“HOLD ON TO YOUR PRECIOUS GIFT”
A Pastoral Letter
on Population Control Legislation and the “Ligtas Buntis” Program
BELOVED PEOPLE OF GOD:
Last February 15th, a committee in Congress approved a bill on population control, “reproductive health”, sexual rights for young people, and mandatory child sex education, among others. The measure imposes fine and imprisonment for parents, spouses, and health professionals who impede “sexual and reproductive rights.” It creates a program for fertility control by encouraging the limitation of family size to two children. It gives incentives to 2-child families. Women—married or single—will be taught “all methods and techniques to prevent pregnancy.” The sponsors have called the proposal “responsible parenthood” and “population management.”
During committee deliberations, the authors have also denied the beginning of human life at fertilization.
What is the underlying agenda? The central idea is to reduce our population purportedly to spur economic growth. This is also saying that in order to eliminate poverty, we must reduce our human resource.
The premises are all wrong. A long line of serious economists and demographers have long discredited the Malthusian myth that positive population growth stunts economic growth. Modern history has also demolished this myth.
Since a population control program was put in place in the country in the 1970s—with billions of public money spent every year to fund it--our population growth has been declining and continues to do so today, and yet, poverty has not been reduced. Official government data attest to this. If this population trend continues—and it will if we remain unmoved—the Philippines, much to its peril, will lose precious human capital.
A “Ligtas Buntis” Program.
While this is happening in Congress, the Department of Health is now implementing nationwide a Program called “Ligtas Buntis.” Touted as an information campaign for “maternal health”, “Ligtas Buntis” targets two million MEN, WOMEN and COUPLES OF REPRODUCTIVE AGE, ADOLESCENTS 15-19 years old, and the POOR among us. Even INDIGENOUS COMMUNITIES are identified as priority areas.
In this program, barangay health workers will interview couples, map and make a master list of families after house-to-house, door-to-door, and person-to-person “surveys” on their fertility control methods used. Sexuality education, contraceptive pills and devices will be dispensed. The surveys will be recorded, reported, and monitored. Everything will be documented.
THE CHURCH CANNOT REMAIN UNMOVED
BY THESE ASSAULTS ON THE FAMILY
1. The legislative proposal to limit the size of the Filipino family in the guise of “reproductive rights” is unjust, arbitrary, and unreasonable legislation. It has no place in public governance.
2. “Responsible Parenthood” goes beyond simply providing for a family’s material needs. While we must preach about providing bread, there is no substitute for first preaching about the higher truth about man.
For we know by our Faith what is authentic “responsible parenthood”: It means respect for one’s generative functions. It calls upon married persons to use discernment and generosity in their decisions. It calls for due regard to physical, economic, psychological and social conditions in deciding “to raise a numerous family.” It includes the spouses’ decision “based on grave motives and with due respect for the moral law, to avoid for the time being or even for an indeterminate period, a new birth.” Responsible parenthood makes parents “free and responsible collaborators of God the Creator.”(Humanae Vitae)
3. The “LIGTAS BUNTIS” Program is not simply what it claims to be: an information campaign for “maternal health.” It violates and mocks the privacy and autonomy of couples and families. It desecrates the sanctity of marriage and family life.
4. We CONDEMN the pressure to deny the presence of human life at the moment of fertilization. Humanity cries for justice for the millions of crimes and senseless abortions because of this lie. From the fusion of the basic cells of the father and the mother following the marital act, the fruit is already human. No human ordinance can turn that truth into error.
To our leaders and lawmakers: A well-formed Christian conscience does not permit you to write or support measures which contradict the basic rights of families and the fundamental imperatives of faith and morals.” (“On the Participation of Catholics in Political Life”, Vatican, Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.) Christian leaders have both a political and moral obligation to safeguard “the laws of nature and of nature’s God.” Failure in this duty is a betrayal of public trust and an open defiance of your Faith.
To all spouses: Build your family on the rock of Christian generosity and discernment. Your right to found a family is rooted on your Christian responsibility and freedom of religious belief, together with the right to act according to that belief. That freedom may not be breached.
To our Health Workers: You have the right to conscientious objection. It is both a civic right and a Christian duty to insist on it.
To all the faithful—Defend truth. It gives light to our reason, and preserves us from error. Resist the enticements of false “freedoms” and counterfeit “rights.” Defend the privacy of family.
Take heart and stand firm. Be courageous in the Faith. Hold on to that precious gift—that “pearl of great price.” It is the source of unfailing strength. It is your breastplate when you face the storms that besiege conscience.
Let our Blessed Mother, the Virgin Mary, Queen of the Family, be our loving Advocate in these challenging times. Entrust to her our families. Let us pray for the graces which the Lord promised to those who invoke her in this Marian Year.
For the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines:
+FERNANDO R. CAPALLA, D.D.
Archbishop of Davao
President, Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines
February 18, 2005