July 25th of this year marks the 25th anniversary of the promulgation of the encyclical, Humanae vitae, by Pope Paul VI. While certainly recognized as being among the most controversial teaching documents in the history of the Church, it is also, arguably, the most prophetic.
Despite the oceans of ink and forests of paper that have addressed this question over the past quarter century, Faith and Reason devotes this issue in its entirety to the subject of Humanae vitae, confident that you will find the contributions within testimony to the enduring and inexhaustible freshness of truth.
The following paper was delivered in an address to the student body, faculty and administration of Christendom College in Front Royal, VA on April 20, 1993. Msgr. Albacete’s talk was arranged and sponsored by theTheology department.
In 1968, when the encyclical Humanae Vitae was promulgated, I was an applied physicist working for the Navy Department. An applied physicist is a creature somewhere between a physicist and an engineer. He (or she) does not have the consolation of thinking that he is pursuing knowledge for its own sake, nor the satisfaction of actually constructing something. Instead, the applied physicist is the Madam who runs the house of ill repute where pure science without money surrenders to technology in order to survive. But in 1968, this was a glamorous profession. We were the high priests of the secular city, the bridge between the ineffable realm of pure science and the concrete satisfaction of people’s desires.
The subject of the encyclical, contraception, did not interest me per se. Although I had already met the woman with whom I was later to consider marriage, I had given no thought toquestions of this kind. Instead, the contraception controversy was interesting to me only as part of the nature of the changes taking place in the post-Conciliar Church in order, or so it was said, to better dialogue with people like me. I had never experienced any problems with the teachings of the Church, but as the only Catholic in the laboratory where I worked, I saw how irrelevant the world of Catholicism was to those around me. I therefore was a strong supporter of the aggiornamento which was said to be taking place. As such, I was totally convinced that the condemnation of contraception would be in one way or another changed. When Humanae Vitae came out, I was not disappointed, but certainly perplexed. Why did the Holy Father side with the opponents of change in this one issue?
I had read the famous “majority” and “minority” reports leaked to the National Catholic Reporter, and I must admit that the position of those calling for change seemed to me superficial, sentimental, and, in fact, dishonest, but what did I know of moral theology anyway? On all other issues I had been on the side of change, so I continued to think that this teaching would also be changed.
I was much more interested on what the Church had to say about the two great issues of the day which touched me directly. As an employee of the Defense Department, I was very interested on what the Church had to say about the war in Vietnam. As a citizen of Washington, DC, I was interested in the Church’s support for the cause of civil rights for African Americans. These were the great issues I discussed with Church-type people, and, in a way, I resented the time now surrendered to the issue of contraception.
It took me one year to come to the conclusion that these issues should not in fact be separated, that they could not be separated, that they were aspects of the same issue. When I realized this, when I recognized the astounding coherence of the Church’s teaching in spite of the enormous pressures for change, I decided that the time for discussion had ended, and I had to take a stand. It was then that I recognized my vocation to the priesthood and agreed to respond to the call. This year, the 25thanniversary of Humanae Vitae, is my 20th anniversary as a priest. The relation between the two is not accidental for me. Humanae Vitae contained the last word I needed to hear before I could hear clearly the call from the Lord. But to repeat, not because of the subject of contraception. It was rather because I recognized a deeper issue behind that debate, the one behind my questions concerning the possibility of building a just society. The issue was that of responsibility for the power given to man to domesticate and humanize nature, to discover its secrets through science and put them at the service of human development. I am still convinced that the most important issue behind Humanae Vitae is the issue of the nature of human dominion over nature for the development of man. I suggest that the context of human dominion over creation provides a privileged access to the truth about human sexuality. This, of course, should not be surprising. For in the book of Genesis, gender differentiation and human dominion over creation are inseparable. After all, Adam’s solitude is first introduced as the need for a helper in the task of human dominion.
In today’s reflections, I should like to explore this link. I propose to do this guided by the thought of Pope John Paul II, who in his first encyclical said that human dominion over creation was the central issue of our times. I suggest to you that his magnificent teaching on a theology of sexuality or a theology of the body, explicitly claimed to be developed to provide an adequate anthropology to the teaching of Humanae Vitae, is in reality a theology of human dominion over creation.
I shall begin with a poem …
II. History, Conscience, and the Tree
When Pope John Paul II visited the former Czechoslovakia on April 12, 1990, soon after the fall of the Communist regime, President Vaclav Havel welcomed him to a gathering of the cultural and non-Catholic leaders by reminding him of a line from a poem written by the Pope when he was Archbishop of Cracow in 1974. These were Havel’s words:
“In one of your poems you asked: `Can history ever run counter to conscience?’ What you intended to say in that exclamation is clear: that history cannot run counter to conscience forever. You were right and with you all those who did not lose hope.”1
President Havel understood what had happened in his country as the victory of conscience over history. In an article appearing in The New York Times on March 1, 1992, Havel wrote that Communism was defeated by “life, by the human spirit, by conscience, by the resistance of Being and man to manipulation.” He warned, however, that Communism’s fundamental error, to reject the centrality of conscience as the key to human history, continues to threaten us with destruction.
“We are looking for new scientific recipes, new ideologies, new control systems, new institutions, new instruments to eliminate the dreadful consequences of our previous recipes, ideologies, control systems, institutions, and instruments … We are looking for an objective way out of the crisis of objectivism.”2
When Havel opposes conscience to “objectivism,” he is not advocating subjectivism. In fact, the “objectivism” he rejects is actually a form or product of subjectivism. It is the claim that “objective reality” is the construction of the human consciousness, in this case, of a purely practical or technological way of thinking. Conscience, on the other hand, appeals to an objective truth beyond the grasp of that kind of thinking. Havel says conscience appeals to a reality which is “personally experienced as the measure of the world.” Conscience, that is, is the measure of the human person’s relation to the Absolute Other. This and only this is our defense from a totalitarianism imposed in the name of scientific objectivity.
Havel saw John Paul II as the one who stood for this primacy of conscience, and so he said to him:
“All that we know about you suggests to us that today, with your charism, you will remind us precisely of these things … The history of our country has ceased running counter to conscience. May we not allow that countercourse to be followed again – under any banner whatsoever.” And then he concluded: “Welcome, Holy Father, among us sinners.”3
John Paul’s teaching on conscience is indeed at the center of his anthropology. At the heart of John Paul’s view of conscience, however, lies a theological vision of human personhood. It is this theological anthropology of John Paul II which I should like to review for you.
The guiding thought of John Paul II is found in the text from the Second Vatican Council most frequently cited in his writings, namely, Gaudium et Spes 22. It contains the Council’s response to modern atheistic humanism. It asserts that it is only in the mystery of Christ – more precisely, in the mystery of the Trinitarian God as revealed in Christ – that the full truth about man is disclosed. John Paul’s theological anthropology is entirely an elaboration of this Conciliar teaching, and his philosophical anthropology is oriented to that purpose.
Consider the poem from which Havel quoted in his words to the Pope. The poem is found in the collection of poems titled Thinking My Country, in the section: “Thinking my Country I return to the tree.”4The tree to which he refers is the tree of the knowledge of good and evil mentioned in the book of Genesis (cf. Gen 2:9). This tree, he writes, is planted in the conscience of his people, and through “the roots of conscience” it has grown “into the Church.” That is, the Church has embodied the conscience of the Polish people. The tree has spread and borne fruit, both good and bad, the result of the “struggles of conscience.” These results are what lies under the events of history. “History lays down events over the struggles of conscience. Victories throb inside this layer, and defeats. History does not cover them; it makes them stand out.” And immediately after this line comes the line quoted by Havel: “Can history ever flow against the current of conscience?”
This tree, therefore, is at the center of John Paul’s view of human history. In the book of Genesis this tree stands for the limits set by God to human dominion over creation, a limit that must be respected lest man destroy himself. At the same time, this tree is at the heart of the drama of the relation between man and woman, the drama of gender and sexuality. That is why it is not surprising that John Paul’s interpretation of the meaning of the tree can be found in his famous “Catechesis on Human Love,” presented, as mentioned above, as the construction of an anthropology clarifying the teaching of Humanae Vitae.
John Paul presented this work in his Wednesday audiences for a period of five years (September 5, 1979 to November 28, 1984). One could see it as the theological equivalent of The Acting Person. John Paul II presents this theological anthropology as a theology of the body. It is the experiences and actions of man through his body that serve as the basis of this anthropology. We should therefore not be misguided by the term “theology of the body” as if it were only a “part” of a theological anthropology. The uniqueness of this work lies precisely in the assertion that an adequate theological anthropology must be a theology of the body.
The particular aspect of bodiliness at the heart of this study is gender differentiation. It is sexuality. In this study the experiences and acts that reveal personhood are experiences of masculinity and femininity.
This is in accord with the teaching of Genesis. Gender differentiation in the creation accounts of Genesis is mentioned only with respect to the human person. It therefore distinguishes Man from the rest of creation (where it is presumed to exist wherever and however necessary for the preservation of thespecies). Gender differentiation is in fact what allows man to discharge his task of human dominion over the animals and creation. The woman is presented as the “helper” of Man in this task. Why? Why woman? Why not another man?
The answer to this question reveals exactly what the task of human dominion over creation entails. It shows us how Man is meant to exercise this task. Think of it this way:
Human gender differentiation reveals Man’s capacity for Love. It is this capacity for love which constitutes Man and defines him as a creature different from the animalia. It is human gender differentiation that makes possible Man’s life of love, and therefore Man’s life as a person. According to Christian revelation, this capacity for love is the basis for saying that Man is created in the image and likeness of God, who is Love. Therefore John Paul II does not hesitate to say (as he does in the encyclical Mulieris Dignitatem, 6) that the image of God in Man is found most clearly in the masculine/feminine duality that characterizes him; more precisely, in the “unity in duality” which love accomplishes between man and woman. Yet, it is because Man is made in the image and likeness of God that he exercises dominion over creation. This dominion, therefore, must be exercised according to the way of love.
John Paul develops his theological anthropology based on Man’s capacity for love through gender differentiation by analyzing the experiences of masculinity and femininity as he finds them in key passages from Scripture. A study of these leads him to postulate the existence of three constitutive states of human existence. These three are: the primordial or original state, the historical state, and the eschatological state. It is important to understand that these three states are not separated by chronological time as historical past, present, and future. What we know as time takes place only within the second state, the historical state. The original state is explicitly called “pre-historical,” and the eschatological state is just that, beyond time and space. Perhaps we should consider these three states as “existential” states, that is, indicating different experiences of human existence with respect to the self, others, nature, and God.
John Paul II sees each state as characterized by what he calls an ethos that reveals the orientation of the human heart. “Heart” designates the center where the physical, psychological, and spiritual forces that characterize man come together either in harmony or in struggle to define the state of the conscience of each human person.
In the first state we find Original Man. Original Man is said to live according to the “ethos of the gift.” This means that Original Man experiences all of creation as an unconditional gift of a God who is Absolute Love. The task of human dominion, therefore, is carried out by respecting all of creation as a gift from God who is Love.
Still within the existential space of pre-history, another ethos makes its appearance after original sin, namely the “ethos of lust” or concupiscence, by which Man seeks to dominate and manipulate creation for his selfish intentions. This constitutes the “Man of Lust.”
The historical state, the one in which we live, the state of Historical Man, is partially characterized by the struggle between these two “ethos”: the original ethos remaining as an “echo” (his own word) of our original state, opposed by the power of lust or concupiscence.
In addition, the historical state is characterized by the mysterious presence of a third possible ethos, or orientation of the human heart, namely, the eschatological one, configuring what we might call Heavenly Man. The appearance of this Heavenly Man in history, the possibility of living according to his ethos, the “ethos of blessedness,” is made possible by the Incarnation and paschal mystery of Jesus Christ. He is, of course, The Second Adam, the Celesial Adam or Heavenly Man according to Scripture. That is, the Incarnation and paschal mystery have brought about a new anthropological state available to human beings through Jesus Christ. This new anthropological state is an anticipation, in history, of the final state of Man in the communion of saints,the goal of creation already present in the original state, before the tragedy of sin. This eschatological state is the culmination of the ethos of the gift, where all the life of man, including his physical life, and especially the sexual self at the basis of human love, is entirely transformed by the Holy Spirit into a perfect participation in the life of Absolute Love that is the Trinitarian God.
John Paul’s theological anthropology depends upon the conviction that the events of the Incarnation and the paschal mystery have affected, objectively so, the configuration of the physical, psychological, and spiritual synthesis which constitutes Man. That is, the personal history of Jesus of Nazareth has changed the meaning of what it means to be a man and a woman in history. Let us say that this theological position is an expression of what has been called “objective Christocentrism.” That is, each single human being is so related to Jesus Christ that it is the state of this relationship that will determine whether he or she will be able to succeed in the effort to live as a man or woman are meant to live. We will totally misunderstand John Paul’s anthropology, including the purpose of his philosophy of man, if we do not take seriously this assertion. As he said in his first encyclical, discussing the alienation experienced by man today precisely in his exercise of human dominion, “man is the way for the Church … because man – every man without any exception whatsoever – has been redeemed by Christ, and because with man – with each man without any exception whatever – Christ is in a way united, even when man is unaware of it.”5
In this study, however, John Paul is examining the consequences of this objective Christocentrism for the human experience of masculinity and femininity. This experience, which defines Man, will be the one to reveal most clearly the effects of the personal history of Jesus Christ on the human condition. That is why John Paul does not hesitate to summarize the entire purpose of the Incarnation and the paschal mystery as the redemption of the body. To repeat what was said about the theology of the body, by redemptionof the body John Paul does not mean to signal out one of the results of redemption. Rather, the redemption of the body is redemption itself!
This centrality of gender differentiation in the theological anthropology of John Paul II can be seen in his concept of the sacramentalityof the body. It is important to try to understand what this mean, since it is related to human dominion.
The sacramentality of the body is the theological equivalent of what John Paul calls the nuptial meaning of the body. According to John Paul, the body of the human person as male or female is a “witness to creation as a fundamental gift, and so a witness to Love as the source from which this same giving springs… Such is the meaning with which gender enters the theology of the body.”
In the book of Genesis, gender differentiation had been the response of God to Man’s solitude, or incompleteness, revealed while Man is naming the animals, that is, exercising his dominion over creation. Solitude expresses the truth that Man finds fulfillment in a relationship which he is unable to establish with any other creature under his dominion.
This concept of solitude is absolutely essential to the anthropology of John Paul II. Solitude should not be confused with loneliness. Solitude becomes loneliness, or rather, manifests itself as loneliness, as a result of a distortion within Man. Solitude is what distinguishes Man; it as the heart of the humanum,of personhood. In philosophical terms, solitude signifies Man’s subjectivity constituted through self-knowledge. It is thus the first revelation of Man as person.
The creation of woman is God’s response to Man’s solitude, that is, to Man’s difference from the animals, the difference upon which the task of human dominion depends. The creation of the woman completes the creation of the human being as person, and thus allows Man to exercise his dominion.
The human body, therefore, is a language with a precise meaning. It is a word that says: “seek the other to whom you can give yourself entirely in order to find fulfillment as a person, an other with whom to share your solitude, your difference from the rest of creation, so that you will be able to exercise that dominion which is an expression of your greatness as the image and likeness of God. This “word” communicated by the body of man is the nuptial meaning of the body.John Paul does not hesitate to say that awareness of the nuptial meaning of the body “is the fundamental element of human existence in the world.”
The human body, therefore, like all words, is a symbol that points to the existence of another reality with which union is to be sought and realized. In the case of Man, this union is what we call love. Love is the sincere giving of one’s self to another, so total and complete, that one comes to discover one’s identity by being born so to speak within the other. Still, according to John Paul, the human body is a witness, not just to human love, but to Love itself, that is, to Absolute, Eternally Generating and Fruitful Love; in a word, to the Trinitarian identity of God. Out of this Absolutely Fruitful Love comes the human person, realizing himself and herself through fruitful love by means of masculinity and femininity. That is, in this “original state,” awareness of the nuptial meaning of the body is awareness of Trinitarian Love. It is what the Pope calls a “subjectively beatifying experience;” it is an experience of grace.
Now, a symbol which points towards and unites us with a properly divine reality is what theology calls a sacrament. A sacrament, writes John Paul, is a “sign that transmits effectively in the visible world the invisible mystery hidden in God from time immemorial.”The “invisible mystery” is a theological term borrowed from St. Paul. It designates God’s plan for creation, centered in Man. It designates God’s purpose in creating Man. It is thus the key to the meaning of Man’s history. We know that God’s plan, the Mystery, is to bring Man to a full participation, in Jesus Christ, of the Trinitarian life of Absolute Love. And this is precisely what the nuptial meaning of the body betokens. Hence the notion of the sacramentality of the body. To quote John Paul, “The sacrament, as a visible sign, is constituted with man, as a `body ; by means of his `visible’ masculinity and femininity. The body, in fact, and it alone, is capable of making visible what is invisible: the spiritual and the divine. It was created to transfer into the visible reality of the world the mystery hidden since time immemorial in God, and thus be a sign of it.”“Man, in fact,” he writes, “by means of his corporality, his masculinity and femininity, becomes a visible sign of the economy (another Pauline term closely associated with the concept of mystery) of truth and love, which has its source in God himself and which was revealed already in the mystery of creation.” Creation, that is, has as its purpose Man’s sharing in the Trinitarian Life of Absolute Love. Man was created in the state of grace, that is, of “original innocence,” to use the language of this anthropology. Immersed in the “ethos of the gift,” the ethos of pure Love, Man is not afraid to reveal his deepest self. This is what lies behind the experience of being naked without shame. Man’s masculine and feminine body is absolutely in harmony with, and expressive of, the very holiness of the Triune God of Absolute Love. Hence, writes John Paul, “together with Man, holiness entered the visible world created for him. The sacrament of the world, and the sacrament of man in the world, comes from the divine source of holiness, and at the same time is instituted for holiness. Original innocence, connected with the experience of the nuptial meaning of the body, is the same holiness that enables man to express himself deeply with his own body, and that, precisely, as the `sincere gift’ of himself. Awareness of the gift conditions, in this case, `the sacrament of the body’: in his body as male or female, man feels he is a subject of holiness.”
The masculine and feminine body of Man is the expression of the ethos of grace in which Man was created. But it is in Man that creation itself reaches its apex. Therefore, the “sacramentality of the body” is the expression of the sacramentality of creation itself! This means that creation itself, the fact that there is something rather than nothing, creation precisely as an absolutely “non-divine” reality, the creation of which Man is a part but over which he has dominion, is the manifestation “ad extra” of the deepest and absolutely ineffable secret of God’s life “ad-intra,” namely the Trinitarian identity of a God who is Absolute Love. And it is in human gender differentiation, in human sexuality, that this revelation is disclosed. Man’s dominion over creation, therefore, begins with, and is characterized, with man’s dominion over his sexuality. The two cannot be separated. Man’s sexual life, his life as a unity within the masculine and feminine duality, will always reveal the way Man is exercising his dominion over creation.
Now we are prepared to return to that “Tree” of the knowledge of good and evil which lies at the heart of history, planted in the conscience of men and women. In the book of Genesis, the Tree is related precisely to the task of human dominion, of work, of development of creation’s resources, to the construction of a human civilization with its economic, sociological, and political structures. In Marxist terms (and obviously this is what both Wojtyla and Havel had in mind when relating history to conscience), this work of human dominion is at the center of history; it is the key to the history of Man, since it is through such praxis that Man constitutes himself. The center of this history, however, is not class struggle, as Marxism claims, but another kind of struggle. This “struggle” is centered around the Tree of the knowledge of good and evil. In the Book of Genesis, the task of human dominion is “limited” by this Tree, which is the subject of a command which pre-supposes that Man is free to obey or disobey. This tree, John Paul explains, is planted in the very heart of Man. The history of human dominion over creation will be determined by how Man experiences himself in relation to this Tree. Man’s disobedience of the command to respect the fruits of this Tree was the disobedience of the couple; that is, of Man as male and female. This is not to say that the original sin was a sexual sin; it is to say that sexual behavior is always the measure of Man’s exercise of human dominion over creation.
It is thus not human dominion exercised through particular economic, political, and technological structures that lies at the heart of human history; it is the self-determination of the person in another through fruitful love that lies at the center of history. In his conscience, Man experiences the presence of the Tree of the knowledge of good and evil. His response to this presence will characterize the history of Man. That is why history can never run against the current of conscience. At stake is the survival or the destruction of Man. And this will be decided by how Man is a couple, that is, how Man lives his masculinity and femininity.
III. The Ray of Light
Which direction does conscience follow?, asks Karol Wojtyla in his poem. In which direction grows our land’s history? The tree fknowledge knows no frontiers.
The only frontier, he says, is the Coming which will join into one Body the struggles of conscience and the mysteries of history. Obviously he is referring to the eschatological coming of Jesus Christ, and his theological anthropology explains why. For Man did disobey and eat of the Tree of the knowledge of good and evil. The Man of Lust appeared as a result, replacing the Man of Love. And this was seen precisely in the loss of the experience of the nuptial meaning of the body. As a result, creation itself is questioned; its goodness is suspected or denied. The break in the man/womanrelationship penetrates throughout in the breakdown of all forms of human solidarity and in the change from responsible dominion over creation to domination and manipulation.
Historical Man, however, is not this Man of Concupiscence. He can still hear within himself the echo of the original state. But more important, with the first Coming of Jesus Christ another possibility has been opened to Man, an invitation to enter into the existential space of the ethos of redemption, the anticipation of the eschatological state of the perfect communion of Love. This takes place when we “share the ethos” ofJesus Christ; the Ethos that IS Jesus Christ.
How is this accomplished? In light of what was said above, it is clear that the answer will be revealed most clearly in the area of Man’s life as masculine and feminine, in the redemption of sexuality, the redemption of the body, namely, the restoration of solitude!
As a result of sin, solitude becomes loneliness, radical loneliness, the impossibility, the real impossibility of entering into an inter-personal relation with others, of establishing a communion of persons, and thus of being a person! It is only in Jesus Christ that this existential impasse, this alienation, can be overcome. It can be overcome only by sharing or living within the ethos of Jesus Christ.
I believe that a privileged source for understanding this conviction are the plays written by Karol Wojtyla, particularly three of his major dramas which show how this impasse is experienced by Man, and how it can only be overcome by sharing in the ethos of Jesus Christ.
In Our God’s Brother, the central character, Adam, understands the call to social justice as a call to solidarity with all, especially the poor: a solidarity which was not “external” to him, but internal, that is, somehow he had to be born within each other person (“becoming a child” is the expression Wojtyla uses repeatedly), and the other had to be born of him (“becoming a father”). Adam’s friends propose other forms of social living, each one effectively postulating a split between the inner self, which remains lonely, and the outer self which establishes relationships with others. Adam rejects such a split and continues to believe in the possibility of authentic inter-communion between persons, of solidarity, but he does not know how to achieve it. Tormented by this, he is tempted to follow the “way of anger” urged on him by a character called the “Stranger” who is obviously a revolutionary. True social justice, he holds, requires the destruction of the present corrupt social arrangement, and this will occur only when the anger of the poor reaches critical mass. Revolutionary anger at the heart of human dominion over creation. We know how strong this temptation is for Man. This solution is Adam’s greatest temptation because he recognizes such anger as “just.” But he will not accept this way for himself. The way ultimately chosen by Adam and lived by him is the way of love, to be “moulded by love,” as one of the characters says, and this is possible only because Adam finally recognizes Jesus Christ in each of the poor. Adam has to die with Christ to his old self (a radical “dispossession” of self, he calls it) and be born with Christ within the other. He must become a child in The Eternal Child, a son in the Eternal Son (these are actual words from the drama). Only this makes solidarity possible and does full justice to the truth about Man, about personhood.Only Jesus Christ can make possible the communionofpersons.
In his other two famous plays, The Jeweler’s Shop and Radiation of Fatherhood we find the same teaching, now applied to the most basic of human communities, the one formed precisely through that experience of masculinity and femininity which is at the heart of human dominion over creation and the creation of a just world. In these plays we find the same assertion: without Jesus Christ, without a share in his paschal mystery, it is impossible to be a husband, a wife, a father, a mother, a son, a daughter. It is really impossible. Without Him, personhood, especially experienced through sexuality, remains an enigma experienced as a tragedy.
Listen to how in Radiation of Fatherhood, a drama about the meaning of human procreation, the character Adam explains his refusal to be a father. It will reveal to us exactly what interior spiritual disposition contraception betokens. Adam says: “There could have been (notice the questioning of the goodness of creation, of the gift, which brings about and follows the Fall) an `outward Adam’ to flourish and grow and an `inward Adam’, a lonely one.” It would have been the outward Adam who would reproduce and be a father; not the inward one. Notice how this reduces human reproduction to a purely “external” operation separate from that love which constitutes the person as total gift to the other by breaking the link between sexual love and the radiation of God’s Fatherhood on earth? Is not the teaching of Humanae Vitae precisely that this link may never be broken?
Adam is confronted with the meaning and the possibility of true fatherhood when a character named simply “Woman” or other times “Mother” appears to him with an “invisible child” in her arms. This character is clearly seen to be both the Church and the Virgin Mary (and, in an extended sense, each woman in her femininity, for as we saw, Man becomes a male person through communion with the female person.) The Child of the Woman/Mary/Church is Jesus Christ, and she cries out: “When a child is born, you are born in it anew, and I rejoice in that birth. At the same time – Adam, Adam – I desire you to die in it (to die in the birth of a child, that is, to surrender his own self entirely). I desire your death …”
In order to make this possible, the Woman/Mary/Church says: “I return with the Bridegroom’s death. You resist it. My Bridegroom does not want to remain lonely in his death!”
And why does Adam resist? In Our God’s Brother, that Adam confesses to a priest: “My greatest temptation is the thoughtthat one can love with the intelligence, with the intelligence only, and that this will suffice.” And the Adam of Radiation of Fatherhood replies to the Woman/Mother’s appeal: “All this I know. But is it enough to know?”
Is this not the perfect description of contraception? Is not contraception the separation between intelligence and love? And is not this separation the one that is devastating man through a human dominion over creation entirely dependent on man’s loveless intelligence, that is, on technique, on technology, on what can be done rather on what must be done? Is this not at the heart of the teaching of Humanae Vitae?
Twenty five years ago, through the encyclical Humanae Vitae, the Woman/Mary/Church spoke to today’s Adam with the same message, with her perennial message, with the offer of the redemption of human dominion before Man destroyed his world and himself. By and large, Man has not listened. He is still fascinated by his intelligence without love. He still refuses to become himself a son in the Eternal Son of the Father. When, when will he listen? When will he allow himself to be moulded by love so as to mould his world through love?
In his poem, Karol Wojtyla says that the “Church of conscience” grows at the roots of history, proclaiming and living the life of love. “Love alone,” he writes, “balances fate,” that is, deterministic history. From the Church of conscience emanates a “ray of light” falling into the hearts and shining through the darkness of generations, a stream of light which penetrates our weakness. This is that “radiation of God’s Fatherhood” that the Woman/Mary/Church offers Man. And so the Church of conscience, he writes, keeps watch, keeps vigil. This vigil is what he calls the “liturgy of history,” that is, the expectation of the manifestation of the victory of Jesus Christ, the End which is always an Advent. This is what he calls the celebration of the “Eucharist of the world.” This is the deepest truth concerning creation, the Mystery, of which Man, male and female, husband and wife, father and mother, son and daughter, brother and sister, is the sacrament in the fullest sense.
“To you, earth, we are descending to increase your measure in all men, earth of our defeats and our victories; in all hearts you rise as the paschal mystery.
Earth, you will always be part of our time. Across this time, learning new hope, we move towards a new earth. And we raise you, earth of old, as the fruit of the love of generations that outgrew hate.”
Can history ever flow against the current of conscience? This is the question facing us in our country today. As long as the teaching of Humanae Vitae is not accepted, the degeneration and destruction of man which it foresaw will continue. We must learn this: intelligence is not enough. We must love.
1L’Osservatore Romano, English edition, 30 April, 1990.
2The New York Times, 1 March, 1992, p. E15.
4Karol Wojtyla, Collected Poems, Jerry Peterkiewicz, trans. (New York: Random House, 1982).
4Karol Wojtyla, Collected Poems, Jerry Peterkiewicz, trans. (New York: Random House, 1982).
5Redemptor Hominis, 14.