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 of the Christian community. It is our task first to alert consciences to the continuing happenings affecting our lives, 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, and therefore, of interpreting its events in so far as they affect the establishment of His Kingdom, the kingdom of justice and of peace and of love.
The need for critical examination never ceases, for both our experience and our faith teach us that the mystery of evil is ever at work. It seeks to infect not merely the hearts of men, but even the institutions and 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 in many 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 for a Christian population policy. This we later followed with a nationwide program of education and service in responsible parenthood, sponsored jointly with the Bureau of Public Schools and the private sector. To date, this program has covered 11 provinces, and plans to service more provinces this fiscal year.
But current developments are beginning to reveal misconceptions about the true character of the problem and the ultimate goal that is the only valid goal or the Christian. We take this occasion then to invite you to reflect with us on the causes of these anxieties, on the guidance necessary for you to come to a Christian 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 moral decisions 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 to do with human beings. While the rapid growth rate of population has given rise to the problem, it does not of itself constitute the problem. The population problem is the problem of the care of peoples. Failure in the proper care of people is not always caused by increase in numbers . At the heart of the problem of scarcity of goods is the inner attitude of brother towards brother, an attitude of selfishness and of injustice. When confronted with a family that is unable to care for the children, the accusing finger should not always be pointed at the family. When the structure of the community encourages affluence of a few at the expense of the many, destitute families are victims rather than culprits. And what is true of families is 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 of rearing children that is dictated by chance rather than choice. It is possible to succeed in cutting down the size of families of our people, and yet in the end remain with the population still unsolved. And all because the problem was not attacked at the roots.
There is not by any means a consensus among reputable scientists that shortage in resources is caused principally by increase in numbers of peoples. When a people constituting 6% of the world’s population consume 40% of its goods, the scarcity suffered by the 94% is not due to their large number. There is an expert 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 unless there takes place a change of heart, a change from the covetous to the generous. This change must be effected 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, for us, 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 as conscience and freedom and moral integrity? Will we be improving the qualities of the human way of life if in the process of ensuring a sufficiency of food and clothing and shelter, violence is done to conscience and 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 be the validity of the individual cries, there are features in this program that would lend credence to them. To mention some–the bias in the program for the promotion of the pills and the IUDs and its repercussions on the training of conscientious objectors, the adoption of the quota system of acceptors with the consequent 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 of adequate 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 Population Commission, in line with the New Society’s commitment to moral integrity, to declare publicly in explicit terms its policy of respect for the consciences, particularly of government workers, engaged in family planning 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 population problem, massive conception control through the artificial contraceptive approach. This approach has followed a common pattern of development in countries where it has been spoused. The patterns show an escalation from the less radical to the more radical measures of sterilization and abortion. Only recently, the Department of Justice has removed all legal impediment to contraceptive sterilization by officially granting it legal clearance. Where formerly the population policy of the country explicitly gave the pledge 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 towards depersonalized response. Its dynamism leads progressively towards measure that call for less and less personal interventions–from repeat-decision contraceptives to the one-decision surgical sterilization. It also follows a movement from the voluntary towards the compulsory. All this clearly leads towards the gradual depersonalization of people.2
External vs. Inner Control
We are worried about the current massive campaign to talk couples into accepting a number of mechanical and chemical contraceptives which are but external means of control. We deplore the fact that 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, must lead to the development and maturation of individuals as persons. But an indispensable element towards this is the gradual acquisition of inner mastery of one’s behavior. And this is not less necessary in man’s sexual 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 conscious inner control is exercised over the reproductive process. This approach makes use of natural internal-control techniques, such as Basal Body Temperature method (BBT), Ovulation Method (Billings), and combined 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 directly to 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 we believe that for the maturation of the individual into a person he must learn to bring his sexual life under his conscious control. We believe that for the maturation of the human person, the couples’ sexual life must find expression in a stable commitment in marriage. We believe that for the maturation of the human person, man’s marital life must issue in the procreation of new human life. We believe that only when 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, to listen to the Voice of the Lord: “Enter by the narrow gate, since the road that leads to perdition is wide and spacious, and many take it; but how narrow is the gate and hard the road that leads to life, and only few find it.” (Matt. 7:13-14)
We earnestly pray that, through the loving intercession of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception, the Holy Spirit will strengthen your Faith in Him so that, when sometimes you are tempted to think that what is right 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
December 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 his conscience. 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.8