Sunday, August 03, 2008

Celebration Of Family and Life

Homily of Archbishop Angel N. Lagdameo, President of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, at the Prayer Rally held on July 25, 2008,
at the University of Santo Tomas

WE celebrate today the 40th anniversary of the Encyclical Letter of Pope Paul VI on Human Life. Against the prevailing expectation of liberalization, that the Catholic Church would change her traditional teaching on conjugal and family morality and allow all forms of birth control, Pope Paul VI in Humanae Vitae (July 25, 1968) instead courageously re-affirmed the church traditional teaching regarding birth control and responsible parenthood.

What the Catholic Church teaches through the Encyclical Letter Humanae Vitae is that human life, from the womb to tomb, is a gift of God. Only God is the author of human life. The child becomes God’s gift to its parents and entire family. The dignity, the value and inviolability of human life must be respected and safeguarded at all cost.

There is pessimism and a certain panic deriving from the studies of ecologists and futurologists on population growth, which sometimes exaggerate the danger of demographic increase to the quality of life. Against such trends not only Pope Paul VI in Humanae Vitae but also Pope John Paul II in Evangelium Vitae (March 25, 1995) have restated that the Church has the mission to celebrate human life, as the Gospel of Life, by seeing life in its deeper meaning and beauty, by revering and honoring every person, by praising and thanking God for the gift of life, by preserving the gift of life.

At the hearts of the many threats to human life and threats to conjugal and family morality is the wrong concept of freedom which leads to complete relativism. Any refrence to common values and to a truth absolutely binding on every one is lost. With the eclipse of the sense of God and of man, everything is negotiable, everything is open to bargaining, even the first and fundamental right, the right to life (EV 20).

There is a need in our society to restore the sense of God. When the sense of God is lost there is also the tendency to lose the sense of man’s dignity and life. The result is practical materialism, which breeds individualism, utilitarianism… hedonism. (EV 21- 22).

We in the Catholic Church, and I say this with reference to Paul VI’s Letter on Human Life and John Paul II’s Letter on the Gospel of Life, advocate only natural family planning methods as the only morally acceptable way of practicing responsible parenthood. The Church does not forbid the advocacy of the increase or decrease of population provided the freedom of the couple to exercise sexual and family morality, like the decision to have any number of children, according to their religious conviction is respected.

Artificial birth control, which includes the use of contraceptives and abortifacients, are against the institution of marriage. Our Philippine Constitution in Art. II, section 12, specifies the function of the State: “The State recognizes the sanctity of family life and shall protect and strengthen the family as a basic autonomous social institution. It shall equally protect the life of the mother and the life of the unborn from conception. The natural and primary right and duty of parents in the rearing of the youth for civic efficiency and the development of moral character shall receive the support of Government.”

The family is the basic unit of society. If the Filipino family is destroyed, the Philippine society will likewise be destroyed. The protection and strengthening of the family is a concern not only of the Church, but of civil society and government as a whole.

The subtle attacks on family and conjugal morality through legislations that promote artificial methods of birth control, are couched in attractive but deceptive terminologies like Reproductive Health Care, population management, anti-discrimination of women and children, reproductive rights, patients’ rights.

Pope Paul VI had predicted, and John Paul II confirmed that artificial methods of birth control open the way to a lowering of moral standards and lead to marital infidelity; they lead to the lowering of respect for women; husbands will regard their wives and other women as mere instruments to serve their bodily desires. And they are happening, increasingly happening today.

It has been said time and again in order to reduce world poverty and the number of the poor, in order to improve the quality of life, the family must act “responsibly” and not have more than two children. Uncontrolled birth! Population Control!
Dr. Joseph Chamie of the UN Population Division had already commented in 1998 that the problem is not about population explosion but population implosion. In 51 countries the birth rates had fallen so low that it is nearly impossible for these countries to replace their deaths with births. Countries which succeeded to impose “two-child” policy are now worried by the continuous drop in population that have reached a point of no return. Kofi Annan, former Secretary General of the UN admitted in 2004 that indeed the world is aging inexorably. By 2030 the world population aged 45 and above will be much larger than the population 44 and lower. Few children and workers will be supporting a big number of aging seniors. The result in some countries is Euthanasia.

What of our country? While our government policy makers claim that our growth rate is 2.36%, both USAID and the UN have arrived at a much lower PGR. In fact, as of December 2004, the National Statistics Office had projected a population growth rate of 1.99%. The Philippines is slowly joining the contries with very low growth rate.

We have strong reasons to be alarmed. That instead of becoming “the last hope of a dying world,” we are joining the group of the dying world. This is among the reasons why the Church in the Philippines, (call her conservative, ignorant, too traditional) think differently.

If all the money that go to graft and corruption of government or are used for the wrong reasons, were spent for our increasing poor population, we will have indeed both population and true progress, a population that is the resource and object of development.