Fr. Roderick Gaffud Villamar, CICM presented his thesis to the Faculty of the Graduate School of Maryhill School of Theology, Quezon City in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the Degree Master of Arts Major in Pastoral Ministry, in August 1998. Below is the Summary of his thesis entitled GOING BEYOND THE CONTRACEPTION DEBATE: A New Direction in Understanding the Moral Issue on Contraception.
This issue of contraception is more than an issue of method. It is a complex phenomenon that involves whole range of issues. For some, it is simply a matter of curbing population growth. For others, it is a moral issue that is tied to procreation. We are faced with the dilemma between those who advocate it and those who abhor the idea. Many people are puzzled more than enlightened.
The church has out rightly condemned the use of contraception. While it recently accepted the idea of population control, it emphasizes the prohibition of artificial contraception. The only acceptable method is known as the rhythm method. This position of the church comes from the fear that promotion of contraception is promotion of sexual promiscuity. Contraception then is labeled as “intrinsically evil”. The church’s teaching against contraception is profoundly rooted from the teachings of St. Augustine and St. Thomas. St. Augustine’s negative view on sexuality and the pro-creational purpose to explain the only positive in sexuality imprinted a great impact in the church’s view of human sexuality. On the other hand, St. Thomas’ idea of natural law induced an understanding that the use of contraception is a diversion from the procreation-only purpose of sexuality. Thus, using contraceptives is a grievous sin.
The outright condemnation of contraception manifests a morality that is ties up with the act as a point for moral reflection. This is a characteristic of morality that was prevalent until the Second Vatican council. Then there was a shift brought about by discoveries in the age of enlightenment. The shift from a worldview which is static, universal and absolute to a worldview m arked by dynamism and self-realization calls for a morality that emphasizes the growth of the human person. Such shift demands a change of methodology. The starting point is not based on abstract principles but from human experiences. The result of this rethinking is centered on the human person rather than on the act, law and sin.
A person-centered morality brings us to a new understanding of human sexuality. We have noted that sexuality is not genitality. We have looked positively at human sexuality as un embodied sexuality and responsible relationality. This brings us to the notion that human sexuality is not solely for pro-creation but the embracing development of the whole person as a sexual being, that is, as an embodied and relational subject. Affectivity is one of the positive expressions of sexuality.
The covenantal story in the Bible exemplified by the relationship between YHWH and the Israelites gives us a new paradigm in affirming our sexuality as relational. The Genesis creation stories encapsulate the equality between man and woman and positive affirmation of our humanity both in physicality and interiority. The Songs of Songs affirms the sacredness and the goodness of the human body. Jesus as the new Covenant not only exemplifies relationship through his relationship with his Father and God’s faithful relationship to people but also illustrates an understanding of personhood. And, finally, Paul’s letter to the Galatians teaches us the basic value of looking at our freedom as a freedom in Christ. It is a freedom coupled with responsibility not only to the self but also to others. It is a freedom characterized by the call to be a sacrament of God’s love.
Our discussion on the morality of contraception, therefore, has to be reevaluated in the light of taking into consideration a new understanding of sexuality based on the person adequately and integrally considered. Neither do we judge it immediately as wrong nor we openly accept it as absolutely right. Moral judgment on the issue is not based on the act but the person who freely and responsibly chooses what to be and to become.