Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Do we want a childless Philippines?

I direct you to Dr. William E. May who writes "'Childless Europe,' Humanae Vitae, and Familiaris Consortio". He begins:

The Sunday, June 29, 2008 edition of The New York Times Magazine featured a very interesting and provocative essay by Richard Sharto entitled “Childless Europe: What happens to a continent when it stops making babies?” I believe that its publication, coming a few days before the beginning of July, 2008, a month marking the 40th anniversary of Pope John Paul II’s encyclical Humanae Vitae was providential.

It is not only Sharto who talks of this basic problem in Europe. In 1990, I was in Rome preparing for the eventual start of my school in Cebu. I was then in Centro ELIS, the NGO-partner of CITE. In one conversation with a pediatrician who was living with his family in the quartiere Tiburtina, he commented that he was not getting as much patients. I told him that he should be thankful that children are more healthy now. He looks at me (with the "where is this guy from?" look) and almost rebukes me: If only that were the case, caro amico. Not only sick children go and see their pediatricians; even healthy ones go regularly also. The real reason is that there simply are less children. I wonder, but I shouldn't, considering that so many do the baby-making act, if you understand what I mean."

Many have written about similar declines and the ill-effects happening in many other countries. I remember that during a break in one technical education workshop I attended in Tokyo, a workshop staff and I were looking out the window towards a 6-story building across the street. He told me that the building used to be an elementary and high school and that about 3 years before, the school closed down. Before I could ask him for the reason, he added that it was due to the fact that there were very few students because simply this part of Tokyo did not have families with children anymore -- true in many other parts. I told him that if only we could transfer the building to Cebu for the use of schoolchildren in my city, I'd be the first to ask for it. He countered that if only he had the authority and the technology to do it, he'd have given it to me as we spoke.

I am happy that many of our students are now abroad with very good jobs. Most of our graduates outside the country are in Singapore. And Singapore is in need of workers because local talent is just not enough. Mostly testament to past advocacies on contraception, no less. This story is repeated many times in many countries.

And yet here we are in RP wanting to experience situations that these countries are dying to get out from. Reminds me, perhaps not a very good analogy, of something that a former teacher at graduate school told me. He said that the Philippines was fond of following the US. It is not really bad in itself, but it seems we follow most of the evil and less of the good. He says one of the good that we did not follow: the railway system. And how about the evil? Too many to mention, but one is artificial contraception.

Here we are, simply fulfilling the prophecy that is Humanae Vitae:

Consequences of Artificial Methods

17. Responsible men can become more deeply convinced of the truth of the doctrine laid down by the Church on this issue if they reflect on the consequences of methods and plans for artificial birth control. Let them first consider how easily this course of action could open wide the way for marital infidelity and a general lowering of moral standards. Not much experience is needed to be fully aware of human weakness and to understand that human beings—and especially the young, who are so exposed to temptation—need incentives to keep the moral law, and it is an evil thing to make it easy for them to break that law. Another effect that gives cause for alarm is that a man who grows accustomed to the use of contraceptive methods may forget the reverence due to a woman, and, disregarding her physical and emotional equilibrium, reduce her to being a mere instrument for the satisfaction of his own desires, no longer considering her as his partner whom he should surround with care and affection.

Finally, careful consideration should be given to the danger of this power passing into the hands of those public authorities who care little for the precepts of the moral law. Who will blame a government which in its attempt to resolve the problems affecting an entire country resorts to the same measures as are regarded as lawful by married people in the solution of a particular family difficulty? Who will prevent public authorities from favoring those contraceptive methods which they consider more effective? Should they regard this as necessary, they may even impose their use on everyone. It could well happen, therefore, that when people, either individually or in family or social life, experience the inherent difficulties of the divine law and are determined to avoid them, they may give into the hands of public authorities the power to intervene in the most personal and intimate responsibility of husband and wife.

Limits to Man's Power

Consequently, unless we are willing that the responsibility of procreating life should be left to the arbitrary decision of men, we must accept that there are certain limits, beyond which it is wrong to go, to the power of man over his own body and its natural functions—limits, let it be said, which no one, whether as a private individual or as a public authority, can lawfully exceed. These limits are expressly imposed because of the reverence due to the whole human organism and its natural functions, in the light of the principles We stated earlier, and in accordance with a correct understanding of the "principle of totality" enunciated by Our predecessor Pope Pius XII. (21)

Concern of the Church

18. It is to be anticipated that perhaps not everyone will easily accept this particular teaching. There is too much clamorous outcry against the voice of the Church, and this is intensified by modern means of communication. But it comes as no surprise to the Church that she, no less than her divine Founder, is destined to be a "sign of contradiction." (22) She does not, because of this, evade the duty imposed on her of proclaiming humbly but firmly the entire moral law, both natural and evangelical.

Since the Church did not make either of these laws, she cannot be their arbiter—only their guardian and interpreter. It could never be right for her to declare lawful what is in fact unlawful, since that, by its very nature, is always opposed to the true good of man.

In preserving intact the whole moral law of marriage, the Church is convinced that she is contributing to the creation of a truly human civilization. She urges man not to betray his personal responsibilities by putting all his faith in technical expedients. In this way she defends the dignity of husband and wife. This course of action shows that the Church, loyal to the example and teaching of the divine Savior, is sincere and unselfish in her regard for men whom she strives to help even now during this earthly pilgrimage "to share God's life as sons of the living God, the Father of all men." (23)

I hope we become the exception.

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