The bishops and birth regulation

There are many inaccuracies in the understanding of many regarding the Catholic Church’s teaching on birth regulation. In his capacity as a bishop and theologian, Bishop Teodoro Bacani tries to explain and clarify issues that concern the Church’s position, through a series of questions and answers.

1. Does the Catholic Church in the Philippines recognize a population problem?

The bishops recognize a population problem in the Philippines. By this is meant that the high growth rate of the Philippine population presents obstacles to genuine development. They admit “the seriousness and complexity of the population problem and the common obligation of all sectors of society to understand well and resolve this problem” (CBCP Pastoral Letter “Love is Life”). Many of our lay faithful also recognize a population problem.

2. Do the bishops consider our high population growth rate as the major obstacle to development?

While the Philippine bishops do admit that our high growth rate is an obstacle to genuine development, they nevertheless see injustice in society, graft and corruption, inefficiency in the management of our resources as more fundamental causes of our underdevelopment. Our high growth rate is only one (and not the biggest) contributory factor to our underdevelopment.

3. Are the bishops against the deceleration of our population growth rate?

The bishops allow freedom for the advocacy of the deceleration of our population growth rate, provided this is achieved in a morally acceptable way. Anybody can advocate for a deceleration of our growth rate, for example, from 2.1% yearly to 1.5% yearly.

4. Are the bishops against population control?

The bishops do not object to rationalizing our approach to population and regulating our growth rate though they would prefer “population management” to “population control.” The bishops will object to any government dictation to couples regarding the number of their children. They will also object to the use of compulsion, pressure or manipulation to achieve government population targets.

5. Are the bishops against family planning?

Family planning, in the sense of planning the number and spacing of the children, is an act of responsible parenthood and is laudable when done according to the law of God.

6. Do the bishops teach that couples must intend to procreate each time they engage in the marital act?

The bishops do not teach that married couples should intend to procreate each time they engage in the marital act. They can engage in the marital act while not desiring to have a child, or during the infertile period of the woman, or when either or both of the spouses are sterile. Couples should seek to procreate only those children whom they can raise up as good human beings.

7. What is taught by the Church to be forbidden?

The Church teaches that there are two aspects in the marital act – the procreative and the unitive. While the couple are allowed not to intend to procreate with each marital act, they should not directly frustrate by an action before, during, or after the marital act, the procreative aspect of the marital act. One cannot morally do an action intended directly to obstruct the procreative aspect from being realized. Thus, the Church objects to directly willed contraception, sterilization, and abortion.