“THOU SHALT NOT KILL”
(A Joint Pastoral Letter of the Philippine HierarchyOn the Life of the Unborn Child)
The United Nations has declared the year 1979 as the International Year of the Child. The late Pope PaulVI gave recognition to this event in his allocution of June 28, 1976, 15th anniversary of his elevation to thePontificate.
In the declaration of the United Nations, the right of the unborn child has been ignored. In view of this,Pope John Paul II, in several of his speeches, focused attention on the basic human right of the unbornchild: his right to live.
In communion, therefore, with the mind and heart of the Holy Father, and shocked by the UN statisticalreport that more than 50 million abortions are procured each year,* we, the Bishops of the Philippines,hereby declare the year 1979 the Year of the Unborn Child. We focus on the right of the unborn child,with a deep sense of urgency, because abortion is now widespread and a shocking reality in our countrytoo, both in the rural and in the urban areas.
Abortion in the Philippine Setting
In a rural sampling — admittedly inadequate — one out of six mothers have already undergone abortion atleast once; about a half approve abortion and more than one-half of the said mothers believe abortion tobe licit. (Philippine Population Program, FHC, Washington, D.C.)
Some physicians, by profession committed to the defense of life, have become agents of death indestroying foetal human life. Others have maintained discreet silence over abortion perpetrated bymedically untrained practitioners, popularly known as “hilots”.
A good number of clinics and hospitals, all over the country, are notorious for their being slaughterhousesof unborn children.
While abortion is contrary to our civil laws, public authorities have accepted the inclusion of abortion in thetraining of public health officials, have permitted the entry of sophisticated instruments of abortion into thecountry, continue the spread of abortifacient IUDs and encourage the promotion of abortifacientinjectibles.
The Mass Media have been instrumental in dissentizising public opinion to look with indifference onabortion and in numbing sensitivities to the abomination of the crime.
Leading to this sad situation are the following factors:
1. Contraceptive drive : Anti-life in intent, it has created the anti-life mentality in our people, with abuilt-in intolerance for failure. Logically and irreversibly it leads to radical measures such assterilization and then abortion. Unless stopped, the Contraceptive Drive in the long run will leadour society to the eventual acceptance of euthanasia or mercy-killing.
2. Violence , as a pattern, lowers the esteem for life. Kidnappings, forcible ejection of the poor andthe powerless, sudden disappearance of people, torture and many others are not always reportedin the newspapers, but they are common knowledge. In a climate that devaluates life, whatchances do the helpless have, whose lives have just begun, powerless to cry out in protest?
3. Manipulation breaks down esteem for people as human beings. It is now subtly structured intoour own social and health services. In the case of industrial physicians, government workers likemidwives, nurses and medical health officers; and in the training programs for them, there aremanipulative practices that violate conscience and hamper the exercise of one’s freedom. (Dr.Vicente Rosales on the Philippine Population Program, April 18, 1978)
4. Discrimination in setting price tags on human lives. Some lives are more valuable than others.The unconditional value due to every human life is thereby destroyed. Thus the deformed andthe handicapped become candidates for sterilization and abortion. Every child is merely aconsumer and can be looked upon as a liability to our society and hence, may become,unwanted.
This outlook on life is reflected in the system of priorities set up by financial institutions. Thus,more funds are allocated for hotels, amusement resorts and parks at the expense of the realneeds of our people: such as hospitals, leprosaria, and mental institutions, school buildings andfacilities.
5. Commercial Trafficking of people reduces them to the level of products for consumption. Wemake much of the beauty and grace of the Filipina. But is this to make the exploitation of herflesh in the tourist market, more enticing?
All these factors lead to the devaluation and eventual disregard of human life. This is a tragedy. But adeeper tragedy is the gradual extinction of the capacity to love and to care. Every refusal to accept newlife is a refusal to love. And this dying of unselfish love in the heart of man, constitutes a most seriouscrisis in our society today.
The whole of mankind bears constant testimony to the sacredness of human life not only after birth butfrom its inception. Man in fact is born with this reverence for life, for nature has imbedded in his heart aninstinct of reverence for new human life. This instinct is a distinctive trait of man, and history testifies howpeople who smothered this instinct lapsed into degradation.
The earliest recorded laws enacted by men attest to this profound reverence for human life from the firstknown moments of its presence. The Sumerian (2000 BC) and the Assyrian (1500 BC) Codes protectedfoetal life from abortion with most severe sanctions. We could say that the Geneva Declaration forPhysicians in 1949, proclaiming “I will preserve the utmost respect for human life from the time ofconception” is a clear echo of the Hipocratic Oath in a symphony of human reverence for life in all itsstages.
Neither was this reverence for life an empty doctrine. It carried with it the severest sanctions that wereenshrined in the laws of civilized nations.
The sad fact that lately some nations deviated from this universally felt reverence for life, to the extent ofapproving abortion, only proves the presence of evil and good in this world. Falsehood and evil couldprevail, at least for some time, over truth and virtue. Moreover, as stated above, skillful manipulation bysome organized groups could distort issues and create an environment that could present a moral evil asa desirable economic good. Moreover, wherever abortion has been approved and practised, in defianceof nature and of God’s law, it did not take long before the evil seed contained in this practice, surfacedwith disastrous results, prompting responsible leaders and peoples to admit their humiliating error.
This universal pro-life conviction deriving from reason and from the natural instinct of man finds its fullestbasis and support in God’s command: “Thou shalt not kill.” This law of God somehow found its place inall human codes of conduct.
The Church, on the other hand, has consistently applied this divine law to human life in all its stages.Through her whole history, the Church has regarded reverence for human life as a divine command andwith unequivocal insistence applied it to human life at its inception. This is reflected in her constantteaching and in her Canon Law which punishes with excommunication those who practise and participatein abortion. This is reflected in her Liturgy enjoining that aborted foetus be baptized as a human person.She reminds us that human life has something divine in it, “for human life and the task of transmitting itare not realities bound up with this world alone, … but always have a bearing on the eternal destiny ofman.” (Church in the World Today, #51) With uncompromising firmness she declares the nobility oftransmitting life and condemns abortion saying: “God, the Lord of life, has entrusted to men the noblemission of safeguarding life, and men must carry it out in a manner worthy of themselves. Life must beprotected with the utmost care from the moment of conception: abortion and infanticide are abominablecrimes.” (Church in the World Today, #51) This clear teaching of the Catholic Church is taken up in achorus of voices representing not only Christian religions but all major religions yesterday, today andalways.
Action to be Taken
After reviewing the situation on life in the light of history, reason and Faith, we your Pastors feel that thereis an urgency for everyone to get involved in the fight for life, especially for the life of the unborn.Therefore, we would like to appeal to our people who in the past had always shown deep respect andreverence for the sacredness of life:
· We appeal to responsible public officials to see to it that government official policies on respectfor human life are consistently implemented in all levels. We commend those who, inspite of allkinds of pressures, courageously stand by their convictions.
· We appeal to parents, especially to mothers, to treasure the new life as a gift from God. Wecommend especially those who, having less of material comforts, are more generous and selfsacrificingin embracing life — sometimes at the cost of terrible embarrassment.
· We appeal to physicians, nurses and midwives to be always faithful to their sacred oath and tolive out the courage of their moral conviction. We commend those who do not compromise theintegrity of their profession even under harrassment and persecution.
· We appeal to all teachers and school officials to be more dedicated to their vocation as realeducators. We commend those who stand by their conscience in imparting human values andattitudes to the youth in spite of questionable incentives.
· We appeal to those who care for the physically, mentally and socially handicapped to be morepatient and selfless in their work. We commend those whose dedication is an inspiration forgreater respect for life itself.
· We appeal to the vast majority of the population — our youth — to take life seriously. Wecommend with admiration the courage of those who are able to resist the presures of beingexploited for anti-life propaganda.
· We appeal to the Mass Media to respect the delicate sensitivities of our people in forming publicopinion. We commend those who, inspite of the allure of money, fearlessly communicate thetruth about life.
In this Year of the Unborn Child, our attention is directed to the abuses against life, to the anti-natalistfrom which these abuses arise, and to the atmosphere which makes these abuses possible. Does not thefuture, therefore, look dark for the child, especially the unborn in our country? We would despair did wenot have the eyes of Faith to perceive other realities that awaken hope.
We already cited and commended the different sectors of our society which have stood and continue tostand for life in spite of overwhelming odds. And there are many others whose lives we may overlook butin whom respect for life is very much alive. But all these proclaim the hope that in this Year of the UnbornChild the commitment to life will find its roots in our people.
Throughout this year, let us continually reflect on how Jesus identified himself with the life of all men. Letus reflect on how He chose to be particularly identified with those lives that are at the mercy of others,with the helpless, the defenseless, the children whom he loved and invited: “Suffer the little children tocome to me for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.” (Matt 19:14) Let us reflect on how His own life in itscaring demanded sacrifice. And finally, let us reflect on how all sacrifice in the caring of every human life,is a sharing in the mystery of Him who called Himself Life (Jn 11:25).
For the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines:
(Sgd.)+JAIME L. CARDINAL SIN
Archbishop of Manila
PresidentJanuary 29, 1979
Demography Yearbook (U.N. Statistical Office)