Cliffs Notes on Rerum Novarum

  • Can the State be capable of true charity towards the needy among us?
  • What unintended consequences tend to arise as a State interjects itself more and more into the private dealings of citizens?
  • What is the responsibility of the wealthy in society?
  • What about the responsibility of the working class?
  • Is an unequal landscape of wealth and position in a country just…let alone good?

These are some questions Pope Leo XIII helps us answer in his powerful 1891 encyclical Rerum Novarum.


There’s been a lot of talk about socialism lately. The United States has a self-described ‘democratic socialist’ running for the presidency. This very candidate made a speech at a Vatican event last week using quotes from Church documents to support his policy positions. Many claim Pope Francis has been sympathetic to a socialist ideology. Some more politically liberal Christians sometimes comment on social media, “Jesus was a socialist, you know”. So I’d say it’s about time we really look into the Church’s stance on socialism, that is, a powerful State that assumes responsibility for redistributing money and private property in attempt to manufacture equality.

Pope Leo XIII

Turning to Pope Leo XIII’s masterful encyclical, the holy father details what roles a State should and should not assume when it comes to issues of capital, labor, and beyond. The 32-page document is worth reading in its entirety, but below is a condensed version for those of you “too busy” to read important Church documents. All emphases mine:

On the Argument of Socialism

(3) …by degrees it has come to pass that working men have been surrendered, isolated and helpless, to the hardheartedness of employers and the greed of unchecked competition. The mischief has been increased by rapacious usury, which, although more than once condemned by the Church, is nevertheless, under a different guise, but with like injustice, still practiced by covetous and grasping men.

(4) To remedy these wrongs the socialists, working on the poor man’s envy of the rich, are striving to do away with private property, and contend that individual possessions should become the common property of all…their contentions are so clearly powerless to end the controversy that were they carried into effect the working man himself would be among the first to suffer. They are, moreover, emphatically unjust, for they would rob the lawful possessor, distort the functions of the State, and create utter confusion in the community.

(5) It is surely undeniable that, when a man engages in remunerative labor, the impelling reason and motive of his work is to obtain property…If one man hires out to another his strength or skill, he does so for the purpose of receiving in return what is necessary for the satisfaction of his needs; he therefore expressly intends to acquire a right full and real.

Thus, if he lives sparingly, saves money, and, for greater security, invests his savings in land, the land, in such case, is only his wages under another form; and, consequently, a working man’s little estate thus purchased should be as completely at his full disposal as are the wages he receives for his labor. But it is precisely in such power of disposal that ownership obtains, whether the property consist of land or chattels. Socialists, therefore, by endeavoring to transfer the possessions of individuals to the community at large, strike at the interests of every wage-earner, since they would deprive him of the liberty of disposing of his wages, and thereby of all hope and possibility of increasing his resources and of bettering his condition in life. 

On Socialism Being Contrary to Natural Law

(6) For, every man has by nature the right to possess property as his own. This is one of the chief points of distinction between man and the animal creation…with man it is wholly different. He possesses, on the one hand, the full perfection of the animal being…

But animal nature, however perfect, is far from representing the human being in its completeness, and is in truth but humanity’s humble handmaid, made to serve and to obey. It is the mind, or reason, which is the predominant element in us who are human creatures…

And on this very account – that man alone among the animal creation is endowed with reason – it must be within his right to possess things not merely for temporary and momentary use, as other living things do, but to have and to hold them in stable and permanent possession

(7) This becomes still more clearly evident if man’s nature be considered a little more deeply. For man, fathoming by his faculty of reason matters without number, linking the future with the present, and being master of his own acts…it is in his power to exercise his choice not only as to matters that regard his present welfare, but also about those which he deems may be for his advantage in time yet to come.

Man’s needs do not die out, but forever recur; although satisfied today, they demand fresh supplies for tomorrow…There is no need to bring in the State. Man precedes the State, and possesses, prior to the formation of any State, the right of providing for the substance of his body.

(8) Those who do not possess the soil contribute their labor; hence, it may truly be said that all human subsistence is derived either from labor on one’s own land, or from some toil, some calling, which is paid for either in the produce of the land itself, or in that which is exchanged for what the land brings forth.

(11) With reason, then, the common opinion of mankind…and in the laws of nature…has consecrated the principle of private ownership, as being pre-eminently in conformity with human nature, and as conducing in the most unmistakable manner to the peace and tranquillity of human existence.

The authority of the divine law adds its sanction, forbidding us in severest terms even to covet that which is another’s: “Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s wife; nor his house, nor his field, nor his man-servant, nor his maid-servant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor anything that is his.” (Deut 5:21)

On The Role of the State as it Pertains to the Family

(13) It is a most sacred law of nature that a father should provide food and all necessaries for those whom he has begotten…it is natural that he should wish that his children… should be by him provided with all that is needful to enable them to keep themselves decently from want and misery amid the uncertainties of this mortal life.

In no other way can a father effect this except by the ownership of productive property, which he can transmit to his children by inheritance. A family, no less than a State, a true society, governed by an authority peculiar to itself, the authority of the father.

…the family has at least equal rights with the State in the choice and pursuit of the things needful to its preservation and its just liberty.

…the family must necessarily have rights and duties which are prior to those of the community, and founded more immediately in nature. If the citizens, if the families on entering into association and fellowship, were to experience hindrance in a commonwealth instead of help, and were to find their rights attacked instead of being upheld, society would rightly be an object of detestation rather than of desire.

(14) The contention, then, that the civil government should at its option intrude into and exercise intimate control over the family and the household is a great and pernicious error.

…it is right that extreme necessity be met by public aid, since each family is a part of the commonwealth.

If within the precincts of the household there occur grave disturbance of mutual rights, public authority should intervene to force each party to yield to the other its proper due…But the rulers of the commonwealth must go no further; here, nature bids them stop. Paternal authority can be neither abolished nor absorbed by the State.

The socialists, therefore, in setting aside the parent and setting up a State supervision, act against natural justice, and destroy the structure of the home.

Allow me to interject following the last highlighted point: This was written 125 years ago and note how relevant it still is today. Of course, the reason this is still so relevant is because natural law cannot change. We are not dealing with fashions, we are dealing with truths. The people in this world who push for a socialist style of governing–whether the overtly iron-fisted socialism of Russia or the currently popular version of the Scandinavian-style socialism (more discreet in its iron-fistedness)–push many policies that work at suppressing the role of parents and often mock the sacredness of the family in society. This was a problem in 1891 and it’s a problem today.

On Socialism Seeking to Artificially Impose Equality

The door would be thrown open to envy, to mutual invective, and to discord; the sources of wealth themselves would run dry, for no one would have any interest in exerting his talents or his industry; and that ideal equality about which they entertain pleasant dreams would be in reality the leveling down of all to a like condition of misery and degradation. Hence, it is clear that the main tenet of socialism, community of goods, must be utterly rejected…

The first and most fundamental principle, therefore, if one would undertake to alleviate the condition of the masses, must be the inviolability of private property.

(17) Socialists may in that intent do their utmost, but all striving against nature is in vain. There naturally exist among mankind manifold differences of the most important kind; people differ in capacity, skill, health, strength; and unequal fortune is a necessary result of unequal condition. Such unequality is far from being disadvantageous either to individuals or to the community… each man, as a rule, chooses the part which suits his own peculiar domestic condition.

On the Relationship and Duties Between Classes

(19) The great mistake made in regard to the matter now under consideration is to take up with the notion that class is naturally hostile to class.

So irrational and so false is this view that the direct contrary is the truth. Just as the symmetry of the human frame is the result of the suitable arrangement of the different parts of the body, so in a State is it ordained by nature that these two classes should dwell in harmony and agreement…Each needs the other: capital cannot do without labor, nor labor without capital.

…the Church…reminding each of its duties to the other:

(20) the following bind the worker: fully and faithfully to perform the work which has been freely and equitably agreed upon; never to injure the property of an employer; never to resort to violence in defending their own cause, nor to engage in riot or disorder; and to have nothing to do with men of evil principles…

The following duties bind the wealthy owner and the employer: not to look upon their work people as their bondsmen, but to respect in every man his dignity as a person ennobled by Christian character. They are reminded that, according to natural reason and Christian philosophy, working for gain is creditable, not shameful, to a man, since it enables him to earn an honorable livelihood; but to misuse men as though they were things in the pursuit of gain, or to value them solely for their physical powers – that is truly shameful and inhuman. Again justice demands that, in dealing with the working man, religion and the good of his soul must be kept in mind. Hence, the employer is bound to see that the worker has time for his religious duties; that he be not exposed to corrupting influences and dangerous occasions; and that he be not led away to neglect his home and family, or to squander his earnings. Furthermore, the employer must never tax his work people beyond their strength, or employ them in work unsuited to their sex and age…wealthy owners and all masters of labor should be mindful of this – that to exercise pressure upon the indigent and the destitute for the sake of gain, and to gather one’s profit out of the need of another, is condemned by all laws, human and divine. To defraud any one of wages that are his due is a great crime which cries to the avenging anger of Heaven. “Behold, the hire of the laborers… which by fraud has been kept back by you, crieth; and the cry of them hath entered into the ears of the Lord of Sabaoth.”(James 5:4) Lastly, the rich must religiously refrain from cutting down the workmen’s earnings, whether by force, by fraud, or by usurious dealing; and with all the greater reason because the laboring man is, as a rule, weak and unprotected, and because his slender means should in proportion to their scantiness be accounted sacred. Were these precepts carefully obeyed and followed out, would they not be sufficient of themselves to keep under all strife and all its causes?

Doesn’t the last highlighted remark ring true? If we all could follow the teachings handed to us by the Church faithfully, we wouldn’t need constant intersession by an unsympathetic State. This is true in all cases though; if humans could avoid sin, civilization would function wonderfully.

On Labor, Property, Wealth and Personal Responsibility to Fellow Man

(21) Jesus Christ took not away the pains and sorrows which in such large proportion are woven together in the web of our mortal life. He transformed them into motives of virtue and occasions of merit…Christ’s labors and sufferings, accepted of His own free will, have marvellously sweetened all suffering and all labor.

(22) Therefore, those whom fortune favors are warned that riches do not bring freedom from sorrow and are of no avail for eternal happiness, but rather are obstacles…and that a most strict account must be given to the Supreme Judge for all we possess.

… the Church has traced out clearly… the principle that it is one thing to have a right to the possession of money and another to have a right to use money as one wills. Private ownership, as we have seen, is the natural right of man [and] absolutely necessary. “It is lawful,” says St. Thomas Aquinas, “for a man to hold private property; and it is also necessary for the carrying on of human existence.”” But if the question be asked: How must one’s possessions be used? – the Church replies without hesitation in the words of the same holy Doctor: “Man should not consider his material possessions as his own, but as common to all, so as to share them without hesitation when others are in need.

True, no one is commanded to distribute to others that which is required for his own needs and those of his household; nor even to give away what is reasonably required to keep up becomingly his condition in life… “Of that which remaineth, give alms.”(Luke 11:41) It is a duty, not of justice (save in extreme cases), but of Christian charity – a duty not enforced by human law.

Whoever has received from the divine bounty a large share of temporal blessings, whether they be external and material, or gifts of the mind, has received them for the purpose of using them for the perfecting of his own nature, and, at the same time, that he may employ them, as the steward of God’s providence, for the benefit of others.

(24) From contemplation of this divine Model, it is more easy to understand that the true worth and nobility of a man lie in his moral qualities, that is, in virtue…

On Practicing a Catholic Lifestyle Leading to the Temporal Prosperity We Desire

(28) Neither must it be supposed that the solicitude of the Church is so preoccupied with the spiritual concerns of her children as to neglect their temporal and earthly interests. 

Christian morality, when adequately and completely practiced, leads of itself to temporal prosperity

On Christian Charity and Role of State

(30) …in order to spare them the shame of begging, the Church has provided aid for the needy. The common Mother of rich and poor has aroused everywhere the heroism of charity, and has established congregations of religious and many other useful institutions for help and mercy…

Many there are who, like the heathen of old, seek to blame and condemn the Church for such eminent charity. They would substitute in its stead a system of relief organized by the State. But no human expedients will ever make up for the devotion and self sacrifice of Christian charity. Charity, as a virtue, pertains to the Church; for virtue it is not, unless it be drawn from the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus Christ; and whosoever turns his back on the Church cannot be near to Christ.

(32) The foremost duty, therefore, of the rulers of the State should be to make sure that the laws and institutions…shall be such as of themselves to realize public well-being and private prosperity.

Now a State chiefly prospers and thrives through moral rule, well-regulated family life, respect for religion and justice, the moderation and fair imposing of public taxes, the progress of the arts and of trade, the abundant yield of the land-through everything, in fact, which makes the citizens better and happier.

On Labor Disruptions, Employers, and Individual Rights

(36) It is to the interest of the community, as well as of the individual, that peace and good order should be maintained; that all things should be carried on in accordance with God’s laws and those of nature…If by a strike of workers or concerted interruption of work there should be imminent danger of disturbance to the public peace; or if circumstances were such as that among the working class the ties of family life were relaxed; if religion were found to suffer through the workers not having time and opportunity afforded them to practice its duties; if in workshops and factories there were danger to morals…or if employers laid burdens upon their workmen which were unjust, or degraded them with conditions repugnant to their dignity as human beings; finally, if health were endangered by excessive labor, or by work unsuited to sex or age – in such cases, there can be no question but that, within certain limits, it would be right to invoke the aid and authority of the law.

…the principle being that the law must not undertake more, nor proceed further, than is required for the remedy of the evil or the removal of the mischief.

(37) When there is question of defending the rights of individuals, the poor and badly off have a claim to especial consideration. The richer class have many ways of shielding themselves…whereas the mass of the poor have no resources of their own to fall back upon, and must chiefly depend upon the assistance of the State.

(38) But there are not a few who are imbued with evil principles and eager for revolutionary change, whose main purpose is to stir up disorder and incite their fellows to acts of violence. The authority of the law should intervene to put restraint upon such firebrands…and to protect lawful owners from spoliation. 

(40) The working man, too, has interests in which he should be protected by the State; and first of all, there are the interests of his soul.

All men are equal; there is here no difference between rich and poor, master and servant, ruler and ruled, “for the same is Lord over all.” (Rom 10:12)

(41)  Follows is the obligation of the cessation from work and labor on Sundays and certain holy days. The rest from labor is not to be understood as mere giving way to idleness… as many would have it to be; but it should be rest from labor, hallowed by religion. Rest (combined with religious observances) disposes man to forget for a while the business of his everyday life, to turn his thoughts to things heavenly, and to the worship which he so strictly owes to the eternal Godhead.

(45) Let the working man and the employer make free agreements, and in particular let them agree freely as to the wages; nevertheless, there underlies a dictate of natural justice more imperious and ancient than any bargain between man and man, namely, that wages ought not to be insufficient to support a frugal and well-behaved wage-earner. If through necessity or fear of a worse evil the workman accept harder conditions because an employer or contractor will afford him no better, he is made the victim of force and injustice.

On Private Ownership

(46) The law should favor ownership, and its policy should be to induce as many as possible of the people to become owners.

(47) Many excellent results will follow from this; and, first of all, property will certainly become more equitably divided. For, the result of civil change and revolution has been to divide cities into two classes separated by a wide chasm. On the one side there is the party which holds power because it holds wealth…On the other side there is the needy and powerless multitude…If working people can be encouraged to look forward to obtaining a share in the land, the consequence will be that the gulf between vast wealth and sheer poverty will be bridged over, and the respective classes will be brought nearer to one another.

These important benefits can be reckoned on only provided that a man’s means be not drained and exhausted by excessive taxation. The right to possess private property is derived from nature, not from man…

On Private Labor Unions

(48) Among these may be enumerated societies for mutual help; various benevolent foundations established by private persons to provide for the workman, and for his widow or his orphans…

(49) The most important of all are workingmen’s unions…They were the means of affording not only many advantages to the workmen, but in no small degree of promoting the advancement of art, as numerous monuments remain to bear witness.

(51) St. Thomas of Aquinas says, “Men establish relations in common with one another in the setting up of a commonwealth.”…Private societies, then, cannot…be prohibited by public authority. For, to enter into a “society” of this kind is the natural right of man; and the State has for its office to protect natural rights, not to destroy them…

Now, many Americans reading this will immediately call to mind the seemingly countless stories of unions being anti-business and even in some cases harming their own members in order to support itself under its own crushing weight. First please note the clear emphasis on private unions in contrast to the intrinsically problematic public unions. Second, note the following qualifier the pontiff adds on labor unions…

(57) We may lay it down as a general and lasting law that working men’s associations should be so organized and governed as to furnish the best and most suitable means for attaining what is aimed at, that is to say, for helping each individual member to better his condition to the utmost in body, soul, and property.

It is clear that they must pay special and chief attention to the duties of religion and morality…

What advantage can it be to a working man to obtain by means of a society material well-being, if he endangers his soul for lack of spiritual food? “What doth it profit a man, if he gain the whole world and suffer the loss of his soul?”(Mt 16:26) This, as our Lord teaches, is the mark or character that distinguishes the Christian from the heathen. “After all these things do the heathen seek . . . Seek ye first the Kingdom of God and His justice: and all these things shall be added unto you.”(Mt 6:32-33)


(62) Every one should put his hand to the work which falls to his share…

Those who rule the commonwealths should avail themselves of the laws and institutions of the country; masters and wealthy owners must be mindful of their duty; the working class, whose interests are at stake, should make every lawful and proper effort; and since religion alone can avail to destroy the evil at its root, all men should rest persuaded that main thing needful is to re-establish Christian morals…

(63)  Moved by your authority, venerable brethren, and quickened by your example, they should never cease to urge upon men of every class, upon the high-placed as well as the lowly, the Gospel doctrines of Christian life…

The happy results we all long for must be chiefly brought about by the plenteous outpouring of charity; of that true Christian charity which is the fulfilling of the whole Gospel law, which is always ready to sacrifice itself for others’ sake, and is man’s surest antidote against worldly pride and immoderate love of self…

Are you still here? If so, you made it through the TSP Cliffs Notes of Rerum Novarum! If you want to read more TSP Cliffs Notes, check them out for: Humanae Vitae, Familiaris Consortio, The Seven Storey Mountain, The Imitation of Christ, and The Secret of Mary.


Cliffs Notes on Familiaris Consortio

Please set aside about 20 minutes to read this entire post. It’s longer than most TSP posts. Anyone who is engaged, married, or has a family and considers themselves Catholic should learn about Familiaris Consortio if only by reading this post. Enjoy!

Pope Saint John Paul II (JPII) is considered by many to be the patron of families. JPII often taught on God being the perfect example of a family: “God in his deepest mystery is not a solitude, but a family, since he has in himself fatherhood, sonship and the essence of the family, which is love.” Not only did JPII articulate what it meant to be part of God’s Family so well, he tirelessly worked on behalf of encouraging and nurturing Christian families across the globe.

So important he saw the Christian family in and its role in civilization that on November 22, 1981 he delivered one of the most important, insightful, and important Apostolic Exhortations in regard to family life ever. Familiaris Consortio, or, On the Role of the Christian Family in the Modern World, explains clearly and beautifully the Roman Catholic Church’s teachings on issues relating to marriage and family life. JPII was known for preaching about “the Domestic Church” or “the Church of the Home”, explaining how each household needs to reflect the structure and virtues of the larger universal Church. His pristine understanding of the qualities and importance of the “Domestic Church” come to a head with the unveiling of Familiaris Consortio. 

Since a lot of people cannot (or choose not to) find the time to look over some of these more-important, modern-era teachings from various successors to Saint Peter, I thought I’d share the parts of Familiaris Consortio that I find most important, insightful, and inspiring. I have shaved down the original document to a fraction of the entire length so it might be easier to consume in one sitting for people. All direct quotes from Familiaris Consortio will be indented, any comments I make will be italicized text below the Familiaris Consortio passage. Bold words indicate parts I find particularly quote-worthy.

I’m going to begin with the end. If we start with JPII’s moving passage found in the document’s conclusion, it will put the rest in proper perspective.


Section 86, Paragraph 1

At the end of this Apostolic Exhortation my thoughts turn with earnest solicitude:

to you, married couples, to you, fathers and mothers of families;

to you, young men and women, the future and the hope of the Church and the world, destined to be the dynamic central nucleus of the family in the approaching third millennium;


to you, upright men and women, who for any reason whatever give thought to the fate of the family.

The future of humanity passes by way of the family.

It is therefore indispensable and urgent that every person of good will should endeavor to save and foster the values and requirements of the family.

Loving the family means being able to appreciate its values and capabilities, fostering them always. Loving the family means identifying the dangers and the evils that menace it, in order to overcome them. Loving the family means endeavoring to create for it an environment favorable for its development. The modern Christian family is often tempted to be discouraged and is distressed at the growth of its difficulties; it is an eminent form of love to give it back its reasons for confidence in itself, in the riches that it possesses by nature and grace, and in the mission that God has entrusted to it. “Yes indeed, the families of today must be called back to their original position. They must follow Christ.”

I wish to call on all Christians to collaborate cordially and courageously with all people of good will who are serving the family in accordance with their responsibilities.

And now, at the end of my pastoral message, which is intended to draw everyone’s attention to the demanding yet fascinating roles of the Christian family, I wish to invoke the protection of the Holy Family of Nazareth.

Through God’s mysterious design, it was in that family that the Son of God spent long years of a hidden life. It is therefore the prototype and example for all Christian families. It was unique in the world. Its life was passed in anonymity and silence in a little town in Palestine. It underwent trials of poverty, persecution and exile.

St. Joseph was “a just man,” a tireless worker, the upright guardian of those entrusted to his care. May he always guard, protect and enlighten families.

May the Virgin Mary, who is the Mother of the Church, also be the Mother of “the Church of the home.” Thanks to her motherly aid, may each Christian family really become a “little Church”[…]

May Christ the Lord, the Universal King, the King of Families, be present in every Christian home as He was at Cana, bestowing light, joy, serenity and strength.

I entrust each family to Him, to Mary, and to Joseph. To their hands and their hearts I offer this Exhortation: may it be they who present it to you, venerable Brothers and beloved sons and daughters, and may it be they who open your hearts to the light that the Gospel sheds on every family.


Now let’s begin unpacking the wisdom contained in this Exhortation:

Part One: Bright Spots and Shadows for the Family Today


Following Christ, the Church seeks the truth, which is not always the same as the majority opinion.


At the root of these negative phenomena there frequently lies a corruption of the idea and the experience of freedom, conceived not as a capacity for realizing the truth of God’s plan for marriage and the family, but as an autonomous power of self-affirmation, often against others, for one’s own selfish well-being.

[…] In the richer countries, on the contrary, excessive prosperity and the consumer mentality, paradoxically joined to a certain anguish and uncertainty about the future, deprive married couples of the generosity and courage needed for raising up new human life: thus life is often perceived not as a blessing, but as a danger from which to defend oneself.

There’s no doubt that JPII is no friend to communism, but isn’t it interesting how Pope Francis gets called one by some people for reflecting the exact same message? The consumerist mentality is destructive to our souls, when we put material items above faith and the souls of ourselves and others. It is the mentality that makes people afraid to have more children because they see it as competition for their incomes. We need to focus more on creating (life, beauty, etc) than consuming.


[…] science is often used against its original purpose, which is the advancement of the human person.

Part Two: The Plan of God for Marriage and the Family


The total physical self-giving would be a lie if it were not the sign and fruit of a total personal self-giving, in which the whole person, including the temporal dimension, is present: if the person were to withhold something or reserve the possibility of deciding otherwise in the future, by this very fact he or she would not be giving totally.

This totality which is required by conjugal love also corresponds to the demands of responsible fertility. […]

The only “place” in which this self-giving in its whole truth is made possible is marriage, the covenant of conjugal love freely and consciously chosen, whereby man and woman accept the intimate community of life and love willed by God Himself which only in this light manifests its true meaning. […] A person’s freedom, far from being restricted by this fidelity, is secured against every form of subjectivism or relativism and is made a sharer in creative Wisdom.


[…] the marriage of baptized persons thus becomes a real symbol of that new and eternal covenant sanctioned in the blood of Christ. The Spirit which the Lord pours forth gives a new heart, and renders man and woman capable of loving one another as Christ has loved us.


By virtue of the sacramentality of their marriage, spouses are bound to one another in the most profoundly indissoluble manner. Their belonging to each other is the real representation, by means of the sacramental sign, of the very relationship of Christ with the Church.

Spouses are therefore the permanent reminder to the Church of what happened on the Cross; they are for one another and for the children witnesses to the salvation in which the sacrament makes them sharers.


It aims at a deeply personal unity, the unity that, beyond union in one flesh, leads to forming one heart and soul; it demands indissolubility and faithfulness in definitive mutual giving; and it is open to fertility (cf Humanae vitae, 9)


According to the plan of God, marriage is the foundation of the wider community of the family, since the very institution of marriage and conjugal love are ordained to the procreation and education of children, in whom they find their crowning.

[…] Thus the couple, while giving themselves to one another, give not just themselves but also the reality of children, who are a living reflection of their love, a permanent sign of conjugal unity and a living and inseparable synthesis of their being a father and a mother.

When they become parents, spouses receive from God the gift of a new responsibility. Their parental love is called to become for the children the visible sign of the very love of God, “from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named.”


Part Three: The Role of the Christian Family


The family finds in the plan of God the Creator and Redeemer not only its identity, what it is, but also its mission, what it can and should do.

Accordingly, the family must go back to the “beginning” of God’s creative act, if it is to attain self-knowledge and self-realization in accordance with the inner truth not only of what it is but also of what it does in history. […] Hence the family has the mission to guard, reveal and communicate love, and this is a living reflection of and a real sharing in God’s love for humanity and the love of Christ the Lord for the Church His bride.

[These are the] four general tasks for the family:

1) forming a community of persons;

2) serving life;

3) participating in the development of society;

4) sharing in the life and mission of the Church.

I – Forming a Community of Persons


The family, which is founded and given life by love, is a community of persons: of husband and wife, of parents and children, of relatives. Its first task is to live with fidelity the reality of communion in a constant effort to develop an authentic community of persons.


The gift of the Spirit is a commandment of life for Christian spouses and at the same time a stimulating impulse so that every day they may progress towards an ever richer union with each other on all levels-of the body, of the character, of the heart, of the intelligence and will, of the soul. […]

[…] As the Second Vatican Council writes: “Firmly established by the Lord, the unity of marriage will radiate from the equal personal dignity of husband and wife, a dignity acknowledged by mutual and total love.”



[…] To all those who, in our times, consider it too difficult, or indeed impossible, to be bound to one person for the whole of life, and to those caught up in a culture that rejects the indissolubility of marriage and openly mocks the commitment of spouses to fidelity, it is necessary to reconfirm the good news of the definitive nature of that conjugal love that has in Christ its foundation and strength.


The gift of the sacrament is at the same time a vocation and commandment for the Christian spouses, that they may remain faithful to each other forever, beyond every trial and difficulty, in generous obedience to the holy will of the Lord: “What therefore God has joined together, let not man put asunder.”

To bear witness to the inestimable value of the indissolubility and fidelity of marriage is one of the most precious and most urgent tasks of Christian couples in our time.

The importance of bearing witness to the “value of the indissolubility and fidelity of marriage” is more important now than when this was released in 1981. Holy marriage has been under a vicious attack in the past decade that JPII couldn’t even imagine when he was alive.

“You signed the prenup, right?”

All members of the family, each according to his or her own gift, have the grace and responsibility of building, day by day, the communion of persons, making the family “a school of deeper humanity”: this happens where there is care and love for the little ones, the sick, the aged; where there is mutual service every day; when there is a sharing of goods, of joys and of sorrows.

JPII so beautifully explained that the family is to be an incubator for humanity. It is where we share our joys and get help with our sorrows. The family helps us more fully embrace our divine humanity in a way that helps us be better members of society outside of the home.


Family communion can only be preserved and perfected through a great spirit of sacrifice. It requires, in fact, a ready and generous openness of each and all to understanding, to forbearance, to pardon, to reconciliation.


Above all it is important to underline the equal dignity and responsibility of women with men. […] What human reason intuitively perceives and acknowledges is fully revealed by the word of God: the history of salvation, in fact, is a continuous and luminous testimony of the dignity of women.

Weird, I always thought the Catholic Church was perpetuating what the political liberals call “the War on Women”. But I digress with my sarcasm.

In creating the human race “male and female,” God gives man and woman an equal personal dignity, endowing them with the inalienable rights and responsibilities proper to the human person. God then manifests the dignity of women in the highest form possible, by assuming human flesh from the Virgin Mary […] The Apostle Paul will say: “In Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith…. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”


[…]  the Church can and should help modern society by tirelessly insisting that the work of women in the home be recognized and respected by all in its irreplaceable value. […]

I’ve absolutely had enough of the popular “feminized” culture suggesting that a women who chooses to be a full-time mother and homemaker is somehow less “empowered” than a professional women seeking to grow her business career. The work of a mother is a sacrificial (loving) type of work that requires unmatched patience, efficiency, knowledge, and tenderness. A women who chooses to be a full-time mom is embracing their unique womanhood more than any “progressive” female could imagine.


[T]he mentality which honors women more for their work outside the home than for their work within the family must be overcome. This requires that men should truly esteem and love women with total respect for their personal dignity, and that society should create and develop conditions favoring work in the home.

Okay, I guess JPII covered pretty much what I just said.


Unfortunately the Christian message about the dignity of women is contradicted by that persistent mentality which considers the human being not as a person but as a thing, as an object of trade, at the service of selfish interest and mere pleasure: the first victims of this mentality are women.

This mentality produces very bitter fruits, such as contempt for men and for women, slavery, oppression of the weak, pornography, prostitution, [etc].

The “modern woman” in American secular culture seemingly is seeking to brand themselves just as this, an object of trade that is at the service of mere pleasure. Many simply want to be seen for their sexual pleasure rather than anything else that would require time, respect, or a commitment. Why is the common narrative to women that they must suppress the things that make them uniquely women?


Authentic conjugal love presupposes and requires that a man have a profound respect for the equal dignity of his wife: “You are not her master,” writes St. Ambrose, “but her husband; she was not given to you to be your slave, but your wife…. Reciprocate her attentiveness to you and be grateful to her for her love.” With his wife a man should live “a very special form of personal friendship.” As for the Christian, he is called upon to develop a new attitude of love, manifesting towards his wife a charity that is both gentle and strong like that which Christ has for the Church.”

Love for his wife as mother of their children and love for the children themselves are for the man the natural way of understanding and fulfilling his own fatherhood. […] As experience teaches, the absence of a father causes psychological and moral imbalance and notable difficulties in family relationships, as does, in contrary circumstances, the oppressive presence of a father, especially where there still prevails the phenomenon of “machismo,” or a wrong superiority of male prerogatives which humiliates women and inhibits the development of healthy family relationships.

A man loves, sacrifices. Current American culture has confused so many males coming into adulthood. There is a narrative that to be a real man you must be a chest-thumping tough guy that shows little emotion and there is a narrative that men must suppress any notion of masculinity in their head as it’s “discriminatory” by nature. Both of these narratives are wrong and destructive. A man’s masculinity and resolve must be matched with a tenderness and openness to love his family.



In the family […] special attention must be devoted to the children by developing a profound esteem for their personal dignity, and a great respect and generous concern for their rights. This is true for every child, but it becomes all the more urgent the smaller the child is and the more it is in need of everything, when it is sick, suffering or handicapped.


There are cultures which manifest a unique veneration and great love for the elderly […], they continue to be present and to take an active and responsible part in family life […]; above all they carry out the important mission of being a witness to the past and a source of wisdom for the young and for the future.

Other cultures, however, especially in the wake of disordered industrial and urban development, have both in the past and in the present set the elderly aside in unacceptable ways. This causes acute suffering to them and spiritually impoverishes many families.

II – Serving Life


[I]n continuity with the living tradition of the ecclesial community throughout history, [Vatican II] and Paul VI, expressed above all in the Encyclical Humanae vitae, have handed on to our times a truly prophetic proclamation, which reaffirms and reproposes with clarity the Church’s teaching and norm, always old yet always new, regarding marriage and regarding the transmission of human life.

[…] that love between husband and wife must be fully human, exclusive and open to new life (Humanae vitae, 11; cf. 9, 12).

Chris Picco kisses Lennon's bare feet | Chris Picco: Facebook


The choice of the natural rhythms [rather than artificial contraception] involves accepting the cycle of the person, that is the woman, and thereby accepting dialogue, reciprocal respect, shared responsibility and self- control. To accept the cycle and to enter into dialogue means to recognize both the spiritual and corporal character of conjugal communion and to live personal love with its requirement of fidelity.


With deeply wise and loving intuition, Paul VI was only voicing the experience of many married couples when he wrote in his Encyclical: “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 favors 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.


[…] As the Second Vatican Council recalled, “since parents have conferred life on their children, they have a most solemn obligation to educate their offspring. Hence, parents must be acknowledged as the first and foremost educators of their children. Their role as educators is so decisive that scarcely anything can compensate for their failure in it. For it devolves on parents to create a family atmosphere so animated with love and reverence for God and others that a well-rounded personal and social development will be fostered among the children. Hence, the family is the first school of those social virtues which every society needs.”



In addition to these characteristics, it cannot be forgotten that the most basic element, so basic that it qualifies the educational role of parents, is parental love, which finds fulfillment in the task of education as it completes and perfects its service of life: as well as being a source, the parents’ love is also the animating principle and therefore the norm inspiring and guiding all concrete educational activity, enriching it with the values of kindness, constancy, goodness, service, disinterestedness and self-sacrifice that are the most precious fruit of love.


[…] Children must grow up with a correct attitude of freedom with regard to material goods, by adopting a simple and austere life style and being fully convinced that “man is more precious for what he is than for what he has.”

[…] The self-giving that inspires the love of husband and wife for each other is the model and norm for the self-giving that must be practiced in the relationships between brothers and sisters […]


By virtue of their ministry of educating, parents are, through the witness of their lives, the first heralds of the Gospel for their children. Furthermore, by praying with their children, by reading the word of God with them and by introducing them deeply through Christian initiation into the Body of Christ-both the Eucharistic and the ecclesial Body-they become fully parents, in that they are begetters not only of bodily life but also of the life that through the Spirit’s renewal flows from the Cross and Resurrection of Christ.


The right of parents to choose an education in conformity with their religious faith must be absolutely guaranteed.

The State and the Church have the obligation to give families all possible aid to enable them to perform their educational role properly. […] those in society who are in charge of schools must never forget that the parents have been appointed by God Himself as the first and principal educators of their children and that their right is completely inalienable.

But corresponding to their right, parents have a serious duty to commit themselves totally to a cordial and active relationship with the teachers and the school authorities.


Christian families, recognizing with faith all human beings as children of the same heavenly Father, will respond generously to the children of other families, giving them support and love not as outsiders but as members of the one family of God’s children. Christian parents will thus be able to spread their love beyond the bonds of flesh and blood, nourishing the links that are rooted in the spirit and that develop through concrete service to the children of other families, who are often without even the barest necessities.

Christian families will be able to show greater readiness to adopt and foster children who have lost their parents or have been abandoned by them. Rediscovering the warmth of affection of a family, these children will be able to experience God’s loving and provident fatherhood witnessed to by Christian parents […]

[…] With families and through them, the Lord Jesus continues to “have compassion” on the multitudes.

III – Participating in the Development of Society


“Since the Creator of all things has established the conjugal partnership as the beginning and basis of human society,” the family is “the first and vital cell of society.


The relationships between the members of the family community are inspired and guided by the law of “free giving.” By respecting and fostering personal dignity in each and every one as the only basis for value, this free giving takes the form of heartfelt acceptance, encounter and dialogue, disinterested availability, generous service and deep solidarity.

Thus the fostering of authentic and mature communion between persons within the family is the first and irreplaceable school of social life, and example and stimulus for the broader community relationships marked by respect, justice, dialogue and love.

The family is thus the place of origin and the most effective means for humanizing and personalizing society […]


[T]he Christian family is called upon to listen to the Apostle’s recommendation: “Practice hospitality,” and therefore, imitating Christ’s example and sharing in His love, to welcome the brother or sister in need: “Whoever gives to one of these little ones even a cup of cold water because he is a disciple, truly, I say to you, he shall not lose his reward.”

The social role of families is called upon to find expression also in the form of political intervention: families should be the first to take steps to see that the laws and institutions of the State not only do not offend but support and positively defend the rights and duties of the family. Along these lines, families should grow in awareness of being “protagonists” of what is known as “family politics” and assume responsibility for transforming society; otherwise families will be the first victims of the evils that they have done no more than note with indifference.

We cannot look at government as a solution to all of society’s problems. We must be responsible and take care of problems ourselves when possible.


[S]ociety-more specifically the State-must recognize that “the family is a society in its own original right” and so society is under a grave obligation in its relations with the family to adhere to the principle of subsidiarity.


Thus the family [often] finds itself the victim of society, of the delays and slowness with which it acts, and even of its blatant injustice.

For this reason, the Church openly and strongly defends the rights of the family against the intolerable usurpations of society and the State. In particular, the [Church] mentioned the following rights of the family:

  • the right to exist and progress as a family, that is to say, the right of every human being, even if he or she is poor, to found a family and to have adequate means to support it;
  • the right to exercise its responsibility regarding the transmission of life and to educate children; family life;
  • the right to the intimacy of conjugal and family life;
  • the right to the stability of the bond and of the institution of marriage;
  • the right to believe in and profess one’s faith and to propagate it;
  • the right to bring up children in accordance with the family’s own traditions and religious and cultural values, with the necessary instruments, means and institutions;
  • the right, especially of the poor and the sick, to obtain physical, social, political and economic security;
  • the right to housing suitable for living family life in a proper way;
  • the right to expression and to representation, either directly or through associations, before the economic, social and cultural public authorities and lower authorities;
  • the right to form associations with other families and institutions, in order to fulfill the family’s role suitably and expeditiously;
  • the right to protect minors by adequate institutions and legislation from harmful drugs, pornography, alcoholism, etc.;
  • the right to wholesome recreation of a kind that also fosters family values;
  • the right of the elderly to a worthy life and a worthy death;
  • the right to emigrate as a family in search of a better life.

IV – Sharing in the Life and Mission of the Church


[Vatican II] recalls this fact when it writes: “Families will share their spiritual riches generously with other families too. […] This the family will do by the mutual love of the spouses, by their generous fruitfulness, their solidarity and faithfulness, and by the loving way in which all the members of the family work together.”

[I]t is now time to illustrate [family’s] substance in reference to Jesus Christ as Prophet, Priest and King– three aspects of a single reality-by presenting the Christian family as 1) a believing and evangelizing community, 2) a community in dialogue with God, and 3) a community at the service of man.


The absolute need for family catechesis emerges with particular force in certain situations that the Church unfortunately experiences in some places: “In places where anti-religious legislation endeavors even to prevent education in the faith, and in places where widespread unbelief or invasive secularism makes real religious growth practically impossible, ‘the Church of the home’ remains the one place where children and young people can receive an authentic catechesis.”


Animated in its own inner life by missionary zeal, the Church of the home is also called to be a luminous sign of the presence of Christ and of His love for those who are “far away,” for families who do not yet believe, and for those Christian families who no longer live in accordance with the faith that they once received. The Christian family is called to enlighten “by its example and its witness…those who seek the truth.”


[Vatican II] drew attention to the unique relationship between the Eucharist and marriage by requesting that “marriage normally be celebrated within the Mass.” […]

The Eucharist is the very source of Christian marriage. The Eucharistic Sacrifice, in fact, represents Christ’s covenant of love with the Church, sealed with His blood on the Cross. In this sacrifice of the New and Eternal Covenant, Christian spouses encounter the source from which their own marriage covenant flows, is interiorly structured and continuously renewed.


[T]he baptismal priesthood of the faithful, exercised in the sacrament of marriage, constitutes the basis of a priestly vocation and mission for the spouses and family by which their daily lives are transformed into “spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.”

Family prayer has its own characteristic qualities. It is prayer offered in common, husband and wife together, parents and children together. Communion in prayer is both a consequence of and a requirement for the communion bestowed by the sacraments of Baptism and Matrimony. The words with which the Lord Jesus promises His presence can be applied to the members of the Christian family in a special way: “[…] For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I in the midst of them.”

Joys and sorrows, hopes and disappointments, births and birthday celebrations, wedding anniversaries of the parents, departures, separations and homecomings, important and far-reaching decisions, the death of those who are dear, etc.-all of these mark God’s loving intervention in the family’s history. They should be seen as suitable moments for thanksgiving, for petition, for trusting abandonment of the family into the hands of their common Father in heaven.


The concrete example and living witness of parents is fundamental and irreplaceable in educating their children to pray. Only by praying together with their children can a father and mother-exercising their royal priesthood-penetrate the innermost depths of their children’s hearts and leave an impression that the future events in their lives will not be able to efface.

Not only do our children need to see us pray, we need to pray with our children. Even before they know what prayer is, when they are infants, we should be praying as we hold them, feed them, play with them. It wraps the soul of a child around the soul of the parent in petition to Christ where, for that moment, the Lord is able to penetrate the hearts of the family. Do not be ashamed or bashful of prayer with your children!


578552_743043722376464_1852564285_nApart from morning and evening prayers, certain forms of prayer are to be expressly encouraged, such as reading and meditating on the word of God, preparation for the reception of the sacraments, devotion and consecration to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, the various forms of veneration of the Blessed Virgin Mary, grace before and after meals, and observance of popular devotions.

[…] We now desire to recommend strongly the recitation of the family rosary…. There is no doubt that… the rosary should be considered as one of the best and most efficacious prayers in common that the Christian family is invited to recite. We like to think, and sincerely hope, that when the family gathering becomes a time of prayer the rosary is a frequent and favored manner of praying.” In this way authentic devotion to Mary, which finds expression in sincere love and generous imitation of the Blessed Virgin’s interior spiritual attitude, constitutes a special instrument for nourishing loving communion in the family and for developing conjugal and family spirituality. For she who is the Mother of Christ and of the Church is in a special way the Mother of Christian families, of domestic Churches.

Family life must be willingly under the motherly watch of the Blessed Virgin, mother to us all.


[T]he Christian family’s actual participation in the Church’s life and mission is in direct proportion to the fidelity and intensity of the prayer with which it is united with the fruitful vine that is Christ the Lord.

The fruitfulness of the Christian family in its specific service to human advancement, which of itself cannot but lead to the transformation of the world, derives from its living union with Christ, nourished by Liturgy, by self-oblation and by prayer.


Another task for the family is to form persons in love and also to practice love in all its relationships, so that it does not live closed in on itself, but remains open to the community, moved by a sense of justice and concern for others, as well as by a consciousness of its responsibility towards the whole of society.

Part Four: Pastoral Care of the Family


[P]astoral intervention of the Church in support of the family is a matter of urgency.


[T]he celebration of marriage-inserted into the liturgy [and] must be per se valid, worthy and fruitful.


[…] No plan for organized pastoral work, at any level, must ever fail to take into consideration the pastoral care of the family.


The apostolate of the family will also become wider through works of spiritual and material charity towards other families, especially those most in need of help and support, towards the poor, the sick, the old, the handicapped, orphans, widows, spouses that have been abandoned, unmarried mothers and mothers-to-be in difficult situations who are tempted to have recourse to abortion, and so on.


“[T]he modern life style- especially in the more industrialized nations-all too often causes families to abandon their responsibility to educate their children. Evasion of this duty is made easy for them by the presence of television and certain publications in the home, and in this way they keep their children’s time and energies occupied.” Hence “the duty. . .to protect the young from the forms of aggression they are subjected to by the mass media,” and to ensure that the use of the media in the family is carefully regulated. Families should also take care to seek for their children other forms of entertainment that are more wholesome, useful and physically, morally and spiritually formative, “to develop and use to advantage the free time of the young and direct their energies.”

[P]arents as recipients must actively ensure the moderate, critical, watchful and prudent use of the media, by discovering what effect they have on their children and by controlling the use of the media in such a way as to “train the conscience of their children to express calm and objective judgments, which will then guide them in the choice or rejection of programs available .


A difficult problem is that of the family which is ideologically divided. […] Although the party faithful to Catholicism cannot give way, dialogue with the other party must always be kept alive. Love and respect must be freely shown, in the firm hope that unity will be maintained.


There are increasing cases of Catholics who for ideological or practical reasons, prefer to contract a merely civil marriage, and who reject or at least defer religious marriage. Their situation cannot of course be likened to that of people simply living together without any bond at all, because in the present case there is at least a certain commitment to a properly-defined and probably stable state of life, even though the possibility of a future divorce is often present in the minds of those entering a civil marriage. By seeking public recognition of their bond on the part of the State, such couples show that they are ready to accept not only its advantages but also its obligations. Nevertheless, not even this situation is acceptable to the Church.

The aim of pastoral action will be to make these people understand the need for consistency between their choice of life and the faith that they profess, and to try to do everything possible to induce them to regularize their situation in the light of Christian principle. While treating them with great charity and bringing them into the life of the respective communities, the pastors of the Church will regrettably not be able to admit them to the sacraments.

This brings us to the end of what I think are the most important parts of Familiaris Consortio. I won’t force you to read any more words after that long post, so I will finish with this: please comment your favorite parts or thoughts in general. Thank you for reading and please share this post with other people!

Cliffs Notes on Humanae Vitae

Human Life. That’s a pretty bold title. It’s what the latin phrase humanae vitae means in English. Humanae Vitae was an important and controversial encyclical when it was released in 1968 by Pope Paul VI even though it was simply making clear a centuries-old Christian teaching. It is even more important and more controversial now.

Humanae Vitae (HV) discusses the Church teaching on the regulation of birth. The encyclical was released at the time artificial birth control was first becoming popular in the United States to make sure Catholics knew where the Church stood on the subject. It reiterates that it stands on the side of life and family. Birth rates just a decade earlier were around 3.7 children per woman according to the National Center for Health Statistics. As the popularity and availability of artificial birth control grew, birth rates plummeted to about 1.8 by the time HV was written (the rate just to replace the population is 2.1 children per couple). Since bottoming out at around 1.7, we have yet to rebound above the important 2.1 children-per-couple average (these numbers are children per woman, meaning that children per couple are likely much less). An entire article could be written on the economic problems this drop in birthrate causes. We can look to Europe for a glimpse of our future; there is far less emphasis on (any) religion, birth rates are even lower, and the economy is spiraling out of control. But this blog post isn’t about the dire economic effects artificial birth control has contributed and is contributing to. This post is to point out some of the best parts of HV. HV shows us that the Church isn’t the anti-woman and anti-sex organization the popular media makes it out to be. HV shows us that the Holy Church loves women, sex and life so much that they consider it wrong to only enjoy parts of each. Catholics love and respect sex more than any other group of people in the world!

Young married couples (or those planning on ever getting married) should really take a look at some of the following key points even if they don’t have the time or desire to read the entire 15-page paper. I will interject some thoughts below a few passages, others I’ll let speak for itself. All direct quotes from HV will be slightly grey and italicized, any comments I make will be normal black text below the HV passage. We will begin with the first sentence of HV:

Section 1, Paragraph 1

The transmission of human life is a most serious role in which married people collaborate freely and responsibly with God the Creator.

We must approach our married life with this on our minds. We are becoming a “co-creator” with the…Creator. ‘Creating’ life is the most sacred thing we can do–we are mimicking what He is when we carry our “likeness” of Him into our actions.

Sec 7, Par 1

The question of human procreation, like every other question which touches human life, involves more than the limited aspects specific to such disciplines as biology, psychology, demography or sociology. It is the whole man and the whole mission to which he is called that must be considered: both its natural, earthly aspects and its supernatural, eternal aspects.

We all love science (another thing Catholics may love more than any other group, despite the pop culture’s incorrect narrative). It is our way of discovering the order behind the universe. It is our longing to understand how God works. However, when we are dealing with human life, we cannot simply reduce what we are attempting to discover into a sterile experiment. We cannot carelessly push buttons to see what happens. When a human soul is involved we must be particularly careful that we do nothing to disrupt the inherent dignity of life. Cutting a tree in half to study how old it is is different than cutting a human in half to study how food is digested. Obviously that hyperbole is ridiculous. But why is it ridiculous? Because the human spirit is involved. Just as we cannot be careless with a human life, we cannot be careless with the sacred way human life is created. We must be thoughtful with the use of our bodies rather than reducing our bodily actions down to our primal desires.

God’s Loving Design

Sec 8, Par 2

…husband and wife, through that mutual gift of themselves, which is specific and exclusive to them alone, develop that union of two persons in which they perfect one another, cooperating with God in the generation and rearing of new lives.

"I'm gonna make you so perfect tonight." - "Oh, I love it when you talk like that."
“I’m gonna make you so perfect tonight.” — “I love it when you talk like that.”

Spouses perfect one another. When two people make a marriage covenant between them and The Father, they do more than finish each other’s sentences. They finish each other’s bodies! When each of their bodies becomes perfected by the other, it becomes, well, perfect, it becomes whole, it becomes…one. No, I’m not quoting a Spice Girls song, I’m talking about the ‘one’ being a baby. A new human life.

Married Love

Sec 9, Par 2

This love is above all fully human, a compound of sense and spirit. It is not, then, merely a question of natural instinct or emotional drive. It is also, and above all, an act of the free will, whose trust is such that it is meant not only to survive the joys and sorrows of daily life, but also to grow, so that husband and wife become in a way one heart and one soul, and together attain their human fulfillment.

Sec 9, Par 3

Whoever really loves his partner loves not only for what he receives, but loves that partner for the partner’s own sake, content to be able to enrich the other with the gift of himself.

We must strive to hold nothing back when we love our spouse.

Sec 9, Par 4

Married love is also faithful and exclusive of all other, and this until death. This is how husband and wife understood it on the day on which, fully aware of what they were doing, they freely vowed themselves to one another in marriage. […] The example of countless married couples proves not only that fidelity is in accord with the nature of marriage, but also that it is the source of profound and enduring happiness.

The “nature of marriage” comes from natural law. When the unseen laws of nature are obeyed, joy and happiness will follow. Just as pain will follow if you try to break the physical law of gravity by jumping off a building, pain will surely follow if you break natural law and choose the path of infidelity with your spouse.

Sec 9, Par 5

It is not confined wholly to the loving interchange of husband and wife; it also contrives to go beyond this to bring new life into being. “Marriage and conjugal love are by their nature ordained toward the procreation and education of children. Children are really the supreme gift of marriage and contribute in the highest degree to their parents’ welfare.”

New couples must understand that there is no marriage without being open to life. Marriage exists for the purpose of being the keystone to a family. It exists for procreation and building civilization.

Responsible Parenthood

Sec 10, Par 1

Married love, therefore, requires of husband and wife the full awareness of their obligations in the matter of responsible parenthood…

Sec 10, Par 2

With regard to the biological processes, responsible parenthood means an awareness of, and respect for, their proper functions.

Sec 10, Par 3

With regard to man’s innate drives and emotions, responsible parenthood means that man’s reason and will must exert control over them.

We are called to control our drives and emotions. If we couldn’t control our desires, we wouldn’t be much better than an animal. We should avoid any man-made pill or medicine that attempts to block the natural outcome of our actions when a human life is involved. We must not desensitize ourselves to the absolute importance of true love and responsible self-giving. Now don’t get me (or Jesus) wrong, we must absolutely, without a doubt, fully enjoy sex with our spouses. We just must make sure it’s an act of complete self-giving. We must know that there’s more to the sex package than a wild and exhausting night with your wife (that’s a lot of it, but not ALL of it)! Just as we should feel free to enjoy eating food, we must realize if we eat ONLY for pleasure, while ignoring its ability to sustain life, we’re going to become fat asses and have physical problems. Full disclosure: I enjoy food too much and am arguably a fat ass. Again, just as we know the outcome when we try to ignore our physical laws, there are negative outcomes when we ignore natural laws. Wow, I just accidentally teed this up perfectly for the encyclical’s next subtitle.

Observing the Natural Law

Sec 11, Par 1

It does not, moreover, cease to be legitimate even when, for reasons independent of their will, it is foreseen to be infertile. For its natural adaptation to the expression and strengthening of the union of husband and wife is not thereby suppressed. The fact is, as experience shows, that new life is not the result of each and every act of sexual intercourse. God has wisely ordered laws of nature and the incidence of fertility in such a way that successive births are already naturally spaced through the inherent operation of these laws.

Faithfulness to God’s Design

Sec 13, Par 1

But to experience the gift of married love while respecting the laws of conception is to acknowledge that one is not the master of the sources of life but rather the minister of the design established by the Creator.

Unlawful Birth Control Methods

Sec 14, Par 1

…to declare that the direct interruption of the generative process already begun and, above all, all direct abortion, even for therapeutic reasons, are to be absolutely excluded as lawful means of regulating the number of children. Equally to be condemned, […], is direct sterilization, whether of the man or of the woman, whether permanent or temporary.

Sec 14, Par 2

Similarly excluded is any action which either before, at the moment of, or after sexual intercourse, is specifically intended to prevent procreation

Tough Decisions: the pills last all month, but the condoms are a really pretty color.
Hard Choices: the pill lasts all month and subsidized by taxpayers, but the colorful condoms are soooo cute

Recourse to Infertile Periods

Sec 16, Par 2

If therefore there are well-grounded reasons for spacing births, arising from the physical or psychological condition of husband or wife, or from external circumstances, the Church teaches that married people may then take advantage of the natural cycles immanent in the reproductive system and engage in marital intercourse only during those times that are infertile, thus controlling birth in a way which does not in the least offend the moral principles which We have just explained.

The Church recognizes there are some situations where spacing births is the responsible thing to do while also understanding the joy and intimacy of sex is important to a healthy spousal relationship apart from its life-giving capabilities. External circumstances might be a dire money situation. People must be very careful with this circumstance because it’s used as one of the main excuses of young people today, “well, I just don’t have that much money saved up yet”. A child keeping you from buying a new riding mower isn’t a good reason. It should only be a reason if another child would pull you below the poverty line in your respective culture (Dr Taylor Marshall writes about it here). Another external circumstance would be social disorder like living in a country with concentration camps, one-child polices and so on.

Sec 16, Par 3

Neither the Church nor her doctrine is inconsistent when she considers it lawful for married people to take advantage of the infertile period but condemns as always unlawful the use of means which directly prevent conception, even when the reasons given for the later practice may appear to be upright and serious.

Sec 17, Par 1

[An] effect that gives cause for alarm is that a man who grows accustomed to the use of contraceptive methods may forget the reverence due to a woman, and, disregarding her physical and emotional equilibrium, reduce her to being a mere instrument for the satisfaction of his own desires, no longer considering her as his partner whom he should surround with care and affection.

Does this sound familiar? Men viewing women as objects–objects than can be thrown away at the end of a fun night? Pope Francis would describe this as part of the “throwaway culture” we should avoid. You’d think modern-day feminists would be against something that allows a man to reduce a woman to a simple, soulless instrument of “getting off”.

Sec 17, Par 2

Finally, careful consideration should be given to the danger of this power passing into the hands of those public authorities who care little for the precepts of the moral law. Who will blame a government which in its attempt to resolve the problems affecting an entire country resorts to the same measures as are regarded as lawful by married people in the solution of a particular family difficulty? Who will prevent public authorities from favoring those contraceptive methods which they consider more effective? Should they regard this as necessary, they may even impose their use on everyone.

I think this is a very important and real consideration. In America, we’re free to have a family that’s open to life but some countries that’s not so. Other countries have forced sterilizations or one-child polices (social disorder). These methods of man-made family “control” (read: Planned Parenthood) are becoming so commonplace, we’re expected to pay for it by our taxes through things like Obamacare.

Sec 18, Par 1

It is to be anticipated that perhaps not everyone will easily accept this particular teaching. There is too much clamorous outcry against the voice of the Church, and this is intensified by modern means of communication.

Sec 18, Par 3

In preserving intact the whole moral law of marriage, the Church is convinced that she is contributing to the creation of a truly human civilization. She urges man not to betray his personal responsibilities by putting all his faith in technical expedients. In this way she defends the dignity of husband and wife.

Sec 21, Par 1

The right and lawful ordering of birth demands, first of all, that spouses fully recognize and value the true blessings of family life and that they acquire complete mastery over themselves and their emotions. For if with the aid of reason and of free will they are to control their natural drives, there can be no doubt at all of the need for self-denial. Only then will the expression of love, essential to married life, conform to right order. This is especially clear in the practice of periodic continence. Self-discipline of this kind is a shining witness to the chastity of husband and wife and, far from being a hindrance to their love of one another, transforms it by giving it a more truly human character. […] For it brings to family life abundant fruits of tranquility and peace. It helps in solving difficulties of other kinds. It fosters in husband and wife thoughtfulness and loving consideration for one another. It helps them to repel inordinate self-love, which is the opposite of charity. It arouses in them a consciousness of their responsibilities. […] As their children grow up, they develop a right sense of values and achieve a serene and harmonious use of their mental and physical powers.

True love is the giving of one’s self, right? To give someone something you must fully own it first, you must be in control and have ownership of yourself. How can you control or own yourself if you’re unable to practice any sort of self-denial. If your life is made up from a series of innate bodily reactions to desires, you have no control over yourself and are in no position to truly love somebody else.

Recourse to God

Sec 25, Par 4

Then let them implore the help of God with unremitting prayer and, most of all, let them draw grace and charity from that unfailing fount which is the Eucharist. If, however, sin still exercises its hold over them, they are not to lose heart. Rather must they, humble and persevering, have recourse to the mercy of God, abundantly bestowed in the Sacrament of Penance. In this way, for sure, they will be able to reach that perfection of married life which the Apostle sets out in these words: “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the Church. . . Even so husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. […] “let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.”

Sec 29, Par 1, 2, 3

Now it is an outstanding manifestation of charity toward souls to omit nothing from the saving doctrine of Christ; but this must always be joined with tolerance and charity, as Christ Himself showed in His conversations and dealings with men. For when He came, not to judge, but to save the world, was He not bitterly severe toward sin, but patient and abounding in mercy toward sinners?

Husbands and wives, therefore, when deeply distressed by reason of the difficulties of their life, must find stamped in the heart and voice of their priest the likeness of the voice and the love of our Redeemer.

[…]Teach married couples the necessary way of prayer and prepare them to approach more often with great faith the Sacraments of the Eucharist and of Penance. Let them never lose heart because of their weakness.

Always persevere, always strive, always evangelize, and “be not afraid!” is what I take from this final section.

Men, partake in God’s image as you are called, be open to creation and life. Women, see to it that the man in your life treats you like the dignified soul that you are–you have the ability to carry life and that should be respected rather than avoided. The Catholic Church reveres vessels of life. The ciborium (contains consecrated hosts), the tabernacle, the chalice, and women all are vessels of life. All vessels of life are sacred. We veil what is sacred. This is why the ciborium and tabernacle, which contain Christ’s living body, is always tented or veiled. This is why the chalice of Christ’s living blood is always covered. This is why women (traditionally) would wear veils to Mass. All of these are vessels containing life. All of these are sacred. And all of these should be treated as such.

Now go give your spouse a big wet kiss, put the kids to bed early, and open up a can of creation!

Remember that to be ‘pro-life’ means more than being against abortion. It means being completely open and in favor to, as St. JPII put it, the ‘Culture of Life’.


“Birth Control is a name given to a succession of different expedients by which it is possible to filch the pleasure belonging to a natural process while violently and unnaturally thwarting the process itself.”

-GK Chesterton