’s Allocution to the Midwives that condemned contraception, furnishing their respective page numbers. The Commission however disobeyed, and, instead of this, added a reference to an Allocution of 1964 in which Paul VI stated that the question was still under consideration. Charles Davis summed up: ‘The Council leaves the matter alone, waiting for further clarification. Its decision to do so inevitably confirms that serious doubt exists on the subject within the Church.’


Paul VI renounced his decision to include a specific condemnation of artificial contraception within the text of Gaudium et Spes, but insisted that the page references that he had asked for should be included in the footnote. This was done, although (as in the case of the footnote concerning Communism that we have considered above) it was not expressly stated even in the footnote, that explicit condemnations were being referred to. We see here how ‘a process of calculated fraud’ prevented a specific condemnation of contraception as it had done of atheistic communism [9].   


[1] The world-view of this writer is distinguished for its beauty and high poetry, marred, alas not infrequently, by the icy breath of impurity. For this reason the writings of his contemporary Chekhov are more highly to be recommended, which, though similar in vision, are chaste and thus greater and more noble.   D 1797

[2] c. 1613

[3] Decretum de finibus matrimonii of 1944 (AAS XXXVI)

[4] in his address to the Italian Midwives of 1951

[5] we note how the notion of self-gift will be incorporated into the new rite of marriage: Instead of the old rite: ‘N. do you take N., here present, to your lawful wife etc.’ we find: ‘N. and N., have you come here freely and without reservation to give yourselves to each other in marriage?’

[6] The same will be true of the new rite of marriage, the chief purpose of which is seen as the strengthening of the romantic love of the couple (Lex Orandi, op.cit., pp.118-123). The word ‘love’ is used 20 times in the new rite, its most used word, whereas it is mentioned only 4 times in the old rite, where the most used word is ‘Lord.’ In the Latin, the words caritas and dilectio and cognates are used for ‘love’ in both rites, while the new rite adds the word amor, in the phrases: amorem vestrum conjugalem and amoris mei signifying passionate or sexual love, and in the latter case capable of bearing a suggestion even of illicit love.

[7] it may surprise some readers to learn that they were born in the Middle Ages (normally thought to have come to an end with the Renaissance, the Fall of Constantinople, or the ‘Reformation’).  

[8] cf. also the disapproval in GS 47 of ‘unlawful contraceptive practices’

[9] MD pp. 69-70; Fr. Wiltgen, The Rhine Flows into the Tiber pp. 267-72