Wednesday, August 6, 2008

‘Birth control’ dad gets dream wedding

To receive or not to receive...

Quezon City First District Councilor Joseph Juico tied the knot with erstwhile fiancée Trisha Chua in the scenic Madre de Dios Chapel at the Tagaytay Highlands Batangas. The wedding caught some attention in the press, as it must be remembered that Councilor Juico was the sponsor of the controversial ordinance recently passed in Quezon City that provides for reproductive health and services program, among which is the promotion and provision of the full range of family planning methods – which includes artificial contraceptives. There were earlier reports that due to his public advocacy of contraceptives which goes against a core teaching of the Church, he would be denied communion in the diocese of Cubao if and when he opts to get married anywhere within the Cubao diocese (a report that was denied by the Diocese spokesperson), and so he opted to seek the sacrament of matrimony elsewhere outside the jurisdiction of the Cubao diocese. Quite akin to forum shopping, although a real interdict follows individuals wherever they go. Apparently, all’s well that ends well, and the couple has been blessed to live happily ever after, in a wedding officiated by no less than Bishop Soc Villegas, who granted him communion as well.

The propriety of giving and receiving the Holy Eucharist appears to be raised by certain sectors in this event, towards its potentially scandalous implications. Quite certainly, Bishop Villegas must have been aware of the controversy hounding Councilor Juico, considering the media milage that the QC ordinance has generated and the publicly raised specter of Juico possibly being denied communion for his primary role. The fact the Bishop Villegas did not refuse communion despite the circumstances, is an indication that refusal of communion is not warranted in this case. It is worthwhile to reference then Cardinal Ratzinger in July 2004, as head of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, when he issued a directly concerned memorandum which states in part:

"Apart from an individual's judgment about his worthiness to present himself to receive the Holy Eucharist, the minister of Holy Communion may find himself in the situation where he must refuse to distribute Holy Communion to someone, such as in cases of a declared excommunication, a declared interdict, or an obstinate persistence in manifest grave sin".

In Juico's case, there is no declared excommunication, nor a known interdict. A case may be made of him being in an "obstinate persistence in manifest grave sin". But the question still remains whether it constitutes a feigned ignorance or a lack of understanding, as a mortal sin is defined if it entails full knowledge and consent. Apparently, Bishop Villegas in his judgment has given him the benefit of the doubt, and it is hard to question that. We are not aware whether he has been counseled prior to the wedding to take a more conscientious attitude with the view to making reparations, as this might have conceivably transpired during the pre-marriage canonical interview. We simply do not know, and in the absence of hard facts we take a prudent view of the matter. God will eventually judge his conscience. I just want to personally express my extreme disappointment with Councilor Joseph Juico, a self-professed devout Catholic. His talent, resources, position and devotion seems grievously misdirected in the manner of his advocacy of artificial contraceptives. I wish that the passion he professes for local governance concerns is matched - nay surpassed - by the ardor and passion of studying and understanding the tenets of the Faith, and most importantly, putting it into action. For this he sorely needs pastoral guidance. May God help him.

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