Pastoral Dialogue with Students on Reproductive Health
“The little children were being brought to Jesus in order that he might lay his hands on them and pray. The disciples spoke sternly to those who brought them; but Jesus said, ‘let the children come to me, and do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of heaven belongs.’ And he laid his hands on them…”(Matthew 19,13-15).
Twice a month we make pastoral visits to the different public and private High Schools in our Diocese with the Marian Missionaries of the Holy Cross, who are our Diocesan Campus and Youth ministers. Prior to these pastoral visits, the priests of the vicariates, together with the Marian Missionaries where the national High Schools are located make the Sacrament of Confession available to the students.
The pastoral visit of the Bishop includes the following activities: Praying of the Holy Rosary, celebration of the Holy Eucharist, and a Question and Answer with the Bishop. On a pastoral visit the question and answer were on the “Reproductive Health” issue. I share them with you.
We read and hear many things, sometimes conflicting, about the so-called Reproductive Health. Can you please tell us what this is all about?
Reproductive Health provides that the use of contraceptive and sterilization means and agents be made available to all. This contraception involves abortifacients, which prevent the initial development of pregnancy even after fertilization. The Reproductive Health bill authorizes artificial birth control, the use of birth control pills and means taken by women. So the objective is population control; to reduce the number of children in a family to only two children.
What does the State say?
The State through the Constitution states in Article II, section 12 that the “State shall equally protect the life of the mother and the life of the unborn from contraception.”
What does the Church teach?
The Church teaches that Life is sacred. Life is precious. Life is person. And person is good. From the Book of Genesis we read, “God looked at everything he had made, and he found it very good” (1,31). Life is good. And life is to be protected and defended.
The Vatican II apostolic constitution Gaudium et Spes clearly affirms that “from the moment of its conception, life must be safeguarded with greatest care…abortion and other infanticide are unspeakable crimes”(51). A life in a womb should be taken as a blessing. It is God’s mystery of love. It is God’s gift of love. That life has a right to our protection and guidance. We are morally responsible for them. We are accountable to God for whatever will happen to them.
Pope Pius XII, speaking to midwives in 1951, confirmed “each man receives his life directly from God, not from his parents, or from the society or from government. Hence, there is no man or human authority that can show or exercise a valid juridical authority to decide by his will, directly and deliberately on the life of an innocent man.” Pope Paul VI, addressing the Obstetrical and Gynecological Society of England on October 3, 1964, reiterated this when he said, “innocent human life, in whatever condition it is found, is to be secure from the very first moment of its existence from any deliberate attack. This is a fundamental right of the human person, which is of general value in the Christian concept of life; and hence as valid for the still hidden life within the womb of the mother as for the life of the already born and developing outside her…” Our Church considers human life precious. Human life must be protected.
Her basic natural moral rights must be promoted. Remember, for God no one is useless. Everyone is important. All are special to Him.
Student: What should we believe?
Life is a gift; much more, life is a grace. God values our life. He wants us to live, to be alive; and not only to live, but God desires us to live humanly and with full dignity. Saint Iraeneus of Lyons described it best when he preached, “God’s greatest glory is man fully alive.” Can you now understand that God wants us to give life, preserve life and protect life, and not to extinguish life or to kill life?
I know from my catechism class about the fifth commandment. It says, “you shall not kill” (Exodus 20,13; Deuteronomy 5,17). We also know that abortion is killing. To kill is a sin. And abortion is a sin. How about those who practice or promote abortifacient ways and means?
Abortion is not being condemned only now. It has been condemned since the apostolic times. Didache, the first book of the early Christian Church, says it very clearly, “you shall not procure abortion. You shall not destroy a newborn child”(II,2). God values our life. Our Church protects and promotes life. The two early councils of the Church held in Elvira and Ancyra in 314 issued canons on protecting and safeguarding human life. These canons state that anyone who procures abortion automatically incurs the penalty of excommunication.
Abortion is a moral evil. And with it is a canonical penalty of Excommunication to those who do abortion and who encourage and assist abortion (ref. canon 1398 CIC).
Student: What would be your advice for married couples, especially the mothers?
To be a mother is a gracious and responsible option for life. The prophet Isaiah asks, “Can a mother forget her infant, be without tenderness for the child of her womb?”(49,37). Rarely do we see a mother who does not feel unconditional affection and selfless devotion toward her child. Jesus describes His love for Israel in terms of a mother’s feeling for her young: “How many times I yearned to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her young under her wings”(Matthew 23,37).
Yes, being a mother entails sacrifices. It is, in fact, hardly possible to talk about motherhood without mentioning suffering. Motherhood is also synonymous with self-giving. It is in self-sacrifice that a mother finds meaning in her motherhood. Like a mother, let us be ready for self-sacrifice; be more disciplined and have self-control. This my advice: we should not base our decisions on choice but on what our conscience dictates. Yes, we are free but let us remember that we are also morally bound to act according to our formed conscience. We should always be guided by God’s “way, and the truth and the life” (John 14,6). God should always be a part of any decision we make!
Student: We are grateful to you Bishop for your pastoral visits. We hope to see you again and continue to ask you more questions.
Bishop: Why not visit me in my residence? I will be more than happy to welcome you and we can continue our dialogues. Before we part, let us pray first:
O almighty God, our merciful Father.
You are our Creator.
You are the author of our life and source of all goodness.
We come to You.
We truly promise to decide and do things:
not on the basis of what we want, nor of what others desire,
not solely for our personal benefits
not for our own advantage,
not for any profit or prestige
but for Your greater glory,
for the common good of all, and
especially for our personal sanctification.
Thank You so much, O almighty God, merciful Father
for creating us,
and for giving us a gracious chance to live.
We sincerely resolve
to respect life and to protect life.
We have received Your priceless gift of life,
Your precious gift of life.
We humbly pray we may never cease to cherish all these.
+Ruperto Cruz Santos
Bishop of Balanga
Memorial of Pope Leo the Great, November 2010