Lou Iacobelli reflects on the importance of Love and Responsibility, written by Karol Wojtyla and first published (in Polish) in 1960:
In Love and Responsibility, John Paul II, using evidence from the scriptures and science, offers a comprehensive view of the meaning of authentic human love and the human person. I’ll say this at the start of my review: if you truly want a definitive guide to a better understanding of human love, divine love and the essence of being human, read this book. ...
Love and Responsibility began as a series of lectures, given at the Catholic University of Lublin, in 1958-59. They were the work of a pastor, long before he became pope, who tried to honestly address the pastoral experiences and concerns of his flock. It took another 22 years before the present book was published. Its popularity over the years has made way for many editions and it has been translated from Polish into numerous languages.
This is a work that was and continues to be ahead of its times. Before the sexual revolution (a revolution which wrongly stressed the utilitarian approach to life and sexuality) was about to explode, John Paul II was arguing strongly that truthful answers to human sexuality must be based on a complete view of the human person. We need to consider the human person as a being with physical, spiritual, social, intellectual and emotional needs. This is why we will fail to understand human relations, especially when considering love and sexuality, if we separate them from an affirmation of the value and dignity of the person. Love and Responsibility reveals a profound, authentic truth about love and the human person. ...
Are you interested in knowing more about what authentic Christian love is? Read the book. Do you want to strengthen your marriage, your family life and your view of love? Read the book. Do you know of a couple getting married and you want to give them the perfect gift of love? Buy them the book. Do you know some young people in your family or circle of friends dating, exploring what it means to be in love and may soon be considering marriage? Buy them the book.
Drawing from his own pastoral experience as a priest and bishop before he became Pope John Paul II, Karol Wojtyla has produced a remarkably eloquent and resourceful defense of Catholic tradition in the sphere of family life and sexual morality. He writes in the conviction that science--biology, psychology, sociology--can provide valuable information on particular aspects of relations between the sexes, but that a full understanding can be obtained only by study of the human person as a whole.
Central to his argument is the contrast between the personalistic and the utilitarian views of marriage and of sexual relations. The former views marriage as an interpersonal relationship, in which the well-being and self-realization of each partner are of overriding importance to the other. It is only within this framework that the full purpose of marriage can be realized. The alternative, utilitarian view, according to which a sexual partner is an object for use, holds no possibility of fulfillment and happiness. Wojtyla argues that divorce, artificial methods of birth control, adultery (pre-marital sex), and sexual perversions are all in various ways incompatible with the personalistic view of the sexual self-realization of the human person.
Perhaps the most striking feature of the book is that Wojtyla appeals throughout to ordinary, human experience, logically examined. He draws support for his views on the proper gratification of sexual needs, on birth control, and on other matters, from the findings of physiologists and psychologists. His conclusions coincide with the traditional teachings of the Church, which invoke scriptural authority. His approach ensures that non-Christians also can consider his arguments on their own merits.
"A courageous apologetic. In no other book does the Pope emerge more clearly as an independent thinker. This book is a high-minded rejoinder to the sexual revolution."
-- Kenneth Briggs, New York Times Book Review