Friday, September 12, 2008

Catechism on Family and Life Issues Celebrating 40 years of Humanae Vitae

“We are called to seek and embrace the truth. In ethical matters, this demands a willingness to understand the natural law and the moral code that is derived from it. When Jesus said “I am the truth” he was affirming the fact that this truth is of vital importance to each one of us. If we are seriously to come to grips with truth, then we need to find a way of dialoguing with one another which is devoid of any ambiguity. That is why words and the meaning of words matter.” (George Cardinal Pell, Endorsement of Lexicon).


Forty years ago, on July 29, 1968 Pope Paul VI issued the Humanae Vitae against the expectations of the Secular World and even some Catholic circles. His words have proven prophetic. Since then the Church has waged a continuous battle in defense of the family and human life against the Population Control Movement’s racist agenda to pursue universal access to contraceptives and abortion. These enemies are determined to transform our laws and institutions into instruments for attacking the family and the sacredness of human life through a manipulative political process. Lest the Church people are caught unaware when a double-speak language cleverly used with words sweet to the ears but hiding a dangerous intent, the Pontifical Council of the Family published the Lexicon.[1] These essays written by experts on various issues of Family and Life to explain beyond ambiguity the meaning of confusing terms and jargon. This Catechism is therefore both a review of Humanae Vitae and a clarification of selected terms relevant to the current political issues the country is now facing.

What is the difference between Procreation and Reproduction?

Reproduction strictly refers to the biological reality implying that man is no different from animals. Procreation on the other hand is the proper term for human generation since it refers to the appearance of a new person and points to collaboration of parents with God as the ultimate source of this new life.

What is Responsible Parenthood?

Due to the profound link between the conjugal bond and the gift of life Humanae Vitae emphasizes the vocation of married couples to be parents and insists on openness to life. It is neutral concerning family size. Responsible parenthood refers to the decision to procreate or not to procreate signifying the following:

a) Exclusion of the use of contraceptives for every fertile conjugal act

b) Knowledge, primarily on the wife’s part of her own cycle of fertility/infertility;

c) In the case of an ethically justified decision not to procreate, abstinence from conjugal relations during the wife’s fertile period and the restriction of conjugal relations to the wife’s infertile period.

d) Exercising control over one’s sexual impulse to render it truly and exclusively expressive of conjugal love and the self-giving of persons. This decision to procreate or not to procreate is just (it is responsible) when two things are taken into account:

a) That the parents have the necessary and sufficient resources to secure a dignified life for their future child (including basic education);

b) That there are no grave considerations of health on the part of the spouses, especially the wife;

In the UN language Responsible Parenthood is the will, ability and commitment of parents to respond to the needs and aspirations of the family and children more particularly through family planning. Since family planning is understood as enabling people who wish to limit the size of families the term Responsible Parenthood is associated to family size limitation.

Why is contraception morally wrong?

Contraception is any action taken before, during or immediately after the conjugal act which is aimed at impeding the conception which the conjugal act itself is capable of. Contraception therefore separates the unitive and procreative aspects of the conjugal act. Conjugal sexuality by its very nature is an expression-realization of the total gift of self. In contraception the conjugal sexual act excludes from the gift of one’s person the gift of the capacity to become father/mother (it is the person that is fertile, not the body). Contraception makes the conjugal sexual act a lie.

Why is natural methods of birth control not contraception?

These natural methods simply enable the wife to ascertain when she is fertile and when she is infertile—scientific information placed at the service of either a procreative decision or a non procreative decision by the spouses.

What is Reproductive Health?

The UN defines Reproductive Health as the state of physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity, in all matters relating to the reproductive system and to its functions and processes. This implies that people are able to have a satisfying and safe sex life, that they have the capability to reproduce and the freedom to decide if, when and how often to do so, provided that these are not against the law. This further implies that women and men are afforded equal status in matters related to sexual relations and reproduction. (Cairo, Program of Action)

Strictly speaking reproductive health focuses on the biological dimension—when all the organic components of the reproductive apparatus are present and whole. It is therefore ridiculous to attribute “mental” and “social” dimensions to what is a purely biological reality. The surreptitious addition of these terms is connected with the stated aim of reproductive health—to have a satisfying and safe sex life. If having a satisfying sex life results in an unwanted pregnancy, the mental anguish this on the woman causes will negatively affect her mental and social well-being unless one has access to contraception and abortion. This is the convoluted reasoning behind the UN’s insistence that Reproductive Health necessarily presupposes access to artificial contraception and abortion. Thus in the Church judgment reproductive health is an ambiguous term. Despite of all avowals that abortion is illicit the inclusion of reproductive health in any law provides a backdoor for eventually legalizing abortion.

What is Reproductive Rights?

The term Reproductive Rights (RR) goes very often with Sexual Rights (SR) producing Sexual Reproductive Rights (SRR). Defined in terms of power and resources the latter refers to the power to have access to the necessary information and make sound decisions about fertility, procreation and child care, gynecological health and sexual activity, as well as the resources to proceed in a safe and efficient manner.

There are no international texts on human rights that mentions reproductive rights. The most fundamental document on human rights in the 1948 UN Declaration of Human Rights. The Population Control Establishment claims that Article 2 of the 1948 UN Declaration of Human Rights introduces the generic “right to have rights” rather than providing a list of concrete rights. It is further claimed that the content of these rights can be determined through democratic activity of nations. Subsequent UN Conferences—Cairo, Beijing, etc. reinforced the idea that the right to make decisions about reproduction and the right of access to health services were fundamental human rights. Both men and women should have equal access to health servic es including those related to family planning, the right to decide family size as well as spacing of children.

The erroneous ideology that defines a law making process based on the will of the majority is Legal Positivism can lead to unjust laws because the will of the majority can be manipulated by interest groups. Society runs the risk of enacting into law something that is against the natural law—what is wrong becomes right. Abortion legalized through a referendum does not cease to be wrong just because of a majority vote. This approach has permitted the UN to use its formidable financial resources in the advocacy process to provide universal access to contraception and legal abortion in line with its racist pursuit of fertility decline in third world countries.

What are Sexual Rights?

Sexual Rights is difficult to define and is best illustrated by the list of rights that tend to be included in this category. The 1996 International Planned Parenthood Declaration of Sexual and Reproductive Rights include among others (there are eleven of them) the following:

· The right to exercise and enjoy sexual independence, according to one’s preferences as well as the right to due legal protection;

· Pleasant and recreational sex, independent of reproduction

· Appropriate knowledge and information sex and reproduction.

· Freedom from fear, embarassment, guilt and other imposed beliefs that inhibit the sexuality of a person or diminish his/her relationship.

Underlying this view is the radical separation of sexuality, procreation and the connection between men and women. Pleasure is identified as the ultimate goal of sexuality and procreation is reduced as a function of the health care systems. Men and women relate in temporary and modifiable agreements.

Men and women are persons before all else, and for this reason sexual behavior cannot be used only for pleasure for this would mean using a person as a source of pleasure. Moverover since God specifically designed that the conjugal bond be profoundly linked with the gift of life sexuality can be exercised only in the context of married life. The exercise of rights gives rise to corresponding duties. Sexuality has to be curbed within the limits of marriage for the sake of wife and children.

What is Abortion Rights

The right to abortion was defined and acknowledged for the first time in the ruling of the US Supreme Court in the Roe vs. Wade case—giving women the free choice to interrupt pregnancy because the right to do so is a fundamental element of the right to privacy. Previously abortion was allowed in some cases as an exception to the norm on the defense of human life. After this ruling the law ceased to be interested in the conceived child as a victim, and shiftedits interest to the mother.

The right to abortion is called many names—interrupted pregnancy, menstrual regulation, etc. mainly out of a desire to hide the truth about the nature of abortion itself. But the truth is brutally simple—it always concerns the killing of the conceived child and the destryong of his/her life.

What is Reproductive Education

In the language of the UN Reproductive Education is the process of acquiring complete, accurate and relevant information on all matters relating to the reproductive system, its functions and processes and human sexuality; and forming attitudes and beliefs about sex, sexual identity, interpersonal relationships, affection, intimacy and gender roles. This also includes critically evaluating and discussing the moral, religious, social and cultural dimensions of related sensitive issues such as contraception and abortion.

Thisdefinition shows the propagandizing aims of Reproductive Education. It is meant to overhaul society’s values, attitudes and beliefs regarding sexuality and procreation. It is meant to make young people see the religious and moral values taught by their parents as myths on sex and sexuality deserving of ridicule and disdain.

Though countries in the West do not have any population control programs their sub-replacement fertility is so low that they now run the risk of population implosion. This was a result of a drastic change in sexual morality due to sustained sex education programs. The Sex Education Program has been in place in the Philippines since the 1970’s. The current 3rd edition is now entitled Reproductive Health and is much more explicit on sexual techniques rather than values education. These modules were patterned after the Sex Information and Education Modules of the U.S. ( SIECUS) originally developed by Mary Calderone and Alfred Kinsey of Kinsey Institute implemented in the American schools in the 1960’s. In plain language its content is pornographic; Kinsey Institute supports materials like Playboy, Penthouse and Hustler based on the research work of Eichel and Judith Reisman.

It assumes that young people are also subject of sexual rights and therefore they have a right to value free information about human sexuality, contraception, etc. Ultimately the objective is to encourage early sexual activity among the adolescents and create a demand for contraceptives and abortion among the young.

Parents have a duty to teach their children how to live the virtue of chastity. Giving the age-appropriate biological information hand in hand with the moral significance of sexuality parents educate their children live their vocation to love responsibly.

What is Safe Sex?

The term “Safe Sex” created in California and New York—the hotbed of HIV/AIDS—designates the condom as the best method against contamination by HIV during sexual activity. The expression refers to all precautionary measures taken to diminish the risk of transmitting or acquiring sexually transmitted disease.

The media hype that has promoted use of condoms as safe sex ignores the scientific findings that shows that the male sperm can comfortably pass through the pores of the condom and the HIV virus which is even smaller, has an even easier passage. The facts also show that in countries such as Thailand, where condom usage is widespread, the incidence of HIV infection is reaching epidemic proportions.

What is Safe Motherhood?

The concept of “Safe Motherhood” is actually loaded with unmentioned elements making it a dangerous expression. The idea is that there is no Safe Motherhood without granting the mother the right to abort freely. This conclusion is arrived after a manipulation of statistics on maternal mortality rates to suggest that much of it is a result from illegal abortions performed in “unsafe conditions”. This is meant to lead to the conclusion that in order to reduce the risks inherent in motherhood it is necessary to liberalize abortion. The aim is of course to incite authorities to liberalize abortion.

Restoring the exact meaning to “Safe Motherhood” means defining it as the set of health requirements for pregnant mothers that would give women the ability to have a safe and healthy pregnancy and delivery. Safe motherhood is therefore a desirable goal and providing better treatments and equipment adapted for and available to an ever larger number of mothers all over the world is something everyon should work for.

What is Informed Consent?

The relationship between doctors and patients should be an interpersonal relationship and full of trust. In a society which has at its disposal all the resources this ought to imply that patients should be well-informed regarding the numerous side effects of contraceptive drugs, the long term consequences of procedures performed on them, etc. But the history of family planning is fraught with instances where patients do not receive complete information regarding the side effects of contraceptives:
  • —Side-effects of the Pill:Premature hypertension, Heart Attacks and Strokes, Embolism; Carcinogenic (breast, cervical, liver cancer); leg cramps, nausea, infertility, bloatedness.
  • The pill and the IUD are abortifacient;
  • The condom has a high failure rate in preventing pregnancy, STD and HIV AIDS
  • Tubal ligation: high risk for ectopic pregnancy
  • Vasectomy: auto-immune response disorders
In some cases patients are even made to undergo, without their knowledge, interventions that mutilate them—for example surgical sterilization—and which are often irreversible.

Informed consent is a principle of medical ethics. The dignity of the patient implies a right to decide autonomously whether to accept or reject what is done to him both as to diagnosis and treatment. “Informed consent” consists is explaining to an alert and mentally competent patient the nature of the illness, the relation between its effects and the risks and benefits of the recommended procedures in order to obtain the patient’s approval or rejection of those procedures.

  • The presentation of information should be understandable rather than cursory.
  • The patient’s cooperation should be obtained without coercion and without the doctor taking advantage of his scientific prestige.
  • The doctor should be attentive to the patient’s attitude (if she is well-reasoned, compatible with the principles of his life, that the decision is voluntary and free, not based on ignorance and that the patient is mentally competent to make the decision.

What is Gender and Sex?

Sex refers to nature and implies two possibilities—man and women; gender comes from the field of linguistics and includes three varieties—masculine, feminine and neuter. According to this radical gender feminist view masculinity and feminity are not determined by sex but by culture, a product of socially constructed roles and stereotypes that each society assigns to the sexes. This view capitalizes on the fact that in the past exaggerations led to discriminations and injustices for many women. Women were considered inferior and excluded from public decision, higher education and economic opportunities.

Breaking away from the natural concept of masculinity and femininity radical feminists assert the existence of four, five or six genders: male heterosexuals, female heterosexuals, homosexuality, lesbianism, bisexuality and trans-gendered. Any sexuality is permissible; heterosexuality would just be one of the possible sexual practices—its procreative role does not make it preferable. To achieve universal acceptance of these ideas the strategy is to achieve gradual cultural change through the ”deconstruction” of society beginning with the family and the education of children. Ambiguous language is used ot make new ethical presuppositions seem reasonable.

Experts tell us in the human person sex and gender—the biological principle and the cultural expression are not identical. This is particularly clear when looking at the three aspects of the process by which they are normally and harmoniously woven

  • “Biological sex” is the bodily aspect of the human person determined at the moment of fertilization by the XX chromosomes in the female and the XY chromosomes in the male. Medical science shows how different each cell of the female body is from each cell of the male body, including structural and functional differences between the male and female brain.

  • “Psychological sex” refers to the human psychic experiences as man and woman—consisting in the consciousness of belonging to a determined sex. This is profoundly affected by education and environment.
  • “Sociological sex” is the sex assigned to a person from the moment of birth. It is expressed as it is perceived in the surrounding persons. It signifies a specific way of acting of a man or a woman. It refers to functions, roles and stereotypes which are assigned in each society to diverse groups of persons.

These three aspects are not isolated from each other. They must be integrated into a wider process in the formation of one’s own identity. Persons progressively acquires, during infancy and adolescence, a consciousness of “being oneself”. They discover their sexual identity and in it each time more profoundly the sexual dimension of their own being. Coming to realize bio-psychological factors of one’s own sex and the difference regarding the other sex, they gradually acquire a gender identity and discover the psycho-social and cultural factors of the role that men and women have it society.

Intersexual states are anomalies with various clinical characteristics that tend to occur at a very early embryonic stage of human development. They are defined by a contradiction of one or more of the criteria of sexual definition. Transexual persons have a pathology in some of the links of the biological chain leading to sexual differentiation. They should not be used as propaganda to obtain the “deconstruction” of the foundations of the family and society. They deserve respect and appropriate medical treatment.

What is Gender Equality?

Capitalizing on the discrimination and exclusion of women from public decision making and from access to education radical feminists aim at gender equality—the elimination of the differences between male and female. Since they claim that gender is merely a social construct they attribute the discrimination against women to the physical difference between male and female. This is what makes reproductive health and full access to contraceptives and abortion a very important in the feminist agenda.

Since the human person is either man or woman “in the unity of body and soul”, masculinity and femininity extends to all areas of his/her being: from the profound significance of the physical differences of man and woman and their influence in corporeal love, to the psychic differences between both and their different ways of manifesting their relationship with God. It is not possible to determine with scientific exactness what is typically masculine or typically feminine. But men and women experience the world in different ways, carry out their tasks differently, sit down, plan and react differently, and each of the latter has a solid foundation in the biological constitution of both man and woman. Men and women have the same human nature, but theyhave it in different ways. In a certain sense they complement each other; they mutually need each other to fully develop their humanity. In the husband-wife relationship, the “submission” is not unilateral, but reciprocal.

It is a biological fact that only a woman can be a mother and only a man can be a father though to be a woman or a man does not consist solely in being mother or father. . God did not create men and women so that we can engender new human beings. Man created in the image and likeness of God, is capable of engendering so as to express and perpetuate that divine image reflected in his sexual condition.

What is Gender Equity?

Radical feminist make an issue out of the fact that women have been excluded from economic life and advocate women empowerment.

It is evident that many injustices against women have existed historically and some continue to exist in the world. This long list of different kinds of discrimination has no biological foundation, but rather cultural roots, and these must be eradicated. Social functions cannot be considered as irremediably united to genetics or biology. It is desirable that women assume new roles that are in harmony with their dignity. We have to reject the fixed biological notion that all roles and relationships between both sexes are fixed in one static model. The incorporation of women in the labor market is an advance that certainly creates new challenges for both sexes.

The term gender correctly describes the cultural aspects that surround the construction of functions of men and women in society. Yet not all of these functions are things that are biologically constructed. Some have larger biological roots. There one can appreciate the presence of a certain diversity of roles is in no way bad for women, since that diversity is an expression of what is specifically masculine or feminine. More than a privilege or a discrimination sex is always an opportunity for one’s personal development. Hence we should all aim to promote the welfare of women not only outside the home but within it as well. While it is certain that women are not only wives and mothers, many are or want to be, so one must create the possiblities for them to achieve these desires in a dignified manner. Women who have an active external professional life cannot be the sole model, the only ideal for feminine independence.

[1]Lexicon, Ambiguous and debatable terms regarding family life and ethical questions” published by the Pontifical Council of the Family in Italian. The English version was published by Human Life International in 2006.