hile I am extremely gratified to see that a vibrant public debate has now again arisen over the problem of overpopulation in the Philippines. I am led to the depressing conclusion that the Catholic Church cannot and will not change its stand on population management issues any time soon by a recent review of the history of the allegedly infallible teaching that contraception is a "grave moral disorder and mortal sin" -- even if it does not involve abortion.
As the nation faces frightening oil and food price crises there lies unmasked a dogmatic policy that reeks of supernal vanity and infernal indifference to the terrible consequences of the last 40 years. For it was indeed in 1968 that Pope Paul VI issued the encyclical Humanae Vitae.
What is perhaps not widely known is that the ultimate reason for the Church's now unchangeable stand has little to do with with its moral position on sex and birth control and more to do with preserving the authority of the Church and that supernal piece of hubris and vanity called papal infallibility. This analysis by John Swormley from Christian Social Action (Feb. 1998) provides details that ought to make people mad not only because of the destructive social effects but also the long term damage done to the Church itself:
The birth control story begins with the Second Vatican Council in the early l960s and the decision of two popes to re-examine the church’s position on birth control. Pope John XX Ill had intended to begin that re-examination, but he died before he could begin the process. His successor, Pope Paul VI, appointed a Papal Commission on Population and Birth Control.I find this explanation enlightening and logical because I've always been puzzled about the apparent inconsistency of promoting at least one method that does result in preventing pregnancies, albeit unreliably, in the natural rhythm method (VaticanRoulette) yet regarding as anathema pills, condoms and IUDs as the very devil's handiwork.
That commission was two-tiered: (1) a group of 15 cardinals and bishops; (2) a group of 64 lay experts representing a variety of disciplines. A member of the lay commission, Thomas Burch, a professor at Georgetown University in the 1960s, said the pope had asked them to try to find a way to change the church’s position on birth control without destroying papal authority.
Commission Voted for Change
After two years of study, the lay commission voted 60 to 4, and the clergy voted 9 to 6, to change the position on birth control, even though it would mean a loss of papal authority, because it was the right thing to do. However, a minority report was submitted to the pope. The co-author of that report was a Polish archbishop, Karol Wojtyla, who later became Pope John Paul II.
A Roman Catholic historian and theologian, August Bernhard Hasler, tells the story in his 1979 book, How the Pope Became Infallible. He provided the following quotation from that minority report, which actually was the one accepted. It clearly sets forth the basis or reason for the current Catholic crusade against birth control and family planning:
“If it should be declared that contraception is not evil in itself, then we should have to concede frankly that the Holy Spirit had been on the side of the Protestant churches in 1930 (when the encyclical Casti Connubi was promulgated). and in 1951 (Pius XII’s address delivered before the Society of Hematologists in the year the pope died).
“It should likewise have to be admitted that for a hall a century the Spirit failed to protect Pius XI, Pius XII, and a large part of the Catholic hierarchy from a very serious error. This would mean that the leaders of the Church, acting with extreme imprudence, had condemned thousands of innocent human acts, forbidding, under pain of eternal damnation, a practice which would now be sanctioned. The fact can neither be denied nor ignored that these same acts would now he declared licit on the grounds of principles cited by the Protestants, which popes and bishops have either condemned or at least not approved” (page 170).
Dr. Hasler concluded: “Thus it became only too clear that the core of the problem was not the pill, but the authority. continuity, and infallibility of the Church’s magisterium.”
Since then, many Catholic Churches in Latin America and Europe have quietly ignored the Pope and adopted a more enlightened and liberal view towards birth control excluding abortion. But unique even among Catholic countries around the world, the Church and the State in the Philippines have been shamelessly united in a thoroughly irresponsible do-nothing population policy that is only breeding hunger and poverty and destroying the lives of millions of families.
There are undeniably other contributory factors, such as graft and corruption, but only the deaf and the blind would deny that the resulting level of poverty, hunger and deprivation would surely have been avoided or minimized if the leaders of a holier-than-thou Church and the most-corrupt State in Asia thought and acted more humanely and realistically about the issue.
Indeed, the situation has suited the Church hierarchy just fine, since it is not legally responsible for anything but its own dogmatic preachings on faith and morals. Meanwhile the State cynically profits from a quid pro quo that allows Catholic dogma to reign supreme in the social and religious spheres even as Catholic Church inaction and silence allow corrupt and illegitimate leaders like Gloria Macapagal Arroyo to lord it over politics and the economy.
With Pagcor's blood-and-vice-stained gambling money disguised as charity serving as the conduit for institutional bribery on a massive and despicable scale, the Principle of the Separation of Church and State has been perverted into a thinly a disguised regime reminiscent of Spanish Taliban theocracy that also ignored the people's long-term welfare.
I wish I could say that a widespread impetus towards a more enlightened population policy (as found in Latin American and European Catholic countries, and our regional neighbors), might be expected as the Catholic Bishops discern ever more clearly their utter failure to prevent the greater evil and injustice of the avoidable hunger, poverty and potential social chaos, compared to whatever evils they discern in simple, effective modern birth control methods. We are not even talking here about abortion, which I condemn and should always remain criminal and illegal in the Philippines. (Ironically, there are said to be up to half a million cases of illegal abortions in the Philippines annually--most of which are attributed to the lack of effective birth control measures).
I lay the responsibility for those abortions squarely on their betters who have indeed deprived the people access to readily available means of avoiding such a morally debased action but have been led to it by their own desperate desire to save another child from the evil of destitution.
Unfortunately I do not think such a conscientious reconsideration by the Catholic Sanhedrin of their culpability in a mortal sin of omission is even forthcoming even if they have condemned millions of families to lives of misery and demoralization.
The reason for such pessimism is my conviction that the real motivation behind the intransigent Catholic Church stand against birth control is the need to preserve Church authority via the doctrine of Papal Infallibility.
ABSOLUTE POWER has absolutely corrupted both the Church and the State. No wonder the CBCP and Gloria Macapagal Arroyo share a bed in the Pagcor Hotel.