(Yesterday I was asked to give the concluding lecture at Human Life International’s “Lay and Life Advocacy Conference” in Cebu, which had been going on for three days. The conference theme was “Defending the Natural Family, Hope of the Dying World.” I reworked this a little to allow me to talk of the crisis of human life, the family and marriage. What follows is the body of my address.)
THIS is not the last time we shall be talking about this crisis. But I propose that we talk about it as though it were to be our last. This is the gravest crisis of our age. After listening to our visiting friends from Human Life International, like Fr. Shenan Boquet, Brian Clowes, and Joseph Meany, and our own Dr. Ligaya Acosta and Dr. Rene Bullecer, I am sure this became indisputably clear to all of you these last two days.
The symptoms vs the crisis
But I will depart from this thesis a little bit. I will propose that this crisis, grave and profound though it may be, is but the symptom of a much graver and deeper crisis. The real crisis is a crisis of our true self, a crisis of our personal relationship with God, a crisis of our Christian faith. It is a civilizational and existential crisis.
I grew up believing, with the first moral theologian I ever read, that our Christian civilization was built by looking at man while listening to God. This was once the prevailing view; but less and less people believe it now. The German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900) tried to seduce us with the first monumental fake news, that God is dead. Carl Gustav Jung (1875-1961), one of the fathers of psychoanalysis, carved what I thought was an excellent riposte at the facade of his home near Zurich. In Latin it said, Vocatus atque non vocatus, Deus aderit—“Both to those who turn to him and to those who ignore him, God will always be present.” Now the enemies of human life, of the family and of marriage, look at God in the face, as it were, and say to him, “you are not here, you do not exist.’
Where the Third Reich invoked a “final solution” against six million European Jews, those who want to depopulate the world by various means now invoke a “final argument” against the unborn and the unconceived to create a definitive and far greater Holocaust. Thus, when we proclaim that contraception is wrong, that abortion is wrong, that euthanasia is wrong, that divorce is wrong, that same-sex “marriage” is wrong—all of which offend our inherent human dignity, which flows from our having been wonderfully made by God—they no longer even try to show we are wrong; they simply say God does not exist, to cut off any discussion about human dignity, which derives from the fatherhood of God. It is a nuclear device that eliminates—in their view—everything in its path.
The roots of the issues
This brings the battle for human life, the family and marriage to their very roots, as far as their defenders are concerned. Sadly, the other side trivializes the subject, by asking the public to judge the rightness or wrongness of the issue on the basis of popular taste rather than metaphysical truth, philosophical principles or scientific analysis. What prevails is what appears to be popular among people who offer an opinion on something they know nothing about. And once more we are before the mob in Pilate’s court.
Thus, in a great country like America, the unborn lost the right to be born into a family and a home, in violation of the most fundamental and inviolable right upon which that great nation was founded by its illustrious Fathers. In Roe v. Wade, which legalizes abortion on the basis of a woman’s so-called right to privacy, without regard to the unborn fetus which is killed, we find a monumental example of what a law is not. Under St. Thomas’s definition of law which has governed Christian thought for ages, that so-called law is “not law but violence.” Since 1973, Roe v. Wade has killed more victims than have been killed in all the wars since war began; but it has not moved the American people, whose keen sense of justice is widely admired, into exercising their right to wage passive or active resistance. It has, on the other hand, become a primary foreign policy export by a succession of US presidents, interrupted only by Ronald Reagan, the two Bushes, and now, Donald Trump.
Reversing Roe v. Wade
Millions of Americans have been hoping their Supreme Court would soon overturn Roe v. Wade and end legalized abortion once and for all. But before the court could take the smallest baby step in that direction, it ruled in Obergefell v. Hodges to legalize same-sex unions, calling them “marriage,” which they are not. Like Roe v. Wade, this ruling is not law but violence. But there is no sign of passive or active resistance from the American public. The ruling has inspired copycat proposals in some copycat cultures, like our own.
In our jurisdiction, the Constitution recognizes the family as the foundation of the nation, and marriage as the foundation of the family, which shall be protected by the State. The right of spouses to found a family in accordance with their religious convictions and the demands of responsible parenthood is guaranteed.
Marriage is recognized and revered as the permanent and exclusive union of one man and one woman for the good and communion of the couple and for the begetting and rearing of children in the service of others.
Its biblical foundations are undisputed. Gen. 2: 24 says, “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.” In Matthew 19:6, Christ himself quotes this passage and says, “So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.” The union of two individuals of the same sex can never be called a marriage. This is the main point in the little book, “What is Marriage?”, by Princeton scholars Sherif Girgis, Ryan T. Anderson and Robert P. George.
In Congress, where we have our first transgender member, some have shown some interest in legalizing same-sex “marriage.” They were shocked when President Duterte said he was against it, despite his announced support for it before the election and despite the fact that he has appointed to his government at least one person claiming to be married to another person of the same sex. His public position could prevent his political allies from introducing any same-sex proposal, but it is not likely to slow down the secular media, particularly the entertainment media, where gays and lesbians abound.
It is in the profane media where the natural family will be bloodied. The greatest challenge will not come from individuals who want to make a pseudo-sacrament of divorce, contraception, abortion, euthanasia or same-sex marriage. Rather it will come from a government which does not know the limits of its own powers and the inviolable rights and freedoms of its citizens, the various institutions, beginning with the Church.
We saw this when the so-called Reproductive Health Law was railroaded by the Aquino government. For 15 years, the foreign-sponsored RH lobby could not get through because the predominantly Catholic majority opposed it. But after US President Obama spoke to President B.S. Aquino 3rd in the US with a $454 million “incentive” from the Millennium Challenge Fund, the RH bill started to move. Aquino then paid the members of Congress to enact the legislation, which puts the State in control of the reproductive lives of Filipinos, in violation of the Constitution, their culture and consciences.
Not law, but violence
Like Roe v. Wade and Obergefell v. Hodges in the US, this RH Law is “not law but violence.” With several others, I opposed the measure before the Supreme Court, on the ground that the State, as the primary constitutional protector of conception, cannot at the same time be the primary provider of contraception. This was my opening statement at the oral arguments before the court; but it was never acknowledged, not even refuted, by the State or the court. I reiterated my position in my motion for reconsideration, and again it was ignored, as though it had never been made.
There have been attempts since to circumvent the “Law” by procuring abortifacients instead of mere contraceptives for distribution to the public. And the Supreme Court has had to issue a temporary restraining order to prevent the Department of Health from distributing the forbidden items, which is a punishable offense.
Despite some victories of the pro-life and pro-family groups in North America and Africa, the challenges have intensified. Even Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, in one of his lectures before he became Pope, was compelled to ask whether after all the countries of the First World had legalized abortion we should not consider the matter settled and accept that we had lost the fight for human life. If we look at the situation in a purely superficial way, we may be tempted to arrive at that false conclusion.
A Croatian perspective
But I have a friend in Croatia who, in one of our meetings with St. Pope John Paul II in Rome in 1995, joyfully proclaimed that in almost every battle, we do not know the outcome until the very end, but that in our fight for human life, the family and marriage—in our fight for God—we already know we have won, except that we still need to keep on fighting a little bit more. For this is God’s battle, and God never loses his battles.
We are fighting for God, for the gift of life that comes from God. We must not forget what a great privilege and honor it is. Genesis tells us that on the sixth day of creation God created man. In his own image, He created him; male and female He created them. And He said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”
Neither the gift of life nor the recipient of that gift was yet in existence before the sixth day. But in one and the same instance, the gift of life and the recipient of that gift became one. God renewed this gift of life when He sent the great floods to blot out wicked man from the face of the earth, but spared Noah and his sons by putting them inside the Ark that bore them safely through the long days and nights that the waters covered the earth. Finally, to redeem man from his fallen nature, the Word (Logos) was incarnated and born of the Virgin Mother, not as an angel or any other special being but as a man.
How did we deserve it?
Who are we to deserve all this? And we reciprocate the Lord’s goodness by killing the unborn? By committing corruption and marital infidelities? By entering into same-sex unions? Shouldn’t we spend every minute of our lives thanking God for the gift of life by means of which we became men; for saving us from the floods that destroyed the rest of mankind; for making our humanity the seat and instrument of our own redemption; for opening to us the door to eternal happiness as our Last End?
Our life is too little to offer in defense of God. But it’s all we have, and in His name, we should be prepared to risk it. No power or principality should be able to intimidate or silence us. Against the oppressive state and other enemies, we must stand up for our rights, as Paul stood for his, not only as citizens but above all as Christians. We must put everything we are and everything we have into this fight. Sinners that we all are, we must stand our ground as great sinners trying very hard nevertheless to become saints. And we must be ready to share the fate of martyrs should we ever be called to it.