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Friday, June 19, 2009

A Response to Dean Raul Pangalangan on RH Bill 5403

A Response to an Academic on Reproductive H ealth Bill 5403
October 2, 2008

Dear Dean Pangalangan,

Contrary to your opening sentence in your most recent article of September 26, 2008 in your PDI column, “The clergy’s all-out war on contraceptives,” the Catholic Church makes a whole lot of sense in its condemnation of contraception. Let us go straight into the crux of the matter, the red meat, if you would permit, because all else is just gravy.

Why is the Church against contraception?

We can draw our answer from Pope Paul VI’s prophetic 1968 encyclical Humanae Vitae. I quote verbatim from an article from the American TFP website: Humanae Vitae: the encyclical that condemned the sexual revolution. (Emphases in bold throughout this letter are mine.)

“The encyclical clearly explains why it reaffirms the Church’s perennial doctrine: The Church cannot change God’s Law expressed in nature. The document states:

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.

The encyclical is based on natural law and on Revelation, both of which manifest the will of God. The Magisterium of the Church was given the mission not only to interpret Revelation but also natural law, and it therefore addresses morals in all its aspects:

Jesus Christ, when He communicated His divine power to Peter and the other Apostles and sent them to teach all nations His commandments, constituted them as the authentic guardians and interpreters of the whole moral law, not only, that is, of the law of the Gospel but also of the natural law. For the natural law, too, declares the will of God, and its faithful observance is necessary for men's eternal salvation.”

In a pastoral letter, In Obedience To Christ, written in 1991 by the late Bishop Glennon Flavin of Lincoln Nebraska, he affirms the Church’s immutable and universal teaching on contraception,

“The ban on contraception is not a disciplinary law of the Church, like abstinence of Friday, which the Church can enact and which the Church can dispense for good reasons. Rather, it is a divine law which the Church cannot change any more than it can change the law of God forbidding murder. Contraception is wrong, not because the Church says it is wrong (it was wrong before Christ established the Church); it is wrong because God Himself, through the revelation of His Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ, has declared it to be wrong. Because contraception is intrinsically evil, it may never be practiced for any reason, no matter how good and urgent. A good end never justifies the use of an evil means.”

Condoms fall under the category of barrier methods of artificial contraception like the IUD. It is not the same as natural methods you referred to in your article. To make my point clear, I quote from this article, Contraception vs. Natural Family Planning,

“Couples who use natural family planning (NFP) when they have a just reason to avoid pregnancy never render their sexual acts sterile; they never contracept. They track their fertility, abstain when they are fertile and, if they so desire, embrace when they are naturally infertile. Readers unfamiliar with modern NFP methods should note that they are 98-99% effective at avoiding pregnancy when used properly. Furthermore, any woman, regardless of the regularity of her cycles, can use NFP successfully. This is not your grandmother’s “rhythm method.”

In natural family planning, the couple takes advantage of the natural fertility/infertility cycle of the woman without artificially intervening through barrier (IUD, condoms), surgical (tubal ligation, vasectomy, abortion) and chemical (contraceptives) methods. Therefore, NFP is perfectly in conformity with natural law.

The above cited article continues,

“To some people this seems like splitting hairs. “What’s the big difference,” they ask, “between rendering the union sterile yourself and just waiting until it’s naturally infertile? The end result is the same: both couples avoid children.” To which I respond, what’s the big difference between killing Grandma and just waiting until she dies naturally? End result’s the same thing: dead Grandma. Yes, but one is a serious sin called murder, and the other is an act of God.

If a person can tell the difference between euthanasia and natural death, he can tell the difference between contraception and NFP. It’s the same difference. I’m not equating contraception and murder. That’s not the analogy. Rather, Grandma’s natural death and a woman’s natural period of infertility are both acts of God. But in killing Grandma or in rendering sex sterile, we take the powers of life into our own hands — just like the deceiver originally tempted us to do — and make ourselves like God (see Gn 3:5).”

Therefore aside from the above, may I add that polls or survey results have no bearing on the Church’s position. The Catholic Church’s staunch stand on moral issues is based on sound doctrine and principles and not on the prevailing whims of the misinformed public or misguided journalists. Now, my question is: Can the proponents of RH 5043 make an intrinsic evil right? I say good luck. They can rant and rave till kingdom come but I doubt if the Church would change its position on an immutable Truth. Perhaps, pagputi ng uwak, pagitim ng tagak.

You foisted on your readers the claim of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) that conception begins at implantation. As a physician, I take that statement with TONS of salt. Quite to the contrary, I concur with the views of Drs. Fritz Baumgartner in his article, When Does Life Begin, and that of Richard Sosnowski of the ACOG,

“But why? Why on earth would the ACOG change its definition of conception from fertilization to implantation? The chilling answer was suggested by Dr. Richard Sosnowski of ACOG, who in his 1984 presidential address stated:

‘I do not deem it excellent to play semantic gymnastics in a profession … It is equally troublesome to me that, with no scientific evidence to validate the change, the definition of conception as the successful spermatic penetration of an ovum was redefined as the implantation of a fertilized ovum. It appears to me that the only reason for this was the dilemma produced by the possibility that the intrauterine contraceptive device might function as an abortifacient.’ "

Regarding the PDI report on the decline of abortions in the US, its source, Agence France Presses, craftily gave the impression that the decline was solely due to contraceptive use. Let us go to the more accurate report: Guttmacher Reports Documents 30-year low in Abortion rates:

“According to the report, the decline in teen pregnancies began before the emphasis on abstinence-only education and largely is a result of more effective and widespread use of contraception. However, the report also said the decrease in the abortion rate among teens has been accompanied by an increase in teen births in part because of a greater societal acceptance of unwed mothers, increased difficulty in obtaining abortions in some parts of the country and changing attitudes toward abortion (Los Angeles Times, 9/23). Jones said, "We've made the most important progress in reducing teen pregnancy and abortion rate, [rather] than reducing unintended pregnancy in older women."

Too bad for the advocates of the RH bill, the internet has made it more accessible for the public to glean and study documents on how the perpetrators of the contraceptive and abortion mentality suckered the American public and the rest of the world into accepting their deceptive ploy. No sir. Vigilant pro-life Filipinos will not commit the same folly.

You took Cebu Rep. Raul del Mar to task on his position against the RH bill and reminded him of his oath to uphold the Constitution that provides the separation of Church and State. The trouble is, Dean Pangalangan, the issue of artificial contraceptives and sex education is a matter of faith and morals whereby the Church and its faithful followers have a legitimate right to take a moral and principled stand. Besides, what does the Constitution say related to this issue?

The following articles and sections from the 1987 Philippine Constitution give testimony to the duty of the State to defend the family, the youth and the unborn:

“The State recognizes the sanctity of family life and shall protect and strengthen the family as a basic autonomous social institution. It shall equally protect the life of the mother and the life of the unborn from conception. The natural and primary right and duty of parents in the rearing of the youth for civic efficiency and the development of moral character shall receive the support of the Government.” (Art. II, Sec. 12)

“The State recognizes the Filipino family as the foundation of the nation. Accordingly, it shall strengthen its solidarity and actively promotes its total development.” (Art. XV, Sec. 1)

“The State shall defend (1) the right of spouses to found a family in accordance with their religious convictions and the demands of responsible parenthood.” (Art. XV, Sec. 3)

So now I ask, why is the State promoting artificial contraceptives and sex education which is against the religious convictions of Catholics faithful to Church teachings? Isn’t this unconstitutional?

I wish to discuss more but this rejoinder has gone beyond its intended length. I close with some points to ponder from this article by Fr. William Swift, On The 40th Anniversary of Humanae Vitae,

“Mary Eberstadt, in her brilliant article, “The Vindication of Humanae Vitae,” in the current issue of First Things, averred: “When Humanae Vitae was issued in 1968, it quickly became the punch line to endless jokes, the occasion for endless mockery and disdain. Forty years later, it’s clear the joke is on us. Humanae Vitae has proved to be one of the most prophetic documents ever written.””Why does she reason in such a manner? In the encyclical Paul VI did affirm and confirm the ever-constant stand of the Church that artificial birth control is sinful, illicit and immoral.

“What did he say? If we become a society immersed in a birth control mentality there will come about:

1. A general lowering of moral standards throughout society, amongst old and young.
2. A rise in infidelity among married couples.
3. A lessening of respect for women by men.
4. A coercive use of reproductive technologies by governments”.

It is precisely this contraceptive mentality that the RH bill wants to promote among Filipinos – something I reject with all my heart, mind and soul.

Very truly yours,

Jose Maria P. Alcasid, MD

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