On Retranslating <i>Humanae Vitae</i>

John Finnis

in Religion and Public Reasons

Published in print April 2011 | ISBN: 9780199580095
Published online September 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780191729416 | DOI:
On Retranslating Humanae Vitae

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On the occasion of translating into English the Latin of the 1968 encyclical on contraception and responsible parenthood, this chapter locates the encyclical in the context of the Second Vatican Council. It identifies its central argument, and focuses on the significance of the basic human good of marriage and the significance of the marital act for the expressing, actualizing, and experiencing of that good. Contracepting is excluded on essentially the same grounds as all other non-marital sex acts, that its being non-marital (because it eliminates from the act one of the aspects of the good of marriage) is against the good of marriage. Marriage's point is not procreation, nor friendship between the spouses, but marriage itself, as a good uniting both procreation and friendship in a form of life apt for the good of children. The essential difference between contraception and periodic abstinence can be explained more clearly than the encyclical does, as can (with hindsight) the bad effects of treating contraception as morally acceptable.

Keywords: contraception; Humanae Vitae; Second Vatican Council; periodic abstinence; marriage; basic human good

Chapter.  11816 words. 

Subjects: Jurisprudence and Philosophy of Law

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