Illustration by A.M. Remalante

CHRISTMAS affords everyone in the intensifying debate over the Reproductive Health Bill No. 5043 not only a respite, but also a moment to reflect over the value and meaning of life–given that Christmas marks the birth of humanity’s greatest hope, Jesus Christ.

Are people, in particular the poor, really the cause of poverty and underdevelopment? Do the poor and their propagation abet financial slumps and food shortages in the country as some of the more rabid supporters of the birth-control bill by Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman insist? (They also insist that even criminality and traffic jams can be traced to overpopulation. Even former health secretary Alberto Romualdez said on ANC that the ideal population growth for the Philippines should be zero.)

Are demographic interventions in our population through fertility control and social engineering morally upright? Definitely not.

Although the Lagman bill is supported by influential patrons in politics, the academe, and even the profiteering non-profit sector, and it is obviously the pet of the metropolitan news media, there is an increasing critical mass that is starting to see through the bill and its supporters’ sugarcoated lies about population and poverty. This mass has seen through, for example, the apostate distortions on the Church’s teachings to suit self-serving positions by pro-choice Catholic educators. To some extent, we should welcome the rejoinder of the 41 international Catholic educators to the infamous stand of the 14 professors from Ateneo de Manila University who justified their anti-life platform and urged other Catholics to do so by distorting the social teachings of the Church.

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The Varsitarian has always contested the claims of population control by social science arguments. The debate remains, but in the spirit of Christmas, let the paper speak to Catholics and other Christians on the theological basis of upholding the sanctity of life and fighting all efforts by the state to foist on the poor social engineering and birth control.

In the first place, all Catholics should give their assent to the teaching authority of the Church on matters of faith and morals, the Church being the protector, upholder and interpreter of divine revelation.

Vatican II states it clear that divine revelation must be authentic “so that by hearing the message of salvation the whole world may believe; by believing, it may hope; and by hoping, it may love.” Perhaps it is truly a time for a rereading, a going back to the foundations of our faith: generally a return to faith, hope, and charity.

The Philippine bishops have condemned Lagman’s birth-control bill as anti-life, anti-women, and anti-poor. Yes, Catholics need not blindly heed this position. But they should give it a serious thought and consideration before they give their assent or rejection; definitely they should not twist the Church’s teachings to provide a basis for their rejection and their self-serving position.

On matters of faith and morals, the Pope and the magisterium are unassailable; Catholics believe this. And the tale of the tape should show that the Church as a whole has traditionally, historically and without fail upheld the sanctity of life. Even a cursory reading of Lagman’s bill should indicate that it promotes certain medical means that militate against life and compromise the constitutional principle — and the Catholic position — on protecting life from conception.

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As believing rational creatures, Catholics marry reason and faith. Reason strengthens conviction more than unquestioned submission to authorities. Faith relies neither on structures nor hierarchies. Rather, it rests on the belief that one has moral obligations when one declares one’s faith or one’s fealty to the Church.

But let us talk about more positive things. Let us talk about life and hope.

Doesn’t Lagman’s bill, for all of its concerns about sustainable development and scarce resources, its promotion of the paradigm of doom, all of which have been exposed as myths by more thoughtful social science schools, basically a pessimistic, indeed cynical, view of life? A healthy dose of optimism afforded by Christmas should check this.

With life, there’s hope. And only a crusade that upholds the sanctity of life can fire the world with hope amid so much dark thoughts and destructive pessimism.

With great gratitude, the world owes it to the Church and pro-life organizations and individuals for carrying on the crusade of life. They show that life is a premium that cannot and should not be denigrated.

A world starved of life is a world empty of hope. And a world empty of hope is also empty of charity.

Ultimately, the crusade for life is anchored on the sanctity of life and love. And hope is sustained by acts of charity. Love is anchored on the recognition of the needs of others, and not on selfish motives masked by loud declarations about “sustainable development,” “reproductive health,” and “freedom of conscience.”

This Christmas amid threats to the sanctity of life and in the face of near-total pessimism over the world’s financial system, life must be held in priority through faith, hope, and love. As the great Pope John Paul II said when he was still the philosopher Karol Wojtyla writing his work, Participation or Alienation?, love is the most powerful tool that can overwhelm all odds:

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“The strength of such a love emerges most clearly when the beloved stumbles, when his or her weakness or even sins come into the open. One who truly loves does not even withdraw his love, but loves all the more, loves in full consciousness of the other’s shortcomings and faults, and without in the least of approving them.”

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