Wednesday, May 08, 2013

Principled Partisan Politics: Three Ways of Involvement

Pastoral Letter addressed To the People of God in the
Archdiocese of Cagayan de Oro

ELECTIONS are a time for choice and decision-making. Voters are expected to follow their conscience in choosing public officials that will serve the common good, and help in the development of their community. On election day itself, every voter becomes “partisan”—in the sense that he or she takes sides and chooses the candidates deemed most qualified for public office.
And yet, to be partisan in Philippine politics does not necessarily mean to side with one party only – even as political parties are beginning to articulate their principles and party platforms. Personalities, with their qualifications, are still crucial in determining principles and platforms. Thus, as we scrutinize the qualifications of various candidates, the Catholic bishops have encouraged Christian citizens to engage in “principled partisan politics.”
But how do we engage in principled partisan politics? Three modes come to mind. The first way, paradoxically, is to be non-partisan in favoring this or that candidate. On the other hand, it means to be partisan or to take sides for the democratic process itself to prevail. This is the role of watchdog citizens’ arms like the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV) and the National Movement for Free Elections (NAMFREL). As in past elections, we encourage our parishioners, particularly the youth and religious lay organizations, to volunteer their services in these activities to ensure Clean, Honest, Accountable, Meaningful, and Peaceful (CHAMP) elections. Our archdiocesan social action team can help coordinate both PPCRV and NAMFREL activities at the local levels to ensure complementarity of roles. We also commend the initiative of the Xavier University High School alumni in organizing Crusaders for Honest, Orderly, and Peaceful Elections (HOPE) in the 62 polling precincts of Cagayan de Oro City.
During this period before election day, Voters’ Education will require much effort—not only in the proper utilization of the PCOS machines, but more so in choosing worthwhile candidates. It is in this context that voters can become Trans-partisan—i.e., in choosing the most qualified candidates across political parties. In their Pastoral Statement of Jan. 2013, the Catholic bishops “commend and support lay initiatives to form circles of discernment to choose worthy candidates . . . in order to bring values of God’s kingdom in the public discourse.” As in previous elections, I have recommended that voters choose candidates with the five C’s – that they be men and women of Character, Conscience, Competence, Compassion, and Commitment. Other characteristics have been suggested: that candidates be maka-Diyos, maka-Tao, maka-Buhay, maka-Bayan, and maka-Kalikasan.
The Circles of Discernment for Elections (CIDE) seminar organized by the Dilaab Team in the Archdiocese of Cebu has further refined this selection process through its LASER test. Informal groups of voters are asked to evaluate candidates according to Lifestyle, Action/Accomplishments, Supporters, Election Conduct, and Reputation. I would highly encourage our Basic Ecclesial Communities as well as multi-sectoral and inter-faith groups to adopt this discernment process in order to arrive at a collective choice of worthwhile candidates.

Dilaab has also introduced a third mode of partisanship. This is called Pan-Partisanship (“i.e., reaching out to all political affiliations”). Prior to the formal campaign period, candidates from all political parties as well as those individuals still discerning whether to run for public office or not were invited to a “discernment integrity recollection”. This focused on what Pope Benedict XVI calls “evangelical formation and pastoral accompaniment of a new generation of Catholics working in politics.” Prospective candidates were invited to pray over their own understanding and motivations for entering the sphere of public service. They were also asked to answer the LASER questions for themselves as candidates.

In addition to this inclusive invitation to all candidates to develop a form of spirituality in public office, I would include three issues of concern of pan- or supra-partisan significance (which all political parties should espouse). In the archdiocese, we have launched a campaign: “Our Votes are Not for Sale.” It is a direct call to all traditional politicians (trapos) against the practice of rampant vote-buying (which is considered a criminal offense.) More profoundly, vote-buying as well as vote-selling are offenses against the dignity of the voter himself who “exchanges” his reasoning and freedom for a fleeting sum of money.

A second issue of concern has been brought up by the CBCP Pastoral Statement: “the widening practice of political dynasties.” Along with other dioceses and organizations, we have launched in the archdiocese the Movement Against Dynasties (MAD). Recent studies by research centers have pointed out the correlation of political dynasties with corruption, poverty, and violence in various provinces throughout the country. The provision against political dynasties has already been inscribed in the Philippine Constitution of 1987. The CBCP statement adds: “As monopolies in business, monopolies in politics limit the entry that can bring in new ideas and better services. Political dynasties breed corruption and ineptitude.” A related advocacy is the campaign against pork barrel allocations—which impels political dynasties to expand to control the largesse of public funds.   

A third issue of concern, especially for us in Cagayan de Oro, is the care and conservation of the environment. Typhoon Sendong has taught us the bitter lessons from the wanton degradation of our watershed areas surrounding Cagayan de Oro River and other tributaries. The continued bleeding of Iponan River from hydraulic flush mining also has to be stopped. The rehabilitation and protection of our environment should be a pan-partisan concern of all candidates for public office.

This then is the challenge of Responsible Citizenship as we approach election day. While church leaders themselves have to remain non-partisan in electoral contests for the sake of transcendent Gospel values that they uphold, it is good to keep in mind the three calls of CBCP for all Christian citizens:

1) To form circles of discernment;
2) For the laity to exercise their right and duty to support candidates who are qualified and public service minded; and
3) To engage in principled partisan politics.

Archbishop of Cagayan de Oro
16 April 2013

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Electing our future

THE Easter message of Christ’s resurrection and victory over sin and death offers us the promise of rising above our own brokenness and rebuilding the structures of our fragmented society. It is fitting then that our coming elections should take place during this Easter season. For Easter is the season of hope—and concrete action for building the future.

The apostles were filled with joy, mixed with initial incredulity, as the first witnesses of the Resurrected Christ. But they were also impelled by the Holy Spirit to share this joy and conviction over the good news of Christ’s resurrection with the whole world, even at the cost of hardships and martyrdom.

It is in this light that we too, as good Christians and responsible citizens, are challenged to be involved in our electoral process. This has been dubbed by our archdiocesan ministry workers in good governance as PEACE, i.e., Political Easter Action for Credible Elections. During these remaining forty days before election day, let us then adopt this form of PEACE-building in all our parishes and kapilya communities as a concrete response to the call of the bishops:

There is a duty for the Christian Catholic to transform politics by the Gospel. The Church, God’s people, must evangelize politics. God’s call to the Church is to preach the integral Gospel, the Gospel with all its social dimensions. (CBCP, Pastoral Exhortation 1997: Philippine Politics)

More recently, over the past year, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines has also made three calls to the Catholic laity: (1) to form circles of discernment (so that they can see, judge, and act together on issues of public concern); (2) to get involved directly in principled partisan politics; and (3) to exercise their right and duty to campaign for candidates who are competent, honest, and public-service minded.

How then do we choose candidates who are “competent, honest, and public-service minded”? There are four C’s we can consider as criteria for measuring the qualifications of candidates.

The first “C” is Conscience. We need leaders with a sense of morality—who know what is morally right and morally wrong, and who act according to their conscience. In earlier consultations we find that Filipino voters look for leaders who are God-fearing and heed the commandments of God. A person of conscience works for truth and justice. He or she is pro-life and pro-family. He is transparent in his dealings and is accountable for his actions. He does not stall calls for public investigations in the conduct of a public office.

A person of conscience shuns corruption in any form and makes sure that public funds are not used for private gain, but for the common good. His name is not linked to drugs, gambling, or any form of shady deals; indeed even “Caesar’s wife” should be above suspicion. The effect of corruption in a person is literally a “broken heart”. On the other hand, a person of conscience has a heart that is whole and integral; he is a person of integrity.

The second “C” is Competence. A candidate for public office must have a track record, starting with his academic qualifications and work experience. In the same way that we make sure that we go to a qualified doctor when we are sick, or consult a qualified engineer for our construction plans, so also must we carefully examine the qualifications of candidates for public office.

How often have we heard of classrooms or highways that have been built with inferior materials? Or of “natural” disasters that could have been prevented, had there been more comprehensive planning based on climate change projections? Sadly, we hear stories of misfits in public office who have no concern for balancing budgets but have instead increased the public debt.

We need public officials who can lead us, not by means of “guns, goons, gold or glamor,” but by their management skills, and, more so, by their ability to inspire us to work for objectives that are realizable and urgent.

This kind of transformational leadership requires the third “C”: Commitment. A leader must have a vision and goals for the community that he or she aspires to serve. He should also have the political will and the readiness to sacrifice personal interests to pursue these goals.

Commitment means faithfulness to one’s principles and promises. It means adherence to the higher loyalties to God and country, beyond family, regional or class interests. Like Jose Rizal and other national heroes of the Philippine Revolution, public leaders today should personify the selfless kind of nationalism that unifies and creates a truly independent and self-reliant nation.

Broken promises, shifting party loyalties and the practice of transactional politics are hallmarks of trapo politicians. In its crudest form, vote-buying becomes a measure of one’s commitment—only for a day, at the price of one’s vote. On a grander scale, un-committed public officials are prone to sell the nation’s patrimony for thirty pieces of silver; thus the continuing lamentations of environmental groups over the destruction of our remaining forests and mountainsides due to irresponsible logging and mining activities.

Likewise, agrarian reform beneficiaries like the Sumilao farmers are still barred from tilling all the lands promised to them. Other target beneficiaries of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program are still awaiting the full implementation of this centerpiece social legislation after more than two decades of delaying action.

Social concern and a preferential option for the poor, the marginalized and the exploited thus characterize the fourth “C”: Compassion. A public official should give special attention to the basic needs of the least brethren in our communities, not simply by providing safety nets but by empowering them to become productive members of society.

A person of compassion is one who “suffers with” others. He strives to bring about the common good by dismantling unjust social structures, perhaps best epitomized in Ramon Magsaysay’s Credo: “He who has less in life should have more in law.”

A person of compassion works for unity and reconciliation. He is not vindictive against those who did not support his candidacy. His magnanimous allocation of public resources is based on the needs of the local communities rather than the favors they can give to him.

A person of compassion makes peace and builds peace. He is willing to listen in dialogue to the legitimate claims of those who take up arms against the government. He promotes inter-religious and inter-cultural dialogue to forge solidarity in diversity.

Another name for compassion is Christian Charity, an all-embracing love and capacity to forgive one’s enemies. This is the core message of Easter. “There is no peace without justice,” notes Pope John Paul II, “and no justice without forgiveness.”

Election time then in the spirit of Easter should not be seen simply as fiesta time when common people seek the bounty of powerful patrons. Neither can it be viewed merely like a basketball game with a winning and losing team while spectators stand on the sidelines. We are all winners—or losers—during election time depending on which candidate wins the mandate for public office. For we are all stakeholders, and fellow sojourners in choosing the right captains for our local communities as well as for our ship of state.

Let us then all work together for PEACE—i.e., Political Easter Action for Credible Elections. And let us begin to scrutinize candidates according to the four C’s. For in choosing the best possible candidate among many others, based on Conscience, Competence, Commitment, and Compassion, we are doing nothing else but electing our own future.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Ministries for Peace in Mindanao

The year 2009 in Cagayan de Oro started with extensive flooding in January of the city’s river banks and low-lying areas throughout the province. Another flash flood occurred in November that disrupted the opening days of our Mindanao Week of Peace. Several parishes in coordination with our ACCESS office distributed relief goods. Nazareth Parish initiated a rehabilitation program for damaged houses along the river.

These experiences have prompted our Ecology Desk to monitor closely our environment−i.e., the continued mining operations on the upland area of the city and the resumption of logging activities in the Gingoog-Claveria watershed area. Compounding this is the proposed bio-ethanol plant that would pollute Cagayan de Oro River, ideal for white water rafting.

Other concerns of our ad extra ministries under the Commission on Social Action, headed by Fr. Cabantan, include:

• Sustainable Agriculture: Frs. Soldevilla and Lusat have been piloting S.A. practices such as vermiculture and rice-duck farming.

• Indigenous People: Fr. Sabuga and KASALU, a volunteer group, have organized several meetings of lumad leaders from Misamis Oriental and from all over Mindanao to promote IP rights to their ancestral domain. Malitbog Parish is their base of operation.

• Women’s Ministry: The Good Shepherd Sisters have set up a Center for Women, including counseling services. Since April, they have provided support and protection for young women victims of a cybersex operation uncovered in the city. The court case against two foreign nationals is still ongoing.

• Migrant Workers: Msgr. Legitimas and Sr. Alice, D.C., have concentrated on port area activities, involving seamen’s wives and stevedores’ families.

• Prison Ministry: Fr. Durana, prison chaplain, ministers to the spiritual needs of detainees in the city and provincial jails with regular Sunday services. The Prisoners’ Awareness Week had several activities, including a mass wedding.

• Children’s Ministry: The Canossian Sisters are inaugurating this month a newly-constructed home for orphans and neglected children. The Calabrian Fathers also have two houses for abandoned boys and girls, while the Sacred Heart Fathers are supporting a Kasanag Foundation home for girl victims of abuse.

• Charity Foundations: With the support of two local foundations, the MCM Sisters are administering the House of Hope for the mentally sick and a home for the elderly. Another home for the mentally sick has been set up in Gingoog by a third foundation.

• Social Communications: Sr. M.A. Padilla, FSP, and her team have published monthly newsletters of the archdiocese. They have also set up at Xavier U and Capitol U a photo exhibit on Cagayan de Oro’s 75 years as a diocese (1933-2008). Ongoing efforts are being made to optimize the use of radio and TV time for the local church’s message.

• Good Governance: Fr. Lerio and youth leaders assisted students in the first-time registration of voters, together with chapter members of the Bishops-Businessmen’s Conference. They are currently conducting seminars focusing on Responsible Christian Citizenship. These are being replicated at the parish level. Several resource persons have assisted these activities – notably, Fr. C. Diola and his Dilaab team from Cebu, and Ms. H. de Villa, PPCRV Chair from Manila. Meanwhile, several Civil Society groups are exploring transpartisan ways of involvement in the coming elections.

Our ad intra ministries under the Commission on Faith and Evangelization, headed by Fr. Salvador, are undergoing reorganizational changes while continuing their ongoing activities – i.e., Catechetics, Basic Ecclesial Communities, Christian Family and Life, and Youth. Notably, our All-Natural Family Planning program has reached out to nearly two-thirds of our parishes. It is heartening to see how our NFP counselors and couple-users, and increasingly local government units too, are adopting All-NFP as the positive alternative to contraceptives and the Reproductive Health bills.
For this special Year of the Priests, the archdiocese has been blessed with four ordinations to the priesthood last November. In January 2010, most of our priests will be joining the National Clergy Congress in Manila. By next year too, St. John Vianney Theological Seminary here in Cagayan de Oro will be celebrating its 25th anniversary. The interdiocesan seminary has trained about 350 priests for Mindanao and Bohol. Meanwhile, our sixty-year old St. Augustine Cathedral is currently undergoing renovation of its trusses and roofing at its rear section.

In the light of the recent acts of violence in Maguindanao, Basilan, and Agusan del Sur, the peace process for the whole of Mindanao needs to be strengthened. May all these renewal efforts of the local church – in our clergy, ministries, and the cathedral – be a fitting preparation for its message of peace for Mindanao in this new year 2010.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Pastoral Guidelines and Core Values in NFP Promotion

By Archbishop Antonio J. Ledesma, S.J.

NATURAL Family Planning has paradoxically been described as the “second best kept secret” of the Catholic Church (after its Social Teachings). In contrast to government programs that offer a value-neutral approach to all methods of family planning, the Catholic Church has consistently articulated its moral principles in advocating for Responsible Parenthood and Natural Family Planning. Based on actual results, however, NFP has remained the untried option. According to the latest surveys, less than one percent of Filipino couples are adopting modern NFP methods!
On the other hand, the pastoral experience of many priests and family life workers indicate that a growing number of couples today have three felt needs: (1) They want to plan their families in terms of family size and spacing of births; (2) They prefer natural family planning, if they are given adequate information on fertility awareness and NFP methods; and (3) They want to choose among NFP methods according to their own circumstances and preference. It is in this light that church communities, as well as government entities, are challenged to promote all recognized natural family planning methods today.
Before discussing the various NFP methods, however it would be good to examine the core values that underpin the Church’s advocacy for natural family planning—values that touch on the sacredness of human life, marriage, and the family. Four pastoral guidelines for All-NFP provide the framework for the local church’s values formation and the parameters for critical engagement with government and other groups.

I. We are Pro-Life
We uphold the dignity of human life from the moment of conception. We condemn abortion which is also proscribed by the Philippine Constitution. All-NFP is a proactive program that helps prevent the tragedy of unwanted pregnancies and recourse to abortion. It also provides an alternative to contraceptive methods that are considered as abortifacients.
The dignity of human life is directly linked to the dignity of the human person.

1) The human person is created in the image of God. “God created man in his image, in the divine image he created him; male and female he created them” (Gen 1:27). The biblical perspective states that man and woman have the same dignity and are of equal value.
God’s creative act takes place from the moment of conception: “You created every part of me; you put me together in my mother’s womb. When my bones were being formed, when I was growing there in secret, you knew that I was there – you saw me before I was born” (Psalm 139: 13,15,16).
2) The human person is created by God in unity of body and soul. The spiritual faculties of reason and free will are linked with all the bodily and sense faculties. The spiritual and immortal soul is the principle of unity of the human being, whereby it exists as a person.
Man is an embodied spirit. “It is because of its spiritual soul that the body made of matter becomes a living, human body; spirit and matter, in man, are not two natures united, but rather their union forms a single nature” (CCC, 365).
3) The human person is open to transcendence: he is open to the infinite and to all created beings. Through his spiritual faculties of intellect and will, the human person reaches out to know the truth and to love and choose the good and the beautiful.

Despite his limitation in attaining his finite ends in this life, man tends towards total truth and the absolute good—i.e., union with God, or the revelation of Jesus Christ as the Way, the Truth, and the Life. What Christian philosophers call the Summum Bonum or the Beatific Vision is premised on the promise of the resurrection and eternal life. Pope John Paul II sums this up: “Human life is precious because it is a gift of God—and when God gives life, it is forever.”
4) The human person is endowed with a moral conscience that enables him to recognize the truth concerning good and evil. Man’s exercise of freedom and responsibility implies a reference to the natural moral law, of an objective and universal character, which is the foundation for all rights and duties. “Living a moral life bears witness to the dignity of the person” (CCC, 1706).
The dignity of the moral conscience as man’s “most secret core and sanctuary” enables the person to acknowledge that inner law which is fulfilled in the love of God and of one’s neighbor (GS, 16). Love of neighbor, in the language of the modern world, can be interpreted in terms of promoting and defending human rights. Fig. 2 locates the context of human rights and duties, understood as access to the means that enable a person to attain his natural and supernatural ends. In this light, human rights can be understood as moral claims, and duties as moral responsibilities.
5) The human person is essentially a social and relational being.
He is a being—with others in the world. He is a person among other persons, among equals—in the family, in the small community or in the larger society.
He is also a being-through-others in the world. He is born from the union of parents and grows up within the widening circle of relatives, teachers, and friends. He too is a being-for-others in the world, available in service to others, capable of loving others and being loved in return. He is called to enter into communion with others, and to forge bonds of solidarity for the common good.
In the web of relationships that surround him, the person learns to interact “horizontally” with other persons and society at large. He also deepens his “vertical” relationships with God as his Creator and Father as well as with the world of nature.
In the process, he also relates to himself as a self-project with an immensity of possibilities. He remains a subject, an “I” capable of self-understanding and self-determination. In this sense, as a center of consciousness and freedom, he exists as a unique and unrepeatable being (CSDC, 131).
6) The Christian view of the human person balances the mystery of sin with the universality of salvation in Jesus Christ.
The tragedy of original sin as well as personal and social sin has brought about the consequences of alienation of man from God, from his true self, from other persons, and from the world around him.
Indeed, “Christian realism sees the abysses of sin, but in the light of hope, greater than any evil, given by Jesus Christ’s act of redemption, in which sin and death are destroyed” (CSDC, 121). In this light, man is a being-unto-death-and-beyond, ultimately a being-unto-God. Life becomes a pilgrimage and death a graduation to eternal life.

II. We are for Responsible Parenthood
This is our goal: to enable parents to be aware of their rights as well as their duties in the procreation and education of their children. Planning one’s family in order to adequately care for every child that comes into the world is a responsibility that should not be taken lightly by parents.
Pope Paul VI’s encyclical letter on the regulation of birth, Humanae Vitae (Of Human Life), describes responsible parenthood in terms of the parents’ deliberate decision in planning the size of the family:
In relation to physical, economic, psychological and social conditions, responsible parenthood is exercised, either by the deliberate and generous decision to raise a numerous family, or by the decision, made for grave motives and with due respect for the moral law, to avoid for the time being, or even for an indeterminate period, a new birth (HV, 10).

The Second Plenary Council of the Catholic Bishops of the Philippines explicitates further this meaning of responsible parenthood:
Christian parents must exercise responsible parenthood. While nurturing a generous attitude towards bringing new human life into the world, they should strive to beget only those children whom they can raise up in a truly human and Christian way. Towards this end, they need to plan their families according to the moral norms taught by the Church (PCP II, 583).

Planning one’s family highlights the central value of the family in human society. In particular, we can reflect on the role of the Christian family in the modern world, in terms of four tasks elaborated in Familiaris Consortio, Pope John Paul II’s apostolic exhortation:
1) Forming a community of persons. As an “intimate community of life and love” (GS, 48), the family reflects and is “a real sharing in God’s love for humanity” (FC, 17). It is based on the indissolubility of marriage and conjugal communion. It fosters the dignity and vocation of all the persons in the family – husband and wife, children, relatives. It underlines the equal dignity of women with men, the rights of children, as well as care for the elderly. Indeed, this communion of persons makes the family “a school of deeper humanity” (GS, 52).
2) Serving life. The fundamental task of the family is to serve life – i.e., “transmitting by procreation the divine image from person to person” (FC, 28). Fecundity is seen as the fruit and the sign of conjugal love. The Church stands for life and stresses that “love between husband and wife must be fully human, exclusive and open to new life” (HV, 11).
Educating children in the essential values of human life is an integral part of serving life. These values include a sense of true justice, of true love, and of service to others. Parents are “the first and foremost educators of their children,” while the family itself is “the first and fundamental school of social living” (FC, 36-37). Education for chastity as well as education in the religious faith of the parents, are other essential values that must be respected and supported by the state.
3) Participating in the development of society. As the “first and vital cell of society,” and the “first school of the social virtues,” the family is “by nature and vocation open to other families and to society” (FC, 42). Hence, the family also plays a social and political role. Its members in their various capacities are called to contribute to the development of the wider community. Christian families should strive to live out the values of truth, freedom, justice and love—the pillars for building peace on earth, envisioned in Pope John XXIII’s Pacem in Terris.
4) Sharing in the life and mission of the Church. The family is seen as the “domestic church” (FC, 49). In this light, it partakes in the threefold role of Jesus Christ as Prophet, Priest and King. The family is seen as (a) a believing and evangelizing community, (b) a community in dialogue with God, and (c) a community at the service of man (FC, 50).
Christian marriage itself is seen as a “profession of faith” and it is this journey of faith that continues throughout the life cycle of the family. The Christian family educates the children for life that enables them to discover the image of God in every brother and sister.
In sum, responsible parenthood gives birth to a Christian family that is a community of love and is at the threefold service of nurturing life, developing society, and continuing the mission of the Church.

III. We are for Natural Family Planning
If responsible parenthood is the goal for married couples, natural family planning is the means deemed morally acceptable by the Church. Pope John Paul II underlines “the difference, both anthropological and moral, between contraception and recourse to the rhythm of the cycle” (FC, 32). It is in this light that we can discuss the nature of natural family planning and ten reasons for its adoption.
a) What is Natural Family Planning?
Natural family planning is an approach for regulating births by identifying the fertile and infertile periods of a woman’s cycle. As an educational process and a way of life, there are four elements:
It involves the observation of a naturally occurring body sign or signs
• in order to identify the woman’s fertile and infertile periods.
• It involves the timing of intercourse
• to avoid or achieve pregnancy.
In contrast to artificial contraceptives, NFP means No DIDO − i.e., no Drugs, Injections, Devices, or Operations at any time. It also means no withdrawal.

b) Why Natural Family Planning?
1. Normal intercourse is preserved. Couples can plan the size of their families and space births the natural way. They do not resort to artificial means.
2. NFP is morally acceptable to people of all religions and cultures. It does not separate the love-giving and life-giving dimensions of the marriage act. The unitive and procreative ends of marriage are kept whole.
3. There are no inherent health risks in NFP methods. No pills, drugs, injections, devices or operations are used. A healthy body does not need this kind of “medical” treatment.
4. Modern NFP methods are effective and reliable. They are based on scientific studies and are time-tested. Simplified methods are easy to learn. Some NFP methods may be combined to reinforce each other.
5. There is no cost involved once the method has been learned. Couples are empowered not to rely on health centers, donor agencies, or drugstores. NFP is pro-poor, and not for profit of outside companies.
6. NFP becomes sustainable from generation to generation. Mothers can readily pass on the practice of NFP to their daughters.
7. NFP involves a joint decision by the couple. Neither partner feels being used by the other. It is an ideal way of exercising shared parenthood. A “contraceptive mentality” is avoided.
8. NFP engenders sexual discipline for the spouses through periodic abstinence. The practice of NFP manifests a conscious familiarity with the natural rhythm of the human body, mutual caring between the spouses, and the development of self-control that is carried over in the upbringing of the children.
9. Couples who use NFP seldom or never resort to abortion. They manifest an innate respect for human life. They welcome every child as a gift from God – even in the eventuality of an unexpected pregnancy.
10. Couples who use NFP seldom or never end up in separation or divorce. NFP enhances communication between spouses and promotes a wholesome family life.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church summarizes the nature and rationale of NFP:
Periodic continence, that is, the methods of birth regulation based on self-observation and the use of infertile periods, is in conformity with the objective criteria of morality. These methods respect the bodies of the spouses, encourage tenderness between them, and favor the education of an authentic freedom (CCC, 2370).

IV. We are for enabling couples to make an Informed and Morally
Responsible Choice, according to the dictates of a Right Conscience “The education of an authentic freedom” constitutes our fourth pastoral guideline. Within the context of a pluralistic society, the government’s focus is to refrain from coercion and to provide information on all family planning methods that it deems necessary for couples to make an informed choice. On the other hand, the Church’s focus should be to provide information on all NFP methods and to help couples form a right conscience so that they are able to make not only an informed but also a morally responsible choice.
Three kinds of freedom are implied in this pastoral guideline. There is first the ontological freedom of every human person, endowed with reason and free will. Innate in his human dignity is the person’s freedom to choose good or evil—even to say “no” to his Creator, or to go against his very nature by doing what would be considered inhuman acts.
From the societal perspective, governments promote the civic and political freedoms of their citizens by safeguarding the exercise of their rights and duties within the bounds of public order. Thus the freedoms of speech, of assembly, of religion, of economic enterprise, of responsible parenthood itself, etc. are hallmarks of a democratic society. A dictatorial government, on the other hand, suppresses by superior force the basic freedoms of its citizens.
A third kind of freedom is what we call authentic freedom—i.e., the freedom to do what ought to be done. “Man’s dignity,” according to the Vatican II Council Fathers, “demands that he act according to a knowing and free choice that is personally motivated and prompted from within…” (GS, 17). This inner prompting is what we mean by conscience which calls man to acknowledge the natural moral law given by God.
“For man has in his heart a law inscribed by God,” cite the Council Fathers. “His dignity lies in observing this law, and by it he will be judged… By conscience in a wonderful way, that law is made known…” (GS, 16). Thus the individual assumes personal responsibility for all his human acts that are knowingly and willingly done, heeding the dictates of his conscience.
However, conscience itself needs to be formed and guided by the objective norms of moral conduct. Ignorance or sinful habits pose as obstacles to the formation of a right conscience. It is in this light that values formation is an integral part of our All-NFP program − to enable parents as well as their children to acquire “a truly responsible freedom” (FC, 21).
This includes providing information on all scientifically-based NFP methods as a pastoral imperative. Corollary to this would be presenting the positive motivations for NFP and its integral attractiveness, instead of simply attacking the agencies promoting contraceptives. “Proclamation is always more important than denunciation,” notes Pope John Paul II, “and the latter cannot ignore the former, which gives it true solidity and the force of higher motivation” (SRS, 41).
In summary, these four pastoral guidelines provide the core values for our All-NFP ministry. Couples, indeed, have to consider several crucial factors: the good of their children already born or yet to come, their own situation at the material and spiritual level, and the over-all good of their family, of society, and of the Church. “It is the married couple themselves,” note the Council Fathers, “who must in the last analysis arrive at these judgments before God” (GS, 50).
For its part, the local church can carry out its servant role by reaching out to as many couples as possible with the good news of various natural family planning methods today that are proven to be safe, reliable, practicable and adaptable to the various circumstances of family life. Instead of resorting to condemnation or confrontation, we find that for concerned couples, authentic values can best be formed with charity, compassion, and the formation of conscience.


CCC - Catechism of the Catholic Church, Pope John Paul II, 1994.
CSDC - Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, Pontifical Council for
Justice and Peace, 2004.
FC - Familiaris Consortio (The Role of the Christian Family in the Modern World), Pope John Paul II, 1981.
GS - Gaudium et Spes (Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World),
Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, 1965.
HV - Humanae Vitae (Of Human life), Pope Paul VI, 1968.
PCP II - Second Plenary Council of the Philippines, Catholic Bishops’ Conference
of the Philippines, 1991.
SRS - Sollicitudo Rei Socialis (The Social Concern of the Church), Pope John
Paul II, 1987.