Chapter 18 – Respect God’s Gift: LifePosted: February 12, 2012
The Lord God formed man out of the clay of the ground and blew into his nostrils the breath of life, and so man became a living being. (Gn 2:7)
“I came that they might have life, and have it to the full.” (Jn 10:10)
995. Human life is God’s greatest gift to us. God made us alive in His own image and likeness. Our lives, then, are sacred. Not only is human life the most marvelous of God’s creations, but God further dignified human life by sending His divine Son to become man and share our human existence. “And the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory an only Son coming from the Father, filled with enduring love” (Jn 1:14). Respect and reverence for human life, then, is a core human and Christian virtue. We discover the true dignity yet fragility of our lives as human in learning to respect everyone’s life, and to truly care for one another. To foster and care for our own life and the lives of others is a moral responsibility, entrusted to us by God, which we share with all other persons.
996. This chapter is the first of four that develop Christ’s command to LOVE OTHERS explained in the preceding chapter (Chap. 17). Here we affirm that the most fundamental way we love others is to respect their human life. Life itself is not an absolute value as Christ plainly showed by his teaching on giving up one’s life out of love for one’s friends (cf. Jn 15:13), as he himself did on the Cross. But it is the necessary condition for actively loving others as well as their receiving our love. To follow Christ as his disciples, then, means concretely doing all in our power to defend, maintain, and promote the dignity and value of human life.
997. Respect for life actually forms the basis for two commandments. The Fourth Commandment, “Honor your father and your mother,” treats of the origin of our human lives. Parents are procreators of human life, acting as God’s free, loving agents in bringing to birth new human life. The Fifth Commandment, “You shall not kill!” aims to protect the value of human life by rejecting any threat to it that may arise in the exercise of our God-given stewardship on earth. Both the responsible transmission of human life, and the protection and promotion of the quality of human life, are basic ways of “loving others.” They manifest maturity in the Christian Faith in showing that we recognize that, under God, we are one human family.
998. As Filipinos we are noted for our love of family. Our lives, everything we are and have, are due ultimately to our birth, upbringing and support of our families. It is from our families that we first learn respect for human life. But in a pastoral letter a few years ago, our Bishops noted a strange paradox. “We Filipinos value life. We respect life. But if we indeed have such a high regard for life, then why is it treated so cheaply among us? Why is it not given the value and respect that we say we put on it as a people? . . . How is it that in a nation that prides itself in its rich Christian heritage, life is [so] cheap?” (“Let There Be Life” 1984). And if it is true that “the Filipino family plays a pivotal role in the life of the individual and society __ its influence is pervasive” (cf. NCDP 12), why are infidelities and “broken homes” becoming more and more common, especially among the urban, higher income Catholic families?
999. The Bishops’ letter goes on to enumerate specific instances of a shocking lack of respect for life: the assassinations, “salvagings” and “liquidations” by government and NPA forces, and the politically motivated killings of all kinds. These, according to the Bishops, “are ‘a given fact’ that we as Christians cannot accept. It is not right that people be killed simply because their political beliefs differ from ours.” (Let There Be Life)
1000. More recently, PCP II has sketched an overall view of our socio-cultural, economic, and political contexts in “Our World __ The Philippines; Lights and Shadows” (cf. PCP II, Part I, 8-33). But as specifically regarding human life, besides the violence of killings, kidnappings, hostage-taking, and torture that have become commonplace in the lives of so many Filipinos, we also experience at first hand the world-wide attacks on human life. On the individual personal level there is abortion, suicide, mercy killing (euthanasia), drugs, and scandal. On the societal level, the ecology crisis, economic and political exploitation and the arms race, endanger the quality of countless human lives. All these factors stress the urgent need for far greater commitment to the respect for human life enjoined by the 4th and 5th Commandments.
1001. This chapter is concerned with loving others by fostering the quality of human life, since, for human persons, life and love are inseparable. “Man cannot live without love” (RH 10). For Filipinos, to love one another involves the primary obligation of fostering communion within one’s own family and between families, as well as respecting the life of every human person, regardless of creed, color, or sex. These are the moral attitudes and virtues taken up by the Fourth and Fifth Commandments which are the matter for this Chapter.
I. The Fourth Commandment
1002. “Honor your father and your mother” is the usual way of expressing the Fourth Commandment (cf. Ex 20:12; Dt 5:16). For most Christian Filipinos, this Commandment is “taken for granted,” as it were, since Filipino culture so stresses their abiding utang na loob to their parents. Yet a number of clarifications are needed to properly understand the true meaning of the Commandment.
1003. The first point is that its original meaning referred more to the obligation of grown children, now adults, to take care of their aged parents.
My son, take care of your father when he is old;
grieve him not as long as he lives.
Even if his mind fail, be considerate with him;
revile him not in the fullness of your strength (Sir 3:12f).
In time the meaning of the Commandment was legitimately expanded to include young children’s duties toward their parents.
1004. Second, this original focus on taking care of aged parents highlights two meaningful points that were present in the Third Commandment.
a) Human life and parents are not to be evaluated in terms of productivity. Aged, unproductive parents — like Sunday rest and worship — have their own fundamental personal value and worth which must be respected. Hopefully, the drive for increased modern technology and industrialization will not be allowed to erode the traditional Filipino respect for the aged. Of what ultimate value are all the “things” money can buy if as persons we are all destined to be snubbed, ignored and left unsupported in our old age?
b) Also like worship and rest on the Lord’s Day, this respect for aged parents is a necessary virtue not just for the individual family, but for the community as well. Respect for the aged is creative of, and actively builds up, the Christian community. Only recently have some “industrialized nations” begun to awaken to the depth of human value of the aged for the life of the community.
1005. Third, both parents are to receive equal respect. The OT books of Exodus and Deuteronomy have “Honor your father and mother” (Ex 20:12; Dt 5:16), whereas Leviticus has “Revere your mother and father” (Lv 19:3), showing a balance which unfortunately has not always been kept in the ensuing ages. What is significant is that the 4th Commandment is not based on any either patriarchal or matriarchal patterns of society. Rather, it reflects the primal force of human love from which new human life is continually generated, according to God’s divine plan of sharing His creativity. The context for this Commandment, as for all the others, is the Exodus event, expressed in the preamble: “I am the Lord your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt, that place of slavery” (Ex 20:2). The 4th Commandment, then, liberates and frees us from enslavement to false norms for human worth and responsibility.
1006. Fourth, despite its obvious correspondence with Filipino cultural values, the Fourth Commandment is often not the “easiest” to keep. In practical Filipino life as actually experienced, three obstacles to honoring father and mother are encountered. The first is the sad fact that not all fathers and mothers act as loving parents. Though child abuse is [hopefully] still rare, child neglect in one form or another is not. How many Filipino children have been gravely disturbed psychologically, or even ruined, by traumatic experiences suffered from parental action or neglect? Some parents impose on their children unreasonable burdens that come close to enslavement. More often poverty and destitution prevent even self-sacrificing Filipino parents from providing their children with even the basic necessities of life.
1007. A second obstacle arises from the particular stages of the children’s and youth’s natural growth and development which demand a certain “distancing” from parents. These periods of “growing up” are painful and potentially destructive, unless handled well with parental patience and understanding.
1008. A third obstacle is the generation gap that cultural history has always created between parents and children, but which has become much more intense in contemporary times because of the speed and extent of cultural change. Today many traditional Filipino attitudes, values and institutions are questioned so critically by the youth that ordinary, common sense respect for authority is often gravely weakened. Again, this obstacle demands enduring and loving patience on the part of both parents and children, especially through the “difficult years” of growing up. Such patience is admirably fostered by an active prayer life and openness to Christ’s Spirit.
1009. In a sense, these three common obstacles to honoring father and mother can be viewed as a positive force in helping us learn how to respond authentically to Christ’s command to “love others.” For they force us to look more carefully into the true meaning and values fostered by the Fourth Commandment, and its proper motivation, instead of simply assuming that it merely articulates a Filipino social custom followed in bygone eras.
A. The Family: Originating Context of Life
1010. God wills all persons to share in His divine life, to become God’s people. The family is the basic means for carrying out this plan, since it is “a community of persons, serving life through the procreation and education of offspring, participating in the development of society, and sharing in the mission of the Church” (PCP II 575). From our cultural family-centeredness, we Filipinos easily accept the family as the privileged place where new human life is generated, welcomed, and cared for. Filipinos have traditionally recognized children as a gift from God. They experience the birth of a baby into the world as a special moment when God’s creative power is so intimately united with their own human parental procreative powers.
1011. Moreover, this cooperative work of God and the parents does not stop at birth, but continues all through the years of nurturing and educating the child (cf. CCC 2201-6). St. Paul indicates the depth relationship between family and God when he writes: “That is why I kneel before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth takes its name” (Eph 3:14f).
1012. The nature of the family can be considered under three titles: Covenant relationship, domestic Church, and foundation for civil society. First, as covenant relationship, most Christian Filipinos connect the family with God creating Adam and Eve through love, and calling them to mutual love, since He made them in the image and likeness of Himself who is absolute and unfailing Love. They thus realize in a general way that man and woman are created for one another, to unite and become one flesh in a communion of love that grounds their marriage and family life. But perhaps many do not reflect, amidst all the difficulties of family life today, how the family union is modeled on the covenant God made with his people when He promised them unswerving fidelity and love.
1013. This idea of our family as covenant simply means to bring out this truth: there’s more to the daily acts, talk, and events in family life than first meets the eye. The “more” is love, and a love that goes all the way back to God as its ultimate source. It is a “covenant” love because it creates and sustains the basic community we need to become and survive as persons. Perhaps we recognize this most clearly in times of crisis when we face the threat of family break-up. Without our families, who are we? What is the use of anything we do or think or strive for, if we cannot share it with our loved ones? Deep down, even with all the frustrations, and ups and downs of family life, it is within our families that we come to some personal experience of God’s love and fidelity for each of us. Our family is the “covenant” where we truly belong and find our “home.”
1014. Second, the Christian family, beyond being this covenant relationship, “constitutes a specific revelation and realization of ecclesial communion, and for this reason, too, it can and should be called ‘the domestic Church’ ” (FC 21; cf. CCC 2204). For the family is not only where “new citizens of human society are born, [but] by the grace of the Holy Spirit received in Baptism, these are made children of God, thus perpetuating the People of God through the centuries. Thus the family is, so to speak, the domestic Church” (LG 11). PCP II calls the family “the Church in the home,” “the basic unit of Christian life,” “the first school of discipleship” (PCP II Decrees, Art. 48; PCP II Doc. 421, 576). It is where we come to exercise the daily Christian virtues of generous self-giving in active charity, in mutual forgiveness and obedience, in prayer and thanksgiving.
1015. Actually, our Christian families, like the Church itself, in some real way share in the Communion of Persons and Love of the Blessed Trinity (cf. CCC 2205). For in the mutual sharing of thoughts, affections, and in all their ups and downs, Christian families are actively creative like the Father. In offering prayers and sacrifices to God, they share in Jesus the Incarnate Son’s own prayer and redemptive sacrifice. Finally, Christian families form a community of interpersonal love by being inspired and strengthened by the indwelling Holy Spirit.
1016. If this sounds too “high” and unrealistic, it may be because of the way the Blessed Trinity has been taught as utterly “mysterious.” But such is not the way of the Gospels nor of early Christian tradition when Father, Son, and Spirit were constantly on the lips of Christians in prayer. Vatican II renews this tradition in proposing much the same image of the Christian family:
1017. Thus the Christian family, which springs from marriage as a reflection and sharing of the loving covenant uniting Christ with the Church, will manifest to all the Savior’s living presence in the world, and the genuine nature of the Church, by the mutual love and generous fruitfulness of the spouses, by their unity and fidelity, and by the loving way in which all members of the family work together (GS 48).
1018. Thus, by its very nature as an “intimate community of life and love,” and “inspired and sustained by the new commandment of love,” the Christian family “is placed at the service of the building up of the Kingdom of God in history by participating in the life and mission of the Church” (FC 50, 64, 49).
1019. Finally, the family is also the “first and vital cell of society” (CCC 2207). Through its service to life by birth and the education of its youth in social virtues, the family grounds and continually nourishes the existence and development of society itself (cf. FC 42). The experience of communion and sharing which is characteristic of the family’s daily life represents its first and fundamental contribution to society (cf. FC 43). At a time when even Philippine society is becoming more depersonalized, the family constitutes an irreplaceable school in developing, guarding and transmitting the social virtues and values of respect, dialogue, generous service, justice and love.
1020. But its role goes beyond procreation and education to embrace, in association with other families, many social and political activities for the common good (cf. FC 44). The family must “not live closed in on itself, but [must] remain open to the community, moved by a sense of justice and concern for others, as well as by a consciousness of its responsibility towards the whole society” (FC 64).
B. Family Relationships
1021. Filial respect for parents is demanded of children and adults by the Fourth Commandment. This is the common teaching of the Bible. The Wisdom Literature of the Old Testament advises: “Observe, my son, your father’s bidding, and reject not your mother’s teaching” (Pr 6:20). In the Letter to the Ephesians we read: “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for that is what is excepted of you. ‘Honor your father and mother’ is the first Commandment to carry a promise with it, ‘that it may go well with you, and that you may have a long life on earth’ ” (Eph 6:1-3).
1022. It is just such an attitude of filial reverence that Jesus showed Mary and Joseph in his hidden life when “he went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was obedient to them . . . Jesus progressed steadily in wisdom and age and grace before God and men” (Lk 2:51-52). But it is important to understand that obedience here cannot mean the automatic, unquestioning submissiveness that some Filipino parents seem to hold up as the Christian ideal for their children (cf. NCDP 20-23). Often such “blind obedience” shows more servile fear than authentic filial respect. True obedience arises, rather, from a willingness to listen to what is being asked, and to respond in a fully personal, conscientious manner (cf. CCC 2216).
1023. The Commandment’s to “honor,” then, means showing proper gratitude, affection, respect, obedience and care to parents (cf. CCC 2214f). In the complex system of typical Filipino family relationships, involving ate, kuya, lola and lolo, etc. this proper respect is extended to all who have contributed to one’s care, upbringing, and education. The act of honoring, far from being merely a convention of social custom, is basically a religious act, whose deep roots and true nature are revealed in Sacred Scripture. In the Old Testament, extreme punishment was decreed for transgressors: “Whoever curses his father or mother shall be put to death” (Ex 21:17). “A blasphemer is he who despises his father; accursed of his Creator, he who angers his mother” (Sir 3:16).
1024. This indicates how closely one’s procreators are linked with the Creator. In honoring our parents we honor God himself. This is expressed positively in the rewards promised to those who obey the Commandment. “For the Lord sets a father in honor over his children; a mother’s authority He confirms over her sons. He who honors his father atones for sins; he stores up riches who reveres his mother” (Sir 3:2-3; cf. CCC 2218).
1025. Parental respect and responsibility for children. Care and respect for their children as persons in their own right are enjoined by the Fourth Commandment. Thus we read in the Pauline letters: “Fathers, do not nag your children lest they lose heart” (Col 3:21). “Fathers, do not anger your children, bring them up with the training and instruction befitting the Lord” (Eph 6:4). In his teaching, Christ himself offered a very positive picture of human parents:
What father among you will give his son a snake if he asks for a fish, or hand him a scorpion if he asks for an egg? If you, with all your sins, know how to give your children good things, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him (Lk 11:11-13).
But it is especially in Christ’s portrait of the merciful, forgiving father in his parable of the “Prodigal Son” (cf. Lk 15:11-32), that we understand the full Christian meaning of parenthood.
1026. Duties of Christian parents. Thus the Church teaches that parents have the duty to provide so far as they can for their children’s needs, guiding them in faith and morals, and creating for them an environment for personal growth (cf. CCC 2221-31). In infancy and childhood, parents provide for the physical, emotional and spiritual needs of their children. As they grow older, the parents are called to promote their growing autonomy and independence. Parents have the primary responsibility for the education of their children, both secular and religious.
1027. Conclusion. Noted for our love of family and child-centeredness, we Filipino Christians would seem to have little difficulty with this Commandment. Yet, problems do arise. First, parents and children alike must learn how to communicate with one another openly and deeply, in a loving, forgiving, mutually supporting atmosphere that is honest and truthful. Secondly, parents as well as children must be willing to admit errors, since: a) no one is perfect or sinless; b) loving forgiveness is what Christ asks of all; and c) truth and a proper sense of right and wrong are the only bases for genuine forgiveness and interpersonal relationships. Thirdly, the whole family must look beyond itself and strive to offer Christian witness of the Gospel values of jus-tice and protection of human rights to the wider Philippine community of town, province, region, and nation.
II. The Fifth Commandment
1028. “You shall not kill” (Ex 20:13; Dt 5;17) forbids direct attacks on human life and physical integrity. It thus protects God’s gift of life and promotes practical care and respect for the life and dignity of all persons. We Filipinos generally know the biblical background of Cain’s murder of his brother Abel (cf. Gn 4:8). Even more relevant is God’s solemn warning in his covenant with Noah that we will be held accountable for human life. Those who shed the blood of another, by others their blood shall be shed; for in the image of God we have been made (cf. Gn 9:5-6; CCC 2260). This indicates that the basis for the extraordinary value of human life is GOD. He is the Lord and Giver of life, in whom “we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28).
1029. All human life has its basic value and dignity, therefore, because we are all created in God’s image and likeness. Added dignity and value are given by God’s Son becoming man in Jesus Christ, for his mission of salvation in the service of life. As “Word of life” (1 Jn 1:1), “light of life” (Jn 8:12) and “ bread of life” (cf. Jn 6:35, 51ff), Jesus came so that we “might have life, and have it to the full” (Jn 10:10). He sent us the Holy Spirit who “gives life” (2 Cor 3:6). At the climax of his life, Christ “in fulfillment of [the Father’s] will, gave himself up to death; but by rising from the dead, he destroyed death and restored life” (EP IV). Through his Passion, Death, and Resurrection, Christ has become for us “the resurrection and the life” (Jn 11:25).
1030. In his teaching, Jesus both perfected and intensified the respect commanded for human life. He perfected the respect enjoined by linking it directly with the great, ‘Love Command.’ “You have heard the commandment ‘You shall love your countryman and hate your enemy.’ My command to you is: love your enemies, pray for your persecutors. This will prove that you are sons of your heavenly Father, for his sun rises on the bad and the good, he rains on the just and the unjust” (Mt 5:43-45). By his command to root out all hatred and to love even one’s enemies, in imitation of God’s own manner of acting, Jesus touched the fundamental question of life or death. “Anyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that eternal life abides in no murderer’s heart” (1 Jn 3:15).
1031. Jesus intensified the commandment by forbidding even anger. “You have heard the commandment imposed on your forefathers,‘You shall not commit murder; every murderer shall be liable to judgement. What I say to you is: everyone who grows angry with his brother will be liable to judgment” (Mt 5:21-22). Thus did Jesus go to the root of killing, and reveal anger of the heart as the real menace. St. James repeated this teaching, as relevant today as it was for the early Christians. “Where do conflicts and disputes among you originate? Is it not your inner cravings that make war within your members? What you desire you do not obtain, and so you resort to murder. You envy and you cannot acquire, so you quarrel and fight” (Jas 4:1-2).
1032. The basic value behind both the Fifth Commandment and Jesus’ teaching is that God alone is the ultimate Lord and Master of life. Since life comes from and is sustained by God, it belongs to Him. Therefore, we are stewards of life who must respect and care for our own lives and the lives of others. Hence it is not simply a question of “not killing,” but of protecting, promoting, and enhancing the quality of life. “God, the Lord of life, has entrusted to men the noble mission of safeguarding life, and men must carry it out in a manner worthy of themselves. Life must be protected with the utmost care from the moment of conception” (GS 51).
1033. Vatican II emphasized respect for the quality of human life.
This Council lays stress on respect for the human person: everyone must consider every neighbor without exception as another self, taking into account first of all the life and the means necessary to living it with dignity, so as not to imitate the rich man who had no concern for the poor man Lazarus (GS 27; cf. Lk 16:19-31).
This includes respecting the life and human dignity of those with whom we differ in terms of political, social, economic or religious matters (cf. GS cf. 28). But as our Philippine bishops remind us, “to our continuing shame and sorrow as a people,” the lives and dignity of such are often accounted so cheap in today’s Philippines. As disciples of Christ we must always be concerned for truth and goodness. “But we must distinguish between the error which must be rejected and the person in error, who never loses his dignity as a person” (GS 28).
1034. The Vatican Council also makes a summary of offenses against life itself, such as murder, genocide, abortion, euthanasia, and willful suicide (cf. CCC 2268-83). In addition, it enumerates violations against the integrity of the human person, such as mutilation, physical and mental torture, undue psychological pressures. Also listed are offenses against human dignity such as subhuman living conditions, arbitrary imprisonment, deportation, prostitution. Even degrading working conditions can seriously threaten the quality of human life when men and women are treated as mere tools for profit rather than as free and responsible persons. The Council judges that “all these and the like are criminal. They poison human society and debase the perpetrators more than the victims, and constitute a supreme dishonor to the Creator” (GS 27).
1035. In numerous pastoral letters the CBCP has alerted Filipino Catholics through the years of many grave dangers in our country which imperil human life and dignity.* The letters themselves are quite outstanding for their clarity and precision, and extremely pertinent to the concrete conditions among our people, such as the frequent kidnap-pings. But the problem of effectively communicating them to the great majority of Filipino Catholics, together with an appropriate and ongoing follow-up, remains yet to be solved. Much of the potential value of such instructive letters is undoubtedly lost for lack of adequate catechesis.
Particular Offenses Against Life
1036. Perhaps the most widespread abuse in our country against physical well-being are the common “vices” of alcohol and drug abuse, and to a less intensive degree, smoking. Medical studies have proven the serious injury in terms of physical harm and addiction, and psychological and social difficulties and dependence, which these vices can cause. The quality of life __ and sometimes life itself __ of both the users and their family and close friends suffers greatly. More culpable still are drug dealers and pushers who, for the sake of money, care nothing about drawing others, especially innocent youth, into addictive dependency that ruins their very lives (cf. PCP II 381).
1037. Abortion, or the deliberate ejection of a non-viable fetus from the mother’s womb, is strictly prohibited by the 5th Commandment as the killing of an innocent human being (cf. PCP II 585; CCC 2270-75). Yet, this moral position must be related to the social and economic situation that most often is at the root of the problem. Many women who in anguish, depression and fear, succumbed to having an abortion, felt they simply had no choice in the matter __ they simply felt they had to do it. Consequently, the equally urgent moral obligation is to help indigent mothers, expand adoption services, improve health care agencies for needy women and children, and the like.
1038. The principle that direct killing of the innocent is always wrong holds also for mercy killing or euthanasia __ doing away with the handicapped and the terminally ill (cf. CCC 2276-79). No one has absolute power over life and death but God. We are stewards of the gift of life granted us by God. Therefore we must take ordinary means to preserve life such as medicines, treatments and operations that can be obtained and used without excessive sacrifice or expense, and when there is reasonable hope of benefit for the patient.
1039. However, when there is no real hope for the patient’s genuine benefit, there is no moral obligation to prolong life artificially by the use of various drugs and machines. In fact, using extraordinary means to keep comatose or terminally ill patients artificially alive seems clearly to lack objective moral validity, especially in a society where the majority of the population do not enjoy even adequate elementary health care.
1040. The terrible, unalterable act of taking of one’s own life, suicide, expresses a total loss of will to survive that results from extreme depression and despair (cf. CCC 2280-83). Rather than an act of deliberate malice, suicide most often seems to be some sort of psychological ‘short circuit’ which involves running away from a life that has become ‘impossible,’ and from a God who seems completely absent. As in the case of abortion, much of the blame for this terrible loss falls on society in general, and especially those more directly involved with the distressed person. As Christians we must do all in our power to help those tempted to take their own lives, to recognize God’s personal love for them, and to continue to “hope in the Lord.”
1041. The practice of capital punishment has a long history dating from biblical times. But in recent times the practice of executing those convicted of especially serious crimes has been questioned.
The three traditional reasons for punishing criminals seem to be lacking in the case of execution. First is retribution, or the vindication of the rights of the victim. Capital punishment, rather than vindicating rights, seems to satisfy a spirit of vengeance or revenge, thus perpetuating the cycle of violence. Second, reform or rehabilitation of the criminal. Obviously capital punishment, by taking the criminal’s life, destroys any chance for reform, and moreover rejects any hope that God’s grace could effect such reform. Third, deterrence or discouraging others from committing the same crime. Surprisingly enough, there is no conclusive proof that capital punishment actually deters others from serious crime. What unfortunately can be shown is the number of hardened criminals who, after being released from prison, again commit serious crimes against the community.
The Catholic Hierarchy of the Philippines (CBCP) in 1979 supported abolishing the Death Penalty, and this stand against capital punishment was repeated in 1991 as “in consonance with the spirit of the Gospel and of Jesus Christ.” However the ccc does “not exclude the death penalty in cases of exteme gravity” (CCC 2266). Surely the Christian ideal is to be able to abolish the death penalty in view of respect for human life. But actual societal conditions in some countries may not be such as to make this ideal feasible. Nevertheless, it remains a serious Christian task to work precisely toward changing social conditions so that the abolition of capital punishment becomes an actual possibility.
1042. Finally, the traditional moral doctrine on “just war” proposed criteria which amount to little more than common moral sense. War is judged moral when all the following conditions are present: a) a just cause; b) necessary to protect human rights and values equal to life; c) for a good proportionate to human costs of war; d) with reasonable chance for success; e) declared by legitimate authority; f) only as the last resort (cf. CCC 2307-17). It is extremely doubtful if these criteria were ever actually used by those considering entering into war. In any case, this doctrine has undergone radical re-evaluation since World War II with its introduction of nuclear war.
1043. John XXIII, in his encyclical Pacem in Terris (1963), wrote: “It is irrational to believe that war is still an apt means of vindicating violated rights.” What is clear is the moral imperative to work for PEACE. PCP II asserted that “Peace cannot be equated with the absence of war, nor with a certain balance of power. It is a harmony in the human heart and in the social order brought about by justice, requiring respect for human dignity and human rights, the promotion of the common good by one and all, and their constant practice of solidarity.” Significantly, PCP II adds, quoting Vatican II, “Peace is likewise the fruit of love which goes beyond what justice can provide” (GS 78; cf. PCP II 307).
1044. PCP II links peace in our country with “a strategy of non-violence,” since our socio-economic and political situation is partly one of violence and counter-violence. This requires “solidarity of spirit as well as action” as was manifested to an extraordinary degree in the active non-violence of ‘People Power’ in the EDSA Revolution of 1986 (cf. PCP II 309). Moreover, since “the concrete demands of the common good are constantly changing as time goes on, peace is never attained once and for all, but must be built up ceaselessly” (GS 78). Yet, in the final analysis, the real peace we seek is the Lord’s because “It is he who is our peace” (Eph 2:14; cf. PCP II 307).
1045. Our Catholic faith has much to offer in this area of respect for human life. Perhaps never before in the history of human kind has the quality of human life been so quickly and radically advanced as in our era. Yet never, too, has the continuing disparity between the “have’s” and the “have-not’s” been so scandalous. The advances of science and technology have alleviated so much human sickness, misery, suffering, and brutal toil, and brought so many good things to so many people. But, at the same time, they have unfortunately often obscured some equally basic human life values. In the Philippines today, we can assert with assuredness that the Christian Faith provides an irreplaceable con-tribution toward fostering the quality of Filipino life.
1046. Doctrinally, by grounding the dignity of human life in God the Creator/Redeemer __ Father, Risen Incarnate Son and Holy Spirit __ our Faith safeguards reverence for parents and for human life in an unshakeable way. No power or institution on earth can take away the human person’s inalienable dignity. Despite all the continuing violence, torture, suffering, and injustice in the world, and even within our own country, believing in God our loving Creator stands as the abiding source of the Filipinos’ unquenchable human thirst for freedom and justice.
1047. Moreover, this thirst is nourished, proclaimed and celebrated in the Christian liturgy in a twofold manner. First, by bringing us to public, communal acknowledgement of our own sinfulness and failures, the liturgy cuts through all ideological condemnation of “others” as the sole enemy of human life. Second, in praying: “Father, all life comes from you, through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, by the working of the Holy Spirit” (EP III), we are brought inescapably before the Infinite Love that is the unique Source of our very lives __ and of all human life.
QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS
1048. What is the most basic way we “love one another”?
We love one another by respecting the gift of each other’s God-given life, and truly caring for one another by working toward improving the quality of human life.
1049. How do parents respect human life?
Parents are procreators of human life, acting as God’s free loving agents through responsible transmission of human life and promotion of the quality of life.
1050. How does the Fourth Commandment foster human life?
“Honor your father and your mother” enjoins that basic filial respect for parents which is necessary for the good of both family and community.
1051. How are parents to be given such respect?
Filial respect for parents is to be given:
• not because of their actual competence, productivity, or natural virtues, but simply on their status as parents;
• not just for the good of the individual family, but as necessary for the community itself;
• equally to both father and mother.
1052. What are common obstacles to keeping this Commandment?
Some common obstacles are:
• parents who neglect or abuse their children;
• the children’s and youth’s “growing up” periods that challenge parental patience and understanding;
• the “generation gap” between parents and offspring that is intensified by the increased speed and extent of modern cultural and technological changes.
Yet these obstacles can also be a positive force for going beyond mere customary ways of acting, to bring out the full Christian meaning and values fostered by the Commandment.
1053. How do parents themselves foster life within their families?
The Fourth Commandment enjoins parents to care for and respect their children as persons in their own right. They have the duty to provide for the needs of their children as far as they can, especially for their proper education as Christians.
1054. How does the Christian Faith view the family?
The family as the originating context of human life can be viewed as:
• a “Covenant relationship,” established by God in creation, bringing out the “more” of family love;
• the domestic Church, which through Baptism shares in God’s own Trinitarian Communion of Love, and serves as the school of Christian discipleship and virtue;
• the first and vital cell of society, grounding and nourishing the social virtues necessary for society itself.
1055. What is meant by the family as “covenant”?
As covenant, the family is a community of love: of parents and children, of brothers and sisters with one another, of relatives and other members of the household. All are rooted in the natural bonds of flesh and blood and the grace of the Holy Spirit.
1056. How is the family both the “domestic Church” and “first cell of society”?
As the “domestic Church” the family both reveals and realizes the communion in Christ and the Spirit that is proper to the Church.
As the “first and vital cell of society” the family is the place of origin and most effective means for humanizing and personalizing the members of society.
1057. How does the Fifth Commandment foster human life?
“You shall not kill,” by prohibiting direct attacks on human life and physical integrity, protects its intrinsic dignity and quality. God alone is the ultimate Lord and Master of life.
1058. How are human life, integrity and dignity attacked?
Direct attacks on life include murder, genocide, abortion, euthanasia, physical torture, hostage-taking, drugs, and willful suicide.
Attacks against integrity include mutilation, physical and mental torture, and undue psychological pressures, while human dignity is attacked by sub-human living conditions, arbitrary imprisonment, deportation and prostitution.
The questions of capital punishment and just war are topics of ongoing moral reflection within and without the Church.
1059. What are the most common abuses against physical well-being?
The most common abuses against physical well-being are alcoholism, drug addiction and, to a lesser degree, smoking.
1060. How did Jesus perfect the Fifth Commandment?
Jesus perfected respect for human life by:
• linking it directly with its ideal, love, even with love for our enemies;
• interiorizing and intensifying it by forbidding even anger of the heart, which is the inner source of violence against one’s neighbor.
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