GENERAL AUDIENCE OF 18 JULY 
Returning from Castel Gandolfo by helicopter on Wednesday, 18 July,
Pope John Paul II gave the second in his series of talks on "Humanae
Vitae" at the general audience in St Peter's Square. Following is our
translation of the Holy Father's address.
1. In the Encyclical Humanae Vitae we read: "The Church, in
urging men to the observance of the precepts of the natural law, which
it interprets by its constant doctrine, teaches as absolutely required
that in any use whatever of marriage there must be no impairment of its
natural capacity to procreate human life" (HV, n. 11).
At the same time this same text considers and even emphasizes the
subjective and psychological dimension when it speaks of the
significance, and precisely of the "two significances of the marital
The significance becomes known with the rereading of the
(ontological) truth of the object. Through this rereading, the
(ontological) truth enters, so to speak, into the cognitive dimension—subjective
Humanae Vitae seems to draw our attention especially to this
latter dimension. Among other ways, this is also indirectly confirmed by
the following sentence: "We believe that our contemporaries are
especially capable of seeing that this teaching is in harmony with human
reason" (HV n. 12).
Moral norm and its reason
2. That reasonable character does not only concern the truth of the
ontological dimension, namely, that which corresponds to the fundamental
structure of the marital act. It also concerns the same truth in the
subjective and psychological dimension, that is to say, it concerns the
correct understanding of the intimate structure of the marital act. It
concerns the adequate rereading of the significances corresponding to
this structure and of their inseparable connection, in view of a morally
right behavior. Herein lies precisely the moral norm and the
corresponding regulation of human acts in the sphere of sexuality. In
this sense we say that the moral norm is identified with the rereading,
in truth, of the language of the body.
3. Therefore, the Encyclical Humanae Vitae therefore contains the
moral norm and its reason, or at least an examination of what
constitutes the reason for the norm. Moreover, since in the norm the
moral value is expressed in a binding way, it follows that acts in
conformity with the norm are morally right, while acts contrary to it
are intrinsically illicit. The author of the encyclical stresses that
this norm belongs to the natural law, that is to say, it is in
accordance with reason as such. The Church teaches this norm, although
it is not formally (that is, literally) expressed in Sacred Scripture.
It does this in the conviction that the interpretation of the precepts
of natural law belongs to the competence of the Magisterium.
However, we can say more. Even if the moral law, formulated in this way
in Humanae Vitae, is not found literally in Sacred Scripture,
nonetheless, from the fact that it is contained in tradition and—as
Pope Paul VI writes—has
been "very often expounded by the Magisterium" (HV n. 12) to the
faithful, it follows that this norm is in accordance with the sum
total of revealed doctrine contained in biblical sources (cf. HV
Revealed by God
4. It is a question here not only of the sum total of the moral
doctrine contained in Sacred Scripture, of its essential premises and
the general character of its content. It is also a question of that
fuller context to which we have previously dedicated many analyses when
speaking about the theology of the body.
Precisely against the background of this full context it becomes evident
that the above mentioned moral norm belongs not only to the natural
moral law, but also to the moral order revealed by God. Also from
this point of view, it could not be different, but solely what is handed
down by Tradition and the Magisterium and, in our days, the Encyclical
Humanae Vitae as a modern document of this Magisterium.
Paul VI writes: "We believe that our contemporaries are especially
capable of seeing that this teaching is in harmony with human reason" (HV
n. 12). We can add that they are capable also of seeing its profound
conformity with all that is transmitted by Tradition stemming from
biblical sources. The bases of this conformity are to be sought
especially in biblical anthropology. Moreover, we know the significance
that anthropology has for ethics, that is, for moral doctrine. It seems
to be totally reasonable to look precisely in the "theology of the body"
for the foundation of the truth of the norms that concern the
fundamental problematic of man as "body": "The two will become one
flesh" (Gn 2:24).
Reread and reflect
5. The norm of the Encyclical Humanae Vitae concerns all men,
insofar as it is a norm of the natural law and is based on conformity
with human reason (when, it is understood, human reason is seeking
truth). All the more does it concern all believers and members of the
Church, since the reasonable character of this norm indirectly finds
confirmation and solid support in the sum total of the theology of the
body. From this point of view we have spoken in previous analyses about
the ethos of the redemption of the body.
The norm of the natural law, based on this ethos, finds not only a new
expression, but also a fuller anthropological and ethical foundation
in the word of the Gospel and in the purifying and corroborating action
of the Holy Spirit.
These are all reasons why every believer and especially every theologian
should reread and ever more deeply understand the moral doctrine of the
encyclical in this complete context. The reflections we have been making
here for some time constitute precisely an attempt at this rereading.