Just over a quarter of a century ago, Pope Saint John Paul II released his encyclical, Evangelium vitae, in response to the ever-increasing attacks against human life and dignity. Each Friday, we aim to explore a different aspect the prophetic papal document.
Today’s passage drawn from Section 23 of the encyclical where Pope Saint John Paul notes that by living “as if God did not exist” man not only loses sight of the mystery of God, but also of the mystery of the world and the mystery of his own being. He writes:
“Within this same cultural climate, the body is no longer perceived as a properly personal reality, a sign and place of relations with others, with God and with the world. It is reduced to pure materiality: it is simply a complex of organs, functions and energies to be used according to the sole criteria of pleasure and efficiency. Consequently, sexuality too is depersonalized and exploited: from being the sign, place and language of love, that is, of the gift of self and acceptance of another, in all the other’s richness as a person, it increasingly becomes the occasion and instrument for self-assertion and the selfish satisfaction of personal desires and instincts. Thus the original import of human sexuality is distorted and falsified, and the two meanings, unitive and procreative, inherent in the very nature of the conjugal act, are artificially separated: in this way the marriage union is betrayed and its fruitfulness is subjected to the caprice of the couple. Procreation then becomes the “enemy” to be avoided in sexual activity: if it is welcomed, this is only because it expresses a desire, or indeed the intention, to have a child “at all costs”, and not because it signifies the complete acceptance of the other and therefore an openness to the richness of life which the child represents,” Pope Saint John Paul II, Evangelium vitae, Section 23.
Reflecting upon this passage today is Jenny Ingles, Director of Fertility and Life Ministries for the Diocese of Lansing. Jenny writes:
“Sadly, I and many of my millennial friends can bear witness to the ravages that this utilitarian depersonalized view of the body inflicts on the human person – the violence that it does. The message of Evangelium vitae is prophetic in that it sheds light on both the devastating effects of the modern view of the purpose and meaning of the body and sex, but also bears witness to the beauty and freedom that can be found through a Catholic view of sex and the body. As much harm as I’ve experienced dipping my feet into the modern view, I have experienced all the more healing in coming to know and delve more deeply into what the Church teaches about the meaning of sex and the body. Praised be Jesus Christ, in His Church, and in His saints!”
Pope Saint John Paul II, pray for us!