Vatican II “Draft of a Dogmatic Constitution on Chastity, Marriage, the Family and Virginity”: a schema that should have never been rejected (Part II)

by Maria Madise

The first part of this article considered how, at the beginning of the Second Vatican Council, a schema “On Chastity, Marriage, the Family and Virginity” was rejected and, with it, a cornerstone of the moral law. It now continues with an examination of how the disordering of the ends of marriage during the Council, and later, is crucial to the attacks on marriage and the family from within the Church.

The inversion of the ends of marriage during Vatican II

It is reported that, in July 1962, having examined the schemata presented to him, Pope John XXIII optimistically declared, “The Council is done, by Christmas we can conclude!” In reality, however, by the end of October, the first month of Council, all except the schema on the liturgy had been rejected. The Council would last, not three months, but three years.1

What happened, as Prof Roberto de Mattei relates, was that a group of European and Latin-American bishops, promoters of la nouvelle théologie, mobilised to reject the schemata as “too traditional”. The schema “On Chastity, Marriage, the Family and Virginity” was dismantled, all references to chastity and virginity removed, and the remains incorporated, under the supervision of Léon-Joseph Cardinal Suenens, Archbishop of Mechelen-Brussels (1904-1996), into a new document on the relationship between the Church and the modern world. This new schema, entitled Gaudium et spes, was approved by an overwhelming majority in December 1965.2

Gaudium et spes appears to define marriage as the intimate communion of the married couple. The issue of birth control had been removed. According to de Mattei, many of the Council fathers had accepted the Malthusian theories of population explosion with the need for birth control and clashed with those upholding the perennial Catholic teaching on marriage.3 De Mattei concludes that the chapter dedicated to marriage and the family represents an unhappy synthesis of these two opposing views. He notes: 

“The most surprising aspect of Gaudium et spes is the lack of exposure on the traditional order of the purposes of marriage. It was, as in the case of many other texts of the Council, a substantially ambiguous document. Logic teaches that two values ​​cannot be on a level of absolute equality. In the event of a conflict, one or other of the equivalent principles will prevail.”4

De Mattei suggests that the majority who voted on the document assumed that the primary purpose of marriage was procreation, as it had always been. Progressive bishops, however, understood the significance of its apparent equation of the procreative and unitive ends of marriage and the lack of a forthright condemnation of birth control. Walter Cardinal Kasper, for example, whose ideas framed the discussions of the Synod on the Family fifty years later, wrote in L’Osservatore Romano

“In the conciliar texts, compromise-formulas had to be found (…). Thus, the conciliar texts have in themselves an enormous potential for conflict; they open the door to selective reception in one direction or another.”5

This is what the popes before the council had warned against. In October 1941, Pius XII wrote: 

“…two tendencies must be avoided: one which, in examining the constitutive elements of the act of generation, gives weight only to the primary purpose of marriage, as if the secondary purpose did not exist…; and that which considers the secondary purpose as equally principal, loosing it from its essential subordination to the primary purpose, which by logical necessity would lead to deadly consequences…”6

Humanae Vitae

By 1968, the ends of marriage were clearly inverted. In paragraph 12 of Humanae Vitae, on Union and Procreation, Paul VI states:

“This particular doctrine, often expounded by the magisterium of the Church, is based on the inseparable connection, established by God, which man, on his own initiative, may not break, between the unitive significance and the procreative significance, which are both inherent to the marriage act. 

“The reason is that the fundamental nature of the marriage act, while uniting husband and wife in the closest intimacy, also renders them capable of generating new life – and this as a result of laws written into the actual nature of man and of woman. And if each of these essential qualities, the unitive and the procreative, is preserved, the use of marriage fully retains its sense of true mutual love and its ordination to the supreme responsibility of parenthood to which man is called.”

Understandably, Catholics were relieved that Humanae Vitae did not allow birth control, as was predicted in progressive circles, intoxicated by the sexual revolution. However, a more subtle attack on the hierarchy of the ends of marriage may have proved equally fatal. 

As de Mattei points out, if the natural order is not respected, lower nature prevails, prone as it is to the disordered pleasure of the partners. At this point, “love” is measured by the pleasure that the personal union gives, or by the resulting commitment and stability of the relationship. Furthermore, once the objective law of nature, founded on the objective difference between the sexes, is abandoned, all sexual morality is replaced by personal preference.7 This process inevitably leads to all that is opposed to true marriage – birth control, infidelity, homosexuality, etc. Man, tainted by sin, is now subjected to the ever-increasing temptation to reform the laws of procreation, universally taught for centuries, according to his passions. 

Don Pietro Leone also notes the rise of radical subjectivism and the “priority of love over truth”. Consequently, marriage is understood, no longer within the objective moral law, but with the implication that the primary end of marriage is “love”, that the conjugal act is itself the “total self-giving love”, and that contraception can be presented as sinful only on that basis.8

This mindset has enabled churchmen today to argue that stable and faithful homosexual unions “have positive aspects” and “gifts to offer”.9 Once the principles of natural law and moral absolutes are abandoned, anything becomes possible, even the suggestion that there are positive elements in unrepentant mortal sin.

The new morality, which emerged between 1958 and 1968, effectively despoiled Christian marriage. First, its glorious crown – consecrated virginity – was denuded and uprooted from its natural soil – chastity; thus, without roots and flowers, it was left to face the modern world, which has pillaged its beautiful ornaments one by one. In its struggle for survival, it clings to the vestiges of its proper order. But once the divinely established order of marriage is corrupted, it also fails to fulfil the human soul. 

Here it is worth considering that the emergence of subjectivism in morality, was obviously reflected in the revision of the liturgy. Don Pietro Leone observes: 

“This new Mass is essentially anthropocentric, in a sense that it presents a movement away from God towards man… It may be yet more clearly seen in the practices to which this anthropocentrism has led in recent years, by a sort of inner dynamic: the use of the vernacular, the celebration of the Mass with the back to the tabernacle and facing the people, Communion in the hand, the autocelebration of the “Community”; not to speak of more heinous abuses, such as the vision of the Mass as a party or feast, creativity, clowns, dancing-girls, laughter, and applause.”10

Returning to morality, only twenty years earlier, a declaration of the Holy See of 1944 poses the question: 

“Can one admit the doctrine of certain modern writers who deny that the procreation and education of the child are the primary end of marriage, or teach that the secondary ends are not essentially subordinate to the primary end, but rather are of equal value and are independent of it?” 

The Magisterium responds, “No, this doctrine cannot be admitted.”11

Nevertheless, as Don Pietro Leone points out, not only was this modern view admitted in the course of Vatican II, and even in Humanae Vitae (albeit in a covert form); it was soon after enshrined in the New Code of Canon Law, the (new) Catechism of the Catholic Church, and in papal documents,12 forming the generations of Catholics since then.

The last part of this article will be published next week and will look at how the inversion of the ends of marriage has contributed to the crisis we are witnessing today. 

  1. Roberto de Mattei, “Il Conciliatore”, Il Foglio, 12 July 2014.
  2. See Roberto de Mattei, Il primo schema sulla famiglia e sul matrimonio del Concilio Vaticano II, Edizioni Fiducia, 2015.
  3. See Don Pietro Leone The Family Under Attack, Loreto Publications, Fitzwilliam (2005), p. 74.
  4. See Roberto de Mattei, Il primo schema sulla famiglia e sul matrimonio del Concilio Vaticano II, Edizioni Fiducia, 2015.
  5. Ibid. Card. Walter Kasper, “A council still on the way”, L’Osservatore Romano, 12 April, 2013.
  6. Pius XII, Speech, 3 October 1941 (AAS 33 [1941], 423).
  7. See Roberto de Mattei, Il primo schema sulla famiglia e sul matrimonio del Concilio Vaticano II, Edizioni Fiducia, 2015.
  8. Don Pietro Leone, The Family Under Attack, Loreto Publications, Fitzwilliam (2005), p. 30-31.
  9. III Extraordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, Relatio post disceptationem, 13 October 2014.
  10. Don Pietro Leone, The Family Under Attack, Loreto Publications, Fitzwilliam (2005), p. 33-34.
  11. AAS XXXVI, p. 103, quoted in Don Pietro Leone, The Family Under Attack, p. 206.
  12. Don Pietro Leone, The Family Under Attack, p. 206.