Pastoral Statement on the Defense of Life and Family
The Special Assembly of Bishops for Asia held on 18 April to 14 May 1998 at the Vatican City prepared for the celebration of this Great Jubilee of the Year 2000 by reflecting on the words of Jesus: “That they may have life, and have it abundantly” (Jn 10:10). As we celebrate the two thousand years of Christ’s message of life and love, we now focus on the family, where life and love are nurtured.
Human life in all its richness is transmitted in the family. “The family“, Pope John Paul II in his Apostolic letter to the Church in Asia says, “is the normal place where the young grow to personal and social maturity. It is also the bearer of the heritage of humanity itself, because through the family, life is passed on from generation to generation.” 1
Just as human life is nurtured in the family, our Christian life which is the life of communion with the Triune God, is also primarily transmitted through the family. Hence, as a challenge, the Holy Father exhorts that “Christian families are today called to witness to the Gospel in difficult times and circumstances, when the family itself is threatened by an array of forces.”2
We find grave threats to the family in the Philippine setting these days.
Precarious Situation Foreseen
In recent months legislative Bills have been filed in Congress that could undermine the Filipino Christian family by gradually eroding pro-life and pro-child values. These proposals are influenced by social, political and economic pressures. The models for these proposed laws are the materially prosperous countries. But in adopting them we may fail to separate the chaff from the grain, and exchange apparent gains for the huge moral toll they would exact on our society.
We therefore, register our strong opposition to these Bills in the light of the Church’s moral teaching. At the same time, we remind all Filipino Catholics of their duty to influence society by working for true human and Christian values.
We refer to the following House Bills (HB):
1. HB 6993 called the “divorce bill” seeks to legalize absolute divorce.
2. HB 6343 on the legalization of abortion has been replaced with HB 7193 on the protection of the reproductive rights of women, a United Nations language which includes “termination of pregnancy” and artificial contraception even to teens.
3. HB 7165 on “lesbian and gay rights” is now called “domestic partnership act” which deals with same-sex unions.
4. HB 8110 calls for an “integrated population and development policy” in order to strengthen its implementing structures and to appropriate funds to the tune of PHP 1.5 billion every year for the population programs that promote immoral means of demographic regulation.
Noticeably, in the face of widespread opposition, some of these proposals have been withdrawn, only to resurface under different names, often filed by the same person(s).
All these proposals go against the moral law and the human rights of many of our citizens. Once enacted as laws, they will not contribute to the moral good. We therefore remind everyone that the natural law “provides the indispensable moral foundation for building the human community…it provides the necessary basis for the civil law with which it is connected…“3 Hence, legislative proposals must always be based on morally sound principles.
These proposed pieces of legislation become even more incongruous when we consider that our country is faced with critical problems such as poverty, peace and order, and gross social inequalities that need to be more urgently addressed by our elected representatives.
Why We Oppose These Bills
These Bills are often presented as solutions to difficult situations faced by individuals and society. We recognize these situations and we extend our hands to those whom they promise to help. We, however, must insist that the solutions to difficult situations cannot involve the violation of the moral order.
We know the difficult situations that face many married couples, and we deeply sympathize with them. But dissolving the marriage bond as a form of relief from marital difficulties as a license to remarry goes against the very nature of the marriage covenant and will only undermine the very institution of marriage. The legalization of absolute divorce will violate the rights of other married couples to contract an indissoluble marriage and will, in practice, add difficulties to the obligation of marital fidelity. The ones most severely affected by the irreversible breakdown of a family, as brought about by divorce and remarriage, will be the children. Divorce violates the rights of children to a stable family.
For this reason, we likewise express our strong disapproval of practices that operate against the stability of the family, such as the querida practice in our country.
As pastors of the Church we also view with the greatest concern the situation of homosexuality. We recognize that there are people with homosexual tendencies. To have such tendencies is not a sin but to engage in homosexual acts is morally wrong. We firmly believe that persons with homosexual tendencies “must be accepted with respect, compassion and sensitivity“4. However, we are also gravely concerned about legislative moves to legalize same-sex unions, i.e., between men, or between women. To legalize same sex union would, actually be a disservice to the persons involved. It would abandon them to a situation of objective disorder. It would legitimize what is objectively morally reprehensible. It would be tantamount to an utter lack of hope of personal conversion.
We as Pastors of the Church are also very concerned about the plight of women who may be bearing a child they did not desire or who is incurably ill. But whatever “reproductive rights” a person may claim to have, there is an overriding claim of the primordial right that every human being, especially the baby in the womb, has to live. This is why the Church through her institutions (such as shelter houses for women and orphanages for babies), offers practical and time-tested solutions that will ensure the dignified and respectful care for the mother as well as the future of the child.
Finally, while the state may “intervene to orient the demography of the population,” nevertheless “the state may not legitimately usurp the initiative of spouses, who have the primary responsibility for the procreation and education of their children.” Furthermore, “it is not authorized to employ means contrary to the moral law”5. The latest House Bill version of the population program (HB 8110) is asking for a yearly appropriation of PHP1.5 Billion, to be employed in a program that has often shown itself in the past to be coercive and partial to immoral means (such as, contraception and sterilization) which go against the teaching of a church to whom 80% of the population belong.
Our Responsibilities as Catholics
Unfortunately, many people confuse legality for morality. They think that if something is allowed by civil law, then it is necessarily good or at least indifferent.
On the contrary, what is legal may still be bad and immoral. But we should remember that since civil laws should be based on the Divine Law as its expression or application, then these laws tend to have an educational dimension. Hence, we all have a duty to work for civil laws that are in consonance with moral principles.
What a grave moral burden rests on the consciences of our legislators! The Second Plenary Council of the Philippines (PCP II) reminded us that “Catholics who are given a charge of public life (must) faithfully abide by the Gospel and by the moral and social teachings of the Church, given the parameters of religious liberty” 6. Catholic legislators are morally bound to follow the teachings of the Church in their law-making activities. They should not set aside the teachings of the Church when formulating and voting on laws.
We have recently written that “everyone should be interested in knowing what bills are being considered by Congress, what positions regarding important legislators are being taken by senators and congresspersons. In solidarity, civil society must articulate their support for laws, policies, and structural changes that will improve our lives in society and our political processes. It must lobby to defeat bills that militate against the aspirations of the poor, the integral development of our people, the integrity of creation, moral values in the family, the welfare of women, children and the young” 7 . Hence, we wish to commend and encourage Catholics who have shown their Christian spirit by volunteering their time and services to the cause of life and the defense of the family and family-related values.
We know that you have written to your Congress representatives, affixed your signatures to campaigns, spent time at rallies or dialogue sessions, conversed individually with our leaders and above all, prayed to the Lord of Life to continue blessing our country. Keep up your struggle. You can always count on the support and guidance of your bishops.
Our Catholic educational system can give a substantial contribution to the youth in their formative years toward the formation of right conscience. After the family, our schools serve as stable formators of values.
The celebration of the Great Jubilee Year is a privileged occasion for moral renewal. This is true not only on the personal level (as in our efforts to be converted in relation to gaining the Jubilee Indulgence) but also on the social level. Our individual conversion should flow into works of charity, which are among the great signs of this Jubilee Year8 . There is a saying that “charity begins at home”. We can apply this adage, albeit in an oblique way, to all our efforts to defend and promote the sanctity of the home against the incursions of anti-family and anti-life forces.
May Mary, our loving Mother, the Mother of Life and Patroness of our beloved country, protect us and guide us in respecting life, as we journey towards our final destination, eternal life with God in heaven.
For the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines:
+ORLANDO B. QUEVEDO, OMI, D.D.
Archbishop of Cotabato
January 26, 2000
1 Ecclesia in Asia, no. 46
3 Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 1959.
4 See CCC, no. 2357-2359; Catechism for Filipino Catholics, no. 1113-1114.
5 CCC, no. 2372
6 PCP-II Acts and Degrees, no. 351-352.
7 Pastoral Exhortation on Politics, H-7.
8 See Bull of Indiction, Incarnationis Mysterium, no. 12.
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