Monday, April 14, 2008

A young man’s (confusing) view on family planning

Joseph Juico says he is a "devout Roman Catholic". He studied at De LaSalle University, a most prestigious and expensive Catholic school, from elementary to college. According to him, his parents are very active in church and community activities. He adds: “My LaSallian education has instilled in me a deep sense of affinity with my Catholic faith”.

Joseph Juico also happens to be the Quezon City District 1 Councilor who is the author-sponsor of the QC Reproductive Health Ordinance. The ordinance provides for the promotion of artificial family planning methods (i.e. pills, injectibles, condoms, ligation and vasectomy), and the inclusion of age-appropriate sexuality education from Grades 5-6 and high school levels in school. The ordinance was approved despite strong objections from the Catholic clergy and Prolife groups.

In a recent newspaper opinion column entitled "A young man's view on family planning", Juico states his motivation, and that is addressing the poverty and overpopulation in the city. He states in the same column his immersion in depressed areas in his district, which “opened my eyes to harsh realities. Families there have more children that they can provide and care for. They want to practice family planning but they don’t have enough information, nor access to resources and services to enable them to do so.” They are at a loss! They can barely afford to feed, clothe, and house their children, let alone give them proper education. The children are out there in the streets, begging for food, barely able to survive.”

We glean from the column that Juico has been moved by the stark conditions in the depressed, overpopulated areas, and despite strong protests from the clergy, doggedly pushed his proposed ordinance to third reading and subsequent approval. He saw the measure as a move towards alleviating overpopulation and poverty.

Thus we have here a highly-educated, young, intelligent, upright public official, a self-avowed “devout Catholic” with a “deep sense of affinity with the Catholic faith” who nevertheless uses his influence to pass an ordinance that directly contradicts a core Catholic value. Can one publicly contradict a core Catholic teaching and still claim to be a “devout Catholic with a deep sense of affinity with the Catholic faith”?. There are a few things which must be taken to account in trying to make sense of this startling contradiction.

One, Juico was schooled in a top-notch, premier Catholic University (DLSU) from elementary to college. That would be not less than 15 years of solid Catholic education. Either DLSU did not teach that artificial birth control is an intrinsic evil, he was absent at those instances that this was taught, or DLSU taught otherwise (God forbid!), or he simply ignored the teaching and followed his personal rationalization of artificial birth control anyway.

Secondly, the nature of legislation in this sensitive area requires a lot of studious research into the matter at hand, especially for such a highly-charged issue. I presume that Juico went through the rigors of examining the pros and cons in detail, as we expect nothing less from a highly-educated legislator, a devout Catholic one at that. I therefore presume that he has gone though a conscientious reading of at least “Castii Conubii”, “Humanae Vitae”, and “Evangelium Vitae” - the landmark encyclicals where artificial conception is affirmed as intrinsically evil with dire consequences for humanity. Recently, Pope Benedict VI even stated that the first non-negotiable is the “protection of life in all its stages, from the first moment of conception until natural death”. But it is still a possibility that Juico did not bother to read these key Papal pronouncements, and confined himself to secular data – an oddity for a “devout Catholic...with a deep sense of affinity..”. If Juico had done so, but still acted in gross contradiction to Church teachings on this major point, then he finds himself in violent disagreement with Popes Pious XI, Paul VI, John Paul II, and Benedict VI on a major matter of Catholic faith, and we wonder if he realizes this in as much as he calls himself "a devout Catholic educated with a deep sense of affinity to the Catholic faith...".

Third, Juico could be of the motivation that overpopulation and poverty must be addressed at all costs by the most expedient and convenient means possible, Catholic teaching aside. For what is more moral than addressing poverty? But then again it is a firm Catholic injunction that a good may never be justified by an evil, and it is perhaps Juico’s firm conclusion and conviction that artificial birth control is the ONLY acceptable means to rationally address the issue of poverty and overpopulation. Anyone familiar with the arguments here , here, and here, will at least admit that this is a highly debatable and controvertible proposition.

Finally, expediency and relative morality seems to be the order of the day. Prolife Christians do not seem to get the point and are generally regarded as stubborn, outdated and unreasonable. Granted, it does seem difficult in this day and age to abide by Catholic teachings. Take just a few which are supposed to be internalized by “devout Catholics”: Faithfulness to the Church Magisterium. Humility. Forgiving 70 x 7 times. Obedience. Natural Family Planning. Protection of life in its all stages. Turning the other cheek. Loving your enemies. Being persecuted for the faith.

Following Christ is certainly not easy.

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