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The Sanctity of Family and Life

The Sanctity of Family and Life

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Published by Celine Socrates

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Categories:Types, Business/Law
Published by: Celine Socrates on Aug 19, 2010
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02/26/2013

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THE SANCTITY OF FAMILY AND LIFE: NATURAL LAW THINKING IN THE CONSTITUTIONBy V. Dennis M. Socrates
*
Every age in the history of civilization may be roughly characterized by the peculiar ideological conflict which divided peoples in its time. The last century, for instance, may be defined by the tension between the liberal-capitalist orientation of theWest and the totalitarian-socialist orientation of the East. In these first years of the 21stcentury, the emerging divide is the issue of, for want of better terminology, Life versusChoice. This controversy may have first reached global proportions (the issues were joined, so to speak, globally) in the almost simultaneous publication in 1968 of Pope PaulVI’s Encyclical Letter 
 Humanae Vitae
, on one side, and
 
Paul Ehrlich’s
The Population Bomb
, on the other; but the divisive effects of the conflict have since increased in scopeand intensity to be potentially defining of the next several decades.The debate would seem to revolve around the degree of protection to be accordedhuman life, and to some extent it is so: On one hand, pro-life thinking holds that the rightto life demands respect and protection from pre-conception (marriage and the conjugalact), through birth and education (family life), to its terminal stages (the aged and thedying). On the other hand, the pro-choice position argues that human life—andcorrolarily, the concepts of marriage and the family—may be the object of certain choicesof the individual, and so assert the licitness of divorce, contraception, abortion, and so on.In truth, however, the issue is not so much the degree but the direction or end of suchrespect and protection: Respect or protection for what and for whom?This emerging divide is certainly one that impinges on the legal system; and the purpose of this discussion is to highlight the natural law considerations underlying thefamily-and-life provisions of the 1987 Constitution and their impact on the “pro-life vs. pro-choice” debate.
*
Professorial lecturer, Palawan State University; LlB, University of the Philippines (1986).
 
While the 1987 Constitution devotes an entire Article on the Family (XIV),Section 12 of Article II (State Policies) practically contains the substance of all that theConstitution has to say on the issue:“The State recognizes the sanctity of family life and shall protectand strengthen the family as a basic autonomous social institution. It shallequally protect the life of the mother and the life of the unborn fromconception. The natural and primary right and duty of parents in therearing of the youth for civic efficiency and the development of moralcharacter shall receive the support of the Government.”Reading this provision, one is at once struck by the term, “sanctity”, which means“holiness” or being in union with God. The word describes something as belonging or  pertaining to the Divine
1
. Thus, Section 12, Article II of the 1987 Constitution, makes astraightforward acknowledgment of the family as something directly related to theCreator. Indeed, one of the members of the Constitutional Commission, Father JoaquinBernas, S.J., notes that this provision “clearly reflects a Catholic approach to the problem,” at least in so far as “advocacy of the provision was borne principally by BishopBacani and Commissioner Bernardo Villegas, a stalwart Catholic layman.”
2
Since, on theother hand, an appeal to church would be complicated by the same Constitution’sdeclared neutrality on “religious profession and worship”
3
, some effort must be made tounderstand the provision from a more secular standpoint.Is it possible to discuss “sanctityfrom a purely rational, legal perspective?Sanctity definitely evokes something supernatural or transcendental, i.e., beyond humannature and earthly realities, and must eventually reach into the realm of religious faith.On the other hand, reasonable men of diverse cultures
4
 nonetheless agree on the existenceand providence of the Divine. The answer, therefore, is yes. It is possible to discuss
1
Sec. 2, Art. V, also uses “sanctity” to describe “the ballot”, in the sense of 
vox populi, vox Dei
.
22
Bernas,
The 1987 Constitution
, p. 78.
3
Sec. 5, Art. III.
44
At the core of “culture” is “cult” or religion. The idea of culture as opening man to God may beseen as a leitmotif of the teaching of Pope John Paul II. See George Weigel,
Witness to Hope
(New York:Harper-Collins, 1999).
2
 
sanctity to some extent from a natural, human point of view, as in natural-law thinking;and it is, in fact, an object of this discussion to point out that, outside of religious faith,Section 12, Article II, can only make sense from a natural-law approach. NATURAL LAW CONSIDERATIONSAny philosophy of the legal system must, as a matter of course, define “law”according to its “ultimate causes”. To the school of Legal Positivism, law is simply “thecommand of the sovereign”; to the Historical school of jurisprudence, law is to be “found(not made)” in historical tradition; to the Sociological school, it is simply the “balancingof social interests” or “social engineering”; and to the so-called “Realist” view of JusticeOliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., it is “what judges in fact do”. Natural-law thinkingunderstands law, in the well-known definition of St. Thomas Aquinas, as “an ordinanceof reason for the common good promulgated by one who is charged with thecommunity”
5
.While St. Thomas Aquinas is perhaps better known as a catholic theologian, itcannot be gainsaid that his work as a philosopher presents a corpus of doctrine whichmen may adhere to without necessarily embracing the Catholic faith; that is, since it is a body of teaching based on reason. Natural law thinking in jurisprudence teaches the existence of a set norms (thenatural moral law) higher than the norms of the legal system (human positive law) and towhich these latter must conform. Thus, the legal system is a participation (by societythrough its political authority) in the natural moral law. The norms of the natural morallaw derive from the truths of human nature and are discernible, albeit with difficulty, byhuman reason.Human life
5
S. Th. I-II, q. 90, a. 4, c.
3

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