HomePage  Mary Shivanandan

Maternal Nursing: Human Development for Husband, Wife, and Child

By Matthew Tsakanikas


It is often said that seeing is believing, but the truth is that believing is seeing [1] ; and the real question concerning the importance of maternal breastfeeding is: “Through which lens do we view our world?”  How we view the world and how we view the purpose of human existence – or even what a human is - affects how we view whether or not there is meaning in things or even meaning in our own design; whether or not the psychophysiological [2]connection between sex, child-birth, and nursing are ordered to something or just a fluke. Has not the “Universe…bent over backwards to accommodate us and to enable human life to commence and to exist and to thrive”? [3]  If we believe there is a design imbedded in the cosmos, ordered towards life, then we believe there is a designer, a creator; we are theists of some sort.  If on the other hand we deny design and view the cosmos as the culmination of chance, then speaking of meaning and purpose is silly; we are nihilists and we create and define meaning until the next great Nietzschean “eternal recurrence”. [4]

This essay (written for study of “Sacramentality of the Body”) takes as a premise that the world has a design and purpose to it; that there is meaning and functionality in things, independent of human rationality, because the Creator created them and He made man capable of perceiving this meaning and functionality (law) by placing rationality within man.  Not only does man possess rationality, but his emotional and appetitive powers also incline him to fulfill his purpose and achieve real freedom as well. [5]  With this in mind it will be argued that it is a mother’s obligation to nurse her own child and a husband ‘s to support her in this endeavor.

Alasdair MacIntyre writes that:

Moral arguments within the classical, Aristotelian tradition – whether in its Greek or its medieval versions – involve at least one central functional concept, the concept of man understood as having an essential nature and an essential purpose or function; and it is when and only when the classical tradition in its integrity has been substantially rejected that moral arguments change their character so that they fall within the scope of some version of the ‘No “ought” conclusion from “is” premises’ principle. [6]

Thus, when I write that every mother should nurse her own child [7], or that every father should encourage his wife to nurse their child, “should” means “ought” and there is a moral component to this imperative because the eternal law reveals to the rational mind that this is a law of nature which sets man free; a law which forms him into the being he was meant to be.  Certainly man is free to deny this law, but such will stunt his development, reduce his freedom, and prevent not only the husband, wife, and child from flourishing, but society as well.  Seen from the Paterological, Christological, and Pneumatological dimensions [8] we will analyze how maternal nursing is a moral natural law, how it makes husband, wife, and child flourish, and, the importance of this for society.

Irenaean Theodicy

Though the created world has a design and purpose to it, that design and purpose are not always easy to perceive and can even be made more opaque when cultures are enslaved by sin and darkness which banish awe and reflection upon the mystery of our own existence.  Additionally, besides personal sin clouding our vision, we are too busy or distracted to face ourselves and too separated from the natural environment to wonder about our alienation from it and the whole of the created order.  Before we can recognize the importance of maternal breastfeeding, we need to reflect on our own adult interpersonal relationships and even how we view ourselves and our place in the universe.  Are we uncomfortable with ourselves? Are we uncomfortable with our own feelings, drives and desires; our own bodies?  Do we view others as important to our own development or as constraints upon our freedom?

 Being human we recognize within ourselves a capacity to love others and to give ourselves over to a greater good; yet we also recognize “I do not do the good I want, but I do the evil I do not want” (Rom 7:19) as we yield to selfish desires and draw back from commitments that enable us to make gifts of ourselves. We recognize other capacities within us which seem to aid us in our own personal development and which bring greater happiness to ourselves and others as we build community.  We experience joy in helping others develop and in such friendships based upon achievement of recognized goods and needs.  In times of peace and harmony we recognize what is possible for humans to achieve and what the world should be like.

We also recognize that there is something wrong with the world and in us that does not seem to correspond to a Creator who is all-good.  A world which makes us question if human drives, desires, emotions and rationality are really inclined to ends by design or by  chance.  Why the natural disasters that swallow villages and cities?  Why the violent crimes?  Why do I act selfishly and experience inability to control my desires, drives, and emotions?  Why do I feel despair and meaninglessness?

Though an Irenaean-styled theodicy does not fully answer the problem of evil, [9] it does set the stage for understanding a concept of man and his relationship with nature (interior and exterior environment) that is essential to an anthropology that requires development and sacrifice for a human to become what he was meant to be and achieve authentic freedom:

This alternative theodicy sees the world as essentially an environment, a difficult, sometimes agonizing environment in which the human spirit is refined by fire…an ambience of mingled good and evil, which is just what we need for growth toward perfection. [10]

It provides an understanding of man that we should keep in the back of our minds in order to assist us in seeing there is a relationship between our interior inclinations to the good (both sense and rational) and our development in to who we are meant to be: “God differs from man in this, that God makes, but man is made.  Surely that which makes is always the same; but that which is made must receive a beginning, a middle, addition and increase.” [11]  Aidan Nichols, OP tells us: “Irenaeus saw moral evil not as an interior catastrophe but as  a matter of weakness and immaturity.” [12]  Irenaeus would temper any stoic interpretation or the notion of “suck-it-up!” and “grow-up!” with the Christian message that through the capital grace of Christ we are empowered to “grow up” if only we will take-up our cross and follow Him.

Virtue necessary for freedom

An alcoholic does not recover when he denies he has a problem.  It is upon acknowledging that there is a problem (that his once treasured relationships with family and friends are in shambles; that his health is rapidly deteriorating; that he can not see beyond his problems to the needs of others) that he can begin to work towards his recovery and what he was meant to be.  If he does not value these goods of human existence or views them as meaningless, then he cannot recover from what many recognize as a serious illness; he will continue to live in denial and drunken stupors.  His freedom from attachments, values, and meaning enslaves him to inferiority and depredation of his being.

When expressing the core of the problem affecting relationships within the family today (“a mistaken theoretical and practical concept of the independence of the spouses in relation to each other; serious misconceptions regarding the relationship of authority between parents and children; the concrete difficulties that the family itself experiences in the transmission of values; the growing number of divorces; the scourge of abortion; the ever more frequent recourse to sterilization; the appearance of a truly contraceptive mentality”), Pope John Paul II wrote:

At the root of these negative phenomena there frequently lies a corruption of the idea and the experience of freedom, conceived not as a capacity for realizing the truth of God's plan for marriage and the family, but as an autonomous power of self-affirmation, often against others, for one's own selfish well-being. [13]

Freedom is given to us for the purpose of developing into the people we were meant to be in order to achieve happiness.  When used within God’s plan, freedom serving truth enables us to see more clearly God’s design.  Choosing truth and committing ourselves to it instead of choosing selfish desire gives us new eyes to see the world, as was stated earlier: “believing is seeing.”  All the powers God endowed man with are good, but can become disordered and fight to be satisfied or indulged in manners that are self-serving instead of family and community serving.  Self-serving choices remove our power (blind us) to perceive God’s plan in creation (the Paterological dimensions).  The opposite approach - making a gift of our ourselves [14] to others in participation/imitation of Christ (Christological dimensions) - enables us to really “see” with clarity.  The Christological approach – “he who seeks his own life will lose it, but he who loses his life for my sake will gain it” (Luke 9:24) - gives us more freedom to operate because through Christ we remain in the transcendent Paterological dimensions of truth and reality: “if you continue in my word, you will truly be my disciple, and you will know the truth and the truth will make you free” (John 8:31-32).

Through the acquisition of virtue we become free.  Romanus Cessario, O.P. tells us:

Aquinas’s discussion of acquired habitus rests on the conviction that human capacities develop precisely as a result of properly human activity, the synergy of free choice and intelligence.  What is more, such development does not simply affect the way in which an individual acts, though it accomplishes that as well.  Rather, action can account for change in the very reality of self.  In other words, actions can change the individual.  Christian doctrine asserts that the extent of the change can reach to the very core of a person’s selfhood and identity. [15]

The development of virtue is absolutely necessary for discovering our freedom within the Paterological dimensions since virtue “heightens our human capacities to such an extent that those who act with a ‘habituated’ intellect, will, and appetites approach the optimum performance of the strongest and most perfect human being.” [16]  There is an intimate connection between our development, freedom of choice, and our ability to “see” a design in creation which enables us to make the right decision and further our own personal freedom.  Without virtue this happiness can not be achieved and yet without suffering we will never attain virtue.

Sacramentality of the Body Reveals the Moral Order

Pope John Paul II continues the Church’s natural law tradition when he writes:

Since the moral order reveals and sets forth the plan of God the Creator, for this very reason it cannot be something that harms man, something impersonal. On the contrary, by responding to the deepest demands of the human being created by God, it places itself at the service of that person's full humanity with the delicate and binding love whereby God Himself inspires, sustains and guides every creature towards its happiness. [17]

We were made with intellectual, emotional, and sensitive inclinations that lead us to our happiness.  These inclinations begin the desire for and discernment of what we ought to do to function within our environment both social and physical.  In fact the very design of our humanity, when reflected upon, becomes a legend that enables us to interpret the will of the Creator.  It is easy enough to read nature’s physical signs; that a woman’s breasts are meant for nursing her child, but does this not reveal a social order as well if we reflect sufficiently and with faith in a loving Creator?  When the infant sucks at the breast both the woman and the child experience physical pleasure and relief.  Nature tends towards the happiness of both and “guides every creature towards its happiness.”  Yet, there is much more going on in humans by the fact that we are personal.  Our intellect rightly detects much more within God’s plan than just physical design.

In humans the order of the sensitive is taken up into the emotional and the emotional into the personal.  We are a unity of body and soul which are integrally related to one another, dependent and participating in one another.  Our physical pleasure and relief becomes a personal and psychological experience.   It does not escape the intellect and its judgments interpreting current circumstances.  The woman’s nursing experience goes beyond pleasure and relief and encompasses all the relationships involved in her current circumstance.  To deny such is to deny her full humanity.  Within her psychophysiological experience and upon reflection, she grasps nature’s unity and design from the child’s beginning, through birth, into the present act of nursing.  She interprets the moral order not fancifully but personally; discerning if everything still makes sense in all her human relationships (towards her child and the spouse who helped generate it) which are ordered within her dependent relationship as a creature (additionally ordered toward divine relationship).  “The body, in its physiology as such, is not ‘premoral’ but ‘moral’: it bears an order characterized by ‘the anticipatory signs, the expression and promise of the gift of self, in conformity with the wise plan of the Creator’ ([Veritatis Splendor] n. 48).” [18]

Ideally, the very act of giving herself freely to a man in sexual love involved its own natural sign language (besides being preceded by public verbal vows).  Mature adults, she and the man both understood a child was a possibility. [19]  The man’s actions implied a giving of himself to her in an understanding that he was mature and responsible and would continue to care for her, which included any possible child. [20]  She did not view herself as just being used…depersonalized and exposed to all vulnerability.  Believing this she let herself go and surrendered herself to the man and nature as a gift.  Trusting that this language of the body was truthful and reflected interior dispositions, she could relax and this enabled her body and mind to work properly as nature intended without hindrances.

Ideally, she experienced orgasm as everything necessary was set-in motion towards conception of a new human being. [21]   All of her bodily signs marked a new experience given to her by the one with whom she had become one flesh and from whom she understood a pledge of himself to her into the future.  It was the most intimate of experiences and self-revelation to the other which renewed their intentions of commitment; designed by God as a help to this good intention.  Coincidentally, the continued expression and reminder of this one-flesh-ness with her husband – the child – causes very similar physical experiences and hormonal releases when she nurses the child. [22]  This should come as no surprise.  The sexual act is ordered towards the child and nature is showing its agreement and confirming the mother in the good.  Niles Newton’s studies in sexual behavior attempt to explain: “The survival of the human race, long before the concept of ‘duty’ evolved, depended upon the satisfactions gained from the two voluntary acts of reproduction – coitus and breast feeding.” [23]

Newton’s above statement misses the intrinsic connection between the moral order and the anticipatory signs which help direct us.  For her the pleasure of nursing seems pre-moral instead of a bodily inclination ordered to confirm us in the good of what was already pledged in the voluntary act of nuptial love.  This pleasure should rather be viewed as a design built-in to remind mother and father of their original pledge to love without withdrawing from their original commitment consummated in sexual love; a kind of carrot rather than stick approach to leading man.  Through these inclinations to the pleasurable in breast feeding “[wo]man is able under the gentle guidance of God's providence increasingly to recognise the unchanging truth.” [24] Part of that truth is that “parenthood calls for awareness and acceptance, especially on the part of the woman of motherhood but also on the part of the father of fatherhood.” [25]  Quoting Wojtyla, Shivanandan continues: “The rejection of such an awareness and readiness endangers their interpersonal relationship.” [26]   It endangers the child’s development as well.

The milk in the woman’s breasts developed for the child and the child has a right to the milk which nature made for him, but again, we must not stop there.  If we leave it at just a physical matter we once again miss the fact that the appetites and the bodily are taken up into the personal order in humans and that God also wishes the personal order to develop and see the appetites rightly ordered within it.  Thus, the very act of giving nutrition is also designed by nature for forming the child’s capacities for developing relationships and virtues. [27]  Nature has ordered that the mother and child develop together and that they initially have the greatest bonds due to the womb and maternal nursing.  It is his mother’s face he will watch as he nurses and his first personal relationship will continue to develop with her; preparing him for the ultimate relationship [28] as he beholds an icon of God’s face looking lovingly upon him [29].  Quoting Dr. Ratner, editor of the journal Child and Family, Father Virtue writes:

If the child experiences the fidelity of his prime caregiver especially in the period when the child’s needs are greatest and which when met engender security, confidence and trust, that example will remain with him for life.  It becomes the pattern of which all future friendships are based, a pattern which even [opens] the way to his friendship with God. [30]

The mother has this duty to help the child develop in body and virtue as she implicitly pledged this in her self-donation to her husband (and the potential child) in the nuptial meaning of their bodies [31] …the possibility of a child and the obligation to rear him; a pledge which cannot be broken without some degree of moral fault.  In Familiaris Consortio Pope John Paul reiterated what he said before the U.N. in 1979: “Concern for the child, even before birth, from the first moment of conception and then throughout the years of infancy and youth, is the primary and fundamental test of the relationship of one human being to another.” [32]

It is not just the nutritional superiority of breast milk over other substitutes and well documented early childhood development studies in favor of maternal nursing that makes maternal nursing an obligation, [33] but this relationship of “one human being to another.”  The woman was not only endowed to mother the child and confirmed in this with psychophysiologic helps when breastfeeding, but she is fully responsible for creating the ontological relationship in the first place which entails duties to the child which cannot be delegated [34] without harm to the relationship. “A mother’s fidelity to the needs of her child is at the origin and heart of morality, for true morality is about our capacity for relation with persons.” [35]

Child bearing saves you now

Hence we arrive at the reason we began our discussion with the Irenaean theodicy after the ‘Introduction’.  In today’s liberal Western societies, “structures of sin” [36] have developed which attack the mother’s inclination to remain with the child through the first years of infancy in order to nurse the child. Often, couples are trapped in financial situations which require dual incomes and force women to return to work apart from the family or else lose the house which shelters the family.  Even worse, false ideologies present society with false notions of freedom and equality [37] which get ingrained into our social fabric and its institutions. [38]  Freedom becomes indifference to our obligations (without societal disapproval)  rather than freedom to develop according to an anterior order. [39]  Like alcoholics addicted to drink, the modern Western couple can not admit their relationships are in disorder in their addiction to careers which are destroying their families.

In short, it seems the whole world is working against us fulfilling God’s plan for us to develop within our personal relationships and obligations; the relationships designed to give us true freedom through fulfillment of obligations by continuing to make sincere gifts of ourselves. [40] In this giving of ourselves, we reveal the freedom found within the Persons of the Trinity, who are fully persons.  They alone define what love and personhood are in totally giving of themselves to one another in so perfect a manner that they are one in being: “God is love” (1 John 4:8b).

Our personal development is fulfilled by responding to the moral natural law and the obligations it reveals in the personal order; for the Eternal law is love and the moral natural law is simply a participation in love.  To get trapped into abandoning our duties to spouse or children divides us interiorly and stunts our development as human persons (which are defined in large part by our relationships).  A mother is disintegrated and not the person she is meant to be when she is not fulfilling the relationship to the child which defines her as mother.  A father is disintegrated and not the person he is meant to be when he is not fulfilling the relationship to the child which defines him as father. [41]  Husband is not truly husband and wife not truly wife, etc…There are obligations within family relationships which come before all else.

Moral living is not a science or rationalist game in which the answers to life are imbedded as predicates within their subjects.  Humans are not pure mind but rather embodied minds ordered towards union with God.  Moral living is an art and discerning the Divine Law is a matter of imitation of its greatest master, Jesus Christ.  Being true to His family obligation to love the Father in a world full of structural and personal sins led to His crucifixion.  Wanting us to be true to our family obligations Jesus said, “Take-up your cross and follow me.”

It is in laying down our lives for our beloveds that we grow into the persons we were meant to be and so participate in the sacrificial love of Christ which saves us.  Mothers lay down their lives for their children when they give-up careers that will not allow them to fulfill their duties to nurse their children.  Fathers lay down their lives when they take-on more abstinence and deny themselves [42] for the good of their wives (negatively affected by suppression of hormones during maternal nursing) and the good of children who need to be nursed. [43] In fact, the relationship of husband and wife is ordered toward children and ordered by creation (Irenaean style) and nature toward their salvation as they must sacrifice themselves in order to fulfill the relationship of mother and father.  Thus, being ordered towards children, marriage is ordered towards union with God as fatherhood and motherhood necessarily entail participation in sacrificial love:

In revealing and in reliving on earth the very fatherhood of God, a man is called upon to ensure the harmonious and united development of all the members of the family: he will perform this task by exercising generous responsibility for the life conceived under the heart of the mother, by a more solicitous commitment to education [begun in maternal nursing], a task he shares with his wife. [44]

For such reason it is no wonder that St. Paul says the woman (but also the man) will be saved “through childbearing” (1 Timothy 2:15).


The “life conceived under the heart of the mother” is what saves mother and father now.  The nuptial love initially expressed by the future parents was in some ways naïve and immature, but full of goodness and trust in Providence.  Had they been fully conscious of the demands that a child would make upon them, without such trust they may have considered contraception and remained in their immaturity and selfishness.  Instead, they expressed themselves in the language of the body that meant real self-donation and love to the other.  In turn, through this act of self-donation, God opened the narrow gate and invited them to enter and remain upon the path they had chosen; a path “recovering the depths of man’s primitive ordering to the mystery of God revealed in Jesus Christ.” [45]  Salvation is not just a matter of avoiding sin, but of being taken-up into the mystery of God’s love [46] ; a process initiated for humans when God brings them into existence as a bodily person.

Husband and wife are thereby initiated into a great mystery and revelation of the sacramentality of the body: “This partnership of man and woman constitutes the first form of communion between persons.  For by his innermost nature man is a social being; and if he does not enter into relations with others he can neither live nor develop his gifts.” [47]  These gifts within the nuptial meaning of the body were developed when his wife’s breasts - which were initially a path to sexual expressiveness - were transformed by conception of a child and began to reveal the higher order to which they were directed: sacrificial love.  Upon birth the woman can no longer  hide the child beneath her heart but she can express this desire when she pulls the child up close to her heart and lets him feed upon her breasts.

As the child feeds, he gazes upon his mother’s face and the order of being and freedom is again revealed.  Freedom falls within an anterior order of receptivity [48] (the Pneumatological dimensions) and our development awaits the initiation of others to call us forth to what we were meant to be.  A quote from David Schindler’s article “Christology and the Imago Dei” is most appropriate to our topic:

Thus we can see why Balthasar, in his philosophical anthropology, insists that the mother’s smile is the paradigm for understanding human being (and via analogy, all of cosmic being).  The key again, is the primacy of the Other: the objective presence of the Other which is first a presence of love, and which therefore goes forth first in the warmth of a smile.  The smile gradually penetrates and awakens the subjectivity of the child, evoking the response of a smile in return.  The mother-child relation, in other words, is the created analogue for Trinitarian beauty: as creatures, we are always like the child awaiting the loving initiative of the other. [49]

The real center of this essay then is not just nursing but the importance of the development of the virtues.  In the end, it is not even just about the virtues but rather Christian marital spirituality.   This author is not just a male, but a father.  As a youth he did not have the eyes of faith to see God’s hand in designing the world to lead to knowledge of Him through self-sacrifice; the process by which the scales of selfishness are made to fall from one’s eyes.  As a husband he had to overcome the sins of his youth which led him to see a woman’s breasts solely as objects of sexual desire; sex for selfish satisfaction.  Despite sinfulness, as a father trying to be faithful to his calling, breasts became seen as the hearth upon which children made in the imago Dei are called to grow into the imago Christi. [50] They are ordered towards sanctification and the development of the virtues.

It is not just for fathers to have the eyes to see in their own families but to share this vision with their neighbors and make it easier upon wives to exercise their calling to motherhood for the sake of our children to whom we owe the debt of our solicitude.  We are reminded in Familiaris Consortio that:

To the injustice originating from sin-which has profoundly penetrated the structures of today's world-and often hindering the family's full realization of itself and of its fundamental rights, we must all set ourselves in opposition through a conversion of mind and heart, following Christ Crucified by denying our own selfishness: such a conversion cannot fail to have a beneficial and renewing influence even on the structures of society. [51]

For, “Just as the intimate connection between the family and society demands that the family be open to and participate in society and its development, so also it requires that society should never fail in its fundamental task of respecting and fostering the family.” [52]


Casey, Michael. Meaninglessness. North Melbourne: Freedom Publishing, 2001.

Cessario, Romanus. The Moral Virtues and Theological Ethics. Indiana: University of Notre Dame Press, 1991.

Di Noia, Augustine O.P. “Imago Dei-Imago Christi: The Theological Foundations of

 Christian Humanism,” Nova et Vetera 2:2, Fall 2004.

Fisher, Anthony O.P. “Culture of the family and bioethics.  The promotion of a Culture

 of the Family in the context of the New Evangelization,” Anthropotes 19:1,

2003, 85-97.

Grisez, Germain. Beyond the New Theism. Indiana: University of Notre Dame Press,


Kippley, John. The Art of Natural Family Planning. Cincinnati: The Couple to Couple

 League, 1979.

MacIntyre, Alasdair. After Virtue. Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press,1981.

Newton, Niles. “Interrelationships between Sexual Responsiveness, Birth, and Breast

 Feeding,” in Contemporary Sexual Behavior: Critical Issues in the 1970’s, eds.

 Joseph Zubin and John Money. Baltimore: John Hopkins University Press,

 1973, 77-97.

Nichols, Aidan O.P. The Shape of Catholic Theology. Minnesota: The Liturgical Press,


Pell, George Cardinal. Be Not Afraid. New South Wales: Duffy and Snellgrove, 2004.

Pinckaers, Servais O.P. The Sources of Christian Ethics, trans. Sr. Mary Thomas Noble,  O.P. Washington, D.C.: Catholic University of America Press, 1995.

Pope John Paul II.  Familiaris Consortio: Apostolic Exhortation on the Role of the

 Christian Family in the Modern World,  1981, http://www.vatican.va  .

Pope John Paul II. The Theology of the Body. Boston: Daughters of St. Paul, 1997.

Pope John Paul II. Veritatis Splendor: Encyclical Letter on Certain Fundamental

 Questions of the Church’s Moral Teaching. NSW: Society of St. Paul, 1993.

Saint Irenaeus, “Against Heresies,” in The Faith of the Early Fathers, Vol. I,  trans.

 William Jurgens.  Collegeville: The Liturgical Press, 1970, 84-104.

Schindler, David L. “Christology and the Imago Dei: Interpreting Gaudium et Spes,”

 Communio 23, Spring 1996,  156-184.

Schindler, David L. “The Significance of World and Culture for Moral Theology:

Veritatis Splendor and the ‘Nuptial-Sacramental’ Nature of the Body,” Communio

31, Spring 2004, 111-142.

Shivanandan, Mary. Crossing the Threshold of Love. Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1999.

Vatican Council II. Gaudium et Spes: Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World, in A. Flannery OP (ed.), Vatican Council II:  The Conciliar and

 Post Conciliar Documents.  New Rev. ed. Vol. 1. Northport: Costello Publishing

 Co., 1992, 903-1001.

Virtue, William D. “Mother and Infant: The Moral Theology of Embodied Self-Giving,”  in Motherhood in Light of the Exemplar Couplet Mary and Jesus Christ. Rome:

 Pontificia Studiorum Universitas A S. Thoma Aquino In Urbe, 1995, 265-285

 and 305-315.


1. Cf. Vatican Council II, Gaudium et Spes: Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World, .para 11.  In A. Flannery OP (ed.), Vatican Council II:  The Conciliar and Post Conciliar Documents.  New Rev. ed. Vol. 1 (Northport: Costello Publishing Co., 1992), 903-1001, at 912 (hereafter cited as GS).  Paragraph 11 states: “Faith throws a new light o all things and makes known the full ideal which God has set for man, thus guiding the mind towards solutions that are fully human.”

2. Cf. Niles Newton, “Interrelationships between Sexual Responsiveness, Birth, and Breast Feeding,” in Contemporary Sexual Behavior: Critical Issues in the 1970’s, eds. Joseph Zubin and John Money (Baltimore: John Hopkins University Press, 1973), pp. 77-97.

3. Cardinal George Pell, Be Not Afraid (New South Wales: Duffy and Snellgrove, 2004), p. 4.

4. Michael Casey, Meaninglessness (North Melbourne: Freedom Publishing, 2001), p. 32.

5. Cf. Servais Pinckaers, O.P., The Sources of Christian Ethics, trans. Sr. Mary Thomas Noble, O.P. (Washington, D.C.: Catholic University of America Press, 1995), pp. 332-333.

6. Alasdair MacIntyre, After Virtue (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press,1981), p. 55.

7. Certainly a mother who has difficulty with lactation or a real medical impediment is not bound to this since the goal is the good of the child, the good of the mother, the good of the father, and the good of marriage (as will be explained).

8. Cf. Anthony Fisher, OP, “Culture of the family and bioethics.  The promotion of a Culture of the Family in the context of the New Evangelization,” Anthropotes 19:1 (2003), 85-97 at 96.  By the ‘Paterological’ I mean creational dimension; by ‘Christological’ I mean more the self-donative revelation of love found in the Sacramental; by ‘Pneumatological’ I mean also mean the Marian dimension as found in receptivity.

9. Cf. Aidan Nichols, O.P., The Shape of Catholic Theology (Minnesota: The Liturgical Press, 1991), 69-73.

10. Nichols, The Shape of Catholic Theology, 69.

11. Saint Irenaeus, “Against Heresies,” in The Faith of the Early Fathers, Vol. I,  trans. William Jurgens.  (Collegeville: The Liturgical Press, 1970), 84-104, (para 229) at 94.

12. Nichols, The Shape of Catholic Theology, 69.

13. Pope John Paul II.  Familiaris Consortio: Apostolic Exhortation on the Role of the Christian Family in the Modern World,  1981, para. 6, http://www.vatican.va   (Hereafter cited as FC.)

14. GS 24: “man can truly discover his own self only in a sincere giving of himself.”

15. Romanus Cessario, The Moral Virtues and Theological Ethics (Indiana: University of Notre Dame Press, 1991), 39-40.

16. Cessario, The Moral Virtues, 42.

17. FC #34.

18. David L. Schindler, “The Significance of World and Culture for Moral Theology: Veritatis Splendor and the ‘Nuptial-Sacramental’ Nature of the Body,” Communio 31 (Spring 2004), 111-142 at 112-113.

19. Cf. Mary Shivanandan, Crossing the Threshold of Love (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1999), 107: “A proper synthesis of the natural and the personal order requires that the married couple accept the possibility of parenthood.”

20. Cf. FC #14: “According to the plan of God, marriage is the foundation of the wider community of the family, since the very institution of marriage and conjugal love are ordained to the procreation and education of children, in whom they find their crowning.”

21. She experienced uterine contractions; her nipples were stimulated and erect; her emotions were aroused and her skin experienced marked vascular changes with significant rises in body temperature.  Niles, “Interrelationships between Sexual Responsiveness, Birth, and Breast Feeding,” 82.

22. Cf. Ibid., 82-83.

23. Ibid., 81.

24. Cf. Vatican Council II. Dignitatis Humanae: Declaration on Religious Freedom, para. 3. in Pope John Paul II, Veritatis Splendor: Encyclical Letter on Certain Fundamental Questions of the Church’s Moral Teaching, para.43. (NSW: Society of St. Paul, 1993), 71, (hereafter cited as VS).

25. Shivananadan, Crossing the Threshold of Love, 83.

26. Ibid.

27. Cf. William D. Virtue, “Mother and Infant: The Moral Theology of Embodied Self-Giving,” in Motherhood in Light of the Exemplar Couplet Mary and Jesus Christ (Rome: Pontificia Studiorum Universitas A S. Thoma Aquino In Urbe, 1995), 265-285 and 305-315.

28. Virtue, “Mother and Infant,” 315.

29. I am indebted to Mary Shivanandan’s lectures for pointing-out this theme of icon in Dr. Ratner’s work.

30. Virtue, “Mother and Infant,” 309.

31. See: Pope John Paul II, The Theology of the Body (Boston: Daughters of St. Paul, 1997).

32. FC #26.

33. Cf.Virtue, “Mother and Infant,” 277 and footnotes; also see: John Kippley, The Art of Natural Family Planning (Cincinnati: The Couple to Couple League, 1979), 192-196.

34. Cf. FC #36: “The right and duty of parents to give education is essential, since it is connected with the transmission of human life; it is original and primary with regard to the educational role of others, on account of the uniqueness of the loving relationship between parents and children; and it is irreplaceable and inalienable, and therefore incapable of being entirely delegated to others or usurped by others.”

35. Virtue, “Mother and Infant,” 309.

36. See: Schindler, “The Significance of World and Culture for Moral Theology,” 134-141. Here Schindler explains Pope John Paul II’s use of the phrase.

37. Cf. FC #23: “There is no doubt that the equal dignity and responsibility of men and women fully justifies women's access to public functions. On the other hand the true advancement of women requires that clear recognition be given to the value of their maternal and family role, by comparison with all other public roles and all other professions. Furthermore, these roles and professions should be harmoniously combined, if we wish the evolution of society and culture to be truly and fully human.”

38. See: Schindler, “The Significance of World and Culture for Moral Theology,” 134-141.

39. Ibid., 130.

40. See: GS #24: “man can discover his true self only in a sincere giving of himself.”

41. Cf. FC #25: “Love for his wife as mother of their children and love for the children themselves are for the man the natural way of understanding and fulfilling his own fatherhood. Above all where social and cultural conditions so easily encourage a father to be less concerned with his family or at any rate less involved in the work of education, efforts must be made to restore socially the conviction that the place and task of the father in and for the family is of unique and irreplaceable importance.”

42. Cf. FC #33: “With deeply wise and loving intuition, Paul VI was only voicing the experience of many married couples when he wrote in his Encyclical: "To dominate instinct by means of one's reason and free will undoubtedly requires ascetical practices, so that the affective manifestations of conjugal life may observe the correct order, in particular with regard to the observance of periodic continence. Yet this discipline which is proper to the purity of married couples, far from harming conjugal love, rather confers on it a higher human value.”

43. Cf. FC #25: “In revealing and in reliving on earth the very fatherhood of God, a man is called upon to ensure the harmonious and united development of all the members of the family: he will perform this task by exercising generous responsibility for the life conceived under the heart of the mother, by a more solicitous commitment to education, a task he shares with his wife.”

44. FC #25.

45. David L. Schindler, “Christology and the Imago Dei: Interpreting Gaudium et Spes,” Communio 23 (Spring 1996),  156-184at 171.

46. See: Germain Grisez, Beyond the New Theism (Indiana: University of Notre Dame Press, 1975), 383-384.

47. Cf. GS #12.

48. See: Schindler, “Christology and the Imago Dei: Interpreting Gaudium et Spes,” 172; see also: Schindler, “The Significance of World and Culture for Moral Theology,” 130.

49. Schindler, “Christology and the Imago Dei: Interpreting Gaudium et Spes,” 179-180.

50. Cf. Augustine Di Noia, OP, “Imago Dei-Imago Christi: The Theological Foundations of Christian Humanism,” Nova et Vetera 2:2 (Fall 2004), 267-279.

51. FC #9.

52. FC #45.

Copyright ©; Matthew Tsakanikas 2005

Version: 6th October 2005

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