Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Go forth and multiply responsibly…

The title is not the exact quote from Genesis 1:28, but the first ever commission that God gave to mankind comes with it the obligation for responsible parenthood and stewardship of resources. To this day, Adam and Eve’s multiple descendants remain confused on how to conscientiously fulfill this mandate. It is worthwhile to go forth, or rather go back to examine some passages in Humanae Vitae and hopefully multiply our understanding on how to multiply.

"With regard to man's innate drives and emotions, responsible parenthood means that man's reason and will must exert control over them.

With regard to physical, economic, psychological and social conditions, responsible parenthood is exercised by those who prudently and generously decide to have more children, and by those who, for serious reasons and with due respect to moral precepts, decide not to have additional children for either a certain or an indefinite period of time.

Responsible parenthood, as we use the term here, has one further essential aspect of paramount importance. It concerns the objective moral order which was established by God, and of which a right conscience is the true interpreter. In a word, the exercise of responsible parenthood requires that husband and wife, keeping a right order of priorities, recognize their own duties toward God, themselves, their families and human society."

Hence according to the Church, there are four considerations in planning for the number and spacing of children according to the objective moral order:

1) Physical
This pertains to the physical health of the parents, especially the mother in terms of her capability in nurturing a child in her womb and delivering without incurring grave danger to herself and the child. This aspect also considers the physical demands in rearing the child.

2) Economic
If physical health is considered, economic health must be considered as well. Prudent discretion and an inclination towards generosity is exercised when assessing the couple’s material capability on the number and spacing of children, with the consequent economic responsibility in raising them up and providing for their basic needs.

3) Psychological
Both parents must have the psychological ability to raise them "in the discipline and instruction of the Lord" (Ephesians 6:4). The family being the basic unit of society and a domestic church, requires parents to fulfill their primary role as educators and spiritual formators to mold their children both as responsible citizens and witnesses for Christ.

4) Social conditions
Cases of severe social unrest like those which occur in times of war, serious civil disturbance or depression, leads to an external environment that is far from being conducive to pregnancy, delivery, and raising of children. The environment conditions must be able to offer a stable situation wherein safe delivery and child nurturance can be reasonably accommodated.

Thus, responsible parenthood with respect to planning for the number and spacing of children takes into serious consideration the above four factors, according to Church teaching. The Church never, ever said "go forth and multiply irresponsibly". The Church actually encourages responsible family planning, the natural way. The size of their families is left for the parents themselves to decide, based on their *own* carefully discerned assessment of the above criterion. As such, there is no prescribed number, no "ideal family size", even as HB 5043 wants to "encourage" the ideal family size composed of *two* children (Now how on earth was the bill able to arrive at that magic number?). The ideal number of children can go anywhere from zero to twelve or perhaps even more, as long as all the above factors are taken into serious consideration by the married couple. The moral aspect involves the total giving of love in its unitive and procreative aspect that is inherent in the exercise of Natural Family Planning (NFP), as against the use of artificial contraceptives. It must be noted that NFP can also be used immorally, when the couple that exercises it is driven by selfish motives not to bear children despite the fact that they have been blessed with ample resources and inexistent constraints with respect to the four factors. It must be noted further that the above factors may change over time for a married couple, so that they have to continually assess their own particular circumstances over time. Sadly, sterilization and some harmful permanent side-effects of contraceptives, permanently closes the door to further assessment. The door however, is always open to reconcile our hearts and minds to the first commission.

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