Bishop John’s Answer:
In response to your question, let me say that as Melkite Catholics, we freely embrace the moral teachings of the One Catholic Church of the East as of the West. We find that our own traditions support the teachings of the Church in ways that add to our celebration of faith.
Since Pope Paul VI promulgated the encyclical Humanae vitae in 1968, volumes have been written by way of response. In the last few years, the wisdom of his words has become more and more apparent. In our Melkite celebration of marriage, we begin by praying with the Psalmist that the couple might one day “see their children’s children like olive branches around their table.” This poetic language captures the fundamental values of both the unitive and procreative aspects of the sacramental marital union. Just prior to crowning the couple, the priest prays that the Father will stretch forth his hand and make the two one in flesh granting them fair children for education in the faith and fear of God. The symbol of the marriage crown speaks to the glory and honor of their chaste love that is seen as a sublime gift from the Father. Our liturgy proclaims the truths of marital love that is rich in meaning and challenge.
You might agree that we live in a culture that presents great challenge to Christian couples as they live out their commitments to one another in marriage. Human sexuality is poorly appreciated in our modern culture. In Humanae vitae, the Pope writes: “every action which, whether in anticipation of the conjugal act, or in its accomplishment, or in the development of its natural consequences, proposes, whether as an end or as a means, to render procreation impossible is intrinsically evil.” This moral teaching poses a true challenge to many in our modern culture. We hope to deal with the issues with compassion and truth. Anything less detracts from God-given values.
In his recent writings, Pope John Paul II has emphasized the fundamental value of the Christian family as a microcosm of the church itself. The theological insights of the Holy Father deserve the serious consideration of every serious Christian as we search for the fullest meaning of married life. I recommend that you read what is contained in The Catechism of the Catholic Church: Nos. 2368-2371. God bless you.