John Paul II’s New Vision of Human Sexuality, Marriage and Family Life(1)


A. Introduction

Pope John Paul II never tires of reiterating that each and every single human person is an image of God. Each and every one of us is a person called to act as God acts, to do what God does. Since God loves, all human beings are called to love in the same way that God loves. Thus, after creating Adam and Eve in His image and likeness, God invited them to "be fertile and multiply", i.e., to love each other as He loved them. (See Gen. 1:28.) In loving each other, they formed a communion of persons, the first family. Since this first family was founded on an act of love similar to the love of God, the resulting communion of persons, the family, was an imitation of the communion of persons in the Trinity, Itself. Further, since Adam and Eve represent all human beings, their creation in God’s image is true for all of us. In addition, the invitation to form a family in imitation of the Trinity is directed to all of us. (Of course, not every one is called to marriage, but every one, without exception, belongs to a family.) In other words, not only are human beings created in God’s image, but when they act as they should, i.e., when they act like God and love as God loves, the resulting union is an imitation of the union of the Three Persons in God. This calling is an incredible blessing and gift to the human race, but it is also a challenge. We are all called to love as God loves, to imitate the very life and love of the Creator Himself.

In order to live up to this very high calling and since marriage and family life clearly involve health issues, families need the assistance, support, cooperation, and encouragement of the professionals in the health care industry. With the knowledge and skills which have developed in the medical field in this century, health care professionals are of incalculable help to all families trying to live according to the calling God has given them. Unfortunately, some of the knowledge and skills developed have not always been put at the service of families trying to live their true vocation as imitations of the Holy Trinity. Pope John Paul II sees the wonderful developments in the medical field and commends all those who had a part in these developments. At the same time, he asks that these devleopments be put at the service of families doing their best to love each other genuinely and authentically.

Unfortunately, many families in society are no longer convinced of their noble vocations. The culture and society does not support as strongly as it should the noble vision of family life which was modeled by the Holy Family of Nazareth and is taught by the Church. Medical professionals, members of families themselves, often do not see the true role of the family and share the views of the culture and society. John Paul II realizes that there exists a crisis in family life and particularly in the acceptance of the Church’s teaching regarding the unique role of families. He has addressed these issues in his theology of the body and theology of the family. This presentation of the Pope’s views is offered to all those intereseted, but most especially to medical professionals, in the hope that they would put their very significant talents and skills at the service of authentic famililial love. One of the most difficult situations for families trying to live according to their vocation is the lack of medical professionals who share with them the view of familial love. Without that assistance, families have a very difficult time because in seeking medical advice and care, they are often encouraged to act contrary to their most fundamental vocation: the vocation to love.

The theology of the body begins its considerations with our creation in the image and likeness of God, body and soul, and demonstrates that our innate vocation (love) is inscribed in our very humanity because we are created as persons (as images of God), masculine and feminine with a dignity and value beyond compare. The theology of the body shows that all of the sexual sins are contrary to human dignity because they involve the use of human persons as things.

The theology of the family also begins from our creation as images of God with our vocation to love as God loves. We are called by our very creation to imitate the love and communion of the Trinity. From this point of view, the overwhelming value of family life (as an imitation of the Trinity) becomes clear while violations against love (the sexual sins) desecrate the sacred love of husband and wife. Violations against love attack the family as an imitation of the Trinity and can almost be said to be sacrilegious, a violation of something sacred. Let us first consider the theology of the body.

Natural Family Planning and Responsible Parenthood flow from the considerations of the theology of the body and the theology of the family. Since there is considerable confusion on the question of sins, it seemed useful to apply the principles of the theology of the body and the family to certain sins which are often discussed today. A consideration of the role of conscience is necessary to any discussion today because it is often quite misunderstood. Finally, it is necessary to consider the family life in the light of Christ Who raised it to the level of a sacrament