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The Christian moral tradition has always distinguished between positive norms (which bid us to act) and negative norms (which forbid action). Further, this tradition has constantly and clearly maintained that, among negative norms, those which prohibit intrinsically disordered acts do not admit exceptions; such nets, indeed, are morally “disordered” on account of their own innermost structure, hence in and of themselves, that is, they are opposed to the person in his or her specific dignity as a person. For this very reason, no subjective intention and circumstance (which do not change the structure of these acts) can make such acts morally ordered.

Contraception is one of these acts in itself and of itself it is always a moral disorder since objectively and intrinsically (independently of subjective intentions, motives, and circumstances) it contradicts “the innate language that expresses the total reciprocal self-giving of husband and wife”. H. Paus Johannes Paulus II, Postsynodale Apostolische Exhortatie, Over de taken van het christelijk gezin in de wereld van deze tijd, Familiaris Consortio (22 nov 1981), 32

The same Christian moral tradition just referred to, has also always maintained the distinction – not the separation and still less an opposition – between objective disorder and subjective guilt. Accordingly, when it is a matter of judging subjective moral behaviour without ever setting aside the norm which prohibits the intrinsic disorder of contraception, it is entirely licit to take into due consideration the various factors and aspects of the person’s concrete action, not only the person’s intentions and motivations, but also the diverse circumstances of life, in the first place all those causes which may affect the person’s knowledge and free will. This subjective situation, while it can never change into something ordered that which is intrinsically disordered, may to a greater or lesser extent modify the responsibility of the person who is acting. As is well known, this is a general principle, applicable to every moral disorder, even if intrinsic, it is accordingly applicable also to contraception.

In this line, the concept of the “law of gradualness” has been rightly developed, not only in moral and pastoral theology, but also on the level of pronouncements of the Magisterium itself. However, this law must not in the slightest way be confused with the unacceptable idea of a “gradualness of the law”, as is clearly and explicitly stated in the Exhortation H. Paus Johannes Paulus II - Postsynodale Apostolische Exhortatie
Familiaris Consortio
Over de taken van het christelijk gezin in de wereld van deze tijd
(22 november 1981)
 Vgl. H. Paus Johannes Paulus II, Postsynodale Apostolische Exhortatie, Over de taken van het christelijk gezin in de wereld van deze tijd, Familiaris Consortio (22 nov 1981), 34

One cannot assess personal responsibility without referring to the conscience of the subject. In keeping with its own very nature and purpose, conscience must be “clear” (2 Tim. 1, 3), called as it is to an “open statement of the truth” (2 Kor. 4, 2). Moreover, the moral conscience of the Christian, that of a member of the Church, has a deep inner ecclesial orientation, which makes it open to hearing the teaching of the Magisterium of the Church. The Second Vatican Council addresses spouses thus: “Married people should realize that in their behaviour they may not simply follow their own fancy but must be ruled by conscience – and conscience ought to be conformed to the law of God in the light of the teaching authority of the Church, which is the authentic interpreter of divine law in the light of the gospel” 2e Vaticaans Concilie, Constitutie, Over de Kerk in de wereld van deze tijd, Gaudium et Spes (7 dec 1965), 50

To everyone, but especially to priests who are pastors of souls, is entrusted the task of accompanying couples with a patient and courageous love of helping them to form a conscience which judges according to the truth and of developing an ever more intense spiritual life as is needed to understand the law of God and meet its demands, within a social and cultural context which often provides little or no support. Moral theologians, then, if they do not wish to contradict the professional obligations of one who studies and teaches the moral doctrine of the Church, should not create obstacles for the moral conscience of spouses in the journey towards the truth of their love. This occurs especially when doubts are provoked and confusion created by public challenges to constantly repeated teachings of the Magisterium.

Document

Naam: DE MORELE NORMEN VAN HUMANAE VITAE EN DE PASTORALE PLICHTEN
Soort: L' Osservatore Romano
Datum: 16 februari 1989
Copyrights: © 1989, Libreria Editrice Vaticana
Voorlopig Engelstalige versie
Bewerkt: 7 november 2019

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