Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Gift of Self

“And in the end You could put aside our world. You may let it crumble around us and, above all else, in us. And then it will transpire that YOU remain whole only in the SON, and He in You – whole with Him in YOUR LOVE, Father and Bridegroom.
“And everything else will then turn out to be unimportant and inessential, except for this: father, child, and love.”
“Love and Responsibility” (96-99)

“Betrothed love differs from all the aspects or forms of love analysed hitherto. Its decisive character is the giving of one’s own person (to another). The essence of betrothed love is self-giving, the surrender of one’s `I.’ This is something different from and more than attraction, desire or even goodwill. These are all ways by which one person goes out towards another, but none of them can take him as far in his quest for the good of the other as does betrothed love. `To give oneself to another’ is something more than merely `desiring what is good for another – even if as a result of this another `I’ becomes as it were my own, as it does in friendship. Betrothed love is something different from and more than all the forms of love so far analysed, both as it affects the individual subject, the person who loves, and as regards the interpersonal union, which it creates. When betrothed love enters into this interpersonal relationship something more than friendship results: two people give themselves each to the other….

(The imaging of the divine is now understood as radical)

“But what is impossible and illegitimate in the natural order and in a physical sense, can come about in the order of love and in a moral sense. In this sense, one person can give himself or herself, can surrender entirely to another, whether to a human person or to God, and such a giving of the self creates a special form of love which we define as betrothed love [here footnote 7 on “On the Meaning of Betrothed Love – contribution to a Discussion,” which I have had translated but not published]. This fact goes to prove that the person has a dynamism of its own and that specific laws govern its existence and evolution [here go to GS #24 for the law of the person which is the “law of the gift”]….

“The fullest, the most uncompromising form of love consists precisely in selfgiving, in making one’s inalienable and non-transferable `I’ someone else’s property. This is doubly paradoxical: firstly in that it is possible to step outside one’s own `I’ in this way, and secondly in that the `I’ far from being destroyed or impaired as a result is enlarged and enriched – of course in a super-physical, a moral sense….

“Self-giving,’ in the sense in which we are discussing it, should not be identified (confused) with the sensation of self-surrender, still less with surrender in a merely physical sense. As far as surrender in the first (the psychological) sense is concerned, it is only the woman, or at any rate it is above all the woman, who feels that her role in marriage is to give herself; the man’s experience of marriage is different, since `giving oneself’ has as its psychological correlative `possession.’ However, the psychological approach is insufficient here for if we think the problem through objectively, and that means ontologically, what happens in the marital relationship is that the man simultaneously gives himself, in return for the woman’s gift of herself to him, and thus although his conscious experience of it differs from the woman’s it must none the less be a real giving of himself to another person. If it is not there is a danger that the man may treat the woman as an object, and indeed an object to be used. If marriage is to satisfy the demands of the personalistic norm it must embody reciprocal self-giving, a mutual betrothed love. The acts of surrender reciprocate each other, that of the man and that of the woman, and though they are psychologically different in kind, ontologically they combine to produce a perfect whole, an act of mutual self-surrender (emphasis mine)….

“(T)his giving of oneself… cannot… have a merely sexual significance. Giving oneself only sexually, without the full gift of the person to validate it, must lead to those forms of utilitarianism [which were analyzed and rejected previously].”

The Recovery of the “I” Before Sin

The historical experience of man after sin conceals the primordial experience of man as “I” before sin as he came forth in innocence from the hands of God, revealed to be a triple “I” (Yahweh). John Paul II takes note of Christ’s invitation to cross the threshold to that original experience of what it meant to be man, male and female, “from the beginning.” He takes us across that threshold to “the beginning” by using the blend of a phenomenology of experience which stays objective as a metaphysics of being and makes the analysis and hermeneutic of the first two chapters of Genesis. The goal is to disclose the underlying anthropology and thereby disclose the non-reductive anthropology of the human “I” and its dynamic as self-gift, and what has become for him, “the law of the gift.” Therefore, the appearance of “self-gift” as a unique and radical experience in Love and Responsibility implies that Wojtyla had been glimpsing this profound pre-lapsarian experience for some time which he discloses explicitly for the first time in the first Wednesday addresses which follow:

1. The Discovery of the “I”: The meaning of the experience of solitude in the first man (prior to the re-creation as male and female): Man is not like the sensible world that he tills (subdues [works]) nor the animals that he names (naming is also subduing – working and getting dominion over):

Meaning of Man's Original Solitude (10 October 1979)
“The problem of solitude is manifested only in the context of the second account of the creation of man. The first account ignores this problem. There man is created in one act as male and female. "God created man in his own image...male and female he created them" (Gn 1:27). As we have already mentioned, the second account speaks first of the creation of the man and only afterward of the creation of the woman from the "rib" of the male. This account concentrates our attention on the fact that "man is alone." This appears as a fundamental anthropological problem, prior, in a certain sense, to the one raised by the fact that this man is male and female. This problem is prior not so much in the chronological sense, as in the existential sense. It is prior "by its very nature." The problem of man's solitude from the point of view of the theology of the body will also be revealed as such, if we succeed in making a thorough analysis of the second account of creation in Genesis 2” (emphasis mine).

“Man's subjectivity is already emphasized through this. It finds a further expression when the Lord God "formed out of the ground every beast of the field and every bird of the air, and brought them to man to see what he would call them" (Gn 2:19). In this way, therefore, the first meaning of man's original solitude is defined on the basis of a specific test or examination which man undergoes before God (and in a certain way also before himself). By means of this test, man becomes aware of his own superiority, that is, that he cannot be considered on the same footing as any other species of living beings on the earth.
As the text says, "Whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name" (Gn 2:19). "The man gave names to all cattle, and to the birds of the air, and to every beast of the field; but for the man [male] there was not found a helper fit for him" (Gn 2:20).

"All this part of the text is unquestionably a preparation for the account of the creation of woman. However, it possesses a deep meaning even apart from this creation. Right from the first moment of his existence, created man finds himself before God as if in search of his own entity. It could be said he is in search of the definition of himself. A contemporary person would say he is in search of his own "identity." The fact that man "is alone" in the midst of the visible world and, in particular, among living beings, has a negative significance in this search, since it expresses what he "is not."
Nevertheless, the fact of not being able to identify himself essentially with the visible world of other living beings (animalia) has, at the same time, a positive aspect for this primary search. Even if this fact is not yet a complete definition, it constitutes one of its elements. If we accept the Aristotelian tradition in logic and in anthropology, it would be necessary to define this element as the "proximate genus" (genus proximum).
However, the Yahwist text enables us to discover also further elements in that admirable passage. Man finds himself alone before God mainly to express, through a first self-definition, his own self-knowledge, as the original and fundamental manifestation of mankind. Self-knowledge develops at the same rate as knowledge of the world, of all the visible creatures, of all the living beings to which man has given a name to affirm his own dissimilarity with regard to them. In this way, consciousness reveals man as the one who possesses a cognitive faculty as regards the visible world. With this knowledge which, in a certain way, brings him out of his own being, man at the same time reveals himself to himself in all the peculiarity of his being. He is not only essentially and subjectively alone. Solitude also signifies man's subjectivity, which is constituted through self-knowledge. Man is alone because he is "different" from the visible world, from the world of living beings. Analyzing the text of Genesis we are, in a way, witnesses of how man "distinguishes himself " before God-Yahweh from the whole world of living beings (animalia) with his first act of self-consciousness, and of how he reveals himself to himself. At the same time he asserts himself as a "person" in the visible world.”

Corroborating Experience: Helen Keller:

“We walked down the path to the well-house, attracted by the fragrance of the honeysuckle with which it was covered. Someone was drawing water and my teacher placed my hand under the spout. As the cool stream gushed over one hand, she spelled into the other the word water, first slowly then rapidly, I stood still, my whole attention fixed upon the motion of her finders. Suddenly I felt a misty consciousness as of something forgotten – a thrill of returning thought; and somehow the mystery of language was revealed to me. I knew then that “w-a-t-e-r” meant the wonderful cool something that was flowing over my hand. That living word awakened my soul gave it light, hope, joy, set it free! There were barriers trill, it is true, abut barriers that could in time be swept away.
I left the well-house eager to learn. Everything had a name, and each name gave birth to a new thought. As we returned to the house every object which I touched seemed to quiver with life. That was because I saw everything with the strange, new sight that had come to me. On entering the door I remembered the doll I had broken. [She had earlier destroyed the doll in a fit of temper.] I felt my way tot he hearth and picked up the pieces. I tried vainly to put them together. Then my eyes filled with tears; for I realized what I had done, and for the first time I felt repentance.” Walker Percy comments: “Here in the well-house in Tuscumbia in a small space and a short time, something extremely important and mysterious had happened. Eight-year-old Helen made her breakthrough from the good responding animal which behaviorists study so successfully to the strange name-giving and sentence-uttering creature who begins by naming shoes and ships and sealing wax, and later tells jokes, curses, reads the paper, writes La sua volontade e nostra pace, or becomes a Hegel and composes an entire system of philosophy.”

Priesthood: The subduing of the animals, as well as the tilling of the earth gave man the experience – through his body – that he was not an object like everything else, but a subject. This subjective experience was revealed to us by Christ as priestly whereby the subject becomes mediator of his own existence. By the free subduing of self, one becomes priest of his/her own existence. That is, the offering that is made is one’s very self as gift. Josef Ratzinger’s quote on this is crucial: “Thus the Logos adopts the being of the man Jesus into his own being and speaks of it in terms of his own I: “For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will, but the will of him who sent me” (Jn. 6, 38). In the Son’s obedience, where both wills become one single Yes to the will off the Father, communion takes place between human and divine being. The `wondrous exchange,’ the `alchemy of being,’ is realized here as a liberating and reconciling communication, which becomes a communion between Creator and creature. It is in the pain of this exchange, and only here, that that fundamental change tales place in man, the change which alone can redeem him and transform the conditions of the world. Here community is born, here the Church comes into being. The act whereby we participate in the Son’s obedience, which involves man’s genuine transformation, is also the only really effective contribution toward renewing and transforming society and the world as a whole.” As Christ subdued himself to make the radical gift of Himself to death on the Cross, so also baptism and the Mass empower us to make the radical gift. Christian marriage, seen in this light, is the priestly act of self-giving (as Christ love the Church ).

Body as “I” is not “Thing”“Thus formed, man belongs to the visible world; he is a body among bodies. Taking up again and, in a way, reconstructing the meaning of original solitude, we apply it to man in his totality. His body, through which he participates in the visible created world, makes him at the same time conscious of being "alone." Otherwise, he would not have been able to arrive at that conviction which he reached (cf. Gn 2:20), if his body had not helped him to understand it, making the matter evident. Consciousness of solitude might have been shattered precisely because of his body itself. The man,'adam, might have reached the conclusion, on the basis of the experience of his own body, that he was substantially similar to other living beings (animalia). On the contrary, as we read, he did not arrive at this conclusion; he reached the conviction that he was "alone." The Yahwist text never speaks directly of the body. Even when it says that "The Lord God formed man of dust from the ground," it speaks of man and not of his body. Nevertheless, the narrative taken as a whole offers us a sufficient basis to perceive this man, created in the visible world, precisely as a body among bodies.”
The body, then, is not an object, nor a “thing” understood in the modern sense of a machine or reducible to machinery. Notice the most recent remark of the major evolutionist Stephen Jay Gould: “The collapse of the doctrine of one gene for one protein, and one direction of causal flow from basic codes to elaborate totality, marks the failure of reductionism for the complex system that we call biology – and for two major reasons.
“First, the key to complexity is not more genes, a but more combinations and interactions generated by fewer units of code – many of these interaction (as emergent properties, to use the technical jargon) must be explained at the level of their appearance, for they cannot be predicted from the separate underlying parts alone. So organisms must be explained as organisms, and not as a summation of genes.”
2. The experience of being alone is positive as disclosing the uniqueness of the “I.” It is negative as “Not Good” for man to be alone.

“In this way, the second narrative could also be a preparation for understanding the Trinitarian concept of the "image of God," even if the latter appears only in the first narrative. Obviously, that is not without significance for the theology of the body. Perhaps it even constitutes the deepest theological aspect of all that can be said about man. In the mystery of creation - on the basis of the original and constituent "solitude" of his being - man was endowed with a deep unity between what is, humanly and through the body, male in him and what is, equally humanly and through the body, female in him. On all this, right from the beginning, the blessing of fertility descended, linked with human procreation (cf. Gn 1:28).
In this way, we find ourselves almost at the heart of the anthropological reality that has the name "body." The words of Genesis 2:23 speak of it directly and for the first time in the following terms: "bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh." The man uttered these words, as if it were only at the sight of the woman that he was able to identify and call by name what makes them visibly similar to each other, and at the same time what manifests humanity.
In the light of the preceding analysis of all the "bodies" which man has come into contact with and which he has defined, conceptually giving them their name (animalia), the expression "flesh of my flesh" takes on precisely this meaning: the body reveals man. This concise formula already contains everything that human science could ever say about the structure of the body as organism, about its vitality, and its particular sexual physiology, etc. This first expression of the man, "flesh of my flesh," also contains a reference to what makes that body truly human. Therefore it referred to what determines man as a person, that is, as a being who, even in all his corporality, is similar to God.
We find ourselves, therefore, almost at the very core of the anthropological reality, the name of which is "body," the human body. However, as can easily be seen, this core is not only anthropological, but also essentially theological. Right from the beginning, the theology of the body is bound up with the creation of man in the image of God. It becomes, in a way, also the theology of sex, or rather the theology of masculinity and femininity, which has its starting point here in Genesis.
The words of Genesis 2:24 bear witness to the original meaning of unity, which will have in the revelation of God an ample and distant perspective. This unity through the body - "and the two will be one flesh"possesses a multiform dimension. It possesses an ethical dimension, as is confirmed by Christ's answer to the Pharisees in Matthew 19 (cf. Mk 10). It also has a sacramental dimension, a strictly theological one, as is proved by St. Paul's words to the Ephesians'`' which refer also to the tradition of the prophets (Hosea, Isaiah, Ezekiel). This is so because, right from the beginning, that unity which is realized through the body indicates not only the "body," but also the "incarnate" communion of persons - communio personarum - and calls for this communion.
Masculinity and femininity express the dual aspect of man's somatic constitution. "This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh." Furthermore, through the same words of Genesis 2:23, they indicate the new consciousness of the sense of one's own body. It can be said that this sense consists in a mutual enrichment. Precisely this consciousness, through which humanity is formed again as the communion of persons, seems to be the layer which in the narrative of the creation of man (and in the revelation of the body contained in it) is deeper than his somatic structure as male and female. In any case, this structure is presented right from the beginning with a deep consciousness of human corporality and sexuality, and that establishes an inalienable norm for the understanding of man on the theological plane.”

3. Since the experience of solitude is bad for a being made in the image and likeness of a Three, the gift of the “I” is its achievement as Image.

(By the Communion of Persons Man Becomes the Image of God [14 November 1979)])

“In the first chapter, the narrative of the creation of man affirms directly, right from the beginning, that man was created in the image of God as male and female. The narrative of the second chapter, on the other hand, does not speak of the "image of God." But in its own way it reveals that the complete and definitive creation of "man" (subjected first to the experience of original solitude) is expressed in giving life to that communio personarum that man and woman form. In this way, the Yahwist narrative agrees with the content of the first narrative.
If, vice versa, we wish to draw also from the narrative of the Yahwist text the concept of "image of God," we can then deduce that man became the "image and likeness" of God not only through his own humanity, but also through the communion of persons which man and woman form right from the beginning. The function of the image is to reflect the one who is the model, to reproduce its own prototype. Man becomes the image of God not so much in the moment of solitude as in the moment of communion. Right "from the beginning," he is not only an image in which the solitude of a person who rules the world is reflected, but also, and essentially, an image of an inscrutable divine communion of persons.”

John Paul concludes that man images God not as an individual, but as a person who, to reflect the prototype, must be in union with another. This means further that to be man, one can never be alone. To be human is to be in relation as the Divine is a trinity of Relations. The ramifications for sexual morality as well as for political and economic reality are profound and far reaching.

The Methodology of Wojtyla Enabling This Disclosure of the “I” As Gift: The Experience of Self-Determination.
His fundamental discovery is the experience of the “I” as being. Experience is always about reality, and therefore about being. In modern thought, the “I” has been identified with consciousness, or the thought about thinking. Reflective thought, not experience, was the access. Wojtyla experiences himself as the cause of free action. His “I” is not the result of reflection on the act of thinking or willing. It is discovered as the cause of an experience of (free, not instinctual or stimulus-response mechanism) self-determination as a free act. “But as the need increases to understand the human being as a unique and unrepeatable person, especially in terms of the whole dynamism of action and inner happenings proper to the human being – in other words, as the need increases to understand the personal subjectivity of the human being – the category of lived experience takes on greater significance, and, in fact, key significance. For then the issue is not just the metaphysical objectification of the human being as an acting subject, as the agent of acts, but the revelation of the person as a subject experiencing its acts and inner happenings, and with them its own subjectivity."
Perhaps, the analytical genius of Wojtyla comes to the fore precisely here.
The “I” is being, not consciousness. But the experience which discloses the “I” as being is the work of consciousness. He distinguishes the consciousness of the experience of sensible things - which is taken from the experience (sensible perception) of the external world: this pink cloud – from the consciousness of the experience of the self (“I”) in the act of self-determination in the moment of morality: responsibility or guilt. In its (non abstractive) mirroring function, consciousness grasps the subject (not yet experienced as “I”), which has been objectified by reflective (not “reflexive,” in the terminology of Wojtyla) thought, and then “actualized” (subdued/mastered) by itself. He distinguishes between the reflectiveness of the mind turning back on its own act of knowing things and the reflexiveness of consciousness which captures both the reflections of the subject in potency to self-determine, and in the act of moving itself. This capturing both states of the self as pre and post self-determination, as potency and act with respect to itself, constitutes the experience of the “I” as “I.” And he corroborates this when he remarks in Fides et Ratio #83 that “In a special way, the person constitutes a privileged locus for the encounter with being, and hence with metaphysical enquiry.”
He remarks in the Acting Person: “The consequence of the reflexive turn of consciousness is that this object – just because it is from the ontological point of view the subject – while having the experience of his own ego also has the experience of himself as the subject. In this interpretation `refexiveness’ is also seen to be an essential as well as a very specific moment of consciousness. It is, however, necessary to add at once that this specific moment becomes apparent only when we observe and trace consciousness in its intrinsic, organic relation to the human being, in particular, the human being in action. We then discern clearly that it is one thing to be the subject, another to be cognized (that is, objectivized) as the subject, and a still different thing to experience one’s self as the subject of one’s own acts and experiences… This discrimination is of tremendous import for all our further analyses, which we shall have to make in our efforts to grasp the whole dynamic reality of the acting person and to account for the subjectiveness that is given us in experience.
Indubitably, Man is, first of all, the subject of his being and his acting; he is the subject insofar as he is a being of determinate nature, which leads to consequences particularly in the acting. In traditional ontology that subject of existing and acting which man is was designated by the term suppositum – ontic support – which, we may say, serves as a thoroughly objective designation free of any experiential aspects, in particular of any relation to that experience of subjectivity in which the subject is given to itself as the self, as the ego. Hence suppositum abstracts from that aspect of consciousness owing to which the concrete man – the object being the subject – has the experience of himself as the subject and thus of his subjectivity. It is this experience that allows him to designate himself by means of the pronoun I. We know I to be a personal pronoun, always designating a concrete person. However, the denotation of this personal pronoun, thus….
Hence not only am I conscious of my ego (on the ground of self-knowledge) but owing to my consciousness in its reflexive function I also experience my ego. I have the experience of myself as the concrete subject of the ego’s very subjectiveness. Consciousness is not just an aspect but also an essential dimension or an actual moment of the reality of the being that I am, since it constitutes its subjectiveness in the experiential sense.”
****** It is important to go back to see that the original recovery of the “I” as “alone” - “from the beginning” - was precisely in the experience of subduing the self (self-determination) on the occasion of work (naming the animals and tilling the garden). Then, God reveals the axiology of the person: “It is not good for man to be alone.” The re-creation of man as male and female is the occasion for them both to increase in their ontological density as “I” by the respective subduing of self to be gift to each other. The failure to subdue the self was the fact of sin that constituted the loss of the experience of imaging the Three. Man lost the experience of the “I” and forgot who he was. Go to Percy’s “Lost in the Cosmos.”

John Paul II explicitly links the Magisterial GS #24 with his understanding of self-determination: Hence: The Personal Structure of Self-Determination:IV
“In Vatican II's Pastoral Constitution Gaudium et Spes, we read that "the human being, who is the only creature on earth that God willed for itself, cannot fully find himself or herself except through a disinterested gift of himself or herself" (24)….

"As I said earlier, in the experience of self-determination the human person stands revealed before us as a distinctive structure of self-possession and self-governance. Neither the one nor the other, however, implies being closed in on oneself. On the contrary, both self-possession and self-governance imply a special disposition to make a "gift of oneself," and this a "disinterested" gift. Only if one possesses oneself can one give oneself and do this in a disinterested way. And only if one governs oneself can one make a gift of oneself, and this again a disinterested gift. The problematic of disinterestedness certainly deserves a separate analysis, which it is not my intention to present here. An understanding of the person in categories of gift, which the teaching of Vatican II reemphasizes, seems to reach even more deeply into those dimensions brought to light by the foregoing analysis. Such an understanding seems to disclose even more fully the personal structure of self-determination.
Only if one can determine oneself—as I attempted to show earlier—can one also become a gift for others. The Council's statement that "the human being...cannot fully find himself or herself except through a disinterested gift of himself or herself" allows us to conclude that it is precisely when one becomes a gift for others that one most fully becomes oneself. This "law of the gift," if it may be so designated, is inscribed deep within the dynamic structure of the person. The text of Vatican II certainly draws its inspiration from revelation, in the light of which it paints this portrait of the human being as a person. One could say that this is a portrait in which the person is depicted as a being willed by God "for itself" and, at the same time, as a being turned "toward" others. This relational portrait of the person, however, necessarily presupposes the immanent (and indirectly "substantial") portrait that unfolds before us from an analysis of the personal structure of self-determination….
I have attempted, however, even in this short presentation, to stress the very real need for a confrontation of the metaphysical view of the person that we find in St. Thomas and in the traditions of Thomistic philosophy with the comprehensive experience of the human being. Such a confrontation will throw more light on the cognitive sources from which the Angelic Doctor derived his metaphysical view. The full richness of those sources will then become visible. At the same time, perhaps we will better be able to perceive points of possible convergence with contemporary thought, as well as points of irrevocable divergence from it in the interests of the truth about reality.”
This paper was presented by then-Cardinal Karol Wojtyla at an international conference on St. Thomas Aquinas in Rome and Naples, 17-24 April 1974. It can be found in the book “Person and Community: Selected Essays” by Karol Wojtyla, published as part of a series “Catholic Thought from Lublin” by Peter Lang.

Finally, Dominum et Vivificantem #59 spells out this recovery of the “I” – Gift as the very meaning of Christian anthropology and with Novo Millennio Ineunte and the discovery of the face of Jesus Christ, the blueprint for the year 2001, the 21st century and the Third Millennium.

“As the year 2000 since the birth of Christ draws near, it is a question of ensuring that an ever greater number of people “may fully find themselves...through a sincere gift of self,” according to the expression of the Council already quoted. Through the action of the Spirit-Paraclete, may there be accomplished in our world a process of true growth in humanity, in both individual and community life. In this regard Jesus himself "when he prayed to the Father, 'that all may be we are one' (Jn 17: 21-22)...implied a certain likeness between the union of the divine persons and the union of the children of God in truth and charity." The Council repeats this truth about man, and the Church sees in it a particularly strong and conclusive indication of her own apostolic tasks. For if man is the way of the Church, this way passes through the whole mystery of Christ, as man's divine model. Along this way the Holy Spirit, strengthening in each of us “the inner man,” enables man ever more “fully to find himself through a sincere gift of self.” These words of the Pastoral Constitution of the Council can be said to sum up the whole of Christian anthropology: that theory and practice, based on the Gospel, in which man discovers himself as belonging to Christ and discovers that in Christ he is raised to the status of a child of God, and so understands better his own dignity as man, precisely because he is the subject of God's approach and presence, the subject of the divine condescension, which contains the prospect and the very root of definitive glorification. Thus it can truly be said “the glory of God is the living man, yet man's life is the vision of God”: man, living a divine life, is the glory of God, and the Holy Spirit is the hidden dispenser of this life and this glory. The Holy Spirit—says the great Basil—“while simple in essence and manifold in his virtues...extends himself without undergoing any diminishing, is present in each subject capable of receiving him as if he were the only one, and gives grace which is sufficient for all.”
—From the Pastoral Letter, "Lord and Giver of Life," promulgated by His Holiness, Pope John Paul II, on May 18, 1986

The evil of contraception and the positive use of NFP can only be understood within the context of the anthropology of GS #24. This is the reason John Paul II wants everyone to be apprised of the NFP even before marriage. He does not see the moral determinant to be nature, which cannot morally be contradicted, the large family as the secure affirmation of moral goodness. Rather, he sees the self-giving of the spouses as persons as the moral determinant.
Regarding NFP, he comments in Familiaris consortio:

“Authentic ecclesial pedagogy displays its realism and wisdom only by making a tenacious and courageous effort to create and uphold all the human conditions –psychological, moral and spiritual – indispensable for understanding and living the moral value and norm.
There is no doubt that these conditions must include persistence and patience, humility and strength of mind, filial trust in God and in His grace, and frequent recourse to prayer and to the sacraments of the Eucharist and of Reconciliation….
But the necessary conditions also include knowledge of the bodily aspect and the body’s rhythms of fertility. Accordingly, every effort must be made to render such knowledge accessible to all married people and also to young adults before marriage, through clear, timely and serious instruction and education given by married couples, doctors and experts. Knowledge must then lead to education in self-control: hence the absolute necessity for the virtue of chastity and for permanent education in it. In the Christian view, chastity by no means signifies rejection of human sexuality or lack of esteem for it; rather it signifies spiritual energy capable of defending love from the perils of selfishness and aggressiveness, and able to advance it towards it full realization.
…Yet this discipline [with regard to periodic continence] which is proper to the purity of married couples, far from harming conjugal love, rather confers on it a higher human value. It demands continual effort, yet, thanks to its beneficent influence, husband and wife fully develop their personalities, being enriched with spiritual value/ Such discipline bestows upon family life fruits of serenity and peace, and facilitates the solution of other problems; it favors attention for one’s partner, helps both parties to drive out selfishness, the enemy of true love, and deepens their sense of responsibility. By its means, parents acquire the capacity of having a deeper and more efficacious influence in the education of their offspring.”(#33).

Since contraception is the precisely the failure to make the gift of self as body (where sperm and egg are withheld), and NFP is the self-determination to make the gift of self by abstaining from sexual intercourse during fertility, we are dealing with two radically distinct anthropologies, one as person-gift, the other as individual-for-self. John Paul II comments:

“Theological reflection is able to perceive and is called to study further the difference, both anthropological and moral, between contraception and recourse to the thythm of the cycle: it is a difference which is much wider and deeper than is usually thought, one which involves in the final analysis two irreconcilable concepts of the human person and of human sexuality.”(#32)

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