National Catholic Register


New Vatican Document Highlights Church Teachings on Life and Family


June 18-24, 2006 Issue | Posted 6/19/06 at 10:00 PM


VATICAN CITY — Defenders of the traditional family and of the sanctity of human life now have a powerful new resource to draw on.

To mark its 25th anniversary, the Pontifical Council for the Family released a new document June 6 entitled, “Family and Human Procreation.”

“Never before has the natural institution of marriage and family been the victim of such violent attacks,” said the document, signed by Cardinal Alfonso Lopez Trujillo, council president.

The cardinal said “radical currents” are not simply promoting acceptance of new models of the family, but actually are proposing them as positive alternatives to the family based on the marriage of a man and a woman open to having children.

“Couples formed by homosexuals claim the same rights reserved to a husband and wife; they even claim the right to adoption,” he said. “Women who live in a lesbian union claim analogous rights, calling for laws that give them access” to artificial insemination and fertilization.

While various factors are contributing to the problem, the document said, the root of the crisis is a lack of recognition of God as the creator of all human life.

The document said the development of a “theology of creation,” explaining the religious obligation to respect nature and the environment, should be extended to include a “theology of procreation,” explaining the religious obligation to respect the fact that God created human beings male and female so that they would give themselves to one another, cooperate with him in bringing new life into the world and educate children in faith and civic values.

The document states that “the family is the only appropriate place for procreation.” And, it adds, procreation, “which is the means of transmitting life through the loving union of man and woman, must be human.”

This moral understanding is under attack, both from homosexual lobbyists and from the widespread reliance on abortion, artificial contraception and in vitro fertilization, the Vatican document notes.

In the section on “responsible fatherhood and motherhood,” the document reiterates the doctrines set forth about abortion and contraception in Pope Paul VI’s 1968 encyclical Humanae Vitae (On the Regulation of Birth). The encyclical rejected abortion and excluded any recourse to artificial contraception, the Pontifical Council of the Family document noted.

The new document also condemns stem cell research, in vitro fertilization and artificial insemination as violations of a human’s “right to be generated, not produced.”

At the same time, the document calls for greater Church efforts to educate married couples to the reality that responsible parenthood is not simply refusing to use artificial means of birth control.

When for the good of the entire family it is best to avoid having another child, couples can abstain from sexual intercourse during fertile periods to avoid a pregnancy, it said.

However, using natural family planning to have only one or a maximum of two children “is nothing other than a kind of series of brief parentheses within an entire conjugal life willingly made sterile,” it said.

The document also said the Catholic Church’s understanding of responsible parenthood does not end with conception; parents are called to educate their children in the faith and in values, including passing on to them an appreciation for the vocations of fatherhood and motherhood.

“Man is a family being and as such he is a social, political, economic, cultural, legal and religious being,” the document stated. “The family which touches on all of these essential aspects needs services, help, protection and endless promotion.”

(CNS, Zenit and RNS

contributed to this story.)