By Mario & Paola Martinez
The values that our Catholic Church promotes in regards to sexuality are patently countercultural, as is practically the entire Gospel of Jesus, since it proposes the perfection of the human being through his full harmony with the love of God. Vatican II taught us that the Church never tires of reminding us that there can be no real contradiction between the divine laws of the transmission of life and the procedures for preserving authentic conjugal love. Theme three of the Bishops’ Pastoral Letter, “Marriage: Love and Life in the Divine Plan,” presents marriage as a “Communion of Love and Life” and helps us understand the unitive and procreative purpose of marriage.
Mary Healy, professor of Sacred Scripture at Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit, Michigan, and an international speaker on topics related to the Scriptures, evangelization, healing and the spiritual life, states that “In each conception of a human life, God executes a new act of creation. A new person comes into being, a new face will reflect the image of God in the world in a way that has never been reflected before.”
Pope Francis reminds us in Amoris Laetitia that “Love always gives life. For this reason, conjugal love is not exhausted within the couple ... The spouses, while giving themselves to each other, give beyond themselves the reality of the child, a living reflection of their love, a permanent sign of the conjugal unit and living and inseparable synthesis of the father and the mother.”
One of the attacks against the unitive and procreative dimension of marriage is the use of artificial contraceptive methods, which threaten God’s plan for marriage and bring severe consequences, as Pope Paul VI prophesied in Humanae Vitae. Christopher West, Catholic author and speaker and expert on Pope John Paul II’s series of audience addresses entitled Theology of the Body, emphasizes that “If there is a problem behind the oppression of women, it is the failure of men to treat them decently, like people. Contraception is definitely a way to keep them in their chains.”
The renowned Indian leader Mahatma Gandhi once declared that “Contraceptive methods are like putting a prize on vice. They make men and women bold ... already the man has degraded the woman enough for his lust, and contraception, no matter what good purpose it has, will continue to degrade her further.”
Natural Family Planning embraces the unitive and procreative dimensions of marital love and is a loving response to God’s plan for married couples. In Amoris Laetitia, Pope Francis reminds us of the beauty of the married couple and their children, wisely directing his gaze to Psalm 128 which says, “The man and his wife are seated at the table, the children who accompany them like shoots of an olive tree, that is, full of energy and vitality. If the parents are like the foundations of the house, the children are like the living stones of the family.”
The Church, again and again, reminds us that the purpose of Her teachings on sexual morality is not to burden couples with more requirements but to set them free through truth. Only the truth about the human person, about marriage, about love and about the gift of fertility offers the happiness that comes through freedom.
To download the pastoral letter and/or for information on Natural Family Planning Resources we invite you to visit sbmarriageinitiative.org.
Mario and Paola Martinez are co-directors of the Office of Marriage and Family Life Ministries in the Diocese of San Bernardino.