The Second Task Of Marriage John Coppola 4/26/00 THL 467 The Second Task of Marriage The following essay will attempt to explain in detail what exactly the second task of marriage entails. Procreation as a task of marriage seems to be a fairly simple and straight forward one at first, but to fully understand it, one must have a deep understanding of the Catholic notion of love, sexuality, embodiment, and other moral norms relevant to various aspects of this task of marriage. With regard to love, a married couple with the desire to have children of their own must have a certain type of unconditional love for each other before they are truly ready to have children. When talking about sexuality, a couple must have an understanding of Catholic beliefs about sexuality which deal with the meaning of sexuality and the practices of sexuality considered acceptable and unacceptable by the Church. The topic of embodiment is a very broad one, and it is relevant to almost every aspect of marriage because it has to do with the idea that all humans are embodied in the image of God. The following essay will cover, in more detail, each of these ideas in order to show how important each is to the Catholic belief about the second task of marriage.
It has already been stated that the second task of marriage is service to life through the action of procreation and education. Love plays a very important role in accomplishing this task both in the way that it is needed for procreation and the proper upbringing of children. Within marriage, a certain kind of love must exist for the second task of procreation to be carried out properly. First of all, there is romantic love that can come in the form of lust, infatuation, and sentimental love. Romantic love is an important component to the relationship of a married couple, but romantic love alone is an insufficient base on which to build a strong marriage. The kind of love that is needed to create a strong, stable marriage is responsible, unconditional love called agopic love.
Agopic love is a kind of intangible love that can only be gained by being with another person for a good amount of time and truly getting to know everything about them while maintaining your love for them. What is meant by truly knowing the other person is that both individuals within a relationship know and understand the great, the good, the fair, and the faulty things about each other to the point that no personality traits of each other go unrevealed. This kind of mutual love can bring a couple so close to each other that an unbreakable bond is created. The strength of agopic love is such that a couple would never consider separating, and herein lies the reason why agopic love is so important for carrying out the second task of marriage. It is the Catholic view that before a couple decides to have children they need to come to a mutual understanding that they will do everything in their power to raise their children the best they can in accordance with Church teaching.
This includes life long unconditional love of children and each other, because, without love the family cannot live, grow, and perfect itself as a community of persons (FC 32). Pope John Paul II puts it best in Familiaris Consortio when he says, the family has the mission to guard, reveal and communicate love, and this is a living reflection of and a real sharing in God’s love for humanity and the love of Christ the Lord for the Church His bride (FC 31). Agopic love is the only type of love comparable to God’s divine love of all human beings, and it is a prerequisite for the proper accomplishment of service to life through procreation and education. The Catholic understanding of sexuality is another important factor that a married couple must be fully aware of before attempting to carry out the second task of marriage. The importance of sexuality relates mostly to the act of procreation. The act of sex, or conjugal love is regarded in Church teaching as very sacred. Conjugal communion constitutes the foundation on which is built the broader communion of the family (FC 36). With that in mind, virginity or celibacy has its own significance as the opposite of conjugal love.
Pope John Paul II states that, virginity or celibacy keeps alive in the Church a consciousness of the mystery of marriage and defends it from any reduction and impoverishment (FC 29). In other words, conjugal love is one factor that makes marriage so special and separates it from the unmarried relationship. To participate in premarital sex is to take away from the value or mystery of marriage. In his apostolic exhortation, John Paul II says that conjugal communion for the sake of procreation is based on the complementarity that exists between man and woman. The concept of complementarity basically says men and women are equally created in the image of God and are equally embodied images of God.
The physical, emotional, and sexual differences between men and women complement each other. This fact is most clearly revealed in the sexual differences between male and female because, when brought together in conjugal communion a couple participates with God in the act of creation; something that could not be done without such communion. A married couple must realize this in order to understand the importance of sexuality as it relates to procreation. Another aspect of sexuality a married couple should be aware of as it relates to the procreating act of conjugal love, is the Church’s stance on birth control. Church teaching allows for birth control only in the form of NFP (Natural Family Planning), and rejects the practice of ABC (Artificial Birth Control).
This teaching is based on the following points. Life is God’s greatest gift to mankind, and humans, in conjugal communion, act as a tool through which God bestows this gift. It only makes sense that humans should exert full personal responsibility in decisions which relate to procreation of new life (Thomas 140). Responsibility is the key concept in explaining why the Church accepts NFP and rejects ABC. NFP involves a great deal of attention to the various stages of female sexuality and keeps a couple aware of the great meaning of conjugal love. ABC on the other hand devalues the divinity of conjugal love.
When couples use ABC, ‘they act as arbiters of the divine plan and they manipulate and degrade human sexuality and with it themselves and their married partner by altering its value of total self-giving’ (Thomas 143). The Catholic understanding of embodiment is also important to the second task of marriage. The significance of embodiment must be realized by a married couple for proper accomplishment of serving life through the education of children. The human person is an embodied image of God, because God created man and woman in his own image and likeness in the form of a physical body. The physical part of our existence is the part that makes us embodied and gives us a historical and sexual existence. Following from this point, we have the responsibility to further cultivate God’s creation in his own image through education.
As the Second Vatican Council recalled, ‘since parents have conferred life on their children, they have a most solemn obligation to educate their offspring’ (FC 59). Embodiment requires the participatory act of creation with God through procreation and education, and it would be morally wrong to participate in procreation and not education. As it has been stated, service to life through procreation and education constitutes the second task of marriage. This essay has outlined various reasons why a Catholic understanding of the concepts of love, sexuality and embodiment are intrinsic to this second task. It is quite evident that these three concepts are important to the second task as they offer guidance to married couples who struggle to properly carry out service to life.