27 January 2009

Morality of Means

by Bishop Teodoro Bacani Jr.
Manila Standard Today
Saturday-Sunday, September 27-28, 2008

Many of our people, I believe, labor from many misconceptions about the Church’s stand regarding numerous matters connected with the population question. For example, there are those who believe that the Church does not acknowledge the existence of a population problem. The fact is that the Church has often acknowledged the existence and the complexity of the population problem, not only in some parts of the world, but specifically in the Philippines. I have documented this in my book, “The Church and Birth Control.”

Related to this, there are also those who think that the Church is against any effort of government to slow down our population growth rate. But the truth is that the Church acknowledges the right of the state to orient the demography of the population. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, par.2372). The decision to accelerate, maintain or decelerate the population growth rate must be based on economic and social realities. All three options (acceleration, maintenance, deceleration) are all possible moral options according to circumstances.

The Church is not against the control of the population growth rate. It accepts population management through self-control. Further, the Church holds that the decision regarding the number of a couple’s children belongs only to the couple concerned and not to the government, the Church or any other entity. In any effort to decelerate or maintain the population growth rate, the Church is also against any coercion (like dictating the number of children a couple can have, and coercing people to be sterilized), while it bats for the necessity of providing full information to couples regarding the means used.

Another misconception is that the Church is against responsible parenthood and family planning, and wants people to multiply without any restraint. The truth is, the Church advocates responsible parenthood. The Church also advocates family planning as an exercise of responsible parenthood. The Church indeed teaches that parents should strive to generously bring children into the world, but also that they should strive to bring into the world only those children whom they can raise up in a human way. According to the Church’s view, it would be irresponsible for couples to beget children without any thought on whether they can educate them.

Again, many people think that the Church is against sex education. In reality, the Church wants sex education for her children. But the Church wants sex education to be given in an appropriate way, reserving to parents the first right to give sex education to their children. The Church also wants sex education to be given according to the appropriate age of the children and with a corresponding education in values.

One thing many people find hard to understand is the Church’s insistence that couples should use only natural family planning. The Church’s stand is based on two convictions: 1) that in the matter of birth control, what is important is not only the purpose but the means used to attain the purpose. There must be not only a morality of purpose but of means; 2) natural family planning, is the only moral means of birth control.

I will discuss in another essay the justification for the Church’s insistence that only the natural method is the only morally allowable method of birth control. What I will explain here is the necessity to consider not only the efficiency but the morality of the means used for birth control. I will try to answer the objection of some people that the other modern means must be allowed because they are easier to use and are more effective and efficient.

In the matter of birth control, the issue of morality is even more important than efficiency. If efficiency is what matters most, then why not use outright abortion or infanticide? Or, better still, why not line up against the wall those who say that we should not be concerned about the morality of means, and then shoot them all to death? That would be a quick way of diminishing the population growth rate. But I am sure that all of the advocates of efficiency of means only would object and would say that that would be immoral. In saying that, however, they would be admitting that it is important to consider the morality of means and not only their efficiency.

Thus, the Catholic bishops are obliged to militate against the provision of House Bill 5043 that “the full range of family planning methods, both natural and modern shall be promoted” (sec. 11), such modern methods being understood to include “hormonal contraceptives, intra-uterine devices, injectables and other allied reproductive health products” (sec. 10). We know that IUDs, pills, the morning after pill, Norplant and Depo-Provera are not only contraceptives but also abortifacients, since they not only prevent fertilization but the implantation of the fertilized ovum. The prevention of the implantation of the fertilized ovum is already a form of abortion, according to prevailing Catholic teaching.

The insistence of the bishops and of the Catholic Church on the morality of means is only an insistence that we safeguard our humanity in what we do, and especially in the matter of family planning. It will not matter much that we become more economically prosperous if in the process we devalue ourselves as human beings.

For us, pagpapakatao (growth in humanity) should come first, and should not be sacrificed especially in the matter of pagdadalang-tao (bearing children).

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