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Church stand on population control

On July 10, 1990, the CBCP issued its Guiding Principles on Population Control. After a very thorough discussion, it was approved by the bishops gathered in plenary assembly and signed by the Archbishop Leonardo Z. Legaspi, O.P. President of the CBCP at the time. The statement was composed in preparation for a dialogue of CBCP representatives with a government panel on the question of family planning. I reproduce it here as the clearest statement of the CBCP on the population question and family planning.

In their statement, the bishops point out that in the discussion of matters regarding population control it is the pope and the bishops alone that give the official authoritative Catholic moral teaching regarding the principles involved. Then they set forth the guiding principles approved by the CBCP for the guidance of the Catholic faithful of the Philippines:

1. Respect should be given to the sacredness of human life in all its stages.

2. Marriage and the marital act have two aspects, the unitive and the procreative. These two aspects are never to be separated through man’s initiative, though it is not forbidden for couples to engage in the marital act during infertile periods.

3. Directly willed abortion, the use of abortifacients, sterilization, and contraception are wrong in themselves. They are wrong not because the Church forbids them; the Church forbids them because they are morally wrong.

4. The Church teaches the need for responsible parenthood. This means, among other things, that couples should bring into the world generously the children whom they can raise up as good human beings, but they should seek to bring into the world only those they can raise up as good human beings.

5. The Church advocates Natural Family Planning as the only morally acceptable way of practicing responsible procreation.

6. The Church rejects the contraceptive mentality, i.e., the attitude that selfishly avoids the procreation of offspring solely because the couple do not want to bear the responsibility that comes with having a child. It is wrong to use even Natural Family Planning methods in pursuit of such a contraceptive mentality.

7. The Church teaches that the decision on the number of children lies solely on the parents. No one can make the decision for them. But the parents are to make their decision responsibly, that is, with a sense of their responsibility to each other, to their children already born, to their children still to be born, to society and to God.

8. Hence, the Church is against any coercion exercised on couples to pressure or force them to limit or increase the number of their children. It is also against any coercion exercised on any other person involved in helping in the regulation of birth.

9. The increased or decrease of population growth does not by itself spell development or underdevelopment. The Church does not forbid the advocacy of the acceleration or decelaration of our population growth, according to circumstances, provided this is achieved within the parameters of freedom of conscience, the responsible decision of couples, and the principles of sexual and family morality.

10. Because the Church regards artificial contraception as wrong in itself, the Church will object to its dissemination and use. Further, Church personnel and institutions cannot be expected to cooperate with the dissemination and use of contraceptives.

11. The Church acknowledges religious freedom and freedom of conscience. But she has the duty to announce and promote the moral law regarding the regulation of population.

In conclusion, “there are no ‘value– free’ methods of family planning. Research scientists, medical personnel, government officials, and welfare agents should reflect seriously on the consequences of their activities, on the assumptions they hold, and on the goals they pursue in family planning” (Submission of the Holy See to the WHO-sponsored International Conference on Ethics and Human Values in Family Planning held in Bangkok in June, 1988).

These are the guiding principles of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines . They have not been abrogated, withdrawn or modified. The stance of even Catholic pro-lifers should be evaluated in the light of this official statement.