By Christopher Wells
Pope Paul VI’s final encyclical reaffirmed the Church’s teaching on the regulation of birth in the wake of questions concerning the morality of artificial means of birth control. The promulgation of Humanae vitae was marked by widespread confusion and even dissent; but the experience of recent decades has led many commentators to describe Paul’s teaching as prophetic.
The Exhortation by the Filipino Bishops emphasizes the lived experience of their people. “It is natural for married Filipino couples to wholeheartedly embrace each child, who is a fruit of their love for each other,” they write. This is true despite fear and criticism of those with large families.
But welcoming children also implies responsibility for their upbringing. “For the Filipino, the parents are anointed by God to educate their children.” Responsible parenthood, then, cannot be reduced to the question of whether or not to have children, but involves caring for them throughout their lives. Quoting Pope Francis, the Bishops say, “The gift of a new child, entrusted by the Lord to a father and a mother, begins with acceptance, continues with lifelong protection and has as its final goal the joy of eternal life.”
Finally, the Filipino Bishops recall the ends of marriage. “For the Filipino, it is natural for couples to dream of staying together for a lifetime and to desire to beget children.” Following Bd Paul VI, the Bishops affirm “married love as fully human, total, faithful and exclusive of all other until death, and fruitful.”
The Bishops’ exhortation concludes with a word of encouragement for all those who find themselves in complicated situations. With Pope Francis, they urge people with questions “to speak confidently with their pastors or with other lay people whose lives are committed to the Lord.” In those conversations, the Bishops say, “They may not always encounter in them a confirmation of their own ideas or desires, but they will surely receive some light to help them better understand their situation and discover a path to personal growth.