Bernardo M. Villegas
Articles  >> more topics
The Sanctity of Family Life (Part 3)

 We have seen in the series of articles on the Sanctity of Human Life and the Sanctity of Family life that there can be strong legal reasons to declare as unconstitutional abortion as well as divorce in the Philippines on the bases of the two phrases found in the Philippine Constitution of 1987:  “The State shall equally protect the life of the mother and the life of the unborn from conception,” and “Marriage is an inviolable institution.” If we go far enough to their logical consequences, there can also be a case for declaring the use of “artificial contraceptives” as going against at least the spirit of the Philippine Constitution.  Let me explain.

As Governor Socrates explained in his paper on “The Sanctity of Family and Life,” it is very indicative that the term “reproductive system” is applied to the collection of parts of the human body, whether male or female.  In most major religions and cultures, the human sexual  faculty has  been thought to be ordered towards the union of the spouses and inseparably therefrom, procreation. It is not an exclusive Catholic teaching that sex is for reproduction and that it is, therefore, an abuse, a moral disorder, to use the human sexual faculty in denial of its procreative end, which is what contraceptive sex is all about. In contrast, there is no moral disorder in natural family methods (e.g. periodic abstinence) because they consist in the non-use of sexual faculty during the fertile periods.

There are those who contend that contraceptive sex is moral because the purpose of human sexual faculty is served already in the loving union of the partners and that there is no longer any need to advert to the procreative end.  On the contrary, to deny the procreative end of sex would also remove the rational basis for the very institution of marriage.  Indeed, an indissoluble marriage is necessary precisely because sex is intended by nature for procreation, which includes the upbringing and education of the offspring; and because human life, in its totality, is so fragile in its developing stages.  As we saw in the article about the evils of absolute divorce, the greatest human sufferings are inflicted by the divorcing parents on their children.  The good upbringing and education of the human offspring requires a lasting partnership of the father and the mother (in great contrast with the animal kingdom in which in some cases the offspring are independent almost from the moment of birth). 

Governor Socrates presents a very strong case against the separation of the unitive and procreative purposes of marriage: “It is precisely because of the obvious procreative purpose of sex that even primitive cultures have some sort of marriage.  The common good requires a social ‘mechanism’ to ensure the welfare of the offspring.  Thus, to hold that the conjugal act may be separated from its procreative purpose, so as to justify contraceptive sex, is also to justify divorce (no need for permanence in the partnership of the spouses) and homosexuality  (no need for procreation), and so to open the floodgates to the unwholesome scenarios arising from a prevalence of broken homes, juvenile delinquency, the AIDS epidemic, etc., not to mention the problems of shrinking or ageing population in those nations that have early on adopted birth-control policies, confusing issues of social justice, economics, etc. with supposed overpopulation.

In fact, the greatest threat to the world today, as repeatedly emphasized by billionaire Elon Musk, is population collapse which has already seriously threatened the economies of the whole Western Europe and the East Asian tiger economies like Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore and even less developed countries like Thailand that has the misfortune of growing old before becoming rich.  Thailand is the prime example of the disastrous consequences of an aggressive population control program based on the widespread distribution of contraceptives (especially condoms) in the last century.  Even China’s Government is desperately trying to reverse the decline in birth rate in order to prevent the inevitable ageing of the population that also resulted in past programs of population control forcibly imposed on the Chinese by their Government.  The real problem that results from low birth rates (below the replacement rate of 2.1 children per fertile woman) is not the absolute number of people in the population.  China will have close to 1 billion people for a long time to come despite low fertility rates.  The real economic problem is ageing.  If you have a population of 1 billion people but 50 per cent of whom are over 65, your economy will be in serious trouble.  There will be tremendous pressure on your pension system and there will be no young people to contribute to that system, much less to physically take care of your ageing population.  The issue of contraception is as much an economic as well as a moral problem.

Contraceptive sex is against the natural law governing all human beings. Any violation of the natural law always brings with it dire consequences for human societies, whether politically, economically, culturally, morally and spiritually.  This is analogous to the laws governing the physical environment.  Cutting down forests, polluting rivers, widespread use of coal and other fuels that destroy the physical environment always bring with them environmental decay.  Contraceptive sex is immoral not because the Catholic Church or for that matter, any organized religion, says so but because it is contrary to the natural moral law.   This does not mean that there is no such thing as responsible parenthood.  Even the Catholic Church teaches that “those are considered to exercise responsible parenthood who prudently and generously decide to have a large family or who, for serious reasons with due respect to the moral law, choose to have no children for the time being or even for an indeterminate period…The Church, nevertheless, in urging men to the observance of the precepts of the natural law, which it interprets by its constant doctrine, teaches as absolutely required in any use of marriage there must be no impairment of is natural capacity to procreate human life.” 

Governor Socrates makes it a point to emphasize that the choice is made in the decision to “use” or not the sexual faculty (and, for that matter, in the decision to be united in marriage).  Such choice,once made commits the married couple; and it cannot be overemphasized that authentic human freedom is inseparable from commitment and responsibility.  As is said colloquially,
one may not eat his cake and keep it, too.  The option for contraceptive sex cannot be an exercise of authentic human freedom because it goes against the truths of human nature, even if its dire, enslaving rather than freeing, consequences may not be immediately visible to the individual.  For comments, my email address is