OF HIS HOLINESS
POPE PAUL VI
ON THE REGULATION OF BIRTH
TO THE VENERABLE PATRIARCHS,
ARCHBISHOPS AND BISHOPS
AND OTHER LOCAL ORDINARIES
IN PEACE AND COMMUNION WITH
THE APOSTOLIC SEE,
TO PRIESTS, THE FAITHFUL AND TO ALL
MEN OF GOODWILL
Venerable Brothers and Beloved Sons:
THE TRANSMISSION OF LIFE
1. The most serious duty of transmitting human life, for which
married persons are the free and responsible collaborators of God
the Creator, has always been a source of great joys to them, even
if sometimes accompanied by not a few difficulties and distress.
At all times the fulfillment of this duty has posed grave
problems to the conscience of married persons, but, with the recent
evolution of society, changes have taken place that give rise to
new questions which the Church could not ignore, having to do with
a matter which so closely touches upon the life and happiness of
I. NEW ASPECTS OF THE PROBLEM AND COMPETENCY OF THE MAGISTERIUM
New Formulation of the Problem
2. The changes which have taken place are in fact noteworthy and
of varied kinds. In the first place, there is the rapid
demographic development. Fear is shown by many that world
population is growing more rapidly than the available resources,
with growing distress to many families and developing countries, so
that the temptation for authorities to counter this danger with
radical measures is great. Moreover, working and lodging
conditions, as well as increased exigencies both in the economic
field and in that of education, often make the proper education of
a larger number of children difficult today. A change is also seen
both in the manner of considering the person of woman and her place
in society, and in the value to be attributed to conjugal love in
marriage, and also to the appreciation to be made of the meaning of
conjugal acts in relation to that love.
Finally and above all, man has made stupendous progress in the
domination and rational organization of the forces of nature, such
that he tends to extend this domination to his own total being: to
the body, to psychical life, to social life and even to the laws
which regulate the transmission of life.
3. This new state of things gives rise to new questions. Granted
the conditions of life today, and granting the meaning which
conjugal relations have with respect to the harmony between husband
and wife and to their mutual fidelity, would not a revision of the
ethical norms, in force up to now, seem to be advisable, especially
when it is considered that they cannot be observed without
sacrifices, sometimes heroic sacrifices?
And again: by extending to this field the application of the so-
called "principle of totality," could it not be admitted that the
intention of a less abundant but more rationalized fecundity might
transform a materially sterilizing intervention into a licit and
wise control of birth? Could it not be admitted, that is, that the
finality of procreation pertains to the ensemble of conjugal life,
rather than to its single acts? It is also asked whether in view
of the increased sense of responsibility of modern man, the moment
has not come for him to entrust to his reason and his will, rather
than to the biological rhythms of his organism, the task of
Competency of the Magisterium
4. Such questions required from the teaching authority of the
Church a new and deeper reflection upon the principles of moral
teaching on marriage: a teaching founded on the natural law,
illuminated and enriched by divine revelation.
No believer will wish to deny that the teaching authority of the
Church is competent to interpret even the natural moral law. It
is, in fact, indisputable, as our predecessors have many times
declared , that Jesus Christ, when communicating to Peter and to
the Apostles His divine authority and sending them to teach all
nations His commandments , constituted them as guardians and
authentic interpreters of all the moral law, not only, that is, of
the law of the Gospel, but also of the natural law, which is also
an expression of the will of God, the faithful fulfillment of which
is equally necessary for salvation .
In keeping with this mission of hers, the Church has
always provided--and more amply in recent times--a coherent
teaching on the nature of marriage as well as on the
correct use of conjugal rights and on the duties of husbands
5. The consciousness of that same mission induced us to confirm
and enlarge the study commission which our predecessor Pope John
XXIII of happy memory instituted in March, 1963. That commission
which included, besides several experts in the various pertinent
disciplines also married couples, had as its scope the gathering of
opinions on the new questions regarding conjugal life, and in
particular on the regulation of births, and of furnishing opportune
elements of information so that the magisterium could give an
adequate reply to the expectation not only of the faithful, but
also of world opinion .
The work of these experts, as well as the successive judgements
and counsels spontaneously forwarded by or expressly requested from
a good number of our brothers in the episcopate, have
permitted us to measure more exactly all the aspects of this
complex matter. Hence with all our heart we express to each of
them our lively gratitude.
Reply of the Magisterium
6. The conclusions at which the commission arrived could not,
nevertheless, be considered by us as definitive, nor dispense us
from a personal examination of this serious question; and this also
because, within the commission itself, no full concordance of
judgements concerning the moral norms to be proposed had been
reached, and above all because certain criteria of solutions had
emerged which departed from the moral teaching on marriage proposed
with constant firmness by the teaching authority of the Church.
Therefore, having attentively sifted the documentation laid
before us, after mature reflection and assiduous prayers, we now
intend, by virtue of the mandate entrusted to us by Christ, to give
our reply to these grave questions.
II. DOCTRINAL PRINCIPLES
A Total Vision of Man
7. The problem of birth, like every other problem regarding human
life, is to be considered, beyond partial perspectives -- whether
of the biological or psychological, demographic or sociological
orders -- in the light of an integral vision of man and of his
vocation, not only his natural and earthly, but also his
supernatural and eternal vocation. And since, in the attempt to
justify artificial methods of birth control, many have appealed to
the demands both of conjugal love and of "responsible parenthood,"
it is good to state very precisely the true concept of these two
great realities of married life, referring principally to what was
recently set forth in this regard, and in a highly authorative
form, but the Second Vatican Council in its pastoral constitution
GAUDIUM ET SPES.
8. Conjugal love reveals its true nature and nobility when it is
considered in its supreme origin, God, who is love , "the
Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named"
Marriage is not, then, the effect of chance or the product of
evolution of unconscious natural forces; it is the wise institution
of the Creator to realize in mankind His design of love. By means
of the reciprocal personal gift of self, proper and exclusive to
them, husband and wife tend towards the communication of their
beings in view of mutual personal perfection, to collaborate with
God in the generation and education of new lives.
For baptized persons, moreover, marriage invests the dignity of
a sacramental sign of grace, inasmuch as it represents the union of
Christ and of the Church.
9. Under this light, there clearly appear the characteristic
marks and demands of conjugal love, and it is of supreme importance
to have an exact idea of these.
This love is first of all fully *human*, that is to say, of the
senses and of the spirit at the same time. It is not, then, a
simple transport of instinct and sentiment, but also, and
principally, an act of the free will, intended to endure and to
grow by mens of the joys and sorrows of daily life, in such a way
that husband and wife become one only heart and one only soul, and
together attain their human perfection.
Then, this love is *total*, that is to say, it is a very special
form of personal friendship, in which husband and wife generously
share everything, without undue reservations of selfish
calculations. Whoever truly loves his marriage partner loves not
only for what he receives, but for the partner's self, rejoicing
that he can enrich his partner with the gift of himself.
Again, this love is *faithful* and *exclusive* until death. Thus
in fact do bride and groom conceive it to be on the day when they
freely and in full awareness assume the duty of the marriage bond.
A fidelity, this, which can sometimes be difficult, but is always
possible, always noble and meritorious, as no one can deny. The
example of so many married persons down through the centuries
shows, not only that fidelity is according to the nature of
marriage, but also that it is a source of profound and lasting
And finally this love is *fecund* for it is not exhausted by the
communion between husband and wife, but is destined to continue,
raising up new lives. "Marriage and conjugal love are by their
nature ordained toward the begetting and educating of children.
Children are really the supreme gift of marriage and contribute
very substantially to the welfare of their parents" .
10. Hence conjugal love requires in husband and wife an awareness
of their mission of "responsible parenthood," which today is
rightly much insisted upon, and which also must be exactly
understood. Consequently it is to be considered under different
aspects which are legitimate and connect with one another.
In relation to the biological processes, responsible parenthood
means the knowledge and respect of their functions; human intellect
discovers in the power of giving life biological laws which are
part of the human person .
In relation to the tendencies of instinct and passion,
responsible parenthood means that necessary dominion which reason
and will must exercise over them.
In relation to physical, economic, psychological and social
conditions, responsible parenthood is exercised, either by the
deliberate and generous decision to raise a numerous family, or by
the decision, made for grave motives and with due respect for the
moral law, to avoid for the time being, or even for an
indeterminate period, a new birth.
Responsible parenthood also and above all implies a more profound
relationship to the objective moral order established by God, of
which a right conscience is the faithful interpreter. The
responsible exercise of parenthood implies, therefore, that husband
and wife recognize fully their own duties towards God, towards
themselves, towards the family and towards society, in a correct
hierarchy of values.
In the task of transmitting life, therefore, they are not free to
proceed completely at will, as if they could determine in a wholly
autonomous way the honest path to follow; but they must conform
their activity to the creative intention of God, expressed in the
very nature of marriage and of its acts, and manifested by the
constant teaching of the Church .
Respect for the Nature and Purpose of the Marriage Act
11. These acts, by which husband and wife are united in chaste
intimacy, and by means of which human life is transmitted, are, as
the Council recalled, "noble and worthy" , and they do not
cease to be lawful if, for causes independent of the will of the
husband and wife, they are foreseen to be infecund, since they
always remain ordained towards expressing and consolidating their
union. In fact, as experience bears witness, not every conjugal
act is followed by new life. God has wisely disposed natural laws
and rhythms of fecundity which, of themselves, cause a separation
in the succession of births. Nonetheless the Church, calling men
back to the observance of the norms of the natural law, as
interpreted by their constant doctrine, teaches that each and every
marriage act (quilibet matrimonii usus) must remain open to the
transmission of life .
Two Inseparable Aspects: Union and Procreation
12. That teaching, often set forth by the magisterium, is founded
upon the inseparable connection, willed by God and unable to be
broken by man on his own initiative, between the two meanings of
the conjugal act: the unitive meaning and the procreative meaning.
Indeed, by its intimate structure, the conjugal act, while most
closely uniting husband and wife, capacitates them for the
generation of new lives, according to laws inscribed in the very
being of man and of woman. By safeguarding both these essential
aspects, the unitive and the procreative, the conjugal act
preserves in its fullness the sense of true mutual love and its
ordination towards man's most high calling to parenthood. We
believe that the men of our day are particularly capable of seizing
the deeply reasonable and human character of this fundamental
Faithfulness to God's Design
13. It is in fact justly observed that a conjugal act imposed
upon one's partner without regard for his or her condition and
lawful desires is not a true act of love, and therefore denies an
exigency of moral right order in the relationships between husband
and wife. Likewise, if they consider the matter, they must admit
that an act of mutual love, which is detrimental to the faculty of
propagating life, which God the Creator of all, has implanted in it
according to special laws, is in contradiction to both the divine
plan, according to whose norm matrimony has been instituted, and
the will of the Author of human life. To use this divine gift
destroying, even if only partially, its meaning and its purpose is
to contradict also the plan of God and His will. On the other
hand, to make use of the gift of conjugal love while respecting the
laws of the generative process means to acknowledge oneself not to
be the arbiter of the sources of human life, but rather the
minister of the design established by the Creator. In fact, just
as man does not have unlimited dominion over his body in general,
so also, with particular reason, he has no such dominion over his
generative faculties as such, because of their intrinsic ordination
towards raising up life, of which God is the principle. "Human
life is sacred," Pope John XXIII recalled; "from its inception it
reveals the creating hand of God" .
Illicit Ways of Regulating Birth
14. In conformity with these landmarks in the human and Christian
vision of marriage, we must once again declare that the direct
interruption of the generative process already begun, and, above
all, directly willed and procured abortion, even if for therapeutic
reasons, are to be absolutely excluded as licit means of regulating
Equally to be excluded, as the teaching authority of the Church
has frequently declared, is direct sterilization, whether perpetual
or temporary, whether of the man or of the woman . Similarly
excluded is every action which, either in anticipation of the
conjugal act, or in its accomplishment, or in the development of
its natural consequences, propose, whether as an end or as a means,
to render procreation impossible .
To justify conjugal acts made intentionally infecund, one cannot
invoke as valid reasons the lesser evil, or the fact that such acts
would constitute a whole together with the fecund acts already
performed or to follow later, and hence would share in one and the
same moral goodness. In truth, if it is sometimes licit to
tolerate a lesser evil in order to avoid a greater evil to promote
a greater good , it is not licit, even for the gravest reasons,
to do evil so that good may follow therefrom ; that is to make
into the object of a positive act of the will something which is
intrinsically disorder, and hence unworthy of the human person,
even when the intention is to safeguard or promote individual,
family or social well-being. Consequently it is an error to think
that a conjugal act which is deliberately made infecund and so is
intrinsically dishonest could be made honest and right by the
ensemble of a fecund conjugal life.
Licitness of Therapeutic Means
15. The Church, on the contrary, does not at all consider illicit
the use of those therapeutic means truly necessary to cure diseases
of the organism, even if an impediment to procreation, which may be
foreseen, should result therefrom, provided such impediment is not,
for whatever motive, directly willed .
Licitness of Recourse to Infecund Periods
16. To this teaching of the Church on conjugal morals, the
objection is made today, as we observed earlier (no. 3), that it is
the prerogative of the human intellect to dominate the energies
offered by irrational nature and to orientate them towards an end
conformable to the good of man. Now some may ask: in the present
case, is it not reasonable in many circumstances to have recourse
to artificial birth control if, thereby, we secure the harmony and
peace of the family, and better conditions for the education of the
children already born? To this question it is necessary to reply
with clarity: the Church is the first to praise and recommend the
intervention of intelligence in a function which so closely
associates the rational creature with his Creator; but she affirms
that this must be done with respect for the order established by
If, then, there are serious motives to space out births, which
derive from the physical or psychological conditions of husband and
wife, or from external conditions, the Church teaches that it is
then licit to take into account the natural rhythms immanent in the
generative functions, for the use of marriage in the infecund
periods only, and in this way to regulate birth without offending
the moral principles which have been recalled earlier .
The Church is coherent with herself when she considers recourse
to the infecund periods to be licit, while at the same time
condemning, as being always illicit, the use of means directly
contrary to fecundation, even if such use is inspired by reasons
which may appear honest and serious. In reality, there are
essential differences between the two cases; in the former, the
married couple make legitimate use of a natural disposition; in the
latter, they impede the development of natural processes. It is
true that, in the one and the other case, the married couple are
concordant in the positive will of avoiding children for plausible
reasons, seeking the certainty that offspring will not arrive; but
it is also true that only in the former case are they able to
renounce the use of marriage in the fecund periods when, for just
motives, procreation is not desirable, while making use of it i
during infecund periods to manifest their affection and to
safeguard their mutual fidelity. By so doing, they give proof of
a truly and integrally honest love.
Grave Consequences of Methods of Artificial Birth Control
17. Upright men can even better convince themselves of the solid
grounds on which the teaching of the Church in this field is based,
if they care to reflect upon the consequences of methods of
artificial birth control. Let them consider, first of all, how
wide and easy a road would thus be opened up towards conjugal
infidelity and the general lowering of morality. Not much
experience is needed in order to know human weakness, and to
understand that men -- especially the young, who are so vulnerable
on this point -- have need of encouragement to be faithful to the
moral law, so that they must not be offered some easy means of
eluding its observance. It is also to be feared that the man,
growing used to the employment of anti-conceptive practices, may
finally lose respect for the woman and, no longer caring for her
physical and psychological equilibrium, may come to the point of
considering her as a mere instrument of selfish enjoyment, and no
longer his respected and beloved companion.
Let it be considered also that a dangerous weapon would thus be
placed in the hands of those public authorities who take no heed of
moral exigencies. Who could blame a government for applying to the
solution of the problems of the community those means acknowledged
to be licit for married couples in the solution of a family
problem? Who will stop rulers from favoring, from even imposing
upon their peoples, if they were to consider it necessary, the
method of contraception which they judge to be more efficacious?
In such a way men, wishing to avoid individual, family, or social
difficulties encountered in the observance of the divine law, would
reach the point of placing at the mercy of the intervention of
public authorities the most personal and most reserved sector of
Consequently, if the mission of generating life is not to be
exposed to the arbitrary will of men, one must necessarily
recognize insurmountable limits to the possibility of man's
domination over his own body and its functions; limits which no
man, whether a private individual or one invested with authority,
may licitly surpass. And such limits cannot be determined
otherwise than by the respect due to the integrity of the human
organism and its functions, according to the principles recalled
earlier, and also according to the correct understanding of the
"principle of totality" illustrated by our predecessor Pope Pius
The Church Guarantor of True Human Values
18. It can be foreseen that this teaching will perhaps not be
easily received by all: Too numerous are those voices -- amplified
by the modern means of propaganda -- which are contrary to the
voice of the Church. To tell the truth, the Church is not
surprised to be made, like her divine Founder, a "sign of
contradiction" , yet she does not because of this cease to
proclaim with humble firmness the entire moral law, both natural
and evangelical. Of such laws the Church was not the author, nor
consequently can she be their arbiter; she is only their depositary
and their interpreter, without ever being able to declare to be
licit that which is not so by reason of its intimate and
unchangeable opposition to the true good of man.
In defending conjugal morals in their integral wholeness, the
Church knows that she contributes toward the establishment of a
truly human civilization; she engages man not to abdicate from his
own responsibility in order to rely on technical means; by that
very fact she defends the dignity of man and wife. Faithful to
both the teaching and the example of the Saviour, she shows herself
to be the sincere and disinterested friend of men, whom she wishes
to help, even during their earthly sojourn, "to share as sons in
the life of the living of God, the Father of all men" .
III. PASTORAL DIRECTIVES
The Church Mater et Magistra
19. Our words would not be an adequate expression of the thought
and solicitude of the Church, Mother and Teacher of all peoples,
if, after having recalled men to the observance and respect of the
divine law regarding matrimony, we did not strengthen them in the
path of honest regulation of birth, even amid the difficult
conditions which today afflict families and peoples. The Church,
in fact, cannot have a different conduct towards men than that of
the Redeemer: She knows their weaknesses, has compassion on the
crowd, receives sinners; but she cannot renounce the teaching of
the law which is, in reality, that law proper to a human life
restored to its original truth and conducted by the spirit of God
Possibility of Observing the Divine Law
20. The teaching of the Church on the regulation of birth, which
promulgates the divine law, will easily appear to many to be
difficult or even impossible of actuation. And indeed, like all
great beneficent realities, it demands serious engagement and much
effort, individual, family and social effort. More than that, it
would not be practicable without the help of God, who upholds and
strengthens the good will of men. Yet, to anyone who reflects
well, it cannot but be clear that such efforts ennoble man and are
beneficial to the human community.
Mastery of Self
21. The honest practice of regulation of birth demands first of
all that husband and wife acquire and possess solid convictions
concerning the true values of life and of the family, and that they
tend towards securing perfect self-mastery. To dominate instinct
by means of one's reason and free will undoubtedly requires
ascetical practices, so that the affective manifestations of
conjugal life may observe the correct order, in particular with
regard to the observance of periodic continence. Yet this
discipline which is proper to the purity of married couples, far
from harming conjugal love, rather confers on it a higher human
value. It demands continual effort yet, thanks to its beneficent
influence, husband and wife fully develop their personalities,
being enriched with spiritual values. Such discipline bestows upon
family life fruits of serenity and peace, and facilitates the
solution of other problems; it fosters attention for one's partner,
helps both parties to drive out selfishness, the enemy of true
love; and deepens their sense of responsibility. By its means,
parents acquire the capacity of having a deeper and more
efficacious influence in the education of their offspring: little
children and youths grow up with a just appraisal of human values,
and in the serene and harmonious development of their spiritual and
Creating an Atmosphere Favorable to Chastity
22. On this occasion, we wish to draw the attention of educators,
and of all who perform duties of responsibility in regard to the
common good of human society, to the need of creating an atmosphere
favorable to education in chastity, that is, to the triumph of
healthy liberty over license by means of respect for the moral
Everything in the modern media of social communication which
leads to sense excitation and unbridled customs, as well as every
form of pornography and licentious performances, must arouse the
frank and unanimous reaction of all those who are solicitous for
the progress of civilization and the defense of the common good of
the human spirit. Vainly would one seek to justify such
deprivation with the pretext of artistic or scientific exigencies
, or to deduce an argument from the freedom allowed in this
sector by the public authorities.
Appeal to Public Authorities
23. To Rulers, who are those principally responsible for the
common good, and who can do so much to safeguard moral customs, we
say: Do not allow the morality of your peoples to be degraded; do
not permit that by legal means practices contrary to the natural
and divine law be introduced into that fundamental cell, the
family. Quite other is the way in which public authorities can and
must contribute to the solution of the demographic problem: namely,
the way of a provident policy for the family, of a wise education
of peoples in respect of moral law and the liberty of citizens.
We are well aware of the serious difficulties experienced by
public authorities in this regard, especially in the developing
countries. To their legitimate preoccupations we devoted our
encyclical letter POPULORUM PROGRESSIO. But with our predecessor
Pope John XXIII, we repeat: no solution to these difficulties is
acceptable "which does violence to man's essential dignity" and is
based only on an utterly materialistic conception of man himself
and of his life. The only possible solution to this question is
one which envisages the social and economic progress both of
individuals and of the whole human society, and which respects and
promotes true human values . Neither can one, without grave
injustice, consider divine providence to be responsible for what
depends, instead, on a lack of wisdom in government, on an
insufficient sense of social justice, on selfish monopolization, or
again on blameworthy indolence in confronting the efforts and the
sacrifices necessary to ensure the raising of living standards of
a people and all of its sons .
May all responsible public authorities -- as some are already
doing so laudably -- generously revive their efforts. And may
mutual aid between all the members of the great human family never
cease to grow: This is an almost limitless field which thus opens
up to the activity of the great international organizations.
To Men of Science
24. We wish now to express our encouragement to men of science,
who "can considerably advance the welfare of marriage and the
family, along with peace of conscience, if by pooling their efforts
they labor to explain more thoroughly the various conditions
favoring a proper regulation of births" . It is particularly
desirable that, according to the wish already expressed by Pope
Pius XII, medical science succeed in providing a sufficiently
secure basis for a regulation of birth, founded on the observance
of natural rhythms . In this way, scientists and especially
Catholic scientists will contribute to demonstrate in actual fact
that, as the Church teaches, "a true contradiction cannot exist
between the divine laws pertaining to the transmission of life and
those pertaining to the fostering of authentic conjugal love" .
To Christian Husbands and Wives
25. And now our words more directly address our own children,
particularly those whom God calls to serve Him in marriage. The
Church, while teaching imprescriptible demands of the divine law,
announces the tidings of salvation, and by means of the sacraments
opens up the paths of grace, which makes man a new creature,
capable of corresponding with love and true freedom to the design
of his Creator and Saviour, and of finding the yoke of Christ to be
Christian married couples, then, docile to her voice, must
remember that their Christian vocation, which began at baptism, is
further specified and reinforced by the sacrament of matrimony. By
it husband and wife are strengthened and as it were consecrated for
the faithful accomplishment of their proper duties, for the
carrying out of their proper vocation even to perfection, and the
Christian witness which is proper to them before the whole world
. To them the Lord entrusts the task of making visible to men
the holiness and sweetness of the law which unites the mutual love
of husband and wife with their cooperation with the love of God the
author of human life.
We do not at all intend to hide the sometimes serious
difficulties inherent in the life of Christian married persons; for
them as for everyone else, "the gate is narrow and the way is hard
that leads to life" . But the hope of that life must
illuminate their way, as with courage they strive to live with
wisdom, justice and piety in this present time , knowing that
the figure of this world passes away .
Let married couples, then, face up to the efforts needed,
supported by the faith and hope which "do not disappoint ...
because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy
Spirit, who has been given to us" ; let them implore divine
assistance by persevering prayer; above all, let them draw from the
source of grace and charity in the Eucharist. And if sin should
still keep its hold over them, let them not be discouraged, but
rather have recourse with humbler perseverance to the mercy of God,
which is poured forth in the sacrament of Penance. In this way
they will be enabled to achieve the fullness of conjugal life
described by the Apostle: "husbands, love your wives, as Christ
loved the Church ... husbands should love their wives as their own
bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no man ever
hates his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, as Christ does
the Church ... this is a great mystery, and I mean in reference to
Christ and the Church. However, let each one of you love his wife
as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband"
Apostolate in Homes
26. Among the fruits which ripen froth from a generous effort of
fidelity to the divine law, one of the most precious is that
married couples themselves not infrequently feel the desire to
communicate their experience to others. Thus there comes to be
included in the vast pattern of the vocation of the laity a new and
most noteworthy form of the apostolate of like to like; it is
married couples themselves who become apostles and guides to other
married couples. This is assuredly, among so many forms of
apostolate, one of those which seem most opportune today .
To Doctors and Medical Personnel
27. We hold those physicians and medical personnel in the highest
esteem who, in the exercise of their profession, value above every
human interest the superior demands of their Christian vocation.
Let them persevere, therefore, in promoting on every occasion the
discovery of solutions inspired by faith and right reason, let them
strive to arouse this conviction and this respect in their
associates. Let them also consider as their proper professional
duty the task of acquiring all the knowledge needed in this
delicate sector, so as to be able to give to those married persons
who consult them wise counsel and healthy direction, such as they
have a right to expect.
28. Beloved priest sons, by vocation you are the counselors and
spiritual guides of individual persons and of families. We now
turn to you with confidence. Your first task -- especially in the
case of those who teach moral theology -- is to expound the
Church's teaching on marriage without ambiguity. Be the first to
give, in the exercise of your ministry, the example of loyal
internal and external obedience to the teaching authority of the
Church. That obedience, as you know well, obliges not only because
of the reasons adduced, but rather because of the light of the Holy
Spirit, which is given in a particular way to the pastors of the
Church in order that they may illustrate the truth . You know,
too, that it is of the utmost importance, for peace of consciences
and for the unity of the Christian people, that in the field of
morals as well as in that of dogma, all should attend to the
magisterium of the Church, and all should speak the same language.
Hence, with all our heart we renew to you the heartfelt plea of the
great Apostle Paul: "I appeal to you, brethren, by the name of Our
Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree and that there be no
dissensions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and
the same judgement" .
29. To diminish in no way the saving teaching of Christ
constitutes an eminent form of charity for souls. But this must
even be accompanied by patience and goodness, such as the Lord
himself gave example of in dealing with men. Having come not to
condemn but to save , he was indeed intransigent with evil but
merciful towards individuals.
In their difficulties, may married couples always find, in words
and in the heart of a priest, the echo of the voice and the love of
And then speak with confidence, beloved sons, fully convinced
that the spirit of God, while He assists the magisterium in
proposing doctrine, illumines internally the hearts of the faithful
inviting them to give their assent. Teach married couples the
indispensable way of their assent. Teach married couples the
indispensable way of prayer; prepare them to the recourse often and
with faith to the sacraments of the Eucharist and of Penance,
without ever allowing themselves to be discouraged by their own
30. Beloved and venerable brothers in the episcopate, with whom
we most intimately share the solicitude of the spiritual good of
the People of God, at the conclusion of this encyclical our
reverent and affectionate thoughts turn to you. To all of you we
extend an urgent invitation. At the head of the priests, your
collaborators, and of your faithful, work ardently and incessantly
for the safeguarding and the holiness of marriage, so that it may
always be lived in its entire human and Christian fullness.
Consider this mission as one of your most urgent responsibilities
at the present time. As you know, it implies concerted pastoral
action in all the fields of human activity, economic cultural and
social; for, in fact, only a simultaneous improvement in these
various sectors will make it possible to render the life of parents
and of children within their families not only tolerable, but
easier and more joyous, to render living together in human society
more fraternal and peaceful, in faithfulness to God's design for
31. Venerable brothers, most beloved sons, and all men of good
will, great indeed is the work of education, of progress and of
love to which we call you, upon the foundation of the Church's
teaching, of which the successor of Peter is, together with his
brothers in the episcopate, the depositary and interpreter. Truly
a great work, as we are deeply convinced, both for the world and
for the Church, since man cannot find true happiness -- towards
which he aspires with all his being -- other than in respect of the
laws written by God in his very nature, laws which he must observe
with intelligence and love. Upon this work, and upon all of you,
and especially upon married couples,we invoke the abundant graces
of the God of holiness and mercy, and in pledge thereof we impart
to you all our apostolic blessing.
Given at Rome, from St. Peter's, this 25th day of July, feast of
St. James the Apostle, in the year 1968, the sixth of our
PAULUS PP. VI
 Cf. Pius IX, Encyclical QUI PLURIBUS, Nov. 9, 1846: PII IX P.M.
Acta I, 9-10; St. Pius X, Encyclical SINGULARI QUANDAM, Sept. 24,
1912: AAS IV (1912), 658; Pius XI, Encyclical CASTI CONNUBII, Dec.
31, 1930: AAS XXII (1930), 579-581; Pius XII, Alloc. MAGNIFICATE
DOMINUM to the episcopate of the Catholic world, Nov. 2, 1954: AAS
XLVI (1954), 671-672; John XXIII, Encyclical MATER ET MAGISTRA, May
15, 1961: AAS LIII (1961), 457.
 Cf. Matt. 28:18-19.
 Cf. Matt. 7:21.
 Cf. CATECHISMUS ROMANUS CONCILII TRIDENTINI, Part II, ch. VIII;
Leo XIII, Encycl. ARCANUM, Feb. 19, 1880: ACTA LEONIS XIII, II
(1881), 26-29; Pius XI, Encyclical DIVINI ILLIUS MAGISTRI, Dec. 31,
1929: AAS XXII (1930), 58-61; Encyclical. CASTI CONNUBII: AAS XXII
(1930), 545-546; Pius XII, Alloc. to the Italian medico-biological
union of St. Luke, Nov. 12, 1944: Discorsi e Radiomessaggi VI, 191-
192; to the Italian Catholic union of midwives, Oct. 29, 1951: AAS
XLIII (1951), 857-859; to the seventh Congress of the International
Society of Haematology, Sept. 12, 1958: AAS L (1958), 734-735; John
XXIII, Encyclical MATER ET MAGISTRA: AAS LIII (1961), 446-447;
CODEX IURIS CANONICI, Can. 1067; Can. 1968, S 1; Can. 1066, S 1-2;
Second Vatican Council, Pastoral Constitution GAUDIUM ET SPES, nos.
 Cf. Paul VI, Alloc. to the Sacred College, June 23, 1964: AAS
LVI (1964), 588; to the Commission for the Study of Problems of
Population, Family and Birth, March 27, 1965: AAS LVII (1965), 388;
to the National Congress of the Italian Society of Obstetrics and
Gynaecology, Oct. 29, 1966: AAS LVIII (1966), 1168.
 Cf. I John 4:8.
 Cf. Eph. 3:15.
 Cf. Second Vatican Council, Pastoral Constitution GAUDIUM ET
SPES, no. 50.
 Cf. St. Thomas, SUMMA THEOLOGICA, I-II, q. 94, art. 2.
 Cf. Pastoral Constitution GAUDIUM ET SPES, nos. 50, 51.
 Ibid, no. 49.
 Cf. Pius XI, Encyclical CASTI CONNUBBII: AAS XXII (1930), 560;
Pius XII: AAS XLIII (1951), 843.
 Cf. John XXIII, Encyclical MATER ET MAGISTRA: AAS LIII (1961),
 Cf. CATECHISMUS ROMANUS CONCILII TRIDENTINI, part II, Ch.
VIII; Pius XI, Encyc. CASTI CONNUBII: AAS XXII (1930), 562-564;
Pius XII, DISCORSI E RADIOMESSAGGI VI (19440, 191-192: AAS XLIII
(1951), 842-843, 857-859; John XXIII, Encyclical PACEM IN TERRIS,
Apr. 11, 1963: AAS LV (1963), 259-260: GAUDIUM ET SPES, no. 51.
 Cf. Pius XI, Encyclical CASTI CONNUBBII: AAS XXII (1930), 565;
decree of the Holy Office, Feb. 22, 1940: AAS L (1958), 734-735.
 Cf. CATECHISMUS ROMANUS CONCILII TRIDENTINI, part II, ch.
VIII; Pius XI, Encyclical CASTI CONNUBII: AAS XXII (1930), 559-561;
Pius XII: AAS XLIII (1951), 843, AAS L (1958), 734-735; John XXIII,
Encyclical MATER ET MAGISTRA: AAS LIII (1961), 447.
 Cf. Pius XII, Alloc. to the National Congress of the Union of
Catholic Jurists, Dec. 6, 1953: AAS XLV (1953), 798-799.
 Cf. Rom. 3:8.
 Cf. Pius XII, Alloc. to Congress of the Italian Association of
Urology, Oct. 8, 1953: AAS XLV (1953), 674-675, AAS L (1958), 734-
 Cf. Pius XII: AAS XLIII (1951), 846.
 Cf. AAS XLV (1953), 674-675; AAS XLVIII (1956), 461-462.
 Cf. Luke 2:34.
 Cf. Paul VI. Encyclical POPULORUM PROGRESSIO, March 26, 1957,
 Cf. Rom. 8.
 Cf. Second Vatican Council, decree INTER MIRIFICA, On the
Media of Social Communication, nos. 6-7.
 Cf. Encyclical MATER ET MAGISTRA: AAS LIII (1961), 447.
 Cf. Encyclical POPULORUM PROGRESSIO, nos. 48-55.
 Cf. Pastoral constitution GUADIUM ET SPES, no. 52.
 Cf. AAS XLIII (1951), 859.
 Cf. Pastoral const. GAUDIUM ET SPES, no. 51.
 Cf. Matt. 11:30.
 Cf. Pastoral const. GAUDIUM ET SPES, no. 48; Second Vatican
Council, Dogmatic Constitution on the Church LUMEN GENTIUM, no. 35.
 Matt. 7:14; cf. Heb. 11:12.
 Cf. Tit. 2:12.
 Cf. I Cor. 7:31.
 Cf. Rom. 5:5.
 Eph. 5:25, 28-29,32-33.
 Cf. Dogmatic Constitution LUMEN GENTIUM, nos. 35 and 41;
Pastoral Constitution GUADIUM ET SPES, nos. 48-49; Second Vatican
Council, Decree APOSTOLICAM ACTUOSITATEM, no. 11.
 Cf. Dogmatic Constitution LUMEN GENTIUM, no. 25.
 Cf. I Cor. 1:10.
 Cf. John 3:17.