At the end of its plenary assembly Friday, the Canadian episcopal conference issued a pastoral message encouraging the faithful to "discover or rediscover" Pope Paul VI's 1968 encyclical 40 years after its publication. The message, titled "Liberating Potential," draws a connection between "Humanae Vitae" and Pope John Paul II's theology of the body.
The bishops said the encyclical's prophetic character cannot be denied, especially in view of “the troubling evolution of two fundamental human institutions, marriage and the family.” The message goes on to say that family and marriage “continue to be affected by the contraceptive mentality feared and rejected in the encyclical of Pope Paul VI.”
Though the '68 encyclical is most known for its rejection of artificial contraception, the bishops affirmed that it is much more than that.
"This encyclical is in reality a major reflection on God’s design for human love. It proposes a vision of 'the whole man and the whole mission to which he is called ... both its natural, earthly aspects, and its supernatural, eternal aspects.' It is an invitation to be open to the grandeur, beauty and dignity of the Creator’s call to the vocation of marriage," they wrote.
The message goes on to draw a connection between "Humanae Vitae" and John Paul II's 1979-1984 reflections, now known as the theology of the body.
"[John Paul II's] 'theology of the body' is a pedagogy that helps us understand the true sense of our bodies," they explained. "It offers theological and pastoral insights of astonishing depth and inestimable richness that integrate and clarify those already present in 'Humanae Vitae.' It suggests a broader view of the very meaning of human existence, a meaning that constitutes the response to every human being’s quest for happiness: learning to love as God loves, learning to give oneself."
The Canadian prelates also call for a more profound reflection on married life and the meaning of sexual intercourse. They encourage Catholics and all men and women of good will to reflect on both in the light of "Humanae Vitae" and the theology of the body.
"Sexuality is […] a gift of God,” the message affirms. "It is revealed to us by the Trinitarian God” who invites Christians and others “to reveal it in turn in all its grandeur and dignity to our contemporaries at this start of the third millennium.”
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On the Net:
Pastoral message: www.cccb.ca/site/images/stories/pdf/humanae_vitae_en.pdf