Speeches 1999 - Friday, 15 January 1999
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
1. I am very pleased today to receive all of you who work each day in the Vatican Secret Archives and the Vatican Apostolic Library, and to offer you a cordial welcome, which I also gladly extend to your relatives. In particular I greet Archbishop Jorge María Mejía, Archivist and Librarian of the Holy Roman Church, and I thank him for his courteous words on your behalf. With him, I greet Fr Sergio Pagano, Prefect of the Vatican's Secret Archives, and Fr Raffaele Farina, Prefect of the Vatican Apostolic Library.
The title of Librarian, which was already used in the ninth century by Anastasius the Librarian (cf. PL 127- 129), is a clear indication of the venerable age of the institutions to which you belong, as well as of the close ties between them and the Apostolic See.
In fact, your work is not confined to your efforts to preserve the books and manuscripts, the Acts of the Supreme Pontiffs and of the Offices of the Roman Curia, and to handing them on down the centuries, but above all it aims to make available to the Holy See and all the world's scholars the treasures of culture and art kept in the Archives and the Library. For this very reason it is also your duty to carry out attentive and detailed studies of these treasures, often with the help of other experts, so that they can be published with scholarly precision. Proof of your valuable service are the various series which the Library and the Archives continue to publish and disseminate, and which are appreciated by the world of historians, canon lawyers, students of palaeography as well as by specialists in classical literature and ancient music. I would like to thank you for this considerable effort, as I warmly encourage you to continue it and to intensify it with constant zeal.
2. It is easy to understand the interest and care taken by my venerable Predecessors, especially in recent centuries, to create, promote and oversee the Apostolic Library, and later, as a fullyfledged branch of it, the Papal Archives. I am thinking of Nicholas V, Sixtus IV, Sixtus V, Paul V and many other Pontiffs, down to Leo XIII, who decided to open the Archives to scholarly research, and Pius XI, who was himself personally involved in this noble field of interest as Prefect of the Apostolic Library.
The Pontiffs saw the Library and Archives not only as valuable tools of service to culture and art, but as having two other important qualities which I would like to emphasize here because they are always valid and necessary, today perhaps more than in the past.
The first is the relationship between the texts preserved and the exercise of the governance and ministry of the Apostolic See, and especially of the Papal Magisterium. In a certain way, these venerable texts contain and transmit the Church's own memory and therefore the continuity of her apostolic service down the centuries, with its lights and shadows, both of which must be known and made known without fear, but rather, with sincere gratitude to the Lord, who never ceases to guide his Church in the midst of world events.
Pope Leo XIII was very conscious of this years ago, when in 1880 he wished to make the Archives accessible to scholars. In addition, the wonderful decoration with which Sixtus V adorned the Sistine Hall sheds light on the relationship between the Library and the exercise of the Magisterium in two series of frescos: in one part the history of the most important libraries is depicted, and in the other are portrayed the Ecumenical Councils.
3. Attention should be drawn to a second attribute of the Library and Archives and therefore of your work in both, at whatever level. This is your service to the evangelization of culture, indeed, to the new evangelization of culture. You know well that this is a central and vital task for the Church in the contemporary world, to which the Servant of God Paul VI referred in the past with enlightening words in his Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii nuntiandi (cf. nn. 19-20) and which I have mentioned several times. We must find a way to see that the Gospel values communicated to us, together with those that stem from a true humanism, both of which are in fact closely connected, reach men and women of culture, and perhaps even before that, the environments and circles where our present-day culture is created and passed on.
If the Gospel teaches us the absolute primacy of God and the unique salvation in Christ the Lord, this is also the only way to appreciate, respect and truly love the human creature, made in God's image and called to share in the mystery of the Son of God made man. Now, the precious items preserved, studied and made accessible in the Library and the Archives represent in a way the living testimony of the Church's constant proclamation of evangelical values, which uphold true humanism.
4. Dear brothers and sisters, here clearly outlined are the greatness and dignity of your service, even in the apparently humble duties you are sometimes called to fulfil. Know that in fulfilling them you are rendering an important service to the Apostolic See and particularly to the Successor of Peter. You are making a significant contribution to creating the conditions for the men and women involved in the cultural realm to find the way that will lead them to their Creator and Saviour, and therefore to the true and complete fulfilment of their specific vocation in this period of transition from the second to the third millennium.
We are on the eve of the Great Jubilee, so it is appropriate to consider your various commitments and the exhibitions you are organizing or in which you are collaborating - including the one in the Sistine Hall entitled "Becoming Holy" - as opportunities for experiencing the spiritual renewal to which we are all called. Help those who come to the Library or the Archives, those who visit the exhibitions and those who consult the documentary material you preserve to grasp the message that comes from all these testimonies: it is a message that refers to the saving plan of a merciful God, who is the supreme Truth and infinite Good.
5. Finally, I also consider it my duty to make a heartfelt appeal to you all: love, respect and defend this great heritage collected over the centuries by the Roman Pontiffs. It is a question of jealously safeguarding the valuable and inalienable patrimony of the Holy See. Obviously, it is only the Supreme Pontiff who may dispose of them. Therefore everyone should consider it his duty to administer the Apostolic See's property with extreme care, in the knowledge that he is rendering a service to the Church and to the world.
With these wishes, I cordially bless each of you and your daily work.
Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate and the Priesthood,
Dear Young People,
1. Welcome! It is a joy to receive you today for this appreciated visit. I extend my cordial greetings to you all.
With a heart full of gratitude, I thank your rector and welcome his words on behalf of each one of you: they are the expression of a relationship that finds in faith its most authentic value and most complete development.
Your visit coincides with a particularly significant date for you: just over a month ago you celebrated the 90th anniversary of the foundation of your seminary, where numerous priests have been formed for nine decades. Let us thank the Lord for this happy anniversary and for the goals achieved in this period.
2. The date you are celebrating is rich in memories: throughout this century your "home" has welcomed and formed generations of sacred ministers who, in various areas of the ecclesial community, have carried out and continue to carry out their service as deacons, priests, Bishops and Cardinals. Many young people who did not continue on the path of the priesthood also found there, in an important period of their lives, the "face" and concern of a friendly and familiar place.
The date you are commemorating is also rich in promise: your seminary is still fired with enthusiasm today and continues to welcome young people who wish to reflect on a vocation in the Church and for the world. They are offered an educational experience that can transform their intention into a fruitful apostolic reality.
Every seminary is founded with a well-defined aim: to prepare the Church's future ministers in an atmosphere of prayer, study and brotherhood. "Pastores dabo vobis": the Lord promises his flock shepherds "after his own heart" (Jr 3,15). The period spent in the seminary is totally oriented to this goal: to see that the young men preparing for the priesthood undergo this "transformation of the heart", which will spur them to love and serve the Ecclesial Community with the same sentiments as Christ's.
A regional seminary emphasizes how this community and its ministers are rooted in a specific territory, recognizable by specific geographical features, by a common history, by original expressions of life and culture, which, by interacting with the other territorial realities, shape attitudes and customs. The seminary then becomes a privileged instrument of the particular Churches, called to make present "here and now" the mystery of ecclesial communion. It must be an "educational ecclesial community ... committed to formation, the human, spiritual, intellectual and pastoral formation of future priests" (Pastores dabo vobis PDV 61). For this reason, the formation given in your "home" must include a loving and intelligent look at the dynamics that characterize the environment in which the Christian communities of Apulia live and work.
3. From its ancient acceptance of the faith to its modern concerns about secularization, from its popular piety to the outreach of the new evangelization, from the emigration of its ancestors to the current forms of hospitality offered to refugees and immigrants, from its traditional agricultural, pastoral and maritime life to the profound economic and cultural changes of the present day, the characteristics of the region deserve your reflection and must be a constant reference-point in your formation.
From this standpoint, it seems to me that two particularly significant signs emerge from a date so rich in future prospects as your seminary's 90th anniversary: the timeliness, first of all, of the decision taken at the time to establish a structure for philosophical-theological education in Apulia. This has helped entire generations of young people to deepen their knowledge of the relationship, problematic but inescapable, between "fides et ratio". In our century, cooperation between faith and reason has produced great projects; their divergence has given rise to dreadful tragedies.
The second sign can be seen in the teaching, and even more in the lives, of the Pontiffs whose names are more closely associated with your seminary: St Pius X founded it and established it in Lecce, and Pius XI subsequently enlarged it and moved it to Molfetta. The actions of my two venerable Predecessors can shed light on the important challenges that await you. Despite the difficulties that the two Pontiffs had to face both in the Church and in their relations with the secular world, they remain great examples of fidelity to Christ and of ardent zeal for the cause of the Gospel. Their witness is an invitation both to doctrinal soundness and to courageous openness; it is also an incentive to holiness of life and apostolic daring in view of the demands of the contemporary world.
I sincerely hope that the Pontifical Regional Seminary of Apulia will be a "school of apostles" as my Predecessors wished: apostles willing to serve God's People with all their energy. May your seminary form priests who will be sure guides for the faithful in the footsteps of Jesus, the Good Shepherd.
May the Virgin Mary, whom you venerate as the "Regina Apuliae", accompany your steps with her example and her prayers, rekindle your hopes and sustain you in difficult moments, so that the vocational plan which God has for each of you may be fulfilled.
As I assure you of a constant remembrance in my prayer, I cordially impart to you all my Apostolic Blessing.
Mr President of the Regional Board,
Mr President of the Regional Council,
Distinguished Board and Council Members,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
1. I am very pleased to extend a welcome to each of you who, following a happy and well-established tradition, have wished to meet me at the beginning of the New Year. I thank you for your presence and offer fervent wishes for prosperity and peace to the Lazio Region, to yourselves and to your relatives.
In particular, I greet the President of the Regional Council, the Hon. Luca Borgomeo. I am also pleased to express my deep gratitude to the Hon. Piero Badaloni, President of the Regional Board, for his courteous words on behalf of you all and of those you represent.
Your region, with its praiseworthy institutions, its unique human and Christian patrimony, the lights and shadows of its daily life, will soon be called - as the President stressed - to face the extraordinary event of the Great Jubilee of the Holy Year 2000. I am aware of the efforts which for several years now the Regional Administration has been making in preparation for this deadline. I hope that the initiatives proposed will be able to offer pilgrims a hospitality worthy of the region's universal vocation and of the signs of faith found in it.
2. The Jubilee is a spiritual event which primarily concerns the life of believers. However, everyone knows that the importance of Christ's birth for all humanity, the living and active presence of Christians in the world, and the appeals for profound renewal which the jubilee celebrations offer the community of believers extends the Jubilee's influence beyond the confines of the Church and in some way also affects civil society and its institutions.
In offering us an invitation to fix our gaze on the mystery of the Incarnate Word in which "the mystery of man truly becomes clear" (Gaudium et spes GS 22), the Jubilee calls for believers and non-believers to measure themselves against the plan of salvation presented in the books of the Bible, to gain valuable insights from them about the greatness of the human person, whose supreme exaltation is found in Christ. May this vision prompt administrators to reconsider the quality of their service to the citizens, to understand the essential reasons for it and increasingly to purify their intentions and improve their performance.
3. Biblical tradition, received and developed by the Church's social teaching, presents the Jubilee as a time for reestablishing God's justice among human beings. This is an aspect of the Jubilee to which the public administrator cannot be insensitive. It is his task, in fact, to see that the citizens' expectations of justice and solidarity are fulfilled, by constantly asking himself whether every effort has been made to offer everyone the same opportunities, especially regarding access to employment, which the President explicitly mentioned.
Through reflection on the profound meaning of the Jubilee, public administrators are encouraged to work constructively with the social and business sectors in seeking a peace that arises from refusing privileges and from respecting the rights of all, especially the weak and marginalized. They are also spurred to promote dialogue between citizens of different cultures and religions living in the area, in order to combat any kind of racism or intolerance, and to reach out in every way to those who have been prevented until now from fulfilling their authentic aspirations.
4. Distinguished ladies and gentlemen, I wanted to reflect on a few requirements which the Jubilee presents to every administrator's responsible attention.
I hope that the extraordinary event we are preparing to celebrate will find the institution you represent ready to accept them and fulfil them. I hope that the Lazio Region will draw from its history, from the religious, cultural and moral treasures of its peoples and from its administrators' desire to serve, the necessary energy and courage to make the Jubilee a time of justice and peace for everyone.
I once again wish each of you a peaceful and blessed New Year, and I am pleased to offer you the recent Letter I addressed to the world of work in the context of Rome's City Mission. As I assure you of a remembrance in my prayer for your demanding task, I warmly invoke God's blessing upon you, your families and the beloved people of Lazio.
Monday, 18 January 1999
Dear Archbishop Paarma,
It is a special joy for me to welcome you to the Vatican so soon after your appointment as Archbishop of Turku and Finland. The visit I made in 1989 to the Cathedral of Turku and to the home of your predecessor, Archbishop John Vikström, is still vividly etched in my mind. That was an event that greatly strengthened the relations between the Lutheran Church of Finland and the Catholic Church.
Your presence here today is a positive sign that these relations will continue to become ever stronger as we strive to move forward in our joint quest for the restoration of that unity which Jesus Christ desires for his followers. As the Third Christian Millennium rapidly approaches, we are conscious of the need to commit ourselves ever more firmly and irrevocably to the noble goal of Christian unity, and we are aware of the beneficial effects that this unity will have on the new evangelization of Europe and the world.
Upon you and all those under your pastoral care I invoke the abundant blessings of Almighty God.
Distinguished Members of the Provincial Board and Council of Rome,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
1. Welcome! I am pleased to receive you, as is our tradition at the beginning of the New Year, but especially as you begin your service to the Provincial Community of Rome. I cordially greet each of you. In particular, I greet the President of the Provincial Council, the Hon. Alberto Pascucci, and the President of the Provincial Board, the Hon. Silvano Moffa, whom I thank for his words on behalf of his colleagues.
I listened with interest to your reflections on the different themes and I was pleased to note your efforts to give priority to respect for the human person, attention to the role of the family in society, support for the social forces which seek to respond to the many challenges of the present moment. I cannot but encourage these good intentions, asking God constantly to help you and your work.
2. Chosen by the will of the people to exercise a demanding and responsible service to the civil community, you are called to work in your specific competences so that all who reside in the Province of Rome or in some way come into contact with it can look with hope to the present and the future. Yours is a very important mission, to which the Church makes her disinterested contribution.
The Christian community living in a territory does not feel foreign to it or to its problems and development. Although it is true that the various forms of evangelization and political and administrative activity do not coincide at the level of goals or means, it is still obvious that they can and must agree on that mission common to both: service to the human person. Man, as I had occasion to state in my first Encyclical, is "the way for the Church" (Redemptor hominis RH 4). Man must always be the "way" for political involvement and administrative structures: on this way it is possible and necessary to take a path of sharing which involves the energies of both sides.
3. Mr President, in your address a few moments ago you mentioned the policies and goals which are intended to guide the work of the Provincial Board and Council. I hope you will never lack this spiritual motivation which consists in an authentic search for truth, honesty and respect for the human person, concern for the common good and love for your brothers and sisters.
In this regard, may I indicate a few points for consideration which can be useful to your administrative and political work. First of all, it is important to identify a hierarchy of problems and interventions. How can one approach the management of social life without having a scale of priorities? Mr President, you emphasized the need for coordinated and effective interventions especially to benefit those living in difficult situations.
Everyone is immediately struck by the tragedy of old and new forms of poverty. Contemporary society, despite its unquestionable progress, still seems marked by a significant number of women and men who are struggling to live in dignity. It is concern for these less fortunate brethren that distinguishes and characterizes a public structure as a means of service to the community.
Otherwise the so-called "lowliest" risk being forgotten, becoming an ever greater appendage to an affluent society instead of being the focus of its decisions and overall orientation. A network of programmes which aim at the rehabilitation, advancement and integration of individuals and groups, thanks to the resource of volunteers, is indispensable.
4. In the President's words I noted a significant concern for the world of youth. It is true, young people must be one of the priorities of political activity. The younger generation, sometimes even unconsciously, is calling for culture, ideals and authentic spirituality as an antidote to that lack of values by which they feel threatened. The family, the school, the Diocese and the parish are called, while respecting their specific areas of competence, to pool their resources in order to offer the world of youth a society and a future of hope.
The President began by appropriately stressing that this is the year for the opening of the Holy Door through which we will enter the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000. How could I not mention this event of world importance? All the members of the Church and of civil society are invited to support it. The Jubilee, in addition to being a spiritual event, is an opportunity for a profound renewal of society, an occasion to rethink one's personal and collective decisions, a favourable time for a significant turning-point in the lives of individuals and communities.
I sincerely hope that the Jubilee will mark an extraordinary spiritual experience for everyone. I accompany this wish with the assurance of a constant remembrance to the Lord for you and for the mission you are called to fulfil.
With these sentiments, I ask for God's blessing upon you, your families, your co-workers and the entire population of the Province.
Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate and the Priesthood,
Dear Students of the Capranica College,
1. It is a joy to receive you today to mark the feast of your patroness, the holy virgin and martyr Agnes. I cordially greet each of you, who come from various nations. In particular, I greet the rector, Mons. Michele Pennisi, and thank him for his words offered not only in your name, but in the name of Cardinal Camillo Ruini and the members of the special commission which oversees your "Almo Collegio". I thank you all from my heart!
I greatly appreciated the educational goal you have set for this community year. In line with the preparation for the Great Jubilee, it is expressed in the theme: "Charity and mission: as children of the one Father we live brotherhood by freely serving and welcoming others". This is a formation process that will lead you to engage in an increasingly intense and profound dialogue with Jesus, so that later you can bear witness to his saving love among your brothers and sisters.
2. At the origin of every mission in the Church is the call to love. "Looking upon him, he loved him": with these words the Evangelist Mark recounts Jesus' meeting with the young man who "had great possessions" (Mc 10,22). As an alternative to the many things we could own, the Lord offers the one thing that is essential: to leave everything for love and to follow him: "Come, follow me" (ibid., 10:21).
The virgin and martyr Agnes responded with total generosity and an undivided heart to Christ's invitation: she made her own existence an "eloquent and attractive example of a life completely transfigured by the splendour of moral truth" (cf. Veritatis splendor VS 93). Because of this, she herself was able to brighten "every period of history by reawakening its moral sense" (ibid.). Her example encouraged many believers over the centuries to follow in her footsteps. Your College quite rightly chose her as its patroness and today you too look to her as a model to imitate.
Along with her witness you also have that of several students of your seminary, whose beatification causes are under way. The rector recalled them a few moments ago: may their lives spur each of you to be more and more faithful in doing what the Lord will ask of you. May everything in your life be for his greater glory and for the salvation of souls.
3. Our meeting is taking place in the year dedicated to the Father, as we now rapidly approach the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000. I would invite you to turn your gaze to the Holy Door, through which we will enter the Jubilee Year in a spirit of profound conversion. Indeed, we must come to that event with hearts renewed. It is up to priests, in the first place, to be the witnesses and apostles of authentic personal and community renewal. How then in view of the feast of St Agnes, could we not consider the possibility of a heroic fidelity that might, if necessary, reach the point of martyrdom?
I would like to repeat to you today what I proclaimed to the whole Church: "The believer who has seriously pondered his Christian vocation, including what Revelation has to say about the possibility of martyrdom, cannot exclude it from his own life's horizon" (Incarnationis mysterium, n. 13).
I say these words, which may seem hard and demanding, "to you, young men, because you are strong", to borrow the words in which the Apostle John describes you (1Jn 2,14). The world expects total dedication and holiness of life from those whom the Lord calls to serve him most closely. May this be your first concern. Open your hearts to the action of the Holy Spirit and entrust yourselves confidently to the heavenly Father, especially this year.
May Mary, the faithful Virgin, St Agnes and your other holy patrons guide you. For my part, as I assure you of a special remembrance in prayer, I impart my affectionate Blessing to you all and to your loved ones.
1. The solemn opening of the Tribunal of the Roman Rota’s judicial activity offers me the joy of receiving its members to tell them of the Holy See’s esteem and gratitude in following and encouraging their work.
I greet and thank His Excellency the Dean, who has worthily voiced the sentiments of everyone here, giving enthusiastic and profound expression to the pastoral intentions that inspire your daily efforts.
I greet the College of Prelate Auditors, those still serving and those retired, the major and minor officials, the rotal advocates and the students of the Studio Rotale with their family members. I offer you my cordial wishes for the year just begun.
2. His Excellency the Dean dwelt on the pastoral significance of your work, showing its great importance in the Church’s daily life. I share a similar vision and encourage you to cultivate this outlook in all your proceedings, an outlook which puts you in complete harmony with the supreme purpose of the Church’s activity (cf. CIC, c. 1742). On another occasion I mentioned this aspect of your judicial office, with particular reference to procedural questions (cf. Address to the Rota, January 22, 1996, in AAS, 88 , p. 775). Today too, I urge you in the resolution of cases to give priority to the search for truth, using juridical procedures only as a means to this end. The subject I intend to address at today’s meeting is an analysis of the nature of marriage and its essential characteristics in the light of the natural law.
Everyone knows the contribution which the jurisprudence of your Tribunal has made to our knowledge of the institution of marriage by offering a very sound doctrinal reference-point for other ecclesiastical tribunals (cf. Address to the Rota, in AAS 73 , p. 232; Address to the Rota, in AAS 76 , pp. 647f.; Apost. Const. Pastor Bonus, Art. 126). This has made it possible to bring into ever better focus the essential content of marriage on the basis of a more adequate knowledge of the human person.
In the mentality of the contemporary world, however, we can discern a widespread deterioration of the natural and religious meaning of marriage, with troubling repercussions in both the personal and the public sphere. As everyone knows, not only are the properties and ends of marriage called into question today, but even the value and the very usefulness of the institution. While avoiding undue generalizations, we cannot ignore, in this regard, the growing phenomenon of mere de facto unions (cf. Apost. Exhort. Familiaris consortio FC 81, in AAS, 74 , pp. 181f.), and the unrelenting public opinion campaigns to gain the dignity of marriage even for unions between persons of the same sex.
It is not my intention to go on deploring and condemning in a setting such as this, where the primary concern is to correct and redeem painful and often tragic situations. I would like instead to remind not only those who belong to the Church of Christ the Lord, but every one concerned with true human progress, how serious and indispensable are certain principles that are fundamental for human society and even more so for safeguarding the human dignity of every person.
3. The central core and foundation of these principles is the authentic concept of conjugal love between two persons of equal dignity, but different and complementary in their sexuality.
Obviously, this statement must be correctly understood, without falling into the facile misunderstanding that sometimes confuses a vague feeling or even a strong psychophysical attraction with real love for another person, which consists of a sincere desire for his or her welfare and is expressed in a concrete commitment to achieve it. This is the clear teaching of the Second Vatican Council (cf. Gaudium et spes GS 49), but it is also one of the reasons why the two Codes of Canon Law, Latin and Eastern, promulgated by me, declared and set forth the bonum coniugum as also a natural end of marriage (cf. CIC; c. 1055, §1; , 776, §1). A mere feeling is tied to the inconstancy of the human heart; mutual attraction alone, often stemming primarily from irrational and sometimes abnormal impulses, cannot have stability and is thus easily, if not inevitably, prone to fade away.
Amor coniugalis, therefore, is not only and not primarily a feeling, but is essentially a commitment to the other person, a commitment made by a precise act of will. It is this commitment which gives amor the quality of coniugalis. Once a commitment has been made and accepted through consent, love becomes conjugal and never loses this character. Here the fidelity of love, which is rooted in the freely assumed obligation, comes into play. In one of his meetings with the Rota my predecessor, Pope Paul VI, said succinctly: “From a spontaneous feeling of affection, love becomes a binding obligation” (AAS 68 , p. 207).
Faced with the juridical culture of ancient Rome, Christian authors already felt compelled by the Gospel command to surmount the well-known principle that the conjugal bond lasts only as long as the affectio maritalis. They opposed this conception, containing in itself the seeds of divorce, with the Christian vision, which returned marriage to its original unity and indissolubility.
4. Here we sometimes encounter the misunderstanding in which marriage is identified or at least confused with the formal, outward rite that accompanies it. Certainly, the juridical form of marriage represents a civilized advance, since it confers both importance and efficacy on marriage in the eyes of society, which consequently undertakes to safeguard it. But you jurists cannot overlook the principle that marriage consists essentially, necessarily and solely in the mutual consent expressed by those to be married. This consent is nothing other than the conscious, responsible assumption of a commitment through a juridical act by which, in reciprocal self-giving, the spouses promise total and definitive love to each other. They are free to celebrate marriage, after having chosen each other with equal freedom, but as soon as they perform this act they establish a personal state in which love becomes something that is owed, entailing effects of a juridical nature as well.
Your judicial experience lets you see first-hand how these principles are rooted in the existential reality of the human person. In short, the simulation of consent, for example, means nothing other than giving the marriage rite a merely external value, without the corresponding will for a reciprocal gift of love, of exclusive love, of indissoluble love or of fruitful love. Is it any surprise that such a marriage is doomed to failure? Once the feeling or attraction dies, it lacks any element of internal cohesion. Missing is that reciprocal commitment of self-giving which alone can guarantee its permanence.
Something similar also applies to cases in which someone has been deceived into marrying, or when grave external coercion has taken away the freedom that is the presupposition of every voluntary commitment of love.
5. In the light of these principles, we can identify and understand the essential difference between a mere de facto union—even though it claims to be based on love—and marriage, in which loved is expressed as a commitment that is not only moral but rigorously juridical. The bond reciprocally assumed has a strengthening effect, in turn, on the love from which it arises, fostering its permanence to the advantage of the partners, the children and society itself.
In the light of the above-mentioned principles we can also see how incongruous is the demand to accord “marital” status to unions between persons of the same sex. It is opposed, first of all, by the objective impossibility of making the partnership fruitful through the transmission of life according to the plan inscribed by God in the very structure of the human being. Another obstacle is the absence of the conditions for that interpersonal complementarity between male and female willed by the Creator at both the physical-biological and the eminently psychological levels. It is only in the union of two sexually different persons that the individual can achieve perfection in a synthesis of unity and mutual psychophysical completion. From this perspective, love is not an end in itself and cannot be reduced to the corporal joining of two beings, but is a deep interpersonal relationship which reaches its culmination in total mutual self-giving and in cooperation with God the Creator, the ultimate source of every new human life.
6. As you know, these deviations from the natural law inscribed by God in the nature of the person seek their justification in the freedom that is a prerogative of the human being. This justification, in fact, is self-serving. Every believer knows that freedom, as Dante said, is “the greatest gift that God in his bounty made in creation, the most conformed to his goodness” (Par. 5:19-21), but it is a gift that must be correctly understood if it is not to become a stumbling-block for human dignity. To conceive of freedom as the moral or even juridical licence to break the law is to distort its true nature. Freedom consists in the human being’s possibility of conforming responsibly, that is by personal choice, to the divine will expressed in the law, and in this way to become more and more like his Creator (cf. Gn Gn 1,26).
I have already written in the Encyclical Veritatis splendor: “Man is certainly free, inasmuch as he can understand and accept God’s commands. And he possesses an extremely far-reaching freedom, since he can eat ‘of every tree of the garden.’ But his freedom is not unlimited: it must halt before the ‘tree of the knowledge of good and evil’, for it is called to accept the moral law given by God. In fact, human freedom finds its authentic and complete fulfilment precisely in the acceptance of that law. God, who alone is good, knows perfectly what is good for man, and by virtue of his very love proposes this good to man in the commandments” (no. 35; cf. AAS, 85 , pp. 1161f.).
Unfortunately, the daily news amply confirms the miserable fruits that these aberrations from the divine-natural law ultimately produce. It seems as if the situation which the Apostle Paul describes in the Letter to the Romans is being repeated in our day: “Since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a base mind and to improper conduct” (Rm 1,28).
7. This necessary reference to the problems of the present moment should not lead to discouragement or resignation. It should spur us instead to a more determined and better focused commitment. The Church and, consequently, canon law recognize that every person has the possibility of contracting marriage (cf. CIC, c. 1058; CCEO, c. 778); a possibility, however, which can only be exercised by those “who are not prohibited by law” (ibid.). The latter are, first of all, those who have sufficient psychological maturity of intellect and will, along with the ability to fulfil the essential obligations of the marital institution (cf. CIC CCEO, c. 818). In this regard, I must once again recall what I said in my addresses precisely to this Tribunal in 1987 and 1988 (cf. AAS, 79 , 1453ff.; AAS, 80 , 1178ff.): an undue broadening of these personal requirements, recognized by Church law, would ultimately inflict a grievous vulnus on that right to marriage which is inalienable and independent of any human power.
I will not dwell here on the other conditions laid down by canon law for valid marital consent. I will merely emphasize the serious responsibility incumbent on the Pastors of God’s Church to provide engaged couples with serious and appropriate marriage preparation: only in this way can the mind of those preparing for marriage be instilled with the intellectual, moral and spiritual dispositions necessary for fulfilling the natural and sacramental reality of matrimony.
I entrust these reflections, dear prelates and officials, to your minds and hearts, knowing full well the spirit of fidelity that inspires your work, in which you intend to apply the Church’s norms in your search for the true welfare of God’s People.
In support of your efforts, I affectionately impart my apostolic blessing to all of you here and to those in any way connected with the Tribunal of the Roman Rota.
Speeches 1999 - Friday, 15 January 1999