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Taken from HERE:



House Bill 5043 on “Reproductive Health and Population Development” has occasioned intense debate in the Philippines and was recently the subject of a position paper drafted by 14 members of the faculty of the Ateneo de Manila University. In their statement, these faculty members stated their belief that the bill adheres “to core principles of Catholic social teaching: the sanctity of human life, the dignity of the human person, the preferential option for the poor and vulnerable, integral human development, human rights, and the primacy of conscience.” They believe these conditions of Catholic social teaching are met in Bill 5043. We, the undersigned Catholic academics, assert, however, that these Ateneo faculty are gravely mistaken in their presentation of the Church’s teaching.

The primary reason for these Ateneo faculty members´ support of the bill seems to stem from their deep commitment to the Church’s long-held “preferential option for the poor.” Their position paper describes, heart-wrenchingly, the situation of the poor in the Philippines. High maternal mortality rates, inadequate and uneven provision of basic health care, lack of birth attendants, and lack of reproductive health information: such situations place an undue burden on the poor, and in particular on women. These women, like all women, desire to determine the number and spacing of their children, and ensure that proper nutrition, health care, and education can be provided for each member of their families. As Catholics, we have a clear obligation to ensure that all persons, particularly the poor, have the ability to exercise these basic freedoms.

As Catholic academics, we agree that we must support civic and governmental initiatives that can aid the poor. Nevertheless, a Catholic cannot support the Reproductive Health and Population Development bill in good conscience, because the primary provisions of the bill not only fail to recognize and support the dignity of the poor, but also stand in direct opposition to Catholic social teaching. The bill focuses primarily on providing services to curb the number of children of the poor, while doing little to remedy their situation, provide necessary health care or establish the grounds for sound economic development.

A few citations will serve to show how clear and unambiguous is the Church’s care for the dignity of the person, and in particular the poor, and how critical it is for us to heed her teachings in addressing the circumstances facing the Philippines today.

Rerum Novarum opens with the powerful reminder that “Man precedes the state” and for that reason should not be subject to the state’s regulation of his private matters. Populorum Progressio reiterates this sentiment, stating: “No solution . . . is acceptable which does violence to man’s essential dignity; those who propose such solutions base them on an utterly materialistic conception of man himself and his life. The only possible solution to this question is one which envisages the social and economic progress both of individuals and of the whole of human society, and which respects and promotes true human values.”

Perhaps no document speaks more powerfully in opposition to the main ideas in this bill thanHumanae Vitae: “Therefore we base our words on the first principles of a human and Christian doctrine of marriage when we are obliged once more to declare that the direct interruption of the generative process already begun and, above all, all direct abortion, even for therapeutic reasons, are to be absolutely excluded as lawful means of regulating the number of children. Equally to be condemned, as the Magisterium of the Church has affirmed on many occasions, is direct sterilization, whether of the man or of the woman, whether permanent or temporary.”

In reply to the claim that reproductive rights, contraception and sterilization are required in order to help the poor limit their family size and thus aid the poor by reducing the numbers of mouths to feed, Humanae Vitae states: “Others ask on the same point whether it is not reasonable in so many cases to use artificial birth control if by so doing the harmony and peace of a family are better served and more suitable conditions are provided for the education of children already born. To this question we must give a clear reply. The Church is the first to praise and commend the application of human intelligence to an activity in which a rational creature such as man is so closely associated with his Creator. But she affirms that this must be done within the limits of the order of reality established by God.”

Artificial contraception can never be accepted by the Church as an action in conformity with the dignity of the human person because “each and every marital act must of necessity retain its intrinsic relationship to the procreation of human life.” Further, it is never valid to argue, “as a justification for sexual intercourse which is deliberately contraceptive, that a lesser evil is to be preferred to a greater one, ” as the authors of the position paper seem to suggest. While applauding efforts in the bill to provide information on both artificial and natural forms of family planning, the position paper then asserts that provision of contraceptives as essential medicines and fully covered sterilizations for indigent patients are measures that promote quality of life. This statement directly contradicts Catholic teaching, which recognizes the use and promotion of artificial contraception and sterilization as intrinsically evil. Such actions can never be promoted or justified. “It is never lawful, even for the gravest reasons, to do evil that good may come of it – in other words, to intend directly something which of its very nature contradicts the moral order, and which must therefore be judged unworthy of man, even though the intention is to protect or promote the welfare of an individual, or a family or of society in general. Consequently it is a serious error to think that a whole married life of otherwise normal relations can justify sexual intercourse which is deliberately contraceptive and so intrinsically wrong. ”

The Church does not hold these positions to punish the poor, but rather because she recognizes that the poor have the same inviolable dignity and rights that all human persons share. What the poor need is not contraception and sterilization, but to experience authentic solidarity with those who, in responding to their innate dignity, work with the poor to enable them to develop their skills, improve their circumstances and cultivate lives that are marked by both interior and exterior freedom. This places a much more radical demand on those of us to whom much has been given (Luke 12:48); we must live and work with the poor in order to identify and enable the resources they require to live lives of authentic freedom.

Finally, Humanae Vitae warns us that “[c]areful consideration should be given to the danger of this power passing into the hands of those public authorities who care little for the precepts of the moral law. Who will blame a government which in its attempt to resolve the problems affecting an entire country resorts to the same measures as are regarded as lawful by married people in the solution of a particular family difficulty? Who will prevent public authorities from favoring those contraceptive methods which they consider more effective? Should they regard this as necessary, they may even impose their use on everyone. It could well happen, therefore, that when people, either individually or in family or social life, experience the inherent difficulties of the divine law and are determined to avoid them, they may give into the hands of public authorities the power to intervene in the most personal and intimate responsibility of husband and wife.”

These statements of the Church and Magisterium have been retained in all subsequent documents and reiterated in documents too numerous to cite here. These few, but clear, passages make it abundantly clear that no Catholic can in good conscience support Bill 5043. This Bill violates the Church’s teachings in the gravest manner.

Maternal and ObGyn health. Finally, it must be emphasized that there are two sections in the bill that should be applauded and expanded. Both Section 6 and Section 7 call for the expansion of midwives and birth attendants, as well as greater access to obstetric care. Such measures are critical to reducing maternal mortality and making progress toward the Millennium Development Goals, particularly MDG 5 (maternal health) and MDG 4 (infant health). Healthy mothers are the critical factor in assuring infant and child health.

Unfortunately, these two sections are the weakest in the bill. Most of the reproductive health proposals of the bill are mandatory and supported through financial means, as well as through the creation of new government agencies to assure implementation. Sections 6 and 7 of the Bill, which provide the only concrete health care and services to prevent or eliminate maternal mortality, are not mandatory, and the bill earmarks neither institutional support systems nor finances for their implementation. The POPCOM, which is established in Section 5 to implement and oversee the commitments outlined in the bill, has nine specific areas related to reproductive health and reproductive health services, yet no explicit mention of any responsibility in the area of maternal and ObGyn care. This most important section of the bill – and the only section actually consistent with Catholic social teaching – has been entirely neglected in the allocation of responsibilities to the agency established to oversee its implementation.

A bill that responds to the situation of the poor requires us to respond to their full range of needs in order to facilitate integral improvement in their quality of life. This necessitates the creation of laws that guarantee the adoption of measures, at the national and local levels, that will lead to improved access to authentic development including the provision of basic health care and access to quality education. It is measures such as these that will enable the poor to develop and thrive, and that will affirm and respect the dignity of each and every human person. This bill stops short of assuring implementation of needed medical care, while emphasizing the adoption of measures that deny the dignity and freedom of the poor. As Catholics we have a moral duty to defend and support the poor; we must demand more from our legislators and from ourselves, placing ourselves at the service of poor, ready to commit to the necessary work, sacrifice and solidarity needed to establish and build societies that will respond to authentic needs while respecting the dignity and freedom of every human person.

Signatories as of Nov 12, 2008

1. Prof Janet E. Smith
Father Michael J. McGivney Chair of Life Ethics
Sacred Heart Major Seminary, Detroit, MI.

2. Robert G Kennedy, PhD
Professor and Chair
Department of Catholic Studies
Co-Director, Terrence J Murphy Institute for Catholic Thought, Law, and Public Policy
University of St Thomas
Mail #55-SSt Paul, MN 55105

3. Richard S. Myers
Professor of Law
Ave Maria School of Law
3475 Plymouth Road, Ann Arbor, MI 48105-2550

4. Romanus Cessario, O.P.
Professor of Theology
Saint John’s Seminary
Boston, Massachusetts

5. Rev. Joseph W. Koterski, S.J.
Department of Philosophy
Fordham University, Bronx, NY 10458 USA

6. Theresa Notare, PhD
Assistant Director
Natural Family Planning Program
Secretariat for Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth
United States Conference of Catholic Bishops 3211 4th St., N.E.Washington, DC 20017

7. Fr. Basil Cole, O.P.
Dominican House of Studies
487 Michigan Ave NE Washington DC 20017

8. E. Christian Brugger, D.Phil.
Associate Professor of Moral Theology
Saint John Vianney Theological Seminary
Denver, Colorado 80210, USA

9. S.C. Selner-Wright, PhD
Acting Chair, Philosophy Department
Acting Director, Pre-Theology Cycle
St. John Vianney Theological Seminary
Denver, Colorado USA

10. Dr. Mary Healy
Associate Professor of Sacred Scripture
Sacred Heart Major Seminary 2701 Chicago Boulevard
Detroit, MI 48206

11. Ångela Aparisi Miralles
Philosophy of Law Professor
Directora – Instituto de Derechos Humanos
Universidad de Navarra

12. Michael Rota
Assistant Professor of Philosophy
University of St. Thomas, St. Paul, MN

13. Michael Scaperlanda
Associate Dean for Research
Edwards Family Chair in Law
University of Oklahoma College of Law

14. Richard Stith J.D.(Yale), Ph.D.(Yale)
Professor of Law
Valparaiso University School of Law
656 South Greenwich St. Valparaiso, IN 46383-4945

15. Patrick Quirk
Associate Professor
Ave Maria School of Law
3475 Plymouth Road Ann Arbor, Michigan 48105-2550

16. Fr. Earl Muller, S.J.
Kevin M. Britt Chair in Theology/Christology
Sacred Heart Major Seminary
Detroit, MI, USA

17. Professor David Paton
Chair of Industrial Economics
Nottingham University Business School
Jubilee Campus, Wollaton Road, Nottingham NG8 1BB
United Kingdom

18. Dr. Eduardo J. Echeverria
Professor of Philosophy
Sacred Heart Major Seminary
2701 Chicago Blvd, Detroit, MI 48206

19. Jane Adolphe
Associate Professor of Law
Ave Maria School of Law
Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA, 48105

20. Teresa S. Collett
Professor of Law, University of St. Thomas School of Law
MSL 400, 1000
LaSalle Avenue, Minneapolis, MN 55403-2015

21. David Braine,
Honorary Research Fellow,
Department of Philosophy,
University of Aberdeen, UK.

22. Dr. Helen Watt
Linacre Centre for Healthcare Ethics

23. Ligia M. De Jesus
Assistant Professor of Law
Ave Maria School of Law
3475 Plymouth Road, Ann Arbor, MI 48105-2550

24. Jacqueline M. Nolan-Haley
Professor of Law
Director, ADR & Conflict Resolution Program
Fordham Law School
140 W. 62nd Street, New York, New York 10023

25. William E.May
Michael J.McGivney Professor of Moral Theology
John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family
Washington DC

26. Evelyn (Timmie) Birge Vitz
Professor of French, New York University
Affiliated Professor of Comparative Literature,
Medieval and Renaissance Studies, and Religious Studies
19 University Place, #623,
New York, NY 10003

27. Mary M. Keys
Associate Professor
Department of Political Science
University of Notre Dame
Notre Dame, IN 46556 USA

28. Mark E. Ginter, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Moral Theology
Saint Meinrad School of Theology
200 Hill Drive St. Meinrad, IN 47577

29. Father Daniel J. Trapp
Professor of Sacramental Theology
Sacred Heart Major Seminary
2701 Chicago Boulevard
Detroit, MI 48206

30. Maria Fedoryka
Philosophy Department of Ave Maria University
Ave Maria, FL.

31. Dr. Dermot Grenham
Graduate Teaching Assistant
London School of Economics

32. Dr. Michael Pakaluk
Professor of Philosophy
Institute for the Psychological Sciences
Arlington, VA 22101

33. Timothy Flanigan MD
Professor of Medicine
Brown University Medical School

34. Gerard Bradley
School of Law
Notre Dame University

35. Adrian J. Reimers
Adjunct Assistant Professor of Philosophy
208 Malloy HallNotre Dame, Indiana 46556574-631-7384

36. Daniel Philpott
Associate Professor, Political Science and Joan B. Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies
University of Notre Dame

37. Aneta Gawkowska
Assistant Professor, Sociology
University of Warsaw

38. Tom D’Andrea
Cambridge University

39. Peter Kreeft
Boston College

40. J. Budziszewski
Departments of Government and Philosophy
University of Texas at Austin

41. Habib Malik
Department of History,
Lebanese American University

42. Nicholas Eberstadt
Political Economy
American Enterprise Institute
Washington, D.C.