THE SERVANT GENERAL
ST. JOHN PAUL’S TEACHING ON THE FAMILY
April 28, 2015
We have been focusing on how the liberals are assaulting Church
teaching on human sexuality. But it is not just opposing such
assaults, but understanding God’s plan for family and
life. And indeed, if we did not clearly know what authentic
Church teaching is, then how can we wisely resist the assaults
on our faith?
St. John Paul II’s luminous teaching
on the family has been left out of the Synod. It shouldn’t
April 21, 2015 (LifeSiteNews.com) -- Saint John Paul II’s
luminous writings on the nature of the human person, marriage
and family life and sexuality have markedly improved the Church’s
pastoral approach to spouses, youth and engaged couples. This
wisdom based on the Church’s doctrines and his insights
from his intense work with Catholic spouses and families over
many years has not yet been fully integrated in the Church’s
pastoral programs and was not cited in the first Synod on
In my forty years of professional work with several thousand
Catholic spouses and families, I, like many Catholic mental
health professionals, have found his writing to be a special
gift for couples and youth and an ongoing source of insight
and wisdom to guide our efforts to strengthen marriages and
John Paul II’s Love and Responsibility, Role of
the Christian Family in the Modern World and Theology
of the Body and Letter to Families can help
spouses understand the nature of self-giving love they are
called to in regard to romantic love, friendship, and betrothed
love/intimacy in their sacrament of marriage.
Dr. Janet Smith believes that Love and Responsibility
should be recognized as one of the great books of Western
civilization along with Homer's Iliad, Dante's Inferno
and Augustine's Confessions.
In Love and Responsibility St. John Paul II describes
the movement of the heart, will, mind and body from romantic
love to friendship to the total gift and surrender of oneself
in what he describes as betrothed love.
Romantic love is at an initial emotional stage of love. It
is fickle and cannot, in a lasting way, determine a person’s
attitude to another. Serious problems develop in Catholic
marriages and in dating relationships because of an excessive
reliance upon romantic love. For example, unresolved family
of origin sadness, anger, mistrust and insecurity can emerge
and result in deep emotional pain that can be falsely blamed
on one’s spouse.
John Paul II’s caution about relying excessively upon
romantic love in Love and Responsibility should be communicated
in Catholic families and schools, as well as pre-cana and
marital enrichment programs. It should include the following:
people marry even when they have not established true friendship;
there is a sense of loss of emotion of romantic love, spouses
feel they are in a vacuum and believe that true love is
emotions of romantic love are not strong enough to sustain
friendship and sacrificial giving;
trust is placed in romantic love and the development of
true friendship based on trust and common goals can be minimized;
feeling of the loss of a feeling of romantic love becomes
the end of love itself which is a great defect in modern
love can never accomplish true unification;
love does not consist primarily of a consuming romantic
love (frequently accompanied by sexual relations);
may hide the need for true friendship based on trust, common
goals and sacrificial giving resulting in failures in marriage.
Romantic love must evolve into friendship. Here the will is
decisive, always wanting good for the other and for oneself.
When the two persons will their own good and the good of the
other, they create a friendship based on trust, which results
in a true unification.
True friendship takes time to develop, needs the emotional
warmth supplied by romantic love, brings about a sincere commitment
based on objectives and goal values, is tested in many ways
including by its degree of independence from romantic love,
is not confined to the emotions, has a distinctive feature
of common sharing and sacrificing, creates a milieu of closeness
of common sharing, work or vision, which prepares for the
creation of the atmosphere needed for family life.
In this loving friendship there exists a particular responsibility
- the responsibility for a person who is drawn into the closest
possible partnership in the life and activity of another,
and becomes in a sense the property of whoever benefits from
this gift of self. John Paul wrote that the greater the feeling
of responsibility for the person the more true love there
This view of marital love differs completely from the psychological
view of marriage, which is that one pursues one’s own
happiness without any true responsibility for one’s
The unification of the two persons must first be achieved
by way of love and friendship and sexual relations between
them can only be the expression of unification already complete.
Many serious marital conflicts develop because true friendship
with common goals and sacrificial giving was never established.
Pope Benedict wrote of the movement from romantic love to
a deeper marital friendship in his first encyclical, “Love
now becomes concern and care for the other. No longer is it
self-seeking, a sinking into the intoxication of happiness;
instead it seeks the good of the beloved: love becomes renunciation
and it is ready, and even, willing to sacrifice," Deus
Caritas Est, n. 6.
The true unification of persons takes place when the persons
focus on the "we" instead of the "I."
Betrothed love, which is self-giving and surrenders the "I,"
goes out toward the other person to a far greater degree than
love’s other forms.
Betrothed love goes even beyond friendship. It doesn’t
seek just the good of the other, but totally surrenders to
the other. By this self-giving, both the subject and the interpersonal
relationship are enriched. By betrothed love, the relationship
becomes more than friendship.
The most uncompromising form of love consists precisely in
self-giving, in making one's inalienable and non-transferable
'I' someone else's property.
In the order of love, a person can surrender to God, or to
another person. However, by betrothed love, persons can totally
give themselves to another. They can step out of their "I,"
surrender their "I," and in so doing, their "I"
Jesus said, "He who would save his soul shall lose it,
and he who would lose his soul for my sake shall find it again."
Take away from love the fullness of self surrender, the completeness
of personal commitment, and what remains will be a total denial
and negation of it.
Jesus’ words "would lose - shall find" go
beyond the personalities norm, showing that persons have unique
laws of development.
In marriage, the woman feels that her role is surrender, while
the man’s experience is quite different. This viewpoint
is insufficient, because examination of the marital relationship
shows that the man should give himself in return for his wife’s
If the man withholds this total surrender, then he is in danger
of using his wife as an object. Even though their self-giving
is different, both man and woman must make a mutual self-surrender.
Unfortunately this "gift of self" is interpreted
as purely sexual. In truth, self-giving cannot be limited
to sexual activity, because without a total self-gift, sexual
activity is utilitarian. One can feel used. Here the personalistic
norm is clearly in agreement with the moral code, which identifies
marriage with the full surrender of betrothed love.
Marital intercourse, by focusing love on the spouse, helps
to develop betrothed love. Only when limited to the spouse,
can married love be truly ready for the child who is conceived
from intercourse. This connection between sex and the person
is manifest in the special awareness of the "I,"
by which every sexual giving always requires a giving of the
Betrothed love absolutely needs the other forms of love, especially
romantic love and friendship. Without these "allies,"
self-sacrificing persons might find a void within themselves.
They would then become helpless in the face of internal and
Contraception harms love
Contraceptive use harms romantic love, friendship and betrothed
love psychologically by fostering the unconscious development
of selfishness and mistrust of God and one’s spouse.
Sexual giving always requires the giving of the whole person.
St. John Paul II wrote of the use of contraceptives in marriage,
“Couples act as arbiters of the divine plan and they
manipulate and degrade human sexuality - and with it themselves
and their married partner- by altering its value of “total”
self-giving. The innate language (of the body) that expresses
the total reciprocal self-giving of husband and wife is overlaid
through contraception by an objectively contradictory language,
namely that of not giving oneself totally to one’s spouse"
(Familiaris Consortio, n.32).
He went on, “"Safe sex" is radically not safe
& indeed it is extremely dangerous. The danger is the
loss of truth about one’s own self and about the family
together with the risk of a loss of freedom and consequently
of a loss of love itself” (FC, n.42).
Those planning the schedule for the next Synod of the Family
in October 2015 should include the luminous wisdom of the
icon of God’s mercy, St. John Paul II, to help Catholic
marriages and families and the entire culture.