Wednesday, October 1, 2008

No need to be wrong on contraception

It is painful and sad to see an academic justly admired for his usually helpful insights on legal issues melt down so badly on a subject where no one has any compelling reason to be wrong.

In his Sept. 26, 2008 column in the Philippine Daily Inquirer (The clergy’s all-out war on contraceptives), Professor Raul C. Pangalangan, a former dean of the UP College of Law, criticizes Catholic objections to state-sponsored contraception as arising from an apparent confusion between contraception and abortion.

He suggests that if only the clergy (and the laity) knew how many abortions were being committed in the country, despite the fact that it remains a punishable crime, they would not object to a state policy and program of contraception. In many countries, they have used the purportedly high number of abortions to justify the legalization of the crime. It is like saying that since the number of unsolved murders is increasing, the State has incurred the duty to legalize murder.

The argument has not yet been raised here to justify the legalization of abortion. But it is being raised to justify a state policy and program of contraception. The numbers are being unduly fudged to heighten the argumentum ad misericordiam on behalf of “the poor.” But not even the poor are buying.

The unbroken historical record shows that in all countries that legalized abortion, legalization was unerringly preceded by universal contraception. The basic objection to state-sponsored contraception as proposed in House Bill 5043, however, does not arise from any confusion between contraception and abortion.

There is no such confusion. The objection is based simply on the fact that:

1) contraception goes against the conjugal moral order established by the Creator; and

2) state-sponsored contraception goes against the Constitution which proclaims “the sanctity of family life” and obliges the State to “protect and strengthen the family as a basic autonomous social institution” and “to equally protect the life of the mother and the life of the unborn from conception.” The Constitution recognizes marriage as the foundation of the Filipino family, and the family as the foundation of the nation.

That some contraceptives are, in fact, abortifacients presents an additional problem. That oral contraceptives have been established by the international research arm of the World Health Organization (WHO) to be cancer-causing presents yet another problem. But the natural moral law would still hold contraception to be wrong even if it were shown that all contraceptives were 100-percent “medically safe” and non-abortifacient.

The fact that the Church has no way of compelling anyone to follow her teaching faithfully on this matter does not give the State the right to sponsor a program of contraception, to be funded, ironically, by those whose faith denounces it as morally unacceptable. Such State action does violence to the constitutional separation of Church and State, which not Pangalangan alone seems to completely misunderstand.

Deputy Speaker Raul del Mar correctly upholds this separation when he says the State cannot and must not compel Catholics to fund a program that is anathema to their faith. State intervention in the intimate conjugal life of married couples is totally impermissible. The duty of the State is to heed and respect the teaching of the Church on this question.

It is painful and sad when a writer of Pangalangan’s credentials shows no awareness of the outstanding pro-life and pro-family provisions of the Constitution, which are under direct and open attack in HB 5043. Even more painful, and sadder, when he describes the Church, which has produced the greatest saints and sages known to man, as one “that is fittingly founded upon Marian devotion.”

The Church venerates Mary in a special way (hyperdulia) as the Mother of the Son of God made man, but the Church is not founded on any devotion to her. The Church is the assembly of the people of God, founded by Jesus Christ, true God and true Man, who died on the cross to redeem fallen man from sin, but who rose again from the dead and remains perpetually present in the Holy Eucharist, the sacrament of bread and wine. It is necessary to know what the Church is to understand her role in the lives of men and women.

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