PASTORAL LETTER OF THE CATHOLIC HIERARCHY OF THE PHILIPPINES ON THE POPULATION PROBLEM AND FAMILY LIFE
Grace and Peace from our Lord, Jesus Christ.
As pastors, we are charged with the responsibility of helping to guide in the formation of consciences ofthe Christian community. It is our task first to alert consciences to the continuing happenings affecting ourlives, and then to help in the critical examination of these happenings in the light of our Faith.
For our Lord Jesus Christ has made us associates with Him in directing the march of our history, andtherefore, of interpreting its events in so far as they affect the establishment of His Kingdom, the kingdomof justice and of peace and of love.
The need for critical examination never ceases, for both our experience and our faith teach us that themystery of evil is ever at work. It seeks to infect not merely the hearts of men, but even the institutionsand structures that men establish.
Population Control and Misgivings
One notable happening has been insistently clamoring for our attention.
The extensive drive for population control has given rise to anxieties and misgivings among our people–parents, teachers, educators, the rural as well as the urban folk.
This anxiety stems not so much from a felt need for the management of family size–readily verified inmany families–as from certain features of the total program that is being promoted.
Our Expressed Views
On this population problem, we had already stated the teaching of the Church and set down guidelines fora Christian population policy. This we later followed with a nationwide program of education and servicein responsible parenthood, sponsored jointly with the Bureau of Public Schools and the private sector. Todate, this program has covered 11 provinces, and plans to service more provinces this fiscal year.Reflections
But current developments are beginning to reveal misconceptions about the true character of the problemand the ultimate goal that is the only valid goal or the Christian. We take this occasion then to invite youto reflect with us on the causes of these anxieties, on the guidance necessary for you to come to aChristian understanding of various aspects of the problem.
At the same time we pledge to place at your service our moral resources to support you in the moraldecisions that you will feel obliged to make, and in the steps that as Christians, you must take.Population Problem: Basically the Care of Peoples
Let us now reflect, first, on how we view the population problem in its true character. This problem has todo with human beings. While the rapid growth rate of population has given rise to the problem, it does notof itself constitute the problem. The population problem is the problem of the care of peoples. Failure inthe proper care of people is not always caused by increase in numbers . At the heart of the problem ofscarcity of goods is the inner attitude of brother towards brother, an attitude of selfishness and ofinjustice. When confronted with a family that is unable to care for the children, the accusing finger shouldnot always be pointed at the family. When the structure of the community encourages affluence of a fewat the expense of the many, destitute families are victims rather than culprits. And what is true of familiesis also true of larger communities, of regions, and of nations.
The Problem of Numbers
This is not to say that we approve the unlimited procreation of children, or that we permit a manner ofrearing children that is dictated by chance rather than choice. It is possible to succeed in cutting down thesize of families of our people, and yet in the end remain with the population still unsolved. And allbecause the problem was not attacked at the roots.
There is not by any means a consensus among reputable scientists that shortage in resources is causedprincipally by increase in numbers of peoples. When a people constituting 6% of the world’s populationconsume 40% of its goods, the scarcity suffered by the 94% is not due to their large number. There is anexpert opinion which holds that the shortage of food in the 70′s can be traced to affluent habits of eating.No program then that merely plays with numbers to solve the population problem can succeed unlessthere takes place a change of heart, a change from the covetous to the generous. This change must beeffected in all, in the leaders as well as in the citizens of the community.
Common Goal: “Improvement of the Quality of Human Life”
A second reflection. The stated goal of the worldwide drive for population control has been the”improvement of the quality of human life. Here we invite you to reflect with us on this question–what, forus, are we to cherish and to cultivate as qualities specific to the human way of life? Is it only food,clothing and shelter? Or is not the human way of life specified rather by spiritual endowments such asconscience and freedom and moral integrity? Will we be improving the qualities of the human way of lifeif in the process of ensuring a sufficiency of food and clothing and shelter, violence is done to conscienceand those other endowments of the spirit?
Conscience, Freedom and Moral Integrity
It is precisely in this domain where muted cries are heard in anguish. These cries reach us. Whatever bethe validity of the individual cries, there are features in this program that would lend credence to them. Tomention some–the bias in the program for the promotion of the pills and the IUDs and its repercussionson the training of conscientious objectors, the adoption of the quota system of acceptors with theconsequent exploitation of the economic needs of the workers and the temptation to tamper with reports,the suppression of relevant medical information regarding these contraceptives, the insufficiency ofadequate medical protection, much less of medical norms in the dispensation of the pill and the IUD.All of these militate against respect for the individual conscience, against freedom in decision-making1,against the exercise of moral integrity. With respect to these matters, we invite the PopulationCommission, in line with the New Society’s commitment to moral integrity, to declare publicly in explicitterms its policy of respect for the consciences, particularly of government workers, engaged in familyplanning activities and allied services.
Towards a Radical and Depersonalizing Contraceptive Mentality
A third reflection. In our country there has been adopted as the principal solution to the populationproblem, massive conception control through the artificial contraceptive approach. This approach hasfollowed a common pattern of development in countries where it has been spoused. The patterns showan escalation from the less radical to the more radical measures of sterilization and abortion. Onlyrecently, the Department of Justice has removed all legal impediment to contraceptive sterilization byofficially granting it legal clearance. Where formerly the population policy of the country explicitly gave thepledge not to encourage contraceptive sterilization, that reservation has now been dropped.
Another evil in the contraceptive mentality may be seen in the direction that it takes towardsdepersonalized response. Its dynamism leads progressively towards measure that call for less and lesspersonal interventions–from repeat-decision contraceptives to the one-decision surgical sterilization. Italso follows a movement from the voluntary towards the compulsory. All this clearly leads towards thegradual depersonalization of people.2
External vs. Inner Control
We are worried about the current massive campaign to talk couples into accepting a number ofmechanical and chemical contraceptives which are but external means of control. We deplore the factthat all these methods depend on something outside man or on some external artificial control.
For we assert that any activity that seeks to solve a human problem such as population problem, mustlead to the development and maturation of individuals as persons. But an indispensable element towardsthis is the gradual acquisition of inner mastery of one’s behavior. And this is not less necessary in man’ssexual behavior.
Inner Control Not Just a Method But a Way of Life
This approach concentrates on building a more loving relationship between the couple, so that consciousinner control is exercised over the reproductive process. This approach makes use of natural internalcontroltechniques, such as Basal Body Temperature method (BBT), Ovulation Method (Billings), andcombined BBT and mucus method, to determine the pattern of ovulation.
But, this is not just another method, it is a way of life . It calls for deep mutual love and understanding,great mutual respect and sensitivity, voluntary periodic abstinence and self-discipline, and it works directlyto strengthen the basic values of family life.
Human Sexuality and Not Merely Conception Control
We believe that in this matter, what is crucial is sexual control, and not merely conception control. For webelieve that for the maturation of the individual into a person he must learn to bring his sexual life underhis conscious control. We believe that for the maturation of the human person, the couples’ sexual lifemust find expression in a stable commitment in marriage. We believe that for the maturation of thehuman person, man’s marital life must issue in the procreation of new human life. We believe that onlywhen all these values are religiously taken into account can we truly speak of responsible parenthood.
We pray and Exhort You
At this time of greater moral leniency, we exhort you, dear People of God, and Children of the Church, tolisten to the Voice of the Lord: “Enter by the narrow gate, since the road that leads to perdition is wideand spacious, and many take it; but how narrow is the gate and hard the road that leads to life, and onlyfew find it.” (Matt. 7:13-14)
We earnestly pray that, through the loving intercession of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception, theHoly Spirit will strengthen your Faith in Him so that, when sometimes you are tempted to think that what isright is difficult, you will readily choose the Way of the Lord and His Church.
For the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines:
(Sgd.)+TEOPISTO V. ALBERTO, D.D.
Archbishop of Caceres
PresidentDecember 8, 1973
1 “In all his activity a man is bound to follow his conscience faitfhfully, in order that he may come to God,for whom he was created. It follows that he is not to be forced to act in a manner contrary to hisconscience. Nor, on the other hand, is he to be restrained from acting in accordance with his conscience,especially in matters religious.” (II Vatican Council: Declaration on Religious Freedom, #3)
2 Justice in the World, on obligation of pastors to speak out where human rights are violated.http://www.cbcponline.net/documents/1970s/1973-population_problem.html