The Campaign Against Life
B. A. Moore, S.J.
A.C.T.S. No. 1641/So (1973)
Father B. Moore examines the current campaign on the strict limitation
of population growth from the standpoint of modern Catholic thought and
This pamphlet deserves careful study.
It should provoke profitable discussion in many circles.
We commend it to young people.
- THE EDITOR
BERNARD O'CONNOR, Diocesan Censor.
J. R. KNOX,
Archbishop of Melbourne. February 6, 1973
WE are accustomed to seeing the fictions and fantasies of yesterday
become the simple facts of today. For example, the developments, in
this 20th century, in flight and in space travel fulfil and even
surpass the seemingly visionary speculations of centuries past.
Unfortunately, it is also true that yesterday's nightmares have become
for us waking realities - witness our success in developing the
instruments of total war.
In the 50s, a film was made of which the action was set in "the not too
distant future". The plot was simple: the population of the United
States of America has reached such a peak that a law has been passed
according to which a married couple are permitted only one child.
Should a woman attempt to have a second child, she is forcibly aborted
or, if her pregnancy is discovered too late, is committed to a prison
hospital where in due course the child will be born and, at birth,
Shown on television recently, that film was chilling - not, as
originally, because of its plausibility but, now, because of its
possibility. [Webmaster's Assistant's note: It now HAS happened! The
unfortunate folk in the People's Republic of China live with this
Talk of the "necessity" of such a law is becoming widespread; and,
indeed, it would seem to be the logical next step for a world to take
which has already promoted voluntary (and involuntary) sterilization
programmes, has made the traffic in contraceptives an industry of
enormous profitability, accepts in principle and attempts to implement
in fact abortion on demand, drafts bills for the legalization of
euthanasia, and in general in every possible way shows its complete
contempt for human life. "None is fun" is the chosen motto of a new
zero population growth group: no better illustration could be found of
the fact that our age's desire for physical sterility is simply the
expression of its spiritual sterility.
It is no longer beyond the bounds of possibility that a not too distant
future generation of schoolchildren will be taught, simultaneously, how
freedom-loving their ancestors showed themselves in overthrowing
governments which attempted to touch their religious sentiment or their
purse, and how wise their parents were in accepting a law forbidding
them to have the children they may have desired.
By then, no doubt, governments will have learned, in effecting the
martyrdom of their opponents, how to eliminate the thunderous glory
which so often surrounds its ignominy. Presumably, too, the eugenists
will share in the triumph; for if the fittest are allowed only a child
or two (if any at all) then the sterilization of the "unfit", or at,
least the prohibition on them from having children, will surely be
taken for granted
Economically, a country which has adopted such a law might find itself
in difficulties, having a population graph roughly like an inverted
pyramid - a small, young and productive work force supporting a large,
ageing and unproductive population. Possibly, some form of legalized
euthanasia will take care of that end. And, of course, an eye would
have to be kept on those selfish nations which did not pass a like law:
what else could they be aiming at but war and world domination?
How ironic it would be if, in the last analysis, the profit motive and
the fear of unpreparedness for war were the salvation of a people.
We need to disabuse ourselves, at the outset, of the idea that a
proposal to limit by law the number of children a couple may have can
be discussed, or such a law be enacted, in isolation from other forms
of meddling with human life and reproduction.
If we turn back to the propaganda of the eugenists of the '30s we find
euthanasia and the sterilization of the unfit cheek by jowl with
proposals to withhold all government assistance from the poor who
insisted on having the children the rich did not want. So, too, the
inhuman proposals of the modern humanist run the gambit of
contraception to abortion and through to euthanasia. (In fact, of
course, abortion carried out on the grounds that the child might be
born physically or mentally defective is already the admission of
euthanasia. There is nothing in the idea of euthanasia which limits it
to the old and incurably ill.)
Another reason why these various meddlings with life cannot be
separated is that for a law to have any chance of being obeyed there
must be sanctions. If, for example, the law permits two children per
family, what is to be done with a third conception? Again, obviously no
society which so grudgingly admits new members to its ranks is going to
give the same welcome to the unhealthy or defective child as it will to
the healthy and normal. Nor can it consistently regard any and every
couple as equally eligible to have offsprings, or as equally desirable
Any proposal touching human life and reproduction must necessarily be
based on some particular attitude towards human life itself and its
transmission; and this attitude, this view of human life as such, is
the only possible point of departure for any proposal regarding the
continuation of life. Moreover, this basic attitude is the constant
touchstone of such proposals: one must of necessity reject any proposal
which is not in keeping with one's fundamental view of human life
itself, whatever that view be.
The second fundamental question is this: What rights may a state claim
or exercise over the reproductive powers of its citizens? Clearly,
one's answer to that question will imply a particular view of the
state, its nature and its purpose; and will, moreover, raise more
general issues - questions regarding the harmonizing of the rights of
the state and of its individual citizens, questions regarding the
family in relation to the state, and so on.
It might be just as well at this point to set out in general terms the
Church's teaching on these matters, closely related as they are.
Man is made for eternal life -
All must be convinced that human life
and the task of transmitting it are not realities bound up with this
world alone. Hence, these realities can not be measured or perceived
only in terms of this world, but always have a bearing on the eternal
destiny of men.
Gaudium et Spes
Man's right to marry is God-given and
he cannot be deprived of it-
Our predecessors Leo XIII and Pius XI
taught that "no human law can deprive man of the basic right to
Address to the Rota
No human law can abolish the natural
and original right of marriage nor in any way limit the chief and
principal purpose of marriage, ordained by God's authority from the
beginning, "Increase and multiply". Hence we have the family, the
"society" of a man's house - a society limited, indeed, in numbers, but
no less a true "society", anterior to every kind of state or nation,
invested with rights and duties of its own, totally independent of the
Consequently, the family is more
sacred than the State-
The contention, then, that the civil
government should at its option intrude into and exercise control over
the family and the household is a great and pernicious error;
the well-being of the individual person
and of human and christian society is intimately linked with the
healthy condition of that community which is produced by marriage and
Gaudium et Spes.
commit the error of forgetting that the
family is more sacred than the state, and that human beings are born
primarily for heaven and eternity, not for earth and time.
A person's bodily integrity,
therefore, by which marriage and reproduction are made possible is
beyond the power of the state to touch-
The public authorities have no direct
power over the bodily members of subjects, and therefore (in the
absence of any crime or cause calling for corporal punishment) they can
never directly injure or attack the integrity of the body on any ground
whatever - eugenic or otherwise.
There are those who
would have the public authority forbid
marriage to any persons : . . deemed likely, through heredity, to beget
defective offspring. They even demand legislation to deprive such
persons of that natural faculty by medical action . . . They are simply
arrogating to the state, against all right and justice, a power which
it has never had and never can legitimately possess.
Even public authority has no right,
whatever "indications" it may use as an excuse, to permit direct
sterilization, and much less to prescribe it or to use it to the
detriment of innocent human beings.
Allocution to Midwives
Nor can individuals themselves
arbitrarily deprive themselves of this physical capacity to transmit
It is to be observed also that even the
individual human being - as christian doctrine teaches and the light of
reason clearly shows - has no power over the members of his own body,
except insofar as he uses them for their natural purpose; he cannot
destroy or mutilate them, or in any other way render himself incapable
of his natural functions except where there is no other way of
providing for the welfare of the body as a whole.
The act by which life is transmitted
cannot be artificially deprived of its natural power-
The Catholic Church, to whom God has
committed the task of teaching and preserving morals and right conduct
in their integrity, standing erect amidst this moral devastation,
raises her voice in sign of her divine mission to keep the chastity of
the marriage contract unsullied by this ugly stain, and through our
mouth proclaims anew: that any use of matrimony whatsoever in the
exercise of which the act is deprived by human interference of its
natural power to procreate life is an offence against the law of God
and of nature, and that those who commit it are guilty of grave sin.
Once conceived, human life is
To these problems (associated with the
limitation of family) there are those who presume to offer
dishonourable solutions. Indeed, they do not recoil from the taking of
life. But the Church issues the reminder that a true contradiction
cannot exist between divine laws pertaining to the transmission of life
and those pertaining to the fostering of authentic conjugal love.
For God, the Lord of life, has conferred on men the surpassing ministry
of safeguarding life - a ministry which must be fulfilled in a manner
which is worthy of man. Therefore, from the moment of its conception,
life must be guarded with the greatest care, while abortion and
infanticide are unspeakable crimes.
Gaudium et Spes
Marriage as an institution exists for
the creation of the family unit-
By their very nature, the institution
of matrimony itself and conjugal love are ordained for the procreation
and education of children, and find in them their ultimate crown . . .
Hence, while not making the other purposes of matrimony of less
account, the true practice of conjugal love and the whole meaning of
family life which results from it have this aim: that the couple be
ready with stout hearts to co-operate with the love of the Creator and
Saviour who through them will enlarge and enrich his own family day by
Gaudium et Spes
Conditions may call for a restriction
on the size of families-
Let them (the parents) thoughtfully
take into account both their own welfare and that of their children,
those already born and those whom the future may bring. For this
accounting, they need to reckon with both the material and spiritual
condition of the times, as well as that of their state in life.
Finally, they should consult the interests of the family group, of
temporal society, and of the Church itself.
Gaudium et Spes
But, in effecting this limitation-
The Church's children may not undertake
methods of birth control which are found blameworthy by the teaching
authority of the Church in its unfolding of the divine law.
Gaudium et Spes
Nor can the state coerce people into
The parents themselves and no one else
should ultimately make this judgement in the sight of God . . .
those merit special mention who, with
wise and common deliberation, and with a gallant heart, undertake to
bring up suitably even a relatively large family.
Gaudium et Spes
The extent of the state's competence
It is certain that public authorities
can intervene, within the limit of their competence, by favouring the
availability of appropriate information and by adopting suitable
measures, provided that these be in conformity with the moral law and
that they respect the rightful freedom of married couples. Where the
inalienable right to marriage and procreation is lacking, human dignity
has ceased to exist.
Finally, it is for the parents, with full knowledge of the matter, to
decide on the number of their children, taking into account their
responsibilities towards God, themselves, the children they have
already brought into the world, and the community to which they belong.
In all this, they must follow the
demands of their own conscience, enlightened by God's law authentically
interpreted, and sustained by confidence in him.
On the Development of Peoples
Briefly, then, the Church teaches that a capable person's right to
marry and to found a family is God-given and inalienable. No public
authority can deprive him of that right; nor can it, despite any
disadvantages that person labours under, render him, willing or
unwilling, incapable of transmitting life. It cannot compel him to
adopt any morally objectionable means to limit his family; nor, indeed,
can it compel him to limit his family at all, but can only counsel such
a course of action, and make available morally acceptable means of
doing so, if he, for the right reasons, freely elects to do so.
Laws, therefore, which decree or permit abortion, sterilization,
contraception or euthanasia (in the sense in which these things are
condemned by the Church) are simply immoral laws and cannot be obeyed.
Public counsel to adopt such procedures is likewise immoral and is to
be condemned as such. No law decreeing the number of children a couple
may have can have any binding force, since such a decision is beyond
the competence of public authorities to take; and any kind of
discrimination against people who choose to have even a relatively
large family is blatantly unjust. Indeed, since
The protection and promotion
of the inviolable rights
of man rank among the essential duties of governments.
On Religious Freedom
A government is at fault if it does not facilitate a man's exercise of
his basic, natural and inalienable right to marry and to found a family.
Immoral laws may not be obeyed, nor may they be used as an excuse for
actions which are of themselves wrong, As Pope John XXIII writes in his
Peace on Earth.
If civil authorities legislate for or
allow anything contrary to that order and therefore contrary to the
will of God, neither the laws made nor the authorizations granted can
be binding on the consciences of the citizens, since God has more right
to be obeyed than man.
Pope John XXIII
Pacem in Terris
In those last words, Pope John is referring back to the position
established by Saints Peter and John when they refused to obey the
command to preach Christ no more. It is a basic text in the development
of the doctrine of christian rights in confrontation with an immoral
law, and, historically, appealing to this text has sealed the fate of
many a martyr to political tyranny.
The words of John XXIII quoted above are an echo of a number of
statements of Leo XIII. In his letter on
Human Liberty, Leo writes,
If, then, by anyone in authority,
something be sanctioned out of conformity with the principles of right
reason and consequently hurtful to the commonwealth, such an enactment
can have no binding force of law, as being no rule of justice but
certain to lead men away from that good which is the end itself of
OBEY, A CRIME"
If immoral laws are "contrary to the will of God", no less is obedience
to them. As John XXIII points out, citizens can not avail themselves of
authorizations which are themselves immoral. In writing of The Chief Duties of Christians as Citizens,
Leo XIII also touches on this point:
It is a high crime, indeed, to withdraw
allegiance from God in order to please men; an act of consummate
wickedness to break the laws of Jesus Christ in order to yield
obedience to earthly rulers, or, under pretext of keeping the civil
law, to ignore the rights of the Church. "We ought to obey God rather
than men." (Acts 5.29.) This answer which of old Peter and the other
Apostles were used to give the civil authorities who enjoyed
unrighteous things, we must, in like circumstances, give always and
without hesitation . . . ready to suffer all things, even death itself,
rather than abandon the cause of God or of the Church. If the laws of
the state are clearly at variance with the law of God . . . conveying
injunctions adverse to the duties imposed by religion . . . then, truly
to resist becomes a positive duty, to obey, a crime.
RESIST, A DUTY"
Of the duty to resist immoral laws, Leo writes elsewhere in that same
The Church has been assigned by God the
duty not only to interpose resistance if at any time the state rule
should run counter to religion, but further to make a strong endeavour
that the power of the Gospel may pervade the law and institutions of
That is to say, christians are obliged to act positively in their
political life to ensure that christian values (which being
Christ-given are necessarily best for man) prevail in civil society and
not be silenced, as too readily we tend to be, by the cry that we are
trying to impose our values on all. Christians must labour that the
mind of Christ be in men in all their activities and aspirations. This
is quite a different thing from "imposition".
RESISTING THE LAW
Both the divine law and the natural law set limits to the power and
authority of the state. It is left to the principles of christian
sociology to indicate what courses of action are morally open to the
citizen when the state transgresses those limits.
A christian, confronted with an immoral law, may choose simply to
disobey and suffer the consequences, since for him there is no position
of compromise between heroism and the crime of obeying an immoral law.
It is not unreal of Leo XIII to speak of a readiness "to suffer all
things, even death itself, rather than abandon the cause of God". And
we need to remind ourselves that God who for our sake gave us life can
demand of us that for his sake and ours we should be ready and willing
to lay it down, remembering that Christ, whose words are never idle,
warns us that saving our lives in this world can lead to the eternal
loss of life.
An individual, then, may choose simply to suffer. However, he is
entitled to make two further considerations. First, the law whose
penalties would deprive him of liberty, goods or life is no law; and
therefore he may by all moral means evade its penalties. Secondly, he
has the right to witness to the injustice such a law does to others and
assist them in not suffering from its injustice.
Resistance to an immoral law may be either passive or active. For
effectiveness, passive resistance depends on there being a large
proportion of a population involved in it so that sufficient pressure
is brought to bear on the erring government to cause it to give way.
Perhaps, the greatest obstacle to the effectiveness of passive
resistance is the means at the disposal of modern states to disperse
such resistance, and thereby render it ineffective.
When it comes to active resistance, two courses of action are open,
public protest or the overthrow of the criminal government. In regards
to this latter, catholic social principles may be summarized as
(a) It must be established that the government has in fact degenerated
into criminal tyranny, that appeal to a higher authority is impossible
or without hope of success, and that the new conditions intended after
the revolution do in fact correspond to the common good;
(b) only so much force may be used as is necessary; all constitutional
measures must have been tried to the extent of possibility and hope of
success; the complicated apparatus of vital institutions, as well as
public order and safety, must be safeguarded insofar as is possible;
(c) the use of force must stem from those who are authorized to act in
the name of the general body, and not from the presumption of an
individual. (Cf. Joseph Hoffner, Fundamentals
of Christian Sociology.)
GUARANTOR OF RIGHTS
The right of a person to marry and to found a family is acknowledged by
the Universal Declaration of Human
Rights in the words,
Men and women of full age, without any
limitation due to race, nationality or religion, have the right to
marry and to found a family.
In fact, the Declaration does
not acknowledge very much at all, since the limiting grounds it
specifically excludes are race, nationality and religion. It does not
specifically exclude the very grounds on which the right is most likely
to be violated - that is to say, grounds of economic insufficiency,
social unacceptability, physical, mental or psychological disadvantage,
the need to limit population growth, the fear of hereditary
disabilities and so on. Nor does it specifically reject the derisory
yet likely contention that a compulsory limitation to, say, one child
despite the couple's wishes, fulfils the concept of "family" as far as
the "inalienable right" goes.
The Declaration is a good
example of on how frail a support we lean if we look to laws,
manifestos, statistical consensus of opinion or on any such things as
the guarantor of human rights. Human nature itself, as constituted by
the Creator and as restored in Christ, is the only sure source of
discerning the rights of men, and God alone is their sure guarantor.
It is only by considering human nature as such and in the light of
natural and revealed religious truth that there can be had a true and full picture of man and his powers,
his rights and his obligations. So, in his encyclical On The Regulation of Birth, Pope
Paul VI writes,
The problem of birth, like every other problem of human life
is to be considered beyond partial perspectives - whether of the
biological, psychological, demographic or sociological orders - in the
light of an integral vision of man and his vocation, not only of his
natural and earthly vocation, but also his supernatural and eternal
Now the only authority competent to pronounce upon what is in keeping
with that total vision of man and his destiny and what is out of
harmony, dishonourable to or destructive of it is the Church to which
Christ our Lord committed the means of salvation and which alone he
constituted guardian and authentic interpreter of all moral law-
not only, that is, of the law of the
Gospel, but also of the natural law which is also an expression of
God's will, the faithful fulfilment of which is equally necessary for
Short of this total vision, there remain only those "partial
perspectives" of which Pope Paul speaks. When, for example, in the face
of a rising population a government promotes abortion, artificial birth
control, sterilization programmes and the rest, it is, in effect,
abandoning a total vision of man and his destiny for a temporary
"solution" to a particular problem. To decree a compulsory limitation
of family for married couples, therefore, is not only beyond the
competence of any civil authority to do, but is also indicative of that
authority's loss of any real vision of man.
In Humanae Vitae, Paul VI, in
dealing with the likely consequences of artificial birth control,
Who will stop rulers from favouring,
even from imposing upon their peoples if they were to consider it
necessary, the method of contraception which they judge to be most
In such a way, wishing to avoid individual, family or social
difficulties encountered in the observance of the divine law, men would
reach the point of placing at the mercy of the intervention of public
authorities the most personal and reserved sector of conjugal intimacy.
Consequently, if the mission of generating life is not to be exposed to
the arbitrary will of men, one must necessarily recognize
insurmountable limits to the possibility of man's dominion over his own
body and its functions - limits which no man, whether a private
individual or one invested with authority, may lightly surpass.
In so writing, the Pope is pointing out the probability that the
acceptance of artificial birth control by men in general will lead
governments to legislate or to act in an area where they have no
competence. This he names as one of the grave consequences of a general
acceptance of birth control. It is also true that such a piece of
legislation would, to the dishonour and destruction of man, open the
way to those other evils the Pope mentions-
how wide and easy a road would thus be
opened up towards conjugal infidelity and the general lowering of
and the fear
that the man, growing used to the
employment of contraceptive practices, may finally lose respect for the
woman; and, no longer caring for her physical and psychological
equilibrium, may come to the point of considering her as a mere
instrument of selfish enjoyment, and no longer as his respected and
In the course of that encyclical, Paul VI points out that not everyone
will accept his teaching, but that
the Church is not surprised to be made,
like her divine Founder, a "sign of contradiction" (Luke 2.34); yet she
does not because of this cease to proclaim with humble firmness the
entire moral law, both natural and evangelical.
What the Church teaches is truth; and what is true does not become less
true because it is disbelieved, or because the Church herself is hated.
What the Church condemns as intrinsically evil is evil for all men, and
does not itself become good even where subjective guilt is lacking - as
in the case of a man who does evil in ignorance or believing that he
does good. The Church declares the natural law as well as the Gospel
In declaring the natural law, the Church gives us the truth about human
nature itself - and thus the only sure source of discerning the rights
of men, except where divine revelation itself declares those rights as
well. Thus, for example, Vatican II in its Decree on Religious Freedom, bases
the Church's right to religious freedom on the fact that she is
divinely established to teach all men the way to eternal salvation.
Other religious bodies, the Council declares, also have religious
freedom - but in their case this is based on the nature of man as such.
Even so, no concept of man is complete if it omits his creation by God
and his restoration in Christ and his call to a supernatural destiny.
Consequently, anyone who rejects the Church as a teaching authority or
rejects belief in God or in the supernatural destiny of man is in an
impossible situation when it comes to defending certain rights of man
Take, for example, the right to life. We have seen in print statements
regarding abortion which come to this, that abortion is unjustifiable
homicide and can therefore be allowed only in exceptional
circumstances, such as saving the life of the mother, and so on. The
fact is, of course, that if abortion is unjustifiable homicide it can
never be allowed - by the very meaning of unjustifiable; and if
abortion is ever allowed, it simply cannot be called unjustifiable in
itself. So, too, with the right to have children. To say that the right
to have children is basic to man and can therefore (setting aside
questions of criminality) be denied only in exceptional circumstances
is to say nothing. And, in fact, we find that the supposed
"exceptional" circumstances turn out to be rather numerous and
In passing, we might notice how much fear,
rather than rationality, enters into considerations of population
control, by whatever means; and how little freedom, therefore, the supporters
of the various means to it enjoy. The Church rightly and wisely reminds
us of the fact that in any consideration of man and his future the
existence of a provident and loving God must be taken seriously, even
while man bends his God-given faculties to solving his problems -
which, in fact, can not even "be perceived or measured in terms purely
of this world", as Vatican II points out.
Since this is so, it follows that such problems cannot be solved if
they are considered and solutions sought purely in terms of the partial
perspectives of this world; for to attempt to do so is to omit
dimensions essential to both the problem itself and its solution.
It follows, then, that the attempt to vindicate for man the possession
of inalienable rights must fail unless the existence of God who so
endows man is admitted; for without something both absolute and
transcendent as their source and guarantor, such rights can not exist.
To postulate some alternative transcendent absolute (such as the state,
or human nature considered apart from the supernatural, or the
agreement of opinion) merely deprives man of the possibility of
possessing truly inalienable rights.
The possessor of rights must necessarily be subordinate to the source
and guarantor of those rights. If, then, the group - the community or
the state, for example - is said to be the origin of his rights, then a
man is, in those rights, subordinate to the group, and possesses those
rights only as long as the group wills it. This is the essence of
totalitarianism. To attach the qualification "inalienable" to any right
in such circumstances is merely derisory. If a man has no supernatural
dimension, then he is merely and totally the product of "nature" or
"society" and any rights he may be said to possess he has only by the
will of nature or society. And if they are said to be "inalienable"
they are so only by the will of nature or society. In other words,
quite alienable, because subject to what is itself constantly changing
- the concept of nature, the idea of society. So it is, too, if one
grounds those rights in some "consensus of civilized opinion", some
"sense of humanism": in such case, rights are the creation of something
which itself waxes and wanes and is subject to every passing wind of
Ultimately, a man has truly inalienable right only when it is
acknowledged that he is something which exists and has its value
independently of any role he may play in any human institution or
enterprise; and that there is something in every man which is so free
and so self-justified that it cannot be subordinated to anything less
than or merely equal to itself. It is man's personal relationship to
God his Creator which constitutes this inviolable something.
The "scientific" basis for the many-fronted attack on human life which
we are witnessing is, for the most part, the "human sciences", the
object of which is man himself.
If man's success in the other sciences and in technology has placed him
in the position of being in danger of being himself their victim, no
less are the human sciences shaping up that same way.
In 1971, Pope Paul VI issued a social encyclical, Octogesima Adveniens, to commemorate
the eightieth anniversary of Leo XIII's epoch-making letter on the
condition of labour, Rerum Novarum.
In it, in paragraphs 38 to 40, Pope Paul writes a timely word of
caution regarding the human sciences. What he says, in summary, is this:
Having subdued nature, man himself has
become the object of science, and the "human sciences" flourish. It is
true that these sciences subject past views of man to critical
examination; but their methodology and their presuppositions lead them
to isolate certain aspects of man and yet claim to give a complete
interpretation of him. This, in fact, mutilates man.
Another danger of these sciences is that human society may be compelled
to conform to the models these sciences have elaborated.
If so, man has become simply something to be manipulated.
Though the human sciences are, then,
open to suspicion, christians must play an active part in them, and
begin a "dialogue" between them and the Church. Since each scientific
discipline can grasp some aspect of man, each has a positive function
in widening the horizon of christian liberty. They can, too, assist
christian social morality in its function of taking an overall view of
man, and to show that the behaviour and values exhibited by a
particular society are only relative and not inherent in the very
nature of man. These sciences are, at one and the same time,
indispensable for a better understanding of the nature of man, and yet
inadequate to provide a complete answer.
When, then, we are told on the authority of one or other of the human
sciences that a particular course of action is necessary or desirable
for the future welfare of the human race, we need to remember that what
we are given as the whole truth is, in fact, merely a partial
perspective, within the terms of which not only is no solution possible
but even the true dimensions of the problem cannot be perceived.
The Church teaches that a capable person's right to marry and to
found a family is God-given and inalienable. No public authority can
deprive him of that right; nor can it, despite any disadvantages that
person labours under, render him, willing or unwilling, incapable of
transmitting life. It cannot compel him to adopt any morally
objectionable means to limit his family; nor, indeed, can it compel him
to limit his family at all, but can only counsel such a course of
action, and make available morally acceptable means of doing so, if he,
for the right reasons, freely elects to do so.