Dear Brothers and Sisters,
1. Today I would like to draw your attention to another basic aspect of conjugal love: its intrinsic openness to life. The Catechism of the Catholic Church stresses this when it points out that the spouses' love "naturally tends to be fruitful. A child does not come from outside as something added on to the mutual love of the spouses, but springs from the very heart of that mutual giving, as its fruit and fulfillment (CCC, n.2366).
Grasping the mysterious greatness of this event is of fundamental importance. As I wrote in the Letter to Families, "God himself is present in human fatherhood and motherhood ... Indeed, God alone is the source of that 'image and likeness' which is proper to the human being, as it was received at Creation. Begetting is the continuation of Creation" (n.9).
Certainly this theme finds particular resonance with believers. However, its value with can also be recognized by pure reason which, in the miracle of nascent human life, is forced to acknowledge something that goes far beyond a mere biological fact. In begetting human life biology demands that it goes beyond itself. This cannot fail to have implications on the ethical level too: what concerns the begetting of human life cannot be treated as if it were a mere biological event subject to any sort of manipulation.
2. The Church's teaching about "responsible parenthood" is based on this essential anthropological and ethical foundation. Unfortunately, Catholic thought is often misunderstood on this point, as if the Church supported an ideology of fertility at all costs, urging married couples to procreate indiscriminately and without thought for the future. But one need only study the pronouncements of the Magisterium to know that this is not so.
Truly, in begetting life the spouses fulfills one of the highest dimensions of their calling: they are God's co-workers. Precisely for this reason they must have an extremely responsible attitude. In deciding whether or not to have a child, they must not be motivated by selfishness or carelessness, but by a prudent, conscious generosity that weighs the possibilities and circumstances, and especially gives priority to the welfare of the unborn child. Therefore, when there is a reason not to procreate, this choice is permissible and may be even be necessary. However, there remains the duty of carrying it out with criteria and methods that respect the total truth of the marital act in its unitive and procreative dimension, as wisely regulated by nature itself in its biological rhythms. One can comply with them and use them to advantage, but they cannot be "violated" by artificial interference.
3. Let us ask Blessed Mary for the gift of wisdom of heart, so necessary for clear vision in this sensitive matter, which is subject to the perversions of hedonistic and permissive culture. May she enlighten married couples to live their service to life with great sense of responsibility and to make their families true "sanctuaries of life".
To the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors at Castel Gandolfo the Holy Father said:
My warm greetings
go to all the English-speaking visitors and pilgrims who have come here
today. Through the loving intercession of the Holy Family of Nazareth,
may you and your families be filled with joy and peace in your service
of the Lord.