Love is Life
A Pastoral Letter on the Population Control Activities of the
Philippine Government and Planned Parenthood Associations
(Short Version for Pulpit Use)
Our dear brothers and sisters in Christ, PEACE!
ALL HUMAN LIFE has its basic value and dignity for ‘God created man in the image of himself,… male and female he created them’ (Gen. 1:27). Added dignity and value to human life are given by God becoming man in Jesus Christ, for his mission of salvation in the service of life. He sent us the Holy Spirit who ‘gives life’ (2 Cor. 3:6)). Through his Passion, Death and Ressurection, Christ has become for us ‘the resurrection and the life’ ( Jn. 11:25). The basic value behind this service to life is that God alone is the ultimate Lord and Master of Life and we are only stewards of life.
Seventeen years ago, in the name of protecting life, we your Bishops, conveyed to you in a Pastoral Letter our deep anguish over an expression of ‘the mystery of evil… (seeking) to infect not merely the hearts of men, but even the institutions and structures that men establish’. Much of what we said in that Pastoral Letter remains valid. A number of its reflections have acquired more clarity and sharpness, particularly in two areas, namely: the common recognition of the seriousness and complexity of the population problem, and the common obligation of all sectors of society to understand well and resolve this problem. Despite the many differences in principles and perceptions as to how the problem might be solved, we gratefully note the many concrete efforts of government and non-government agencies towards this end.
Today, our present government has once more officially launched a population control program. Parallel to this, there are local and foreign non-government organizations which have renewed their efforts to manipulate family size by promoting values that are incompatible with Christian family living, and by distributing drugs and devices that artificially prevent conception of and even abort human life already conceived in the womb. Their ultimate objective is that each Filipino family should have only two children – “zero population growth” – through widespread contraceptive technology.
Because of the nature of its call and mission, the Catholic Church, with all who wish to remain faithful to Gospel values CANNOT associate themselves with this program – not even in appearance.
In this response to your appeal for the clear position of your Bishops in regard to these current population programs and propaganda, we issue the following statement:
• To the Under-Privileged we say:
• We are aware of your difficulties and although we are short of lay workers and volunteers, we are trying our very best to help you through our Commissions on Social Action, on Health, on Family Life, and other charitable bodies under the Hierarchy.
• The Church believes in responsible regulation of births through a process that respects the integrity of the bodies of married couples. The Church condemns contraception, sterilization and abortion. Your response to the call to natural methods of regulating births has been edifying.
• Strive to practice the twin virtues of prudence and generosity in the natural regulation of births. God never abandons those who are heroic and who depend on Him for all things.
• To the Privileged we say:
• Keep the fountains of life open. Christian spouses are married to one another in Christ. Please do not forget that the Trinity – Father, Son and Holy Spirit – plays an integral part in your married life. Let God work freely in your relationship.
• Do not give in to the lure of materialism. Those whom life has given more should give more for the promotion of life.
• Help those less privileged couples so that they too may be able to accept cheerfully the challenge of parenthood, experience their children as sources of joy, and raise them in a manner befitting their dignity as human persons.
• To our Government Personnel we say:
• Strive to form and maintain a Christian conscience and give witness to the religious and moral convictions that follow from your commitment to Jesus Christ. By calling you to the Church through Baptism, Jesus relies on you to witness for him in the place where you work.
• To dispense contraceptives or to refer husbands and wives to sterilization clinics is wrong. Do not allow yourselves to be used as a counterwitness to the Gospel.
• Our government has acknowledged your right to object and not to act on any orders that are contrary to your Christian conscience. Do not be afraid to stand up for Jesus!
• To our Medical and Paramedical Personnel in private practice we say:
• Be faithful to your oath to heal infirmities, bearing in mind that pregnancy is not a disease. Be honest about the mode of action of drugs and devices that affect human reproductive systems.
• Beware of the ploy that reduces parenthood and childbearing to merely maternal and child health. More so, beware of those who measure maternal and child health in terms of “contraceptive prevalence” and “fertility reduction” quotients.
• The ultimate issue that confronts us in the matter of bearing and rearing of children is not an issue of health alone, but an issue of freedom and married love.
• Do not sell your soul at the price of a “subsidy” or a bribe. Be honest with your patients about the effects of the pharmaceuticals.
• To our Policy Makers we say:
• In your public decisions, you too must reflect the convictions of your Faith.
• Let us give highest priority to developing our human resources. Money us for the sake of human development, not vice-versa.
• We must not become the slaves of lending institutions. Through programs of population control, we became both collaborators and victims of contraceptive imperialism.
• To our Legislators we say:
• The clause in the 1973 Constitution mandating the State to regulate the population levels of the country was deleted in the 1987 Constitution. Study the reasons for the deletion before you delve into discussion and debate.
• We still have a program that perpetuates population control with the ultimate goal of reducing fertility to replacement level by the year 2010 or earlier and zero population growth thereafter. A financing structure is in place to make this program irreversible. Thus, the Constitutional provisions concerning the rights of the family will be made irrelevant.
• To our Local Executives we say:
• * Before using funds to prevent others form coming to life, we must first allocate them for the needs of the living.
• * Keep your priorities correct and be guided by our Constitution in matters of public welfare. You are answerable to your constituents and above all, to God.
• To our Demographers we say:
• Be competent and transparent in presenting your projections and findings. In 1983, the conservative projections for our 1990 population was 62.4 million; but the recently concluded census shows 1990 population to be only 60.5 million – some 2 million short of the 1983 projection. This indicates that our population growth rate has critically slowed down and our total fertility rate is already dropping faster than we thought; and yet, an instensified population control drive is now being waged by government and planned parenthood NGOs.
• To our Priests and Fellow Pastors we say:
• Work towards providing the underprivileged the opportunities to improve, and to gain self-reliance. Raise their vision of human and spiritual development on the family level.
• The future of the Catholic Church depends on the family – the Church in the home.
• Contraceptive technology has entered into the lifestyle of our people. It has produced an anti-life mentality. Not only the underprivileged but even the privileged plan to raise only two children in the entire course of their married life – even irreversibly by sterilization.
• When contraceptive are introduced on a massive scale, sterilization and abortion inevitably follow. This is the experience of many countries.
Many of you involved with the population control program, we know, are in good faith, moved by a sincere desire to help our brothers and sisters in the Lord. But we are unwittingly caught in a systematic campign against childbearing. It is a worldwide drive that undermines the value of life. It is evil. This attack on life is an attack on the human person’s capacity to love. Ultimately it is an attack upon God who is Love.
Let us all, united in the Body of Christ, pray and strive to overcome this evil and grow in our appreciation of and reverence towards that gift that comes from Him who said, “I have come that they may have life, and have it in its fullness” (Jn. 10:10).
We your Bishops are solicitous of your fundamental desire to remain faithful to Jesus and to remain in his love. Shortly before he suffered, the Lord told his disciples: “If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love” (Jn. 15:10). Together with you we contemplate “the love that the Father has lavished on us, by letting us be called God’s children; and that is what we are” (Cf. 1 Jn. 3). As Christian pastors, we strive as well to sincerely be generous, ready to “go through the pain of giving birth to you all over again, until Christ is formed in you” (Gal. 4:19). We ask the blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of Life, who has always shown a special love for the Philippines to help us in this hour of testing.
For the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines:
(Sgd.)+LEONARDO Z. LEGASPI, OP, D.D.
October 7, 1990
The Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines
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Love is Life