Prelate: Informed choice vital on RH, natural family planning

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Monday, April 21, 2014


COUPLES who want to plan for their family must be well-informed before making any decision that could have an effect on their future, a Roman Catholic official said.

Whether it’s the government-sanctioned Reproductive Health law (RH law) or the Roman Catholic Church-endorsed Natural Family Planning (NFP), it is very important for the couples to carefully weigh these two options first before deciding, said Archbishop Antonio Ledesma, SJ, head of the archdiocese of Cagayan de Oro.

“They (people) should be empowered to make an informed and responsible choice with regard to family planning. But ultimately it is their decision, it cannot be from the church or it cannot be from the government,” Ledesma told Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro when asked on what would be the couples’ course of action in choosing the best family planning methods set separately by the two institutions.

Ledesma said that although they are strongly advocating for the NFP, still the Roman Catholic Church cannot ostracize its members who don’t go for this option.

‘Not to condemn’

“It is not for the church to condemn, but it is for the church to be a good shepherd to show that there are natural ways of family planning and that responsible parenthood is encouraged by the church. And we leave it to the individual’s conscience before God to make his own choice,” he said.

“It’s a really a personal choice. We have to respect the conscience of individuals,” he added.

In an online article posted in the National Catholic Reporter, it said a survey conducted recently revealed that Filipino couples still prefer that they make the decision themselves when it comes to family planning.

“According to a 2011 poll by the Social Weather Station, a local Philippine social research institution, 82 percent of Filipinos say family planning is a personal decision of couples, and no one should interfere,” the article said.

“Sixty-eight percent believe the government should fund both natural and artificial means of family planning,” it added.

For his part, Ledesma said: “Pero ang tuyo man gyud sa (But the goal of) family planning program of the government is also to promote responsible parenthood. And in a sense, although the church does not agree with some of the means that are being promoted, let the individual or the couple decide that and on the part of the church I consider it a pastoral imperative that we should promote and make available information on NFP.”

Moral means

This alternative method in family planning is strongly encouraged by the late Pope Paul VI in his 1968 encyclical ‘Humane Vitae,’ who, according to a website that promotes Roman Catholic teachings particularly on NFP, considered NFP as “the only moral means of regulating family size.”

In another website (www.natural-family-planning.info), it is said that NFP “uses the natural increase and decrease in fertility built into a woman’s menstrual cycle to increase or decrease the possibility of conception. “

Among the methods employed in the NFP, the website added, are the Billings Ovulation Method and its modified version, the Creighton Model; the Sympto-Thermal Method; the Standard Days Method; the Two-Day Method; and the Ecological Breast-Feeding or the Lactational Amenorrhea Method.

According to Ledesma, the NFP is now being adopted by thousands of Catholic couples in the archdiocese of Cagayan de Oro, an area comprising eight provinces in Mindanao.

“In the archdiocese, we have a family planning that is much well-received and in fact we have more than 10,000 couple-acceptors and still growing. We hope also that, even if the government pushes for all forms of family planning, the NFP is opted by couples,” he explained.

Ledesma said that people are now more receptive to NFP but the lack of information has deterred most of them from giving it a try.

“In our experience, many couples would prefer natural family planning. Pero ang kulang lang is wala sila mahatagan og igo nga impormasyon bahin sa NFP,” he added.

Ledesma likened the NFP’s acceptability to that of the farmers’ preference in using fertilizer and agri-chemicals.

“It is similar now in the case of more farmers wanting to move to organic farming, where in the past they were used only to chemical-based agriculture,” he said.

Laudable

Ledesma said that while the recent decision of the Supreme Court upholding the legality of the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Act of 2012 (Republic Act 10354) but striking out some of its provisions is laudable, still there is a need to address the issue on family planning in the country.

“We welcome the Supreme Court’s declaration that some [of the RH law’s] provisions are not constitutional because it infringes on the freedom of religious adherence to their own faith, pero on the other hand, we say also that there is a need for family planning,” he said.

He also maintained the belief of the Church that family planning must align itself with the Divine plan.

“Family planning should be according to the plan of God and it should also respect the nature of man himself, and that the natural way of family planning is what nature has designed for us,” Ledesma furthered.

But, he said that Catholics who don’t adhere to the NFP are still welcome to practice their faith as the Church has opened its arms to those who don’t follow its policies regarding family planning.

“As Pope Francis would say, the church’s door should always be open and that we are like a field hospital that accepts anyone that needs healing and reconciliation,” he said.

Published in the Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro newspaper on April 21, 2014.

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