Article Three: The Family

The Institution of the Family

84. 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 (Apostolicam Actuositatem, n.11). The family has vital and organic links with society, since it is its foundation and nourishes it continually through its role of service to life: it is from the family that citizens come to birth, and it is within the family that they find the first school of the social virtues that are the animating principle of the existence and development of society. Thus, far from being closed in on itself, the family is by nature and vocation open to other families and to society, and undertakes its social role.
(Familiaris Consortio, n. 42)

85. The first and fundamental structure for`human ecology' is the family, in which man receives his first formative ideas about truth and goodness, and learns what it means to love and to be loved, and thus what it actually means to be a person. Here we mean the family founded on marriage, in which the mutual gift of self by husband and wife creates an environment in which children can be born and develop their potentialities, become aware of their dignity, and prepare to face their unique and individual destiny. But it often happens that people are discouraged from creating the proper conditions for human reproduction and are led to consider themselves and their lives as a series of sensations to be experienced rather than as a work to be accomplished. The result is a lack of freedom, which causes a person to reject a commitment to enter into a stable relationship with an other person and to bring children into the world, or which leads people to consider children as one of the many `things' that an individual can have or not have, according to taste, and which compete with other possibilities. It is necessary to go back to seeing the family as the sanctuary of life. The family is indeed sacred: it is the place in which life the gift of God can be properly welcomed and protected against the many attacks to which it is exposed, and can develop in accordance with what constitutes authentic human growth. In the face of the so called culture of death, the family is the heart of the culture of life....
(Centesimus Annus, n. 39)

86. But man finds his true identity only in his social milieu, where the family plays a fundamental role. The family's influence may have been excessive, at some periods of history and in some places, when it was exercised to the detriment of the fundamental rights of the individual. The long standing social frameworks, often too rigid and badly organized, existing in developing countries, are, nevertheless, still necessary for a time, yet progressively relaxing their excessive hold on the population. But the natural family, mo nogamous and stable, such as the divine plan conceived it and as Christianity sanctified it, must remain the place where the various generations come together and help one another to grow wiser and to harmonize personal rights with the other requirements of social life (GS, nn. 50 51).
(Populorum Progressio, n. 36)

87. Within the people of life and the people for life, the family has a decisive responsibility. This responsibility flows from its very nature as a community of life and love, founded upon marriage, and from its mission to guard, reveal, and communicate love (Familiaris Consortio, n. 17). Here it is a matter of God's love, of which parents are co workers and, as it were, interpreters when they transmit life and raise it accordingly to his fatherly plan (cf. GS, n. 50).
(Evangelium Vitae, n. 92)

88. As the fundamental nucleus of society, the family has a right to the full support of the State in order to carry out fully its particular mission. State laws, therefore, must be directed to promoting its well being, helping it to fulfill its proper duties. In the face of increasing pressure nowadays to consider, as legally equivalent to the union of spouses, forms of union which by their very nature or their intentional lack of permanence are in no way capable of expressing the meaning and ensuring the good of the family, it is the duty of the State to encourage and protect the authentic institution of the family, respecting its natural structure and its innate and inalienable rights.
(World Day of Peace Message, 1994, n. 5)

Top of page

Marriage

89. 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 (cf. GS, n. 50).
(Familiaris Consortio, n. 14)

90. Sexuality is ordered to the conjugal love of man and woman. In marriage, the physical intimacy of the spouses becomes a sign and pledge of spiritual communion. Marriage bonds between baptized persons are sanctified by the sacrament. Sexuality, by means of which man and woman give themselves to one another through the acts which are proper and exclusive to spouses, is not something simply biological, but concerns the inner most being of the human person as such. It is realized in a truly human way only if it is an integral part of the love by which a man and woman commit themselves totally to one another until death . The acts in marriage by which the intimate and chaste union of the spouses takes place are noble and honorable; the truly human performance of these acts fosters the self giving they signify and enriches the spouses in joy and gratitude (GS, n. 49). Sexuality is a source of joy and pleasure: The Creator himself established that in the (generative) function, spouses should experience pleasure and enjoyment of body and spirit. Therefore, the spouses do nothing evil in seeking this pleasure and enjoyment. They accept what the Creator has intended for them. At the same time, spouses should know how to keep themselves within the limits of just moderation (Pius XII, Discourse, 1951). The spouses' union achieves the twofold end of marriage: the good of the spouses themselves and the transmission of life. These two meanings or values of marriage cannot be separated without al tering the couple's spiritual life and compromising the goods of marriage and the future of the family. The conjugal love of man and woman thus stands under the twofold obligation of fidelity and fecundity. 
(CCC, nn. 2360 2363)

91. The intimate partnership of married life and love has been established by the Creator and qualified by His laws, and is rooted in the conjugal covenant of irrevocable personal consent. Hence, by that human act whereby spouses mutually bestow and accept each other, a relationship arises which, by divine will and in the eyes of society too, is a lasting one. For the good of the spouses and their offspring's as well as of society, the existence of the sacred bond no longer depends on human decisions alone. For God Himself is the author of matrimony, endowed as it is with various benefits and pur poses. All of these have a very decisive bearing on the continuation of the human race, on the personal development and eternal destiny of the individual members of a family, and on the dignity, stability, peace and prosperity of the family itself and of human society as a whole. By their very nature, the institution of matrimony itself and conjugal love are ordained for the procreation and education of children, and find in them their ultimate crown. Thus a man and a woman, who by their compact of conjugal love are no longer two, but one flesh (Mt 19:3ff.), render mutual help and service to each other through an intimate union of their persons and of their actions. Through this union they experience the meaning of their oneness and attain to it with growing perfection day by day. As a mutual gift of two persons, this intimate union and the good of the children impose total fidelity on the spouses and argue for an unbreakable one ness between them.
(Gaudium et Spes, n. 48)

92. A certain sharing by man in God's lordship is also evident in the specific responsibility that he is given for human life as such. It is a responsibility that reaches its highest point in the giving of life through procreation by man and woman in marriage. As the Second Vatican Council teaches: God himself, who said, `It is not good for man to be alone' (Gn 2:18) and `who made man from the beginning male and female' (Mt 19:4), wished to share with man a certain special participation in his own creative work. Thus he blessed male and female saying: `Increase and multiply' (Gn 1:28) (GS, n. 50). By speaking of a certain special participation of man and woman in the creative work of God, the Council wishes to point out that having a child is an event which is deeply human and full of religious meaning, insofar as it involves both the spouses, who form one flesh (Gn 2:24), and God, who makes himself present.
(Evangelium Vitae, n. 43)

Top of page

Children and Parents

93. When a new person is born of the conjugal union of the two, he brings with him into the world a particular image and likeness of God himself: the genealogy of the person is inscribed in the very biology of generation. In affirming that the spouses, as parents, cooperate with God the Creator in conceiving and giving birth to a new human being, we are not speaking merely with reference to the laws of biology. Instead, we wish to emphasize that God himself is present in human fatherhood and motherhood quite differently than he is present in all other instances of begetting `on earth.' Indeed, God alone is the source of that `image and likeness' which is proper to the human being, as it was received at Creation. Begetting is the con tinuation of Creation.
(Gratissimam Sane, n. 43)

94. In revealing and in reliving on earth the very fatherhood of God (cf. Eph 3:15), a man is called upon to ensure the harmonious and united development of all the members of the family: he will perform this task by exercising generous responsibility for the life conceived under the heart of the mother, by a more solicitous com mitment to education, a task he shares with his wife (cf. GS, n. 52), by work, which is never a cause of division in the family but pro motes its unity and stability, and by means of the witness he gives of an adult Christian life which effectively introduces the children into the living experience of Christ and the Church.
(Familiaris Consortio, n. 25)

95. There is no doubt that the equal dignity and responsibility of men and women fully justifies women's access to public functions. On the other hand, the true advancement of women requires that clear recognition be given to the value of their maternal and family role, by comparison with all other public roles and all other professions. Furthermore, these roles and professions should be har moniously combined, if we wish the evolution of society and culture to be truly and fully human.
(Familiaris Consortio, n. 23)

Top of page

The Family, Education, and Culture

96. The task of giving education is rooted in the primary vocation of married couples to participate in God's creative activity: by begetting in love and for love a new person who has within himself or herself the vocation to growth and development, parents by that very fact take on the task of helping that person effectively to live a fully human life. 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 acknow ledged 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 fos tered among the children. Hence, the family is the first school of those social virtues that every society needs (Gravissimum Educationis, n. 3). The right and duty of parents to give education is essential, since it is connected with the transmission of human life; it is original and primary with regard to the educational role of others, on account of the uniqueness of the loving relationship between parents and children; and it is irreplaceable and inalienable, and there fore incapable of being entirely delegated to others or usurped by others.
(Familiaris Consortio, n. 36)

97. As already noted, the family, like the State, is by the same token a society in the strictest sense of the term, and is governed by its own proper authority, namely, by that of the father. Wherefore, assuming, of course, that those limits be observed which are fixed by its immediate purpose, the family assuredly possesses rights, at least equal with those of civil society, in respect to choosing and employ ing the things necessary for its protection and its just liberty. We say at least equal because, inasmuch as domestic living together is prior both in thought and in fact to uniting into a polity, it follows that its rights and duties are also prior and more in conformity with nature. But if citizens, if families, after becoming participants in common life and society, were to experience injury in a commonwealth in stead of help, impairment of their rights instead of protection, society would be something to be repudiated rather than to be sought for.
(Rerum Novarum, n. 13)

98. The social role of the family certainly cannot stop short at procreation and education, even if this constitutes its primary and irreplaceable form of expression. Families, therefore, either singly or in association, can and should devote themselves to manifold social service activities, especially in favor of the poor, or, at any rate, for the benefit of all people and situations that cannot be reached by the public authorities' welfare organization. The social contribution of the family has an original character of its own, one that should be given greater recognition and more decisive encouragement, especially as the children grow up, and actually involving all its members as much as possible.
(Familiaris Consortio, n. 44)

99. To desire, therefore, that the civil power should enter arbitrarily into the privacy of homes is a great and pernicious error. If a family perchance is in such extreme difficulty and is so completely without plans that it is entirely unable to help itself, it is right that the distress be remedied by public aid, for each individual family is a part of the community. Similarly, if anywhere there is a grave violation of mutual rights within the family walls, public authority shall restore to each his right; for this is not usurping the rights of citizens, but protecting and confirming them with just and due care. Those in charge of public affairs, however, must stop here; nature does not permit them to go beyond these limits.
(Rerum Novarum, n. 14)

100. Within the people of life and the people for life, the family has a decisive responsibility. This responsibility flows from its very nature as a community of life and love, founded upon marriage, and from its mission to guard, reveal and communicate love (Familiaris Consortio, n. 17). Here it is a matter of God's own love, of which parents are co workers and, as it were, interpreters when they transmit life and raise it according to his fatherly plan (cf. GS, n. 50). This is the love that becomes selflessness, receptiveness and gift. Within the family each member is accepted, respected and hon ored precisely because he or she is a person; and if any family member is in greater need, the care which he or she receives is all the more intense and attentive. The family has a special role to play throughout the life of its members, from birth to death. It is truly the sanctuary of life: the place in which life the gift of God can be properly welcomed and protected against the many attacks to which it is exposed, and can develop in accordance with what constitutes authentic human growth (CA, n. 39). Consequently, the role of the family in building a culture of life is decisive and irreplaceable. As the domestic church, the family is summoned to proclaim, celebrate and serve the Gospel of life. This is a responsibility which first concerns married couples, called to be givers of life, on the basis of an ever greater awareness of the meaning of procreation as a unique event which clearly reveals that human life is a gift received in order then to be given as a gift. In giving origin to a new life, parents recognize that the child, as the fruit of their mutual gift of love, is, in turn, a gift for both of them, a gift which flows from them (John Paul II, Address to the Seventh Symposium of European Bishops, 1989, n. 5).
(Evangelium Vitae, n. 92)

101. The Gospel of life is at the heart of Jesus' message. Lov ingly received day after day by the Church, it is to be preached with dauntless fidelity as good news to the people of every age and culture. At the dawn of salvation, it is the Birth of a Child which is proclaimed as joyful news: I bring you good news of a great joy which will come to all the people; for to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord (Lk 2:10 11). The source of this great joy is the Birth of the Savior; but Christmas also reveals the full meaning of every human birth, and the joy which accompanies the Birth of the Messiah is thus seen to be the foundation and fulfillment of joy at every child born into the world (cf. Jn 16:21). When he presents the heart of his redemptive mission, Jesus says: I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly (Jn 10:10). In truth, he is referring to that new and eternal life which consists in communion with the Father, to which every person is freely called in the Son by the power of the Sanctifying Spirit. It is precisely in this life that all the aspects and stages of human life achieve their full significance.
(Evangelium Vitae, n. 1)

Top of page

The Sanctity of Human Life

102. Man's life comes from God; it is his gift, his image and imprint, a sharing in his breath of life. God, therefore, is the sole Lord of this life: man cannot do with it as he wills. God himself makes this clear to Noah after the flood: For your own lifeblood, too, I will demand an accounting and from man in regard to his fellow man I will demand an accounting of human life (Gn 9:5). The biblical text is concerned to emphasize how the sacredness of life has its foundation in God and in his creative activity: For God made man in his own image (Gn 9:6).
(Evangelium Vitae, n. 39)

103. Human life is sacred because from its beginning it in volves the `creative action of God' and it remains forever in a special relationship with the Creator, who is its sole end. God alone is the Lord of life from its beginning until its end: no one can, in any circumstance, claim for himself the right to destroy directly an innocent human being. With these words, Donum Vitae (DV, n. 7) sets forth the central content of God's revelation on the sacredness and inviolability of human life.
(Evangelium Vitae, n. 53)

104. The inviolability of the person, which is a reflection of the absolute inviolability of God, finds its primary and fundamental expression in the `inviolability of human life.' Above all, the commonoutcry, which is justly made on behalf of human rights for example, the right to health, to home, to work, to family, to culture is false and illusory if `the right to life,' the most basic and fundamental right and the condition for all other personal rights, is not defended with maximum determination. The Church has never yielded in the face of all the violations that the right to life of every human being has received, and continues to receive, both from individuals and from those in authority. The human being is entitled to such rights, `in every phase of development,' from conception until natural death; and in `every condition,' whether healthy or sick, whole or handi capped, rich or poor.
(Christifideles Laici, n. 38)

105. The Church today lives a fundamental aspect of her mission in lovingly and generously accepting every human being, especially those who are weak and sick. This is made all the more necessary as a `culture of death' threatens to take control. In fact, the Church family believes that human life, even if weak and suffering, is always a wonderful gift of God's goodness. Against the pessimism and selfishness which casts a shadow over the world, the Church stands for life: in each human life she sees the splendour of that `Yes,' that `Amen,' which is Christ himself (cf. 2 Cor 1:19; Rv 3:14). To the `No' which assails and afflicts the world, she replies with this living `Yes,' this defending of the human person and the world from all who plot against life ( Familiaris Consortio, n. 30). It is the responsibility of the lay faithful, who more directly through their vocation or their profession are involved in accepting life, to make the Church's`Yes' to human life concrete and efficacious.
(Christifideles Laici, n. 38)

106. Reason attests that there are objects of the human act which are by their nature incapable of being ordered to God, because they radically contradict the good of the person made in his image. These are the acts which, in the Church's moral tradition, have been termed `intrinsically evil' (intrinsece malum): they are such always and per se, in other words, on account of their very object, and quite apart from the ulterior intentions of the one acting and the circumstances. Consequently, without in the least denying the influence on morality exercised by circumstances and especially by intentions, the Church teaches that there exist acts which per se and in them selves, independently of circumstances, are always seriously wrong by reason of their object ( Reconciliato et Paenitentia, n. 17). The Second Vatican Council itself, in discussing the respect due to the human person, gives a number of examples of such acts: Whatever is hostile to life itself, such as any kind of homicide, genocide, abortion, euthanasia and voluntary suicide; whatever violates the integrity of the human person, such as mutilation, physical and mental torture and attempts to coerce the spirit; whatever is offensive to human dignity, such as subhuman living conditions, arbitrary impris onment, deportation, slavery, prostitution and trafficking in women and children; degrading conditions of work which treat laborers as mere instruments of profit, and not as free responsible persons: all these and the like are a disgrace, and so long as they infect human civilization, they contaminate those who inflict them more than those who suffer injustice, and they are a negation of the honor due to the Creator (GS, n. 27).
(Veritatis Splendor, n. 80)

Top of page

The Evil of Abortion and Euthanasia

107. Human life finds itself most vulnerable when it enters the world and when it leaves the realm of time to embark upon eternity. The word of God frequently repeats the call to show care and respect, above all where life is undermined by sickness and old age. Although there are no direct and explicit calls to protect human life at its very beginning, specifically life not yet born, and life nearing its end, this can be easily explained by the fact that the mere possibility of harming, attacking, or actually denying life in these circumstances is completely foreign to the religious and cultural way of thinking of the People of God.
(Evangelium Vitae, n. 44)

108. Nothing and no one can in any way permit the killing of an innocent human being, whether fetus or an embryo, an infant or an adult, an old person, or one suffering from an incurable disease, or a person who is dying. Furthermore, no one is permitted to ask for this act of killing, either for himself or herself or for another person en trusted to his or her care, nor can he or she consent to it, either explicitly or implicitly. Nor can any authority legitimately recommend or permit such an action.
(Iura et Bona, n. 2)

109. Therefore, by the authority which Christ conferred on Peter and to his Successors, and in communion with the Bishops of the Catholic Church, I confirm that the direct and voluntary killing of an innocent human being is always gravely immoral. This doctrine, based upon the unwritten law which man, in the light of reason, finds in his own heart (cf. Rom 2:14 15), is reaffirmed by the Sacred Scripture, transmitted by the Tradition of the Church and taught by the ordinary and universal Magisterium.
(Evangelium Vitae, n. 57)

110. I would now like to say a special word to women who have had an abortion. The Church is aware of the many factors which may have influenced your decision, and she does not doubt that in many cases it was a painful and even shattering decision. The wound in your heart may not yet have healed. Certainly what happened was and remains terribly wrong. But do not give in to discouragement and do not lose hope. Try rather to understand what happened and face it honestly. If you have not already done so, give yourselves over with humility and trust to repentance. The Father of mercies is ready to give you his forgiveness and his peace in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. You will come to understand that nothing is definitively lost, and you will also be able to ask forgiveness from your child, who is now living in the Lord. With the friendly and expert help and advice of other people, and as a result of your own painful experience, you can be among the most eloquent defenders of everyone's right to life. Through your commitment to life, whether by accepting the birth of other children or by welcoming and caring for those most in need of someone to be close to them, you will become promoters of a new way of looking at human life.
(Evangelium Vitae, n. 99)

Top of page

Capital Punishment

111. Legitimate defense can be not only a right but a grave duty for another's life. Preserving the common good requires ren dering the unjust aggressor unable to inflict harm. To this end, those holding legitimate authority have the right to repel by armed force aggressors against the civil community entrusted to their charge (Aquinas, STh, II II, 64, 7). The State's effort to contain the spread of behaviors injurious to human rights and the fundamental rules of civil coexistence corresponds to the requirement of watching over the common good. Legitimate public authority has the right and duty to inflict penalities commensurate with the gravity of the crime. The primary scope of the penalty is to redress the disorder caused by the offense. When this punishment is voluntarily accepted by the offender, it takes on the value of expiation. Moreover, punishment, in addition to preserving public order and the safety of persons, has a medicinal scope: as far as possible it should contribute to the correction of the offender (cf. Lk 23:40 43).
(CCC, nn. 2265 2266)

112. [T]here is a growing tendency, both in the Church and in civil society, to demand that [the death penalty] be applied in a very limited way or even that it be abolished completely. The problem must be viewed in the context of a system of penal justice ever more in line with human dignity and thus, in the end, with God's plan forman and society. The primary purpose of punishment which society inflicts is to redress the disorder caused by the offense (CCC, n. 2266). Public authority must redress the violation of personal and social rights by imposing on the offender an adequate punishment for the crime, as a condition for the offender to regain the exercise of his or her freedom. In this way authority also fulfills the purpose of defending public order and ensuring people's safety, while ... offering the offender an incentive and help to change his or her behavior and be rehabilitated (CCC, n. 2266). It is clear that, for these purposes to be achieved, the nature and extent of the punishment must be carefully evaluated and decided upon, and ought not go to the extreme of executing the offender except in cases of absolute necessity: in other words, when it would not be possible otherwise to defend society. Today, however, as a result of steady improvements in the organization of the penal system, such cases are very rare, if not practically non existent.
(Evangelium Vitae, n. 56)

113. The traditional teaching of the Church does not exclude, presupposing full ascertainment of the identity and responsibility of the offender, recourse to the death penalty, when this is the only practicable way to defend the lives of human beings effectively against the aggressor. If, instead, bloodless means are sufficient to defend against the aggressor and to protect the safety of persons, public authority should limit itself to such means, because they better correspond to the concrete conditions of the common good and are inconformity to the dignity of the human person. Today, in fact, given the means at the State's disposal to effectively repress crime by rendering inoffensive the one who has committed it, without depriving him definitively of the possibility of redeeming himself, cases of absolute necessity for suppression of the offender today ... are very rare, if not practically non existent (Evangelium Vitae, n. 56).
(CCC, n. 2267)

Top of page

The Dignity of Women

114. Certainly much remains to be done to prevent discrimination against those who have chosen to be wives and mothers. As faras personal rights are concerned, there is an urgent need to achieve real equality in every area: equal pay for equal work, protection for working mothers, fairness in career advancements, equality of spouses with regard to family rights, and the recognition of everything that is part of the rights and duties of citizens of a democratic state. This is a matter of justice but also of necessity. Women will increasingly play a part in the solution of the serious problems of the future: lei sure time, the quality of life, migration, social services, euthanasia, drugs, health care, the ecology, etc. In all these areas a greater presence of women in society will prove most valuable, for it will help to manifest the contradictions present when society is organized solely according to the criteria of efficiency and productivity, and it will force systems to be redesigned in a way which favors the processes of humanization which mark the civilization of love. 
(Letter to Women, n. 4)

115. Part of this daily heroism is also the silent but effective and eloquent witness of all those brave mothers who devote themselves to their own family without reserve, who suffer in giving birth to their children and who are ready to make any effort, to face any sacrifice, in order to pass on to them the best of themselves (John Paul II, Homily for Beatification, 1994). In living out their mission, these heroic women do not always find support in the world around them. On the contrary, the cultural models frequently promoted and broadcast by the media do not encourage motherhood. In the name of progress and modernity the values of fidelity, chastity, sacrifice, to which a host of Christian wives and mothers have borne and con tinue to bear outstanding witness, are presented as obsolete . We thank you, heroic mothers, for your invincible love! We thank you for your intrepid trust in God and in his love. We thank you for the sacrifice of your life . In the Paschal Mystery, Christ restores to you the gift you gave him. Indeed, he has the power to give you back the life you gave him as an offering (John Paul II, Homily for Beatification, 1994).
(Evangelium Vitae, n. 86)

116. God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them (Gn 1:27). This concise passage contains the fundamental anthropological truths: man is the high point of the whole order of creation in the visible world; the human race, which takes its origin from the calling into existence of man and woman, crowns the whole work of creation; both man and woman are human beings to an equal degree; both are created in God's image. This image and likeness of God, which is essential for the human being, is passed on by the woman and the man, as spouses and parents, to their descendents: Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it (Gn 1:28). The creator entrusts dominion over the earth to the human race, to all persons, to all men and women, who derive their dignity and vocation from the common beginning.
(Mulieris Dignitatem, n. 6)

117. In transforming culture so that it supports life, women occupy a place, in thought and action, which is unique and decisive. It depends on them to promote a `new feminism' which rejects the temptation of imitating models of `male domination,' in order to acknowledge and affirm the true genius of women in every aspect of the life of society, and overcome all discrimination, violence and exploitation. Making my own the words of the concluding message of the Second Vatican Council, I address to women this urgent appeal: Reconcile people with life (Closing Message of The Council [1965]: To Women). You are called to bear witness to the meaning of genuine love, of that gift of self and of that acceptance of others which are present in a special way in the relationship of husband and wife, but which ought also to be at the heart of every other interpersonal relationship.... Motherhood involves a special communion with the mystery of life, as it develops in the woman's womb.... This unique contact with the new human being developing within her gives rise to an attitude towards human beings not only towards her own child, but every human being, which profoundly marks the woman's personality ( Mulieris Dignitatem, n. 18). A mother welcomes and carries in herself another human being, enabling it to grow inside her, giving it room, respecting it in its otherness. Women first learn and then teach others that human relations are authentic if they are open to accepting the other person: a person who is recognized and loved because of the dignity which comes from being a person and not from other considerations, such as usefulness, strength, intelligence, beauty or health. This is the fundamental contribution which the Church and humanity expect from women. And it is the indispensable prerequisite for an authentic cultural change.
(Evangelium Vitae, n. 99)

Top of page

Table of Contents - English