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Excerpts from Church documents
on select topics
Unless otherwise noted, the following abbreviations are used in the "Excerpts from Church Documents"
|AA||Apostolicam actuositatem (Decree on the Apostolate of the Laity)|
|CC||Casti connubii (On Christian Marriage)|
|CCC||Catechism of the Catholic Church|
|CIC||Codex Iuris Canonici (Code of Canon Law)|
|DP||Dignitas personae (On Certain Bioethical Questions)|
|DV||Donum vitae (Instruction on Respect for Human Life in its Origin and on the Dignity of Procreation)|
|EV||Evangelium vitae (The Gospel of Life)|
|FC||Familiaris consortio (On the Role of the Christian Family in the Modern World)|
|GE||Gravissimum educationis (Declaration on Christian Education)|
|GS||Gaudium et spes (Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World)|
|HV||Humanae vitae (Of Human Life)|
|IL||Instrumentum laboris (In the Service of Life)|
|LG||Lumen gentium (Dogmatic Constitution on the Church)|
|MM||Mater et magistra (On Christianity and Social Progress)|
|PP||Populorum progressio (On the Progression of Peoples)|
The following abbreviations are also used
|CCE||Congregation for Catholic Education|
|CDF||Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith|
|NCCB||National Conference of Catholic Bishops (Now USCCB)|
|PCF||Pontifical Council for the Family|
|USCCB||United States Conference of Catholic Bishops
Marriage is an original gift from God to humanity. Although sin entered the world damaging the marital relationship, this gift was not lost but redeemed by Christ and raised to a sacrament (see Eph. 5:28-32; see also Mtt. 19:4-6). Sacred Scripture proclaims that God created humanity in "His image" as "male and female" (see Gen. 1:27). So unique is this relationship that the marital union makes of the husband and wife "one flesh" (Gen. 2:24). Procreation, Scripture teaches, is a gift from God (Gen. 1:28). When spouses conceive new life, they participate in the Lord God's creative power. This is an awesome privilege and sacred responsibility!
Over the centuries and through the guidance of the Holy Spirit, the Catholic Church has reflected upon marriage. Below you will find foundational documents which articulate these teachings.
Visit our Love and Sexuality page for an overview on the Church's teachings on love and sexuality
Marriage: Love and Life in the Divine Plan
This Pastoral Letter on marriage was approved by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in 2009. It provides a summary of Church teaching on marriage as a natural institution and as a sacrament.
Married Love and the Gift of Life | En Español
This document of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops summarizes Church teaching on marriage, conjugal love and responsible parenthood in an easy to read question and answer format.
To read the section on marriage and the family, see:
Gaudium et spes excerpts
Catechism of the Catholic Church 1997
This comprehensive treatment of the Church's teaching touches upon every facet of the Christian faith.This work is divided into four main sections: the profession of faith (the Creed), the celebration of the Christian mystery (the Liturgy), life in Christ (the moral life), and Christian prayer. While references to marriage and family can be found throughout the entire book, one may find paragraphs 1601-1666 and 2331-2400 to be particularly applicable.
Dignitas personae (On Certain Bioethical Questions) 2008, Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith
Released by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, this document grapples with a number of bioethical questions raised in response to modern technological advancements in the field of human fertility and infertility. Using the principles of Catholic moral teaching, the document brings clarity and truth to the debates surrounding both procreation and genetic manipulation.
Vademecum for Confessors Concerning Some Aspects of the Morality of Conjugal Life 1997, Pontifical Council for the Family
Issued by the Pontifical Council for the Family, this brief document provides guidelines for the administration of the Sacrament of Reconciliation in difficult moral circumstances (particularly those of married life). Although addressed to confessors within the clergy, the document serves as a standard to guide all Christians in carrying out the call of Christ to live the virtue of chastity.
Ethics and Human Values in Family Planning 1988, Vatican Statement
Reprinted in The International Review of Natural Family Planning (Summer 1988)
Submitted by the Vatican to XXII Council for the International Organizations of Medical Sciences, this statement notes that there are no value free methods of family planning. It then lists six ethical challenges of contraception, drawing on examples. The document also explains that though the world sees a family planning crisis, the Church sees the real problem as one of ethics. (Note: The name of the Vatican Dicastery is not provided in this reprint.)
Donum vitae (Instruction on Respect for Human Life) 1987, Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith
Published by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, this text is the predecessor to the above document, Dignitas personae. Written in the midst of significant medical innovation on assisted reproductive technology, this document defends the gift and dignity of human life (particularly in its earliest stages), against the onset of intrusive and immoral scientific innovation.
Life-Giving Love in an Age of Technology 2009, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops
Authored by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, this pastoral teaching on marriage and infertility brings Catholic moral principles into the discussion on modern reproductive technologies. The bishops defend the dignity of procreation, reserving it to the conjugal union of spouses. The moral and immoral means of remedying infertility are clearly discussed.
Ethical Directives for Catholic Hospitals (Fifth Edition) 2009, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops
Now in its fifth edition, this document provides instruction for health care professionals regarding the mission and scope of their work. Addressing both pastoral and moral issues alike, the bishops provide guidance on the standards expected of those in Christian health care. The Directives include instruction on specific moral dilemmas encountered in the health care field including those that pertain to human fertility and life.
Human Sexuality from God's Perspective, Humanae Vitae 25 Years Later 1993, USCCB Committee for Pro-Life Activities
This short anniversary statement revisits the teachings of Humanae vitae on its twenty-fifth anniversary. Echoing the words of Pope Paul VI, it emphasizes the reverence due to human life and the responsibility of parents to defend such an invaluable gift. In protecting the great worth of human sexuality in God's plan, the document has a section devoted specifically to Natural Family Planning.
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