Friday, October 3, 2008


Yesterday, October 2, was the feast of the Guardian Angels. The Gospel for the Mass tells us: “…And Jesus called a little child to him, set him in their midst, and said, ‘Amen I say to you, unless you turn and become like little children, you will not enter into the kingdom of heaven. Whoever, therefore, humbles himself as this little child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever receives one such little child for my sake, receives me…. See that you do not despise one of these little ones; for I tell you, their angels in heaven always behold the face of my Father in heaven.” (Mt 18: 1-5.10; italics ours)

While the Gospel reading teaches the existence of angels assigned to watch over and assist each of us, one cannot help but relate it with the present controversy involving the population-control bills in congress: The Gospel passage also says that, in God’s eyes—and so should be, too, in the eyes of His faithful—there are no unwanted pregnancies. “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you” (Jer 1:5).

At the heart of the “contraceptive mentality” is the assumption that some pregnancies—or more accurately, that most pregnancies, especially among the many “poor”—are not or should not be wanted. The assumption is often presented as justified by considerations of the health of the mother and the economic well-being of the family. But this involves the implied premise that people have a right to an irresponsible enjoyment of the human sexual faculty; i.e., using the human reproductive power while rejecting its end.

Unlike the physical laws of nature, which man could legitimately tamper with and transcend by his creativity, the moral law (which governs the rational, voluntary acts of the human person) must be obeyed. If one were to enjoy the human sexual power so clearly intended by the moral law for procreation (as well as the union of the spouses), one ought at least to be open to this end. It should not be difficult to see (unless one were corrupted by extrinsic consideration) that the choice or decision not to get pregnant means not to have sex during the wife’s fertile period; and that, as the Church teaches, contraceptive sex—like divorce, homosexual intercourse, and masturbation—is objectively morally wrong. The contrary proposition translates into “free love”, i.e., sex without restraints.

Furthermore, while economics may appear to provide a valid basis for not having children, the validity is only apparent; not the least because “the economic situation” is, in fact, ephemeral (at times, even illusory).

How much income would “justify” how many children, and who can be the final arbiter of that? Today’s manager earning a six-digit figure monthly could tomorrow be jobless, diagnosed with cancer, or even dead of a heart attack. Conversely, there is nothing inherently impossible in the rags-to-riches stories that abound precisely because they carry an element of realism. It is logical fallacy to draw a direct proportion between income (transitory) and number of children (persons with eternal destiny). The State has no legitimate authority to mislead the “poor” (with propaganda or other inducements, using tax money) not to reproduce. “Responsible parenthood” consists not in having few or no children, but in the efforts of parents to raise those whom God has given them.

The whole notion of unwanted pregnancies also raises the question of “when” human life begins: It would be alright for a pregnancy to be unwanted if what the mother is carrying in her womb were not “human life”; because few could deny that “all human life is good in itself”, regardless of circumstances (hence, the Fifth Commandment of the Decalogue, “Thou shalt not kill”). Thus, contraceptives-pushers would assert that human life begins at “implantation” (notwithstanding that Section 12, Article II of the Philippine Constitution says “from conception”, i.e., when ovum is fertilized by spermatozoon), to cover up the terrible truth that certain “contraceptive” methods—such as the insertion of an IUD (Intra-Uterine Device), which prevents the implantation of the zygote (fertilized ovum) in the lining of the womb thereby killing the human life that has been conceived—are actually “abortifacients”.

Indeed, the beginning of life can be confused with “legal personality” (arising from the fact of “birth”), and “legal capacity” (acquired on reaching the “legal age”), which are different concepts in law. On the other hand, the moral norm requiring respect for human life (Thou shalt not kill) applies from its beginning, the moment of conception—because, from then on, what exists is distinct from the mother (it comes from the father as well); it is living (growing), and is certainly human (not any other animal). If there were room for honest doubt on this, the Church removes that (at least for catholics, for whom ignorance cannot be an excuse) by its teaching: “Human life must be respected and protected absolutely from the moment of conception” (CCC, No. 2270).

Contrary to the stance of population-control advocates, the Church “forces” no one to adhere to its teachings: We are free; but our choices have consequences in objective reality, the most important dimension of which is eternity. So, watch out, cafeteria catholics.