Bernardo M. Villegas
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Policies to Strengthen the Family

           Candidates running for top positions in the executive and legislative branches of the Government are understandably giving a lot of attention in their campaign promises to the challenge of inclusive growth:  policies that will generate high growth as well as full employment and a more equitable distribution of income and wealth.  I have written especially about the challenge of eradicating mass poverty.  We should not, however, forget that there are other very important issues that go beyond economic objectives.  Note, for example, that in the United States some of the very divisive issues among politicians have to do with abortion, gay marriage, gender equality and other non-economic dimensions of American society.  We should expect no less from our candidates.  They should make very clear how they stand on such moral issues as abortion, contraception, gay marriages, divorce, and euthanasia. 

          Since the moral leader of the majority of Filipinos is Pope Francis, I would like to suggest using as a preamble to these family-oriented issues highlights of his Message to Families at the MOA Arena on January 16, 2015 when he addressed some 20,000 people, the majority of them married couples.  He referred to how St. Joseph was warned by an angel in his sleep of the dangers that threatened Jesus and Mary, forcing them to flee to Egypt and then to settle in Nazareth.  So too, in our time, God calls upon us to recognize the dangers threatening our own families and to protect them from harm. He then coined the phrase “ideological colonization.”  Let me quote the entire passage:  “Beware of the new ideological colonization that tries to destroy the family.  It’s not born of the dream that we have from God and prayer—it comes from outside and that’s why I call it a colonization.  Let us not lose the freedom to take forward the mission God has given us, the mission of the family.  And just as our peoples were able to say in the past ‘No’ to the period of colonization, as families we have to be very wise and strong to say ‘No’ to any attempted ideological colonization that could destroy the family.  And to ask the intercession of St. Joseph to know when to say ‘Yes’ and when to say ‘No.’…

          The Pope then made a realistic assessment of the threats to the Filipino family.  There are the economic challenges to families who are still suffering from the effects of natural disasters.  Numerous families suffer from the strains of separation as fathers and mothers have to go abroad as overseas workers in search of employment.   Those who do not have the alternative of seeking employment abroad have to eke out a living in the direst conditions, especially in the rural areas.  The worst threats to the family, however, are at the higher economic level where individuals are caught up in materialism and lifestyles which are destructive of family life and the most basic demands of Christian morality.  The dangers are aggravated by efforts of ideologues who try to redefine the very institution of marriage.  There are also those who preach moral relativism, the culture of the ephemeral and an anti-life culture.

          Very much related to the Reproductive Health Bill controversy, the Pope did not hesitate to cite the crucial role of Blessed Paul VI in the condemnation of artificial contraceptives:  “I think of Blessed Paul VI in the moment of that challenge of population growth, he had the strength to defend openness to life.  He knew the difficulties families experience and that’s why in his encyclical (Humanae Vitae) he expressed compassion for specific cases and he taught professors to be particularly compassionate for particular cases.  And he went further, he looked at the people on the earth and he saw that lack (of children) and the problem it could cause families in the future.  Paul VI was courageous, a good pastor and he warned his sheep about the wolves that were approaching.  And from the heavens he blesses us today.”  From the scientific point of view, the prophecies of Paul VI were proven accurate as the widespread use of artificial contraceptives in the U.S. and other countries led to an increase in abortion, unwed mothers, fatherless children, drug problems among the youth, etc.

          We must have leaders in the coming years who will go beyond attaining inclusive growth.  That is important but grossly insufficient in achieving a high Gross National Happiness, an increasing concern of many societies.  Especially for the Philippines, the stability of the family is key to a high level of human happiness.  As the nation celebrates Valentine’s Day on February 14, a day especially for married couples to renew their commitment to one another, let us deeply reflect on these words of Pope Francis in his address to families:  “Our world needs good and strong families to overcome these threats!  The Philippines needs holy and loving families to protect the beauty and truth of the family in God’s plan and to be a support and example for other families.  Every threat to the family is a threat to society itself.  The future of humanity as Saint John Paul II often said, passes through the family.  So protect your families!  See in them your country’s greatest treasure and nourish them always by prayer and the grace of the sacraments.  Families will always have their trials, but may you never add to them!  Instead, be living examples of love, forgiveness and care.  Be sanctuaries of respect for life, proclaiming the sacredness of every human life from conception to natural death.”

          Thanks to Pope Francis, we have some basic principles that we can use to ask candidates for the May elections about how they will protect the Philippines from ideological colonization.  I hope that the so-called left-leaning parties will be as assiduous in preventing the Philippines from being colonized by other countries through this subtle form of corrupting our culture.  Their forces can be more destructive than those of monopoly capitalism which has been the traditional target of the radicals!  For comments, my email address is