Twenty years ago this November, I was in
The participants included scholars of the first magnitude; e.g., ethicist William E. May, philosopher Ralph McInerny, moral theologians Bishop James T. McHugh and Msgr. William Smith; theologian Janet E. Smith (her summation followed my own), famed geneticist Dr. Jerome Lejeune (denied a Nobel Prize, probably because of his refusal to validate the morality of abortion), and two of Pope John Paul IIs closest collaborators in ethics: Professors Andrzej Szostek and Tadeusz Styczen. (John Paul used the phrase closest collaborators of these two scholarly priests, who succeeded to the Chair of Ethics Professor Wojtyla held prior to becoming Pope.) I had already met Father Szostek in
The paper I presented was entitled, Toward an Integral Presentation of Humanae Vitae and Familiaris Consortio in the Seminary Curriculum. (See Humanae Vitae: 20 Anni Dopo, Milan: Edizioni Ares, 1988). In it I argued for a multifaceted approach to explain Paul VIs masterful document, viewed as a unit alongside John Paul IIs Apostolic Exhortation, Familiaris Consortio. (See lead Editorial on this page.) In my own words:
Humanae Vitae must be taught, studied, and pondered in the seminary; no priest can be doctrinally in union with his bishop and the Roman Pontiff unless he is capable of, willing, and ready to teach and defend this doctrine in his preaching, in his catechesis, in his counsel within the sacramental forum of Penance and outside it, in his office as pastor or religious educator, and indeed, in his daily witness as a priest whose office cannot be clearly separated from his person. Such capability, willingness and readiness begin in seminary academics and formation.
A certain and most helpful guide to implement such a task is through the doctrine of personalism, as set forth in Lublin Existentialism. In my own presentation, again: Conjugal union is in Catholic doctrine a mystery entailing a communion of persons. Conjugal union is not merely a bodily union, much less the joining of gametes. Conjugal communion, which has a language given it by God, is expressed through the body in accordance with God the Creators will; John Paul II speaks of the nuptial meaning of the body.
Sexuality ultimately pertains to the person, therefore; masculinity and femininity go to the very soul of each man and woman. The human being must always be viewed in his totality, body and soul, soul and body. This is not to downgrade the body; the fact that Catholic theology considers the body so noble should not surprise anyone who reflects upon the meaning of the Incarnation. Through the fact that the Word of God became flesh, declared Pope John Paul II in a General Audience, the body entered theology that is, the science, the subject of which is divinity, I would say through the main door. The Incarnation and the Redemption that springs from it became also the definitive source of the sacramentality of marriage
Sexuality, thus, does not pertain to the body alone, but to the total person, body-spirit composite. Marriage is a union of persons united in life-giving fidelity. When, therefore, it is taught that the life-giving (procreative) meaning of the conjugal act cannot morally be separated from the love-giving (unitive) meaning, the discussion proceeds from this personalistic basis, and not that of physicalism.
Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, prior to becoming Pope, magnificently emphasized this very doctrine in a press conference on Donum Vitae (1987).
Incidentally, I was privileged to be invited to another outstanding meeting marking the 20th anniversary of Humanae Vitae, in August 1988. That one took place at
As for the Roman event in 1988, it closed with a special audience with Pope John Paul II in the Clementine Hall. That was an experience which everyone on hand is sure to keep in his or her memory forever.
Msgr. David Q. Liptak is Executive Editor of The Catholic Transcript, and censor librorum for the Archdiocese of