Concise Roman Catholic Medical Ethics

edition 2014 by J.A. Raymakers, MD PhD

2.1.1 The essence and the purpose of marriage according to the teaching of the Catholic Church

Marriage is a union for life and a communion between a man and a woman. Instituted by the Creator, and based on mutual love, its purpose is the propagation of mankind by the procreation of children who will find, within that communion, a safe place to grow up to be well-balanced people who are to share in God’s glory after their life on earth. It is a natural union that was elevated to a sacrament by Christ. In marriage the spouses mutually give themselves to one another in love without restriction, after the example of the sacrifice of Christ to the Father that is prolonged in the Eucharist.

2.1.2 How man should use his capacity to procreate

Man should use his capacity of procreation – his highest biological capacity – in accordance with its purpose: the continuation of the human family; he should do so within the communion of married love, where husband and wife give themselves totally to one another and put themselves at the service of God’s work of creation.

2.1.3 The attitude to the use of our sexual capacity

The sexual capacity should be used with great respect for its intrinsic goal which should not be frustrated. It is a supreme expression of mutual love.

2.1.4 Direction of the marital act to fertility

Not every marital act is fruitful and man is free to use this knowledge without, however, actively impeding its intrinsic goal. It is also wrong to use sexual capacity merely to one’s or each other’s pleasure and to untie its use from its intrinsic purpose, i.e. procreation. This would go against the commandment of respect for human dignity because it makes the body of the partner, or one’s own body, a mere instrument of satisfaction of sexual feelings. This would also be contrary to the demand of the complete giving of oneself mentioned above.

2.1.5 A new human comes into being

Through the sexual union of husband and wife the material conditions (“dispositio in materia”) that is necessary for the formation of the material substrate of a human being, i.e. the human embryo, to be brought about. However, man only gets his life as an actual human being from the non-material principle of life, the soul, created directly by God for every human being. Every human being is formed by an act of creation of God out of divine love for that human being.

2.1.6 Attitude towards the human embryo

The human embryo should be awarded the same rights and acknowledged to have the same essential properties as any human at any stage of life. Thus the embryo is entitled to unconditional protection and care. The human embryo is a human being from the moment of conception. Whereas the Church never issued a statement as to the moment of ensoulment, the finality of the embryo is indistinguishable from that of any man from conception: to develop into independence and finally come to unite with the Creator. The human embryo cannot develop into anything other than an independent human being, unless it perishes and dies from a disturbance in its biological development.

2.1.7 The attitude of parents to the embryo that is a result from their communion of love

The parents should accept the developing human being with gratitude as a gift of God that is entrusted to their care and completely depends on them. They should do everything within their power to make sure that the baby is born and is raised in circumstances that are as favorable as possible; they should provide it with a good education within the frame of the stable, familial situation to which they are called in their marriage.