Jesús and Amparo, a Spanish couple from Alicante, were like our parents during our seminary days in BIDASOA. When we were still deacons in 2005, Fr. Eugene Hechanova and I stayed in their house for three days, before going back to the Philippines. It was a gesture of deep gratitude towards this generous couple for the support – not only economic but especially spiritual – that they have extended – not only to us both, but to the entire BIDASOA International Seminary – even until the present.
Just recently, they attended the ordination of 14 new deacons (only one from the Philippines) of BIDASOA last April 25. During their stay in Pamplona, Fr. Eugene and I had the opportunity to accompany them and relive the old times together. Both are pharmacists, who used to own and manage a pharmacy in Alicante.
We’ve learned that a few years ago, they have decided to close the pharmacy. The motive? Every year, they receive complaints from clients and suffer a lot from court battles. The reason? Quite easy to understand: the clients complain simply because the pharmacy does not sell contraceptives (like condoms, “morning-after” pills, etc.). And the law requires that pharmacies should include these products in their list.
As good Catholics, trying to live coherently their faith, Jesús and Amparo decided to follow their conscience, a clear echo of what St. Peter said to the Sanhedrin: “It is better for us to follow God than to obey men.” And in doing so, they simply fulfill Jesus’ exhortation in this Sunday’s Gospel: “Go to the whole world and proclaim the Gospel.” In other words, they become living witnesses of the Gospel of life.
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How many Jesuses and Amparos could we find in our neighborhood right now? In our parish, in our archdiocese, in our beloved City of Davao, can we still find Christians and Catholics who would prefer to have their pharmacies closed rather than help propagate an anti-life mentality by selling anti-life products? (Effectively, “contraception” is a contraction of two words: “contra” – against – and “conception” – engender life; hence, against life).
Speaking of anti-life mentality, one day, a Spanish friend of mine, nicknamed “K-sus” (real name is Jesús), asked me candidly why the natural method of family planning that involves doing the marital act during infertile periods if the couple does not want to have a baby, could not be considered an anti-life mentality. Simple, I said.
It cannot involve an anti-life mentality, although the couple does not want a baby, because, in the first place, it’s the natural law itself (as expressed in the fertility cycle of the woman) that does not grant the possibility of engendering life. Since God’s will is made manifest in the natural law, we can say that during infertile periods, it is God’s will that no life yet could bloom. And the couple’s desire not to have a baby is only secondary to God’s will. They simply cooperate in God’s design, so to speak.
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In the use of contraceptives, this cooperation in the will of God cannot be found. Why? Because there’s no decisive consideration of the natural law (the woman’s fertility cycle). What is decisive, instead, is not reason but the sexual appetite that tends to dominate the couple, robbing them of the opportunity to exercise their will through self-control. In the use of natural method, a person exercises his reason and will. In doing so, he becomes truly human and rises above and has dominion over his animal instincts. In the use of artificial method, a person is dominated by his lower appetites; thus, is more likened to animals than to humans. What makes man truly human is the exercise of his higher faculties (reason and will).
It does not mean suppression of the lower faculties (like sexual appetites) but dominion over them, thereby integrating them into the person’s own good. The irrational exercise of man’s sexual appetites, for instance, contributes to his dehumanisation. When I say “irrational exercise”, I mean, the use of sexual faculties for mere pleasure, without considering its two inseparable objectives – expression of love (unitive) and procreation (procreative), and its fundamental context: marriage. All sexual acts done outside these parameters are simply “irrational exercise” of one’s sexual faculties, hence, degrading to the person.
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My friend, K-sus, once again insisted with his question: “Are we not separating the unitive and procreative dimensions, in the case of a couple who does not want a baby yet, and performs the marital act during infertile periods?” Of course not, for a very simple reason: they don’t have an anti-life mentality.
As we can see, what the Catholic Church teaches is not simply a set of prohibitions – a list of DO’s and DON’T’s – but a pro-life mentality. I cannot understand why some people – especially those who promote contraception to curb the population, those who support the RH bill and even those who want to establish RH clinics in Davao – would prefer an anti-life to pro-life mentality. I cannot understand WHY THESE PEOPLE PREFER DEATH TO LIFE.
“Choose life and not death”, Moses said to the Israelites before they set out to the promise land. The Church is now exhorting us in the same manner: She is proclaiming the Gospel of salvation, promoting a “culture of life”, and condemning an “anti-life mentality”. She does this to fulfill the command of Jesus: “Go to the whole world and proclaim the Gospel.” Catholics and non-Catholics alike – if we prefer life to death – why not join Her voice?