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Religion and Public ReasonsCollected Essays Volume V$
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John Finnis

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780199580095

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199580095.001.0001

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On Retranslating Humanae Vitae

On Retranslating Humanae Vitae

(p.344) 23 On Retranslating Humanae Vitae
Religion and Public Reasons

John Finnis

Oxford University Press

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

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