Pope Pius XII’s Condemnation of Situation Ethics Contained in Amoris Laetitia
“Taking, therefore, the words of Christ and of the Apostle [Paul] as the strict rule, should not one say that the Church of today is rather inclined more to coddling than to severity? It so happens that the accusation of oppressive rigidity made against the Church by the ‘new morality,’ in reality, attacks, in the first place, the adorable Person of Christ Himself.”These words, uttered 65 years ago in 1952 by Pope Ven. Pius XII against so-called ‘situation ethics’ ring true today now over one year since the publication of Pope Francis’ Amoris Laetitia. Despite Pius XII being the reigning pope when the young Jorge Mario Bergoglio entered the Jesuit seminary as a novice, Pius’ condemnations of this “new morality” seem to have had little effect on him. Besides his daily homilies that frequently criticize “rigid” faithful Catholics, Pope Francis even told his fellow Jesuits he thought charges of “situation morality” are “boogey man” accusations, while endorsing Bernard Häring, a pro-contraception dissenting theologian.Situation ethics can be defined as an individualistic and subjective appeal to the concrete circumstances of actions to justify decisions in opposition to the natural law or God’s revealed will. The magisterial interventions of Pius XII on situation ethics are remarkable, precisely for their prescience in anticipating and directly refuting Pope Francis’ key arguments for his own “new morality” in Amoris Laetitia and elsewhere.Below you may find excerpts followed by the full text of five Magisterial documents from the papacy of Pope Ven. Pius XII which strongly, clearly, and solemnly condemn the heresy of situation ethics, some of which are being published here [Rorate Caeli] in English for the first time.1) Vegliare con sollecitudine, Address to the Italian Association of Catholic Midwives, October 29, 1951
[…] It will be objected, however, that such abstinence is impossible, that heroism such as this is not feasible. At the present time you can hear and read of this objection everywhere, even from those who, because of their duty and authority, should be of quite a different mind. […] we have the doctrine of the Council of Trent which, in the chapter on the necessary and possible observance of the Commandments, referring to a passage in the works of Augustine, teaches: ‘God does not command what is impossible, but when He commands, He commands, He warns you to do what you can and to ask His aid for what is beyond your powers, and He gives His help to make that possible for you’. […]2) La famiglia, Radio Message on the Occasion of ‘Family Day’, March 23, 1952
[…] The ‘new morality’ affirms that the Church, instead of fostering the law of human liberty and of love, and of demanding of you that dynamics which is worthy of the moral life, instead bases itself almost exclusively and with excessive rigidity, on the firmness and the intransigence of Christian moral laws, frequently resorting to the terms ‘you are obliged’, ‘it is not licit’, which has too much of an air of a degrading pedantry. […] Taking, therefore, the words of Christ and of the Apostle as the strict rule, should not one say that the Church of today is rather inclined more to coddling than to severity? It so happens that the accusation of oppressive rigidity made against the Church by the ‘new morality,’ in reality, attacks, in the first place, the adorable Person of Christ Himself.”[…]3) Soyez les bienvenues, Discourse to the Participants in the Congress of the World Federation of Catholic Young Women, April 18, 1952
The distinctive mark of this morality is that it is not based in effect on universal moral laws, such as, for example, the Ten Commandments, but on the real and concrete conditions or circumstances in which men must act, and according to which the conscience of the individual must judge and choose. Such a state of things is unique, and is applicable only once for every human action. That is why the decision of conscience, as the advocates of this ethic assert, cannot be commanded by ideas, principles and universal laws. […] adultery and fornication, the abuse of marriage, the solitary sin, stealing and robbery, taking away the necessities of life, depriving workers of their just wage […]—all this is gravely forbidden by the divine Lawmaker. No examination is necessary. No matter what the situation of the individual may be, there is no other course open to him but to obey. […] this new ethic, perhaps without being aware of it, acts according to the principle that the end justifies the means. […] did they [the martyrs], in the face of the “situation” in which they found themselves, uselessly or even mistakenly incur a bloody death? No, certainly not, and in their blood they are the most explicit witnesses to the truth against the “new morality.”4) Nous vous souhaitons, Discourse to the Participants of the International Congress on Psychotherapy and Clinical Psychology, April 13, 1953
[…] it would be erroneous to establish for real life norms which would deviate from natural and Christian morality, and which, for want of a better word, could be called “personalist” ethics. The latter would without doubt receive a certain “orientation” from the former, but this would not admit of any strict obligation. The law of the structure of man in the concrete is not to be invented but applied.5) Contra doctrinam, Instruction on ‘Situation Ethics’, Supreme Sacred Congregation of the Holy Office, February 2, 1956
[…] Having considered these things, in order to avert the danger of the “New Morality,” of which the Supreme Pontiff Pope Pius XII spoke in the Allocutions held on the days of March 23 and April 18, 1952, and in order to safeguard the purity and intactness of Catholic doctrine, this Supreme Sacred Congregation of the Holy Office interdicts and prohibits this doctrine of “Situation Ethics” from being taught or approved, under any name whatsoever it may be designated, whether in Universities, Athenaeums, Seminaries or houses of religious formation, or in books, dissertations, lectures, whether, as they say, at conferences, or by any other means of being propagated or defended.
Vegliare con sollecitudinePope Ven. Pius XIIAddress to the Italian Association of Catholic MidwivesRomeMonday October 29, 1951
INTRODUCTIONThe midwife’s Christian dutyBeloved daughters, the object of your profession, the secret of its grandeur and its beauty lies in this, that you guard with care the silent, humble cradle wherein Almighty God has infused an immortal soul into the seed provided by the parents, and this you do in order to give your professional assistance to the mother and to prepare a successful birth for the child she carried in her womb.When you reflect on the wonderful collaboration of the parents, of nature and of God, as a result of which a new human being is born to the image and likeness of the Creator (cf. Gen. 1:26, 27), you cannot help valuing at its proper worth the precious cooperation you contribute to an event of such importance. The heroic mother of the Maccabees said to her sons: ‘I know not how you were formed in my womb; for I neither gave you breath nor soul, nor life, neither did I frame the limbs of every one of you. But the Creator of the world formed the nativity of man’ (2 Mach. 7:22).Hence whoever approaches this cradle of the formation of life and plays a part there, in one way or another, should know the order the Creator lays down to be followed and the laws that rule this order. For here it is not a question of physical or of biological laws which are automatically, obeyed by agents not endowed with reason, or of blind forces, but it is a question of laws, the execution and the effects of which are confided to the voluntary and free co-operation of man.This order founded by a supreme intellect is directed to the end designed by the Creator. It embraces not only the external acts of man, but also the internal consent of his free will-it covers acts as well as omissions when duty so demands. Nature places at man’s disposal the whole chain of the causes which give rise to a new human life; it is man’s part to release the living force, and to nature pertains the development of that force, leading to its completion. Once man has fulfilled his part and set in motion the marvelous evolution of life, it is his duty to respect religiously its progress and the same duty forbids him either to halt the course of nature or to prevent its natural development.Thus the part played by nature and the part played by man are precisely determined. Your professional training and experience enable you to know the part played by nature and by man, together with the rules and laws to which both are subject. Your conscience, enlightened by reason and by faith under the guidance of divine authority, teaches you on the one hand what you may lawfully do and on the other hand what you are in duty bound to refrain from doing.In the light of these principles, We now propose to lay before you some considerations on the apostolate to which your profession binds you. Every profession willed by God carries with it a mission – the mission to carry out, within the bounds of the profession itself, the plan and intention of the Creator and to help man to understand the justice and the holiness of the divine scheme and the benefit that will be given to those who carry it out.I: YOUR PROFESSIONAL APOSTOLATE IS CARRIED OUT FIRST AND FOREMOST THROUGH YOUR PERSONAL INFLUENCEYour advice is expectedWhy is your service called for? Because people are convinced that you know your business, because you know what is good for the mother and child, because you are aware of the dangers to which both are exposed and how these same dangers may be avoided and overcome. Your advice and help are expected, limited though they may be and not infallible, but in keeping with the latest developments both in theory and in fact of the profession in which you specialise.And if all this is expected of you, it is because people have confidence in you, and this confidence is, above all, something personal. Your character must inspire it. That this confidence in you be not misplaced is not only your keen desire, but also something demanded by your office and profession and consequently your bounden duty. Hence you strive to reach the summit of the knowledge of your craft.Your Professional competenceBut your professional skill is demanded, too, by the nature of your apostolate. What weight, in point of fact, would your views on the moral and religious issues connected with your office carry, if you were seen to be lacking in professional knowledge? On the other hand your intervention in the moral and religious field will be the more effective if, by your superior technical ability, you command respect. To the favorable opinion that you will deservedly win for yourselves there will be added also in the minds of those who seek your help, the well founded belief that your Christian convictions faithfully put into practice, far from being an obstacle to your professional worth, will be its support and guarantee. It will be plain to all that in the exercise of your profession you are aware of your responsibility before God – and that it is your faith in God which is the strongest argument encouraging you to give your assistance with greater devotion in proportion to the gravity of the need. In this solid religious foundation you find the strength to counter any unreasonable and immoral claim from whatever quarter with a calm, undaunted and unswerving denial.Christian sincerityEsteemed and appreciated as you are for your personal conduct no less than for your knowledge and experience, you will find the care of mother and child will be readily confided to you, and, perhaps even without you yourselves realizing it, you will exercise a profound, often silent, but efficacious apostolate of a living Christianity. Great, in fact, as may be the moral authority due to qualities strictly professional, your personal influence will find its fulfillment chiefly in the twofold guarantee of genuine human feeling and real christian living.II: THE SECOND ASPECT OF YOUR APOSTOLATE IS YOUR ZEAL TO UPHOLD THE VALUE AND INVIOLABILITY OF HUMAN LIFEYour dutyThe world today has urgent need of conviction in this regard by the threefold testimony of mind, heart and facts. Your profession offers you the possibility of giving such testimony and even lays upon you the duty of doing so. Sometimes this testimony will take the form of a simple word spoken tactfully at the right moment to the mother or the father; more frequently it will be expressed in your demeanor and the conscientious way in which you act will have an unobtrusive but effective influence on them both. You more than anyone else are in a position to know and appreciate what human life is in itself and to determine its worth in the light of sound reasoning, of your own moral conscience, of civil society, of the Church, and, above all, in the eyes of God. The Lord has made all the other things on earth for man, and man himself, both in his existence and in his essence, has been fashioned for God and not for other creatures, even though, in so far as his behavior is concerned, he has a duty to the community. Now even the unborn child is ‘man’ to the same degree and by the same title as the mother.The life of the infant, even unborn, belongs to GodFurthermore every human being, even a child in the mother’s womb, has a right to life directly from God and not from the parents or from any human society or authority. Hence there is no man, no human authority, no science, no medical, eugenic, social, economic or moral ‘indication’ that can offer or produce a valid juridical title to a direct deliberate disposal of an innocent human life; that is to say, a disposal that aims at its destruction whether as an end or as a means to another end which is, perhaps, in no way unlawful in itself. Thus for example, to save the life of the mother is a very noble end; but the direct killing of the child as a means to that end is not lawful. The direct destruction of the so-called ‘life without value’ whether born or yet to be born, such as was practiced very widely a few years ago, cannot in any way be justified. Hence when this practice began, the Church formally declared that it was against the natural law and the divine positive law, and consequently unlawful to kill, even by order of the public authorities, those who were innocent but, on account of some physical or mental defect, rendered useless to the State and a burden upon it (Decree of the Holy Office, 2nd December 1940 –Acta Apost. Sedis Vol. xxxii, 1940, pages 553-554). The life of one who is innocent is untouchable, and any direct attempt or aggression against it is a violation of one of the fundamental laws without which secure human society is impossible. We have no need to teach you in detail the meaning and the gravity in your profession of this fundamental law. But never forget that there rises above every man-made code and above every ‘indication’ the faultless law of God.‘Thou shalt not kill’The apostolate of your profession demands of you that you pass on to others that knowledge of human life, that regard and respect for it, which your Christian faith nurtures in your hearts.You must, when called upon, be prepared to defend resolutely and to protect, when possible, the helpless and hidden life of the child, following the divine precept ‘Non occides,’ Thou shalt not kill (Exod. 20:13). Such defensive action becomes at times most necessary and urgent, but nevertheless, it is not the most noble and important part of your mission. This, in fact, is not purely negative, but is eminently constructive and it aims at encouraging, edifying and strengthening.The child is a gift from God’s loveInstill into the minds and hearts of the mother and father the esteem and joyous desire of the new-born child so that it is welcomed with love from the moment of its birth. The child, formed in the womb of the mother, is a gift from God (Ps. 126:3), who confides its care to the parents. With what a delicate and charming touch does Holy Writ describe the children seated at table with their father! They form the reward of the just man, whereas sterility is often the punishment of the sinner. Listen to the divine utterance expressed with the matchless poetry of the Psalmist: ‘Thy wife as a fruitful vine, on the sides of thy house. Thy children as olive plants, round about thy table. Behold, thus shall the man be blessed that feareth the Lord!’ (Ps. 127:3-4). But of the wicked man it is written: ‘May his posterity be cut off; in one generation may his name be blotted out’ (Ps. 108:13).Hasten to lay the new-born child in the arms of the father as did the Romans of old, but do it for an incomparably higher motive. With the Romans it was a recognition of paternity and of the authority that arises from it; with us, it will be to pay homage to the Creator, to call down God’s blessing and to undertake to carry out with devout affection the office which God has entrusted to him. If Our Lord praises and rewards the faithful servant for having made good use of five talents (cf. Matt. 25:21), what praise, what a recompense, will He not set aside for the father who has protected and reared for Him the human life which was confided to him; a treasure of greater value than all the gold and silver in the world.Help the mother to enjoy her happinessYour apostolate, however, is concerned above all with the mother. Without doubt the voice of nature speaks in her and places in her heart the desire, the courage, the love and the will to take care of the child; but in order to overcome the suggestions of faint-heartedness from whatever cause, that voice needs to be strengthened and to strike, so to speak, a supernatural note. It falls to you, by your bearing and manner of acting rather than by words, to make the young mother realize the greatness, the beauty, the nobility of that life which now is awakening, and which is being shaped and quickened in the womb, the life that is born of her, that she carries in her arms and nourishes at her breast. It rests with you to help her to appreciate the greatness of the gift of God’s love for her and for her child. The Sacred Scriptures bring to our ears with many examples an echo of the prayers of supplication and, then, of the hymns of grateful joy of many mothers whose prayers at length were heard after having long implored with tears the grace of motherhood. And those sorrows, too, which, after original sin, the mother has to suffer to bring her child into the world, help to bind more tightly the link which unites them. Her love is in proportion to her suffering. This has been expressed with moving and profound simplicity by Him who has formed the hearts of mothers: ‘A woman, when she is in labour, hath sorrow because her hour is come; but when she hath brought forth the child, she remembereth no more the anguish, for joy that a man has been born into the world’ (John 16:21). Besides, the Holy Spirit, by the pen of the Apostle St Paul, shows once again the grandeur and joy of motherhood; God gives the child to the mother but in giving it, He makes her cooperate effectively in the unfolding of the flower, the seed of which He had sown in her, and this cooperation becomes the way that leads her to eternal salvation.’She shall be saved through child-bearing’ (1 Tim. 2:15).This perfect agreement between faith and reason gives you a guarantee that you are in the right and that you can pursue with unconditional security your apostolate of appreciation and love of the life that is being born. Should you succeed in exercising this apostolate at the side of the cradle in which the newly-born utters its first cries, it will not be difficult for you to achieve what your conscience as midwives, in keeping with the law of God and of nature, expects you to prescribe for the good of the mother and the child.The ‘burden’ of childrenIt is not, moreover, necessary for Us to prove to you who have experienced it, how essential nowadays is that apostolate of appreciation and love for the new life. Unfortunately, cases are not rare in which even a cautious reference to children as a ‘blessing’ is enough to provoke a downright denial and perhaps even derision. Far more frequently, in thought and in words, the attitude of considering children a heavy ‘burden’ predominates. How opposed is this frame of mind to the mind of God and to the words of Holy Scripture, and, for that matter, to sound reason and the sentiment of nature ! Should there be conditions and circumstances in which parents, without violating the law of God, can avoid the ‘blessing’ of children, such cases of force majeure, however, by no means authorize the perversion of ideas, the disparaging of values, the belittling of the mother who has had the courage and the honor to give life.Be ready to baptize, if necessaryIf what We have said up to now deals with the protection and the care of the natural life, it should hold all the more in regard to the supernatural life which the newly-born infant receives with baptism. In the present economy there is no other way of communicating this life to the child who has not yet the use of reason. But, nevertheless, the state of grace at the moment of death is absolutely necessary for salvation. Without it, it is not possible to attain supernatural happiness, the beatific vision of God. An act of love can suffice for an adult to obtain sanctifying grace and supply for the absence of baptism; for the unborn child or for the newly-born, this way is not open. If, then, we hold that charity towards our neighbor imposes upon us the obligation of helping him in case of necessity, this obligation is increased in proportion to the importance of the good to be procured or the evil to be avoided. Again, it is increased when the person in need is unable to help or save himself. It is, therefore, easy to understand the importance of giving baptism to the infant completely without the use of reason, when it is in serious danger or facing certain death. Undoubtedly this obligation is binding in the first place on the parents; but in urgent cases, where there is no time to lose, or it is impossible to obtain a priest, yours is the sublime duty of administering baptism. Do not, then, fail in performing this charitable service and in exercising this active apostolate of your profession. Let the words of Jesus be your comfort and your encouragement: ‘Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy’ (Matt. 5:7). And what act of mercy is greater or more beautiful than to ensure for the soul of the infant between the threshold of life it has just crossed and that of approaching death, the entrance into a glorious and happy eternityIII: THE THIRD ASPECT OF YOUR APOSTOLATE MAY BE DESCRIBED AS HELPING THE MOTHER IN THE PROMPT AND GENEROUS FULFILLMENT OF HER MARITAL DUTIESMotherhood is a share in God ‘s goodness and powerScarcely had Mary most holy understood the Angel’s message than she replied: ‘Behold the handmaid of the Lord! Be it done unto me according to thy word’ (Luke 1:38). An eager acceptance of the vocation of motherhood! Virginal motherhood incomparably superior to any other; yet a real motherhood in the true and proper meaning of the word (cf. Gal. 4:4). For this reason, when reciting the Angelus and after recalling Mary’s acceptance, the faithful finish at once with: ‘And the Word was made flesh’ (John 1:14).It is one of the fundamental requirements of the right moral order that, with the use of the conjugal rights, there should correspond a sincere acceptance of the duties of motherhood. On this condition, the woman follows the path traced by the Creator to the end He has appointed for the creature, making her, by the exercise of that function, a sharer in His goodness, His wisdom, and His omnipotence in accordance with the Angel’s announcement; ‘Concipies in utero et paries’ – ‘Thou shalt conceive in thy womb and shalt bring forth a son’ (Luke 1:31).If such then is the biological foundation of your professional activity, the urgent object of your apostolate will be to strive to sustain, to reawaken and stimulate the mother’s instinct and the mother’s love.Lawful and unlawful requestsWhen spouses value and appreciate the honor of producing a new life, and await its coming with a holy impatience, your part is a very easy one; it will be sufficient to cultivate this interior sentiment in them; the readiness to welcome and cherish that growing life follows automatically. Unfortunately, however, it is not always the case; the child is often not wanted; worse still, its coming is often dreaded. In such conditions, how can there be a ready response to the call of duty ? Your apostolate in this case must be both powerful and effective; primarily, in a negative way, by refusing any immoral cooperation; then also in a positive way, by deftly applying yourselves to the removal of preconceived ideas, various fears or faint-hearted excuses; and as far as possible to remove also the external obstacles which may cause distress where the acceptance of motherhood is concerned. You may come forward unhesitatingly where you are asked to advise and help in the bringing forth of new life, to protect it and set it on its way towards its full development. But, unfortunately, in how many cases are you rather called upon to prevent the procreation and preservation of this life, regardless of the precepts of the moral order? To accede to such requests would be to abuse your knowledge and your skill by becoming accessories to an immoral act; it would be the perversion of your apostolate. It demands a calm but unequivocal refusal to countenance the transgression of God’s law or the dictates of your conscience. It follows, therefore, that your profession requires that you should have a clear knowledge of this divine law, so that it may be respected and followed without excess or defect.The Church condemns birth PreventionOur Predecessor, Pius XI, of happy memory, in his Encyclical Casti Connubii, December 31st, 1930, solemnly proclaimed anew the fundamental law governing the marital act and conjugal relations; he said that any attempt on the part of the husband and wife to deprive this act of its inherent force or to impede the procreation of a new life, either in the performance of the act itself, or in the course of the development of its natural consequences, is immoral, and furthermore, no alleged ‘indication’ or need can convert an intrinsically immoral act into a moral and lawful one (cf. Acta Apost. Sedis, vol, xxn, 1930, p. 559 et seq. English translation Christian Marriage, C.T.S., 9d.).This precept is as valid today as it was yesterday, and it will be the same tomorrow and always, because it does not imply a precept of human law but is the expression of a law which is natural and divine.Let these words be your unfailing guide in all cases where your profession and your apostolate demand of you a clear and unequivocal decision.Direct sterilization is immoralIt would be more than a mere want of readiness in the service of life if the attempt made by man were to concern not only an individual act but should affect the entire organism itself, with the intention of depriving it, by means of sterilization, of the faculty of procreating a new life. Here, too, you have a clearly established ruling in the Church’s teaching which governs your behavior both internally and externally. Direct sterilization – that is, the sterilization which aims, either as a means or as an end in itself, to render child-bearing impossible – is a grave violation of the moral law, and therefore unlawful. Even public authority has no right, whatever ‘indication’ it may use as an excuse, to permit it, and much less to prescribe it or to use it to the detriment of innocent human beings. This principle has already been enunciated in the above mentioned Encyclical of Pius XI on Christian Marriage (pp. 564-565). So therefore, ten years ago, when sterilization came to be more widely used, the Holy See was obliged to make an explicit and solemn declaration that direct sterilization, whether permanent or temporary, of the man or of the woman, is unlawful, and this by virtue of the natural law from which the Church herself, as you well know, has no power to dispense (Decree of the Holy Office, February 22nd, 1940; Acta Apost. Sedis, 1940, p. 73).Do all you can, therefore, in your apostolate, to oppose these perverse tendencies, and refuse your cooperation in them.Natural sterility or the ‘infertile period’The further serious problem presents itself today whether and how far the obligation of readiness to fulfill the duty of motherhood can be reconciled with the ever increasing recourse to the periods of natural sterility (the so-called agenesical periods in the woman), a practice which seems to be the clear expression of a will opposed to that readiness.You are rightly expected to be well informed, from the medical point of view, of this well-known theory and of the progress which can still be foreseen in this matter; and moreover, your advice and help are expected to be based, not on simple, popular publications, but on scientific facts and the authoritative judgment of conscientious specialists in medicine and biology. It is your office, and not that of the priest, to instruct married people, by private consultation or through serious publications, on the medical and biological aspect of the theory, without, however, allowing yourselves to be led into advocating this in a manner which is neither right nor discreet. But in this field, too, your apostolate demands of you as women and as Christians that you know and defend the moral law to which this theory is subordinated. And here the Church is competent to speak.In the first place, there are two hypotheses to be considered. If the application of this theory means nothing more than that married people use their matrimonial rights even during the time of natural sterility, there is nothing to be said against it; by so doing, they do not in any way prevent or prejudice the consummation of the natural act and its further natural consequences. It is precisely in this that the application of the theory We are discussing is essentially distinct from the abuse of it already mentioned, which consists of a perversion of the act itself. If, however, a further step is made, that is, of restricting the marital act exclusively to that particular period, then the conduct of the married couple must be examined more attentively. Here, again, two alternatives must be considered.The marital right itselfIf, even at the time of the marriage, it was the intention of the man or woman to restrict the marital right itself to the periods of sterility and not merely the use of that right, in such a way that the other partner would not even have the right to demand the act at any other time, that would imply an essential defect in the matrimonial consent. This would invalidate the marriage itself, because the right deriving from the marriage contract is a permanent right, uninterrupted and continuous, of each of the partners in respect of the other.The use of the marital rightIf, on the other hand, the limitation of the act to the times of natural sterility refers not to the right itself but only to the use of the right, there is then no question of the validity of the marriage. Nevertheless, the moral lawfulness of such conduct would be affirmed or denied according as to whether or not the intention to keep constantly to these periods is based on sufficient and reliable moral grounds. The sole fact that the couple do not offend against the nature of the act and that they are willing to accept and bring up the child that is born notwithstanding the precautions they have taken, would not of itself alone be a sufficient guarantee of a right intention and of the unquestionable morality of the motives themselves.The primary dutyThe reason is that marriage binds to a state of life which, while conferring certain rights, at the same time imposes the accomplishment of a positive work which belongs to the very state of wedlock. This being so, the general principle can now be stated that the fulfillment of a positive duty may be withheld should grave reasons, independent of the good will of those obliged to it, show that such fulfillment is untimely, or make it evident that it cannot equitably be demanded by that which requires the fulfillment-in this case, the human race.The marriage contract, which gives the spouses the right to satisfy the inclinations of nature, established them in a state of life, the married state. Nature and Creator impose upon the married couple who use that state by carrying out its specific act, the duty of providing for the conservation of the human race. Herein we have the characteristic service which gives their state its peculiar value-the good of the offspring. Both the individual and society, the people and the State, and the Church herself, depend for their existence on the order which God has established on fruitful marriage. Hence, to embrace the married state, to make frequent use of the faculty proper to it and lawful only in that state, while on the other hand, always and deliberately to seek to evade its primary duty without serious reasons, would be to sin against the very meaning of married life.Reasons that may exemptSerious reasons, often put forward on medical, eugenic, economic and social grounds, can exempt from that obligatory service even for a considerable period of time, even for the entire duration of the marriage. It follows from this that the use of the infertile periods can be lawful from the moral point of view and, in the circumstances which have been mentioned, it is indeed lawful. If, however, in the light of a reasonable and fair judgment, there are no such serious personal reasons, or reasons deriving from external circumstances, then the habitual intention to avoid the fruitfulness of the union, while at the same time continuing fully to satisfy sensual intent, can only arise from a false appreciation of life and from motives that run counter to true standards of moral conduct.Here you will perhaps urge a point, and say that sometimes, whilst engaged in your profession, you find yourselves face to face with very delicate cases, namely, those in which to run the risk of motherhood cannot be demanded, nay, where motherhood must be absolutely avoided, and where on the other hand the use of sterile periods either does not afford a sufficient safeguard, or where, for other reasons, it must be discarded. And so, you ask, how it is still possible to speak of an apostolate in the service of motherhood?God’s law may require complete abstentionIf, in your sure and experienced judgment, the circumstances definitely demand a ‘No,’ that is to say, that motherhood is unthinkable, it would be a mistake and wrong to prescribe a ‘Yes.’ Here it is a question of concrete facts, and therefore a medical, not a theological question, and so it is within your competence. However, in such cases, the married couple do not ask you for a medical answer, an answer which must necessarily be negative; they seek rather your approval of a ‘technique’ of marital relationship that is proof against the risk of motherhood. So, here again, you are called upon to exercise your apostolate, in as much as you leave no doubt that, even in extreme cases, every preventive practice and every direct attack on the life and development of the seed is forbidden and banned in conscience, and that there is only one thing to do, and that is, to abstain from any complete use of the natural faculty. In this matter your apostolate demands clear and certain judgment and a calm firmness.It will be objected, however, that such abstinence is impossible, that heroism such as this is not feasible. At the present time you can hear and read of this objection everywhere, even from those who, because of their duty and authority, should be of quite a different mind. The following argument is brought forward as proof: No one is obliged to do the impossible and no reasonable legislator is presumed to wish by his law to bind persons to do the impossible. But for married people to abstain for a long time is impossible. Therefore they are not bound to abstain: divine law cannot mean that.God’s help is a reality to those who want itIn such manner of argument a false conclusion is reached from premises which are only partially true. To be convinced of this, one has simply to reverse the terms of the argument: God does not oblige us to do the impossible. But God obliges married people to abstain if their union cannot be accomplished according to the rules of nature. Therefore, in such cases, abstinence is possible. In confirmation of this argument, we have the doctrine of the Council of Trent which, in the chapter on the necessary and possible observance of the Commandments, referring to a passage in the works of Augustine, teaches: ‘God does not command what is impossible, but when He commands, He commands, He warns you to do what you can and to ask His aid for what is beyond your powers, and He gives His help to make that possible for you’ (Conc. Trid., sess. 6, ch. xi, Denzinger n. 804 – St August. De natura et gratia, ch. 43, no. 50; Migne P.L. vol. 44, col. 271.).Do not be disturbed when, in the practice of your profession and in your apostolate, you hear this clamour about impossibility. Do not let it cloud your internal judgment, nor affect your exterior conduct. Never lend yourselves to anything whatsoever which is opposed to the law of God and your Christian conscience. To judge men and women of today incapable of continuous heroism is to do them wrong. In these days, for many reasons – perhaps through dire necessity, or even at times under pressure of injustice – heroism is being practiced to a degree and extent that in times past would have been thought impossible. Why then, if circumstances demand it, should this heroism stop at the limits prescribed by passion and the inclinations of nature? It is obvious that he who does not want to master himself, will not be able to do so; and he who thinks he can master himself, relying solely on his own powers and not sincerely and perseveringly seeking divine aid, will be miserably deceived.Here, then, you see how your apostolate can win married people over to a service of motherhood, that is, not one of utter servitude to the promptings of nature, but to the exercise of marital rights and duties, governed by the principles of reason and faith.IV: FINALLY, THERE IS AN ASPECT OF YOUR APOSTOLATE THAT CONCERNS THE DEFENCE OF THE RIGHT ORDER OF VALUES AND THE DIGNITY OF THE HUMAN PERSONA wrong principle‘Personal values’ and the need to respect them, is a subject that for the past twenty years has kept writers busily employed. In many of their elaborate works, the specifically sexual act, too, has a position allotted to it in the service of the person in the married state. The peculiar and deeper meaning of the exercise of the marital right should consist in this (they say) that the bodily union is the expression and actuation of the personal and affective union.Articles, pamphlets, books and lectures, dealing in particular even with the ‘technique of love,’ have served to spread these ideas and to illustrate them with warnings to the newly-wed as a guide to marriage that will prevent them neglecting, through foolishness, misplaced modesty, or unfounded scrupulosity, what God, who is Creator also of their natural inclinations, offers to them. If a new life results from this complete reciprocal gift of the husband and wife, it is a consequence that remains outside or, at the most, at the circumference, so to say, of the ‘personal values’: a consequence that is not excluded, but is not to be considered as a focal point of marital relations.According to these theories, the dedication of yourselves to the welfare of the life still hidden in the mother ‘s womb, or to helping the mother to be happily delivered, would be of only minor importance and would take secondary place.Now, if this relative appreciation merely emphasized the value of the persons of the married couple rather than that of the offspring, such a problem could, strictly speaking, be disregarded. But here there is a question of a serious inversion of the order of values and of purposes which the Creator Himself has established. We are face to face with the propagation of a body of ideas and sentiments directly opposed to serene, deep and serious Christian thought. Here again your apostolate must play its part. You may become the confidantes of the mother and wife and be asked questions about the most secret desires and intimate acts of married life. If so, how could you, aware as you are of your mission, make truth and right order prevail in the judgment and relationship of the married couple, unless you yourselves have precise knowledge and a firmness of character necessary to maintain what you know to be true and righteous ?The right principleThe truth is that marriage, as a natural institution, is not ordered by the will of the Creator towards personal perfection of the husband and wife as its primary end, but to the procreation and education of a new life. The other ends of marriage, although part of nature’s plan, are not of the same importance as the first. Still less are they superior. On the contrary they are essentially subordinate to it. This principle holds good for all marriages, even if they are unfruitful: just as it can be said that all eyes are intended and constructed to see, even though in abnormal cases, because of particular internal or external conditions, they can never be capable of giving sight.It was precisely for the purpose of putting an end to all uncertainty and wanderings away from the truth, which were threatening to spread mistaken ideas about the order of precedence in the purpose of marriage and the relationship between them, that We ourselves, some years ago (10th March, 1944), drew up a statement placing them in their right order. We called attention to what the very internal structure of their natural disposition discloses, to what is the heritage of Christian tradition, to what the Sovereign Pontiffs have repeatedly taught, and to what was afterwards definitely stated in the Code of Canon Law (Can. 1013, par. 1). Furthermore, a little while afterwards, to put an end to conflicting opinions, the Holy See, by a public Decree, proclaimed that the appeal of certain modern writers who deny that the procreation and education of the child is the primary end of marriage, or teach that the secondary ends are not essentially subordinate to the primary end, but rather are of equal value and are independent of it, cannot be admitted. (S.C.S. Off., 1st April, 1944 – Acta Apost. Sedis, vol. xxxvi, 1944, p. 103.)The truth about personal valuesDoes that mean a denial or a diminishing of what is good and right in the personal values which result from marriage and from the marriage act ? Certainly not, because in marriage the Creator has destined human beings, made of flesh and blood and endowed with a mind and a heart, for the procreation of new life, and they are called to be the parents of their progeny as human beings and not irrational animals. It is to this end that God wills the union of married people. Indeed Holy Writ says of God that He created human kind to His image, created them male and female (Gen. 1:27), and willed – as we find repeatedly stated in the Holy Bible – that a man ‘shall leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife, and they shall be two in one flesh’ (Gen. 2:24; Matt. 19:5; Eph. 5:31).All this is therefore true and willed by God; but it must not be disjoined from the primary function of marriage, that is, from the duty to the new life. Not only the exterior common life, but also all the personal wealth, the qualities of mind and spirit, and finally all that there is more truly spiritual and profound in married love as such, has been placed by the will of nature and the Creator at the service of the offspring. Of its nature, perfect married life means also the complete self-sacrifice of the parents on behalf of their children, and love of husband and wife in its strength and tenderness is an essential need for the most earnest care for the child and the guarantee that this care will be taken (cf. St Thom. 3.p. q.29a. 2 in c; Suppl. q.49a. 2 ad I.).Artificial InseminationTo consider unworthily the cohabitation of husband and wife, and the marital act as a simple organic function for the transmission of seed, would be the same as to convert the domestic hearth, which is the family sanctuary, into a mere biological laboratory. For this reason, in Our Address of September 29th, 1949, made to the International Congress of Catholic Doctors, We formally rejected artificial insemination in marriage. The marital act, in its natural setting, is a personal action. It is the simultaneous and direct cooperation of husband and wife which, by the very nature of the agents and the inherent quality of the act, is the expression of the mutual giving which, in the words of Scripture, results in the union ‘in one flesh.’This is much more than the union of two life-germs, which can be brought about even artificially, that is, without the cooperation of the husband and wife. The marital act, in the order of, and by nature’s design, consists of a personal cooperation which the husband and wife exchange as a right when they marry.When, therefore, this interchange of rights is, from the beginning, permanently impossible in its natural form, the object of the marriage contract is essentially vitiated. And as We have already stated,’We must never forget this: only when it is carried out according to the will and plan of the Creator does the act of procreating a new life truly achieve, and in so wonderfully perfect a way, the ends sought by it. For then at one and the same time it is true to and satisfies the physical and spiritual nature of man and wife, their dignity as persons, and the normal and happy development of the child’ (Acta Apost. Sedis, Vol xli, 1949, p. 560).It follows that it is for you to tell the fiancée or the young wife who comes to discuss with you the values of married life, that these personal values relating to the body, sense or spirit, are really good and true, but that the Creator has put them in the second place in the scale of values, and not in the first.The dignity of virginityThere is a further consideration which can easily be forgotten. All these secondary values, in regard to generation and its processes, are part of the specific duty of husband and wife, namely, to be the parents and educators of the new living being. A high and noble duty! It does not, however, belong to the essence of a complete human being, as though a human being who did not use the generative faculty would suffer some loss of dignity. To renounce the use of that power does not mean any mutilation of personal and spiritual values, especially if a person refrains from the highest motives. Of such a free renunciation made for the sake of the kingdom of God, the Creator has said: ‘Non omnes cabiunt verbum istud, sed quibis datum est – All men take not this word but they to whom it is given’ (Matt. 19:11).It is therefore a mistake and a departure from the way of moral truth to exalt too highly the generative function even in its right moral setting of married life. This often happens today. Again, it brings the risk of an error of understanding and of misguided affection which hinders and stifles good and noble feelings, especially with young people who have as yet had no experience and are unaware of life’s snares. After all, what normal person, healthy in mind and body, would want to belong to the number of those lacking character and spirit?Do you, however, by your apostolate, wherever you work professionally, enlighten people’s minds and instil into them this right order of values, so that men may regulate their judgment and their conduct by it.Conjugal joy is God’s gift to the marriedOur explanation of the apostolic work of your profession would, however, be incomplete were We not to add a few words more on the defence of human dignity in the use of the generative inclination. The Creator in His goodness and wisdom has willed to make use of the work of the man and woman to preserve and propagate the human race, by joining them in wedlock.The same Creator has arranged that the husband and wife find pleasure and happiness of mind and body in the performance of that function. Consequently, the husband and wife do no wrong in seeking out and enjoying this pleasure. They are accepting what the Creator intended for them.Still, here too, the husband and wife ought to know how to keep within the bounds of moderation. As in eating and drinking, they ought not to give themselves over completely to the promptings of their senses, so neither ought they to subject themselves unrestrainedly to their sensual appetite. This, therefore, is the rule to be followed; the use of the natural, generative instinct and function is lawful in the married state only, and in the services of the purposes for which marriage exists. It follows from this that, only in the married state and in the observance of these laws, are the desires and enjoyment of that pleasure and satisfaction allowed; because pleasure is subject to the law of action from which it springs, and not vice-versa – action made subject to the law of enjoyment of pleasure. And this law, so reasonable, looks not only to the substance but to the circumstances of the action; so that, while the substance of the function is still preserved, sin can be committed by the way it is carried out.Human dignity thrives on mutual respectThe transgression of this law is as old as original sin. However, at the present time, there is a danger of losing sight of this fundamental principle. Today, in fact, it is customary in speaking and in writing (even among some Catholics) to uphold the necessity of personal freedom, the peculiar purpose and value of sexual relationship and its use, independently of the purpose of the procreation of offspring. They would like to submit the order established by God to fresh examination and to a new regulation. They would like no other check in the manner of satisfying this instinct than the observance of what is essential to the instinctive act. For the moral obligation to master our passions, they would substitute freedom to make use of the whims and inclinations of nature blindly and without restraint. This must sooner or later result in harm to morality, to conscience, and to human dignity.If the exclusive aim of nature, or at least its primary aim, had been the mutual giving and possessing of husband and wife in joy and delight; if nature had arranged that act only to make their personal experience happy in the highest possible degree, and not as an incentive in the service of life, then the Creator would have made use of another plan in the formation and constitution of the natural act. Instead, the act is completely subordinate and ordered to the great and unique law, ‘generatio et educatio prolis‘ (the generating and educating of children), that is, to the fulfilment of the primary end of marriage as the origin and source of life.Unfortunately, waves of hedonism never cease to roll over the world. They are threatening to overwhelm the whole of married life in a rising sea of ideas, desires and acts, not without grave danger and to the serious prejudice of the primary duty of husband and wife.Too often people are not ashamed of exalting this anti-Christian hedonism as though it were a doctrine, by inculcating the desire to make the pleasure in the preparation and the act of conjugal union ever more intense; as if the whole moral law governing marital relations consisted of the proper fulfillment of this act – as if everything else, no matter how carried out, finds its justification in the profuse expression of mutual affection, hallowed by the sacrament of matrimony and worthy of praise and reward before God and the conscience of man. All question of man’s dignity and of his dignity as a Christian, both of which are a restraint on sensual excess, are set aside.That is false. The seriousness and holiness of the Christian moral law do not permit the unrestrained satisfying of the sexual instinct, nor such seeking merely for pleasure and enjoyment. It does not allow rational man to let himself be so dominated either by the substance or the circumstances of the act.Some would like to maintain that happiness in married life is in direct ratio to the mutual enjoyment of marital relations. This is not so. On the contrary, happiness in married life is in direct ratio to the respect the husband and wife have for each other, even in the intimate act of marriage. Not that they should regard what nature offers them and God has given them as immoral, and refuse it, but because the respect and mutual esteem which arise from it, are one of the strongest elements of a love which is all the more pure because it is the more tender.Defend the honor of Christian MarriageWhilst performing the duties of your profession, do your utmost to repel the attack of this refined hedonism, which is spiritually an empty thing and therefore unworthy of Christian spouses. Make it clear that nature has undoubtedly given the instinctive desire for pleasure and sanctioned it in lawful wedlock, not as an end in itself, but in the service of life. Banish from your hearts this cult of pleasure, and do your best to stop the spreading of literature which considers it a duty to describe the intimacies of married life under the pretext of giving instruction, guidance and reassurance. In general, common sense, natural instinct, and a short instruction on the clear and simple maxims of the Christian moral law will suffice to give peace to husband and wife of tender conscience. If, in certain special circumstances, a fiancee or young married woman has need of further enlightenment on some particular point, it is your duty prudently and tactfully to give them an explanation which is in agreement with the natural law and a healthy Christian conscience.Our teaching has nothing to do with Manicheism or with Jansenism, as some would like to make out in self-justification. It is simply a defense of the honor of Christian marriage and the personal dignity of husband and wife.To give your services for such a purpose, is a pressing duty of your calling, especially in these days.So we conclude what We had in mind to explain to you.Your profession offers you a vast and varied apostolate, an apostolate not so much of word as of action and guidance; an apostolate that you will be able to exercise usefully only if you are well-informed, in advance, of the object of your mission and of the means to its fulfillment, and, moreover, if you are gifted with a will strong in resolve that is rooted in a deep religious conviction, inspired and enriched by your faith and by Christian charity.
Whilst We implore for you the powerful help of divine light and strength, now as a pledge and earnest of a generous bounty of heavenly graces, We bestow on you from Our heart, Our Apostolic Blessing.
Original Italian Text: AAS 43  853-854
English Translation: Address (Vegliare con sollecitudine) of His Holiness Pius XII, by divine providence Pope, to members of the Congress of the Italian Association of Catholic Midwives on the 29th October, 1951 on marriage and the moral law. London. Catholic Truth Society. 1955. http://www.pamphlets.org.au/docs/cts/england/html/ctss231.html.
La famigliaRadio Message on the Occasion of ‘Family Day’Pope Ven. Pius XIIRome
Sunday, March 23, 19521. The family is the cradle of the birth and development of a new life, which needs to be cared for and nurtured, lest it perish,: this right and fundamental duty given and imposed immediately by God upon parents.
The content and end of education in the natural order is the development of the child to become a complete man: the content and end of Christian education is the formation of the new human being, reborn in baptism, as a perfect Christian. This obligation, which was always custom and pride of Christian families is solemnly enshrined in canon 1113 of the Code of Canon Law, which reads: “Parentes gravissima obligatione tenentur prolis educationem tum religiosam et moralem, tum physicam et civilem pro viribus curandi, et etiam temporali eorum bono providenti.” “Parents are under a grave obligation to see to the religious and moral education of their children, as well as to their physical and civic training, as far as they can, and moreover to provide for their temporal well-being.”
2. The most pressing questions on this vast subject have been clarified on several occasions by Our Predecessors and by Us Ourselves. Therefore, We now propose to you not to repeat what has already been amply explained, but rather to draw attention to an element, which, although the basis and fulcrum of education, especially a Christian one, instead seems to some, at first glance, almost alien to it.
That is, we would like to speak about what is most profound and intrinsic to man: his conscience. We are obliged to you by the fact that some currents of modern thought are beginning to alter its concept and impugn its value. We will treat, therefore, conscience as the object of education.
3. Conscience is like the most intimate and secret core of man. There he takes refuge with his spiritual faculties in absolute solitude: alone with himself, or rather, alone with God – with whose voice conscience resounds – and with himself. There he determines himself for good or for evil; there he chooses between the path of victory and that of defeat. Even if he wanted to, man would never succeed in getting rid of it; with that [conscience], which either approves or condemns, he will travel the whole journey of life, and equally with that truthful and incorruptible witness, he will present himself at the judgment of God. Conscience is, therefore, to speak of it with an image as old as it is worthy, a άδυτον – a sanctuary, at whose threshold all must stop; even if it is a boy, the father and mother. Only the priest enters there as curator of souls and as minister of the Sacrament of Penance; neither for this reason does conscience cease to be a jealous sanctuary, of which God Himself wants the secrecy guarded with the seal of the most sacred silence.
In what sense, then, can one speak about the education of conscience?
THE ESSENCE OF THE CHRISTIAN CONSCIENCE
4. It is necessary to turn again to some fundamental concepts of Catholic doctrine in order to duly understand that conscience can and should be educated. The divine Savior has brought to man, ignorant and weak, his truth and his grace: truth to indicate for him the path that leads to his end; grace to confer upon him the strength to be able to reach it. To follow this path means, in practice, accepting the will and the commandments of Christ and conforming one’s life to them, that is, the individual acts, internal and external, which the free human will chooses and settles upon. Now what is the spiritual faculty which, in specific cases points out the self-same will, so that it may choose and determine the actions that are in accordance with the divine will, if not conscience? It is, therefore, a faithful echo, a clear reflection of the divine rule for human actions. Thus expressions such as ‘the judgment of the Christian conscience,’ or else ‘to judge according to the Christian conscience,’ have this meaning: the rule for the ultimate and personal decision for a moral action must be taken from the word and from the will of Christ. He is, in fact, the way, the truth and the life, not only for all men taken together, but for each one individually (Jn 14:6): it is such for the mature man, it is such for the child and the young person.5. From this, it follows that forming the Christian conscience of a child or a young person consists first of all in enlightening their minds about the will of Christ, his law, his way, and also in acting on their souls, insofar as can be done from outside, similar to persuading them to the free and constant execution of the divine will. This is the greatest task of education.
PREREQUISITES AND SOURCES OF THE EDUCATION OF CONSCIENCE
6. But where shall the educator and the educated find the Christian moral law, concretely and with facility and certainty? In the law of the Creator, engraved on the heart of each one (cf. Rom 2:14-16), and in revelation; that is, in the entirety of the truths and precepts taught by the divine Master. Both the law written in the heart, that is, the natural law, as well as the truths and precepts of supernatural revelation, which Jesus the Redeemer entrusted, as the moral treasure of humanity, into the hands of His Church, so that she may preach them to all creatures, explaining them and transmitting them, intact and free of all contamination and error, from generation to generation.
ERRORS IN THE FORMATION AND EDUCATION OF THE CHRISTIAN CONSCIENCE – THE REVISION DEMANDED OF MORAL NORMS
7. Against this doctrine, uncontested for long ages, there now arise difficulties and objections that must be clarified. As for dogmatic doctrine, so also for the Catholic moral order, one might would want to institute a radical revision in order to deduce a new judgement of it.
The first step, or to say it better, the first blow against the edifice of Christian moral norms would be that of separating them – as is intended – from the constrictive and oppressive vigilance of the authority of the Church, so that, freed from the sophistical subtleties of the casuistic method, morality is restored to its original form and returned to simply the intelligence and determination of the individual conscience.
Everyone sees what disastrous consequences this would lead to, such an devastation of the very foundations of education.
8. Omitting to point out the manifest incompetence and immaturity of judgment of those who hold similar opinions, it will be of use to expose the central flaw of this “new morality.” In leaving every ethical criterion to the individual conscience, it jealously closes in on itself and, having been made the absolute arbiter of its own determinations, far from making the way easier for it [conscience], the way, it would divert it from the highroad, which is Christ.9. The divine Redeemer has entrusted his Revelation, of which moral obligations form an essential part, of course, not to individual men, but rather to His Church, to which he has given the mission to lead them to embrace that sacred deposit with fidelity.Similarly, divine assistance, ordained to preserve Revelation from errors and from deformations, was promised to the Church and not to individuals. Providence also knowing this, because the Church, a living organism, can thus securely and easily both illuminate and even expound upon moral truths, as well as apply them to the variable conditions of the place and time, while maintaining their substance intact. One may think, for example, about the social doctrine of the Church, which, born to respond to new necessities, in the end is nothing but the application of the perennial Christian morality to the present economic and social circumstances.
10. How it is therefore possible to reconcile the providential instruction of the Savior, who committed the guardianship over the Christian moral patrimony to the Church, with a kind of individualistic autonomy of conscience?
This, stolen from its natural climate, can only produce poisonous fruit, which will recognize only compare them with some characteristics of the traditional conduct and Christian perfection, whose excellence is proven by the incomparable works of the Saints.
The ‘new morality’ affirms that the Church, instead of fostering the law of human liberty and of love, and of demanding of you that dynamics which is worthy of the moral life, instead bases itself almost exclusively and with excessive rigidity, on the firmness and the intransigence of Christian moral laws, frequently resorting to the terms ‘you are obliged’, ‘it is not licit’, which has too much of an air of a degrading pedantry.
THE MORAL PRECEPTS OF THE CHURCH FOR THE EDUCATION OF CONSCIENCE IN PERSONAL LIFE
11. Now, on the contrary, the Church desires – and it manifests this clearly in forming consciences – that the Christian becomes introduced to the infinite richness of the faith and of grace in a persuasive manner, in such a way that they feel inclined to penetrate them deeply.The Church, however, cannot refrain from admonishing the faithful that these riches can be neither acquired nor conserved except at the cost of concrete moral obligations. A different approach would end up neglecting a chief principle which Jesus, her Lord and Master, always insisted upon. For he taught that is not enough to say ‘Lord, Lord’ to enter the kingdom of heaven, but one must do the will of the heavenly Father (cf. Mt 7:21).He spoke of the ‘narrow gate’ and the ‘narrow road’ that leads to life (cf. Mt 7:13-14), and added: ‘Strive to enter through the narrow gate: for many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able’ (Lk 13:24). He has established the observance of the commandments as the touchstone and the distinctive sign of love for Himself, Christ (Jn 14:21-24). Like unto the rich young man who asks him, He says: ‘If you would enter life, keep the commandments’ and to the the new question, ‘Which ones?’ He answers: ‘Thou shalt not murder! Thou shalt not commit adultery! Thou shalt not steal! Thou shalt not bear false witness! Honor thy father and mother! And thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself!’ He sets as a requirement for those who want to imitate him, to renounce himself and to take up his cross every day (cf. Lk 9:23). He demands that a man be ready to leave behind, for the sake of Him and His mission, whatever he has most dear, such as his father, his mother, his own children, and even unto his last possession, his own life (cf. Mt 10:37-39). Since He adds: ‘I tell you, my friends, do not fear those who kill the body, and after that can do nothing more. But I will warn you whom to fear: fear him who, after he has killed, has power to cast into hell‘ (Lk 12:4-5).
Thus spake Jesus Christ, the divine Pedagogue, who certainly knows better than men how to penetrate souls and to draw them to his love with the infinite perfections of His Heart, ‘bonitate et amore plenum’ [full of goodness and love] (Lit de sacr. Corde Iesu).
12. And did perhaps the Apostle of the Gentiles, St. Paul, preach otherwise? With his vehement voice of persuasion, revealing the mysterious allure of the supernatural world, he opened up the grandeur and splendor of the Christian faith, the riches, the power, the blessing, the happiness contained with it, offering them to souls as the worthy goal of Christian liberty and as the irresistible end of pure impulses of love. But it is no less true that his admonitions are just as many, such as this one: ‘Work out your salvation with fear and trembling’ (Phil 2:12), and that from his same pen flowed high moral precepts, addressed to all the faithful, whether they are of ordinary intelligence, or rather, souls of high sensitivity. Taking, therefore, the words of Christ and of the Apostle as the strict rule, should not one say that the Church of today is rather inclined more to coddling than to severity? It so happens that the accusation of oppressive rigidity made against the Church by the ‘new morality,’ in reality, attacks, in the first place, the adorable Person of Christ Himself.13. Conscious, therefore, of the right and the duty of the Holy Apostolic See to intervene, when it be necessary, authoritatively in moral questions, We, in the address of October 29 last year, proposed to illumine consciences about the problems of conjugal life. With the same authority we declare today to educators and to the same youth: The divine commandment of purity of soul and of body also applies without diminishment to today’s youth. They too have the moral obligation, and with the help of grace, the possibility of keeping themselves pure. Therefore, we reject as erroneous the claim of those who consider failings inevitable in the years of puberty, considered by them of no great import, as if they were not a grave fault, because ordinarily, they add, passion takes away the liberty necessary so that an act is morally imputable.On the contrary, it is a fitting and wise rule that that the educator, by not neglecting to impress upon the young the noble qualities of purity so as to induce them to love it and desire it for its own sake; nonetheless, he should clearly inculcate the commandment as it stands, in all its gravity and seriousness as a divine ordinance. He will thus urge the young to avoid near occasions [of sin], he will comfort them in the struggle, of which he shall not hide the hardness, he will induce them to embrace courageously that sacrifice which virtue demands, and he will exhort them to persevere and not to fall into the danger of disarming themselves from the beginning and of succumbing without resistance to perverse habits.THE MORAL PRECEPTS OF THE CHURCH FOR THE EDUCATION OF CONSCIENCE ALSO IN PUBLIC LIFE
14. Even more than in the field of private conduct, there are many today who would like to exclude the domain of the moral law from public life, economic and social, from the action of public authorities internally and externally, in peace and in war, as if God had nothing to say here, at least nothing definitive.
The emancipation from morality of external human activities, such as science, politics, art, morality gets justified at times on philosophical grounds by the autonomy that is under their jurisdiction, in their field, of governing themselves exclusively according to their own laws, although it is recognized that these ordinarily coincide with those morals. And one may go to the example of art, for which not only is any dependency denied, but also any relationship with morality, by saying: Art is just art, and not morality or anything else, based upon, therefore, only the laws of aesthetics, which, however, if they are truly such, will not bend to serve concupiscence. In a similar manner, it is said that politics and economics do not need to take advice from other sciences, and, therefore, from ethics, but, guided by their true laws, they are in themselves good and just.
15. It is, as is seen, a subtle way to steal consciences from the empire of moral laws. In truth, one cannot deny that such autonomies are just, insofar as they express the method proper to each activity and to the boundaries that separate their different forms on theoretical grounds; but the separation of methods should not mean that the scientist, the artist, the politician are free of moral solicitudes in the exercise of their activities, especially if these ones have immediate repercussions in the field of ethics, such as art, politics, and economic . The clear and theoretical separation does not make sense in life, which is always a synthesis, since the sole subject of any kind of activity is the same man, whose free and conscious acts cannot escape moral evaluation. By continuing to observe the problem with an ample and practical view, which is sometimes lacking even for distinguished philosophers, such distinctions and autonomies are times for fallen human nature to represent how the laws of art, politics or economics, that which can instead prove to be convenient for concupiscence, selfishness and greed. Thus the theoretical autonomy from morality becomes, in practice, rebellion against morality, and that harmony which is innate to the sciences and the arts is also broken, which the philosophers of that school acutely observe, but they call it random, while it is, instead, essential, if considered by the subject, who is man, and by his Creator, who is God.
16. Therefore, Our Predecessors and We Ourselves, in the turmoil of the war and in the troubled affairs of the post-war period, we have not ceased to insist on the principle that the order willed by God embraces the whole of life, not excluding public life in all its manifestations, persuaded that in this there is no restriction of true human freedom, nor any interference in the competence of the State, but rather a guarantee against errors and abuses, against which Christian morality, if correctly applied, can protect. These truths must be taught to the young and inculcated in their consciences by those who, in the family or in the school, have the obligation to attend to their education, thus laying the seeds of a better future.
17. That’s what we intend to tell you now, beloved sons and daughters who are listening to Us, and in telling this to you, we have not hidden the anxiety that presses upon Our heart for this formidable problem, which touches the present and the future of the world and the eternal destiny many souls. How much comfort it would give Us to be certain that you share this, Our anxiety for the Christian education of youth! Educate the consciences of your children with persistent and persevering care. Educate them to the fear, as to the love of God. Educate them to the truth. But first be true, yourselves, and banish from the work of education whatever is not honest or true. Impress upon the consciences of young people the genuine concept of freedom, real freedom, worthy and proper to a creature made in the image of God. And dissolution and debauchery is quite another thing; whereas, suitability for the good is proven; and that to be resolved on its own to want it and to do it (cf. Gal 5:13); it is the mastery over one’s own faculties, over instinct, over events. Educate them to pray and to draw upon the sources of Penance and of the Most Holy Eucharist, that which nature cannot give: the strength not to fall, the strength to rise again. They already sense from the young that without the help of these supernatural forces they would not succeed in being either good Christians or simply honest men, whose legacy is a serene life. But thus prepared, they will also be able to aspire to the highest excellence, they will be able give themselves over, that is, to that great task in itself, the fulfillment of which will be their merit: to make Christ present in their lives.
18. To achieve this end, We urge all Our beloved sons and daughters of the great human family to be closely united with each other: united in the defense of truth, for the spreading of Christ’s kingdom upon the earth. Every division is banished, any dissent is removed; make sacrifices generously – whatever the cost – for this greater good, for this supreme ideal, every particular view, every subjective preference; ‘If evil greed would summon you elsewhere,’ may your Christian conscience win every test, so that the enemy of God “among you not may deride you” (Dante, Paradiso, Canto V, 79, 81). The vigor of healthy education is proven in its fruitfulness for all peoples, who fear for the future of their youth. Thus shall the Lord pour out upon you and upon your families the abundance of His graces, in pledge of which We impart to you with paternal affection the Apostolic Blessing.
Original Italian: AAS 44  270-278
English Translation: By Andrew Guernsey
Soyez les bienvenuesPope Ven. Pius XIIDiscourse to the Participants in the Congressof the World Federation of Catholic Young WomenBenediction Hall, RomeFriday, April 18, 1952The Theme of the Congress1. We welcome you, beloved daughters of the World Federation of Catholic Young Women. We greet you with the same pleasure, the same joy, and the same affection with which, given years ago, We received you at Castel Gandolfo, on the occasion of the great international meeting of Catholic Women.
The impetus and the wise counsels given you by this Congress, as well as the words which We addressed to you on that occasion have not remained without fruit. We know how you have worked in the meantime to realize the precise aims which were so clear to you. This is shown also by the printed memorandum which you presented to us when today’s Congress was being prepared: “The Faith of Youth—Problem of our Time.” Its thirty-two pages have all the weight of a large volume, and We have studied it with great attention, for it sums up and synthesizes the results of many different studies on the state of the Faith among the Catholic youth of Europe. Its conclusions are most instructive.
2. In Our allocution of September 11, 1947, at which you were present, as well as in many other allocutions both before and since, We Ourselves have treated of a whole series of questions which are touched upon in these pages. Today We should like to take the occasion of this meeting to tell you what we think of a certain phenomenon which is showing itself in some degree everywhere in the life of faith of Catholics, and which, in a manner, affects everyone, but especially youth and its educators, and which is referred to in several passages of your memorandum, especially when you say: “Confusing Christianity with a code of precepts and prohibitions, young people have the feeling that they are suffocating in this climate of the ‘moral imperative,’ and it is not a small minority among than who cast off this ‘cumbersome baggage.’”
A New Conception of the Moral Law
3. We could call this phenomenon a “new conception of moral life,” since there is in it a tendency which is clearly present in moral questions. Now it is on the truths of faith that the principles of morality are based, and you know how fundamentally important it is for the preservation and development of faith that the conscience of the young man and the young woman be formed at a very early age, and developed according to true and sound moral standards. Thus the “new conception of Christian morality” touches very directly on the problem of the faith of the youth.
We have already spoken of the “new morality” in our last radio message of March 23rd, to Christian Educators. What We say today is not merely a continuation of what We said then; We wish today to uncover the hidden sources of this conception. We might term it “ethical existentialism,” “ethical actualism,” “ethical individualism”—all understood in the restrictive sense that We shall later explain, and as expressed in what has otherwise been called “situationsethik,” or “morality according to situations.”
“Situation Ethics”—Its Distinctive Sign
4. The distinctive mark of this morality is that it is not based in effect on universal moral laws, such as, for example, the Ten Commandments, but on the real and concrete conditions or circumstances in which men must act, and according to which the conscience of the individual must judge and choose. Such a state of things is unique, and is applicable only once for every human action. That is why the decision of conscience, as the advocates of this ethic assert, cannot be commanded by ideas, principles and universal laws.
5. Christian faith bases its moral requirements on the knowledge of essential truths and their mutual relationship. This is what St. Paul, in his epistle to the Romans (1:19-21) teaches about religion as such, whether it be Christian or prior to Christianity. Through the creation of the world, says the apostle, man catches sight of, and, one may say, grasps the Creator, His everlasting power and His divinity—and this, so clearly, that he knows and feels himself obliged to recognize God and to do Him honor. Thus it is that to neglect this cult or to pervert it in idolatry is seriously sinful, for all men and at all times.
6. This is not the rule laid down by the ethic of which We speak. It does not deny outright general moral concepts and principles (although at times it comes very close to such denial). It may happen often that the decision of conscience will be in harmony with them. Yet they are not, so to speak, a body of premises, from which conscience draws logical conclusions. In a particular case, the case which “happens only once.” Not at all! At the center is found the good, which must be actuated or preserved, in its real and individual value—as, for example, in the domain of faith, the personal bond which links us with God. If a seriously trained conscience decided that abandoning the Catholic faith and joining another religion brings it closer to God, then such a step would be “justified,” even though it is generally classified as “giving up the faith.” Or again, in the domain of morality, another example is the corporal and spiritual gift of one’s, self among young people. Here, a seriously trained conscience could decide that, because of a sincere inclination, physical and sensual intimacies are in order, and these, although allowed only between married persons, would become allowable expressions of this inclination. The open conscience of today would decide in this way because from the hierarchy of values it draws the principle that personality values, being the highest, could either make use of lower bodily or sensual values, or rule them out, according to the suggestions of each individual situation. It has been insistently claimed that, precisely in virtue of this principle, in what concern, the rights of married person, it would be necessary, in case of conflict, to leave to the serious and upright conscience of the parties, according to the demands of concrete situations, the power to frustrate directly the realization of biological values, for the benefit of personality values.
Such judgments of conscience, howsoever contrary they may seem at first sight to divine precepts, would be valid before God, because, they say, in the eyes of God a seriously formed conscience takes precedence over “precept” and “law.”
Hence such a decision is “active” and “productive.” It is not “passive” and merely “receptive” of the decision of the law which God has written in the heart of each one, and still less of the decision of the Decalogue, which the finger of God wrote on tables of stone, making it a duty of human authority to promulgate and preserve it.
The “New Morality” is Eminently Individual7. The new ethic (adapted to circumstances), say its authors, is eminently “individual.” In this determination of conscience, each individual finds himself in direct relationship with God and decides before Him, without the slightest trace of intervention by any law, any authority, any community, any cult or religion. Here there is simply the “I” of man and the “I” of the personal God, not the God of the law, but of God the Father, with whom man must unite himself in filial love. Viewed thus, the decision of conscience is a personal “risk,” according to one’s own knowledge and evaluation, in all sincerity before God. These two things, right intention and sincere response, are what God considers! He is not concerned with the action. Hence the answer may be to exchange that Catholic faith for other principles, to seek divorce, to interrupt gestation, to refuse obedience to competent authority in the family, the Church, the State, and so forth.All this would be perfectly fitting for man’s status as one who has come “of age” and, in the Christian order, it would be in harmony with the relation of sonship which, according to the teaching of Christ, makes us pray to God as “Our Father.”This personal view of things spares man the necessity of having to ask himself, at every instant, whether the decision to be taken corresponds with the paragraphs of the law or to the canons of abstract standards and rules. It preserves man from the hypocrisy of pharisaical fidelity to laws; it preserves him both from pathological scruples as well at from the flippancy or lack of conscience, because it puts the responsibility before God on the Christian personally. Thus speak those who preach the “new morality.”It is Alien to the Faith and Catholic Principles8. Stated thus expressly, the new ethic is so foreign to the faith and to Catholic principles that even a child, if he knows his catechism, will be aware of it and will feel it. It is not difficult to recognize how this new moral system derives from existentialism which either prescinds from God or simply denies Him, and, in any case, leaves man to himself. It is possible that present-day conditions may have led men to attempt to transplant this “new morality” into Catholic soil, in order to make the hardships of Christian life more bearable for the faithful. In fact, millions of them are being called upon today, and in an extraordinary degree, to practice firmness, patience, constancy, and the spirit of sacrifice, if they wish to preserve their faith intact. For they suffer the blows of fate, or are placed in surroundings which put within their reach everything which their passionate heart yearns for or desires. Such an attempt can never succeed.The Fundamental Obligations of the Moral Law9. It will be asked, how the moral law, which is universal, can be sufficient, and even have binding force, in an individual case, which, in the concrete, is always unique and “happens only once.” It can be sufficient and binding, and it actually is because precisely by reason of its universality, the moral law includes necessarily and “intentionally” all particular cases in which its meaning is verified. In very many cases it does so with such convincing logic that even the conscience of the simple faithful sees immediately, and with full certitude, the decision to be taken.10. This is especially true of the negative obligations of the moral law, namely those which oblige us not to do something, or to set something else aside. Yet it is not true only of these obligations. The fundamental obligations of the moral law are based on the essence and the nature of man, and on his essential relationships, and thus they have force wherever we find man. The fundamental obligations of the Christian law, in the degree in which they are superior to those of the natural law, are based on the essence of the supernatural order established by the Divine Redeemer. From the essential relationships between man and God, between man and man, between husband and wife, between parents and children; from the essential community relationships found in the family, in the Church, and in the State, it follows, among other things, that hatred of God, blasphemy, idolatry, abandoning the true faith, denial of the faith, perjury, murder, bearing false witness, calumny, adultery and fornication, the abuse of marriage, the solitary sin, stealing and robbery, taking away the necessities of life, depriving workers of their just wage (James 5:4), monopolizing vital foodstuffs and unjustifiably increasing princes, fraudulent bankruptcy, unjust maneuvering in speculation—all this is gravely forbidden by the divine Lawmaker. No examination is necessary. No matter what the situation of the individual may be, there is no other course open to him but to obey.11. For the rest, against “situation ethics,” We set up three considerations, or maxims. The first: We grant that God wants, first and always, a right intention. But this is not enough. He also wants the good work. A second principle is that it is not permitted to do evil in order that good may result (Rom 3:8). Now this new ethic, perhaps without being aware of it, acts according to the principle that the end justifies the means. A Christian cannot be unaware of the fact that he must sacrifice everything, even his life, in order to save his soul. Of this we are reminded by all the martyrs. Martyrs are very numerous, even in our time. The mother of the Maccabees, along with her sons; Saints Perpetua and Felicitas, notwithstanding their newborn children; Maria Goretti, and thousands of others, men and women, whom the Church venerates—did they, in the face of the “situation” in which they found themselves, uselessly or even mistakenly incur a bloody death? No, certainly not, and in their blood they are the most explicit witnesses to the truth against the “new morality.”The Problem of the Formation of Conscience12. Where there are no absolutely binding standards, independent of all circumstances or eventualities, the situation which “happens only once” demands, it is true, in its uniqueness, an attentive examination, in order to decide which rules are to be applied, and how. Catholic morality has always, and extensively, treated this problem of the formation of one’s conscience with a preliminary examination of the circumstances of the case to be decided. The whole of its teaching offers a precious aid to the definite guidance of conscience, whether theoretical or practical. Let it suffice to mention to explanations of St. Thomas, still of value, on the cardinal virtue of prudence and the virtues connected with it (S. The. 2a, 2ae, q. 47-57). His treatise shows his understanding of a sense of personal activity and of actuality, which contains whatever true and positive elements there may be in “ethics according to the situation,” while avoiding its confusion and wanderings from the truth. Hence, it will be enough for the modern moralist to follow the same line, if he wishes to make a thorough study of the new problem.The Christian education of conscience is far from neglecting personality, even that of the young girl and the child, or from strangling initiative. All sound education aims at rendering the teacher unnecessary, little by little, and making the one educated independent, within proper limits. This is also true of the education of the conscience by God and the Church. Its aim is, as the Apostles says (Eph, 4:13; cf. 4:14) “The perfect man, according to the measure of the fullness of the age of Christ,” that is to say, a man who is of age, and who also has the courage which goes hand in hand with responsibility.It is necessary, however, that this maturity finds its place in the right plan! By means of His Church through which He continues to act, Jesus Christ remains the Lord, the head, and the master of every individual man, whatever may be his age and state. The Christian, for his part, must take up the serious and sublime task of putting into practice, in his personal life, his professional life, and social and public life, in so far as it may depend on him, the truth, the spirit, and the law of Christ. This is what we call Catholic morality, and it leaves a vast field of action for personal enterprise and the personal responsibility of the Christian.Dangers to the Faith of Youth13. We are anxious to say this to you. The dangers besetting the faith of our young people are today extraordinarily numerous. Everyone knew this and knows it, but your memorandum is particularly instructive on this subject. Nevertheless, We feel that few of these dangers are as great or so heavy in foreboding as those which the “new morality” creates for faith. The errors arising from such distortions, from such softening of the moral duties, which flow quite naturally from faith, would in time lead to the poisoning of its very well-spring. This would be the death of faith.Two ConclusionsFrom all that We have said about faith, We shall draw two conclusions, two directives, which We should leave with you, in order that they may give direction and life to the whole of your conduct as valiant Christians.The first: The faith of your people must be a faith that prays. Youth must learn how to pray. Let this prayer always be in the measure and in the form suitable to one’s years, but always with the realization that without prayer it is impossible to remain true to the faith.The second: Youth must be proud of its faith, and acknowledge that it costs something. From earliest childhood, young people must accustom themselves to sacrifices for their faith, to walk before God with an upright conscience, and to reverence whatever He orders. Then youth will grow, quite readily, in the love of God.May the charity of God, the grace of Jesus Christ, and the communication of the Holy Spirit (2 Cor. 13:13) be with you all. This is Our wish for you with most fatherly affection. As a pledge of this affection We give, with all our heart, to each of you and to your families, to your movement, and all its branches throughout the world, and to all your members, the Apostolic Blessing.
French Original: AAS 44  413-419.
English Translation: Translator: Rev. Francis J. Ostrowski, Pius XII on Work and Commerce, Editors: Robert G. Kennedy and Stephanie Rumpza, University of St. Thomas. https://www.stthomas.edu/media/catholicstudies/center/ryan/publications/publicationpdfs/piusxiipdf/Pius_Section_II_51-53.pdf#page=17.
Nous vous souhaitonsPope Ven. Pius XII
Discourse to the Participants of the International Congress
on Psychotherapy and Clinical PsychologyConsistory HallMonday, April 13, 1953[…]
11. Original sin did not take away from man the possibility or the obligation of directing his own actions himself through his soul. It cannot be alleged that the psychic troubles and disorders which disturb the normal functioning of the psychic being represent what usually happens. The moral struggle to remain on the right path does not prove that it is impossible to follow that path, nor does it authorize any drawing back.
12. Man is an ordered unit and whole, a microcosm, a sort of state whose charter, determined by the end of the whole, subordinates to this end the activity of the parts according to the true order of their value and function. This charter is, in the final analysis, of an ontological and metaphysical origin, not a psychological and personal one. There are those who have thought it necessary to accentuate the opposition between the metaphysical and the psychological. A completely wrong approach! The psychic itself belongs to the domain of the ontological and metaphysical.
13. We have recalled this truth to you in order to base on it a remark about man in the concrete, whose internal order is being here examined. Indeed, the effort has been made to establish the contradiction between traditional psychology and ethics relative to modern psychotherapy and clinical psychology.
14. Traditional psychology and ethics, it is affirmed, have for their object the abstract being of man, <homo ut sic> (man as such), who assuredly exists nowhere. The clarity and logical connection of these disciplines merits admiration, but they suffer from a basic fault. They are inapplicable to real man as he exists. Clinical psychology, on the contrary, deals with real man, with <homo at hic>. And the conclusion is: Between the two conceptions there opens an abyss impossible to surmount as long as traditional psychology and ethics do not change their position.
15. The study of the constitution of real man, ought, in fact, to take as object “existential” man, such as he is, such as his natural dispositions, the influences of his milieu, education, his personal development, his intimate experiences and external events have made him. It is only man in the concrete that exists. And yet, the structure of this personal ego obeys in the smallest detail the ontological and metaphysical laws of human nature of which We have spoken above. They have formed it and thus should govern and judge it. The reason behind this is that “existential” man identifies himself in his intimate structure with “essential” man.
16. The essential structure of man does not disappear when individual notes are added to it. It is not further transformed in another human nature. But the charter, of which We spoke just now, rests precisely in its principal terms on the essential structure of real man, man in the concrete.
17. Consequently, it would be erroneous to establish for real life norms which would deviate from natural and Christian morality, and which, for want of a better word, could be called “personalist” ethics. The latter would without doubt receive a certain “orientation” from the former, but this would not admit of any strict obligation. The law of the structure of man in the concrete is not to be invented but applied.[…]
36. Neither psychology nor ethics possesses an infallible criterion for cases of this kind, since the workings of conscience which beget this sense of guilt have too personal and subtle a structure. But in any case, it is certain that no purely psychological treatment will cure a genuine sense of guilt. Even if psychotherapists, perhaps even in good faith, question its existence, it still perdures. Even if the sense of guilt be eliminated by medical intervention, autosuggestion or outside persuasion, the fault remains, and psychotherapy would both deceive itself and deceive others if, in order to do away with the sense of guilt, it pretended that the fault no longer exists.
37. The means of eliminating the fault does not belong to the purely psychological order. As every Christian knows, it consists in contrition and sacramental absolution by the priest. Here, it is the root of the evil, it is the fault itself, which is extirpated, even though remorse may continue to make itself felt. Nowadays, in certain pathological cases, it is not rare for the priest to send his penitent to a doctor. In the present case, the doctor should rather direct his patient towards God and to those who have the power to remit the fault itself in the name of God.
French Original: AAS 34  278-286
English Translation: https://www.ewtn.com/library/PAPALDOC/P12PSYRE.HTM
Contra doctrinamSupreme Sacred Congregation of the Holy OfficeInstruction on ‘Situation Ethics’To All Ordinaries and to Teachers in Seminaries, in Athenaeums, or those Teaching in Universities of Studies, and to Lecturers in Houses of Religious StudiesFebruary 2, 1956Contrary to the moral doctrine and its application that is traditional in the Catholic Church, there has begun to be spread abroad in many regions, even among Catholics, an ethical system that generally goes by the name of a certain “Situation Ethics,” and which, they claim, does not rest upon the principles of objective ethics (which ultimately is rooted in “Being” itself), rather, it is not merely subject to the same limit as objective ethics, but transcends it.The authors who follow this system hold that the decisive and ultimate norm of conduct is not the objective right order, determined by the law of nature and known with certainty from that law, but a certain intimate judgment and light of the mind of each individual, by means of which, in the concrete situation in which he is placed, he learns what he ought to do.And so, according to them, this ultimate decision a man makes is not, as the objective ethics handed down by authors of great weight teaches, the application of the objective law to a particular case, which at the same time takes into account and weighs according to the rules of prudence the particular circumstances of the “situation”, but that immediate, internal light and judgment. Ultimately, at least in many matters, this judgment is not measured, must not and cannot be measured, as regards its objective rectitude and truth, by any objective norm situated outside man and independent of his subjective persuasion but is entirely self-sufficient.According to these authors, the traditional concept of “human nature” does not suffice; but recourse must be had to the concept of “existent” human nature, which in many respects does not have absolute objective value, but only a relative and, therefore, changeable value, except, perhaps, for those few factors and principles that pertain to metaphysical (absolute and unchangeable) human nature.Of the same merely relative value is the traditional concept of the “law of nature”. Thus, many things that are commonly considered today as absolute postulates of the natural law, according to their opinion and doctrine, rest upon the aforesaid concept of existent nature and are, therefore, but relative and changeable; they can always be adapted to every situation.Having accepted these principles and put them into practice, they assert and teach that men are preserved or easily liberated from many otherwise insoluble ethical conflicts when each one judges in his own conscience, not primarily according to objective laws, but by means of that internal, individual light based on personal intuition, what he must do in a concrete situation.Many of the things set forth in this system of “situation ethics” contradict the truth of the matter and the dictates of sound reason, betray traces of relativism and modernism, and wander far from the Catholic doctrine handed down through the centuries. In many of their assertions they are akin to several non-Catholic ethical systems.Having considered these things, in order to avert the danger of the “New Morality,” of which the Supreme Pontiff Pope Pius XII spoke in the Allocutions held on the days of March 23 and April 18, 1952, and in order to safeguard the purity and intactness of Catholic doctrine, this Supreme Sacred Congregation of the Holy Office interdicts and prohibits this doctrine of “Situation Ethics” from being taught or approved, under any name whatsoever it may be designated, whether in Universities, Athenaeums, Seminaries or houses of religious formation, or in books, dissertations, lectures, whether, as they say, at conferences, or by any other means of being propagated or defended.Given in Rome, from the Buildings of the Supreme Sacred Congregation of the Holy Office, on the day of February 2, of the year 1956.Giuseppe Cardinal PIZZARDO, Bishop of Albano, Secretary
Latin Original: AAS 48  144-145
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