7th Plenary Assembly of the CCBI
held at Calcutta from 5 to 7th January, 1995
The 7th Plenary Assembly of the Conference of Catholic Bishops of India – LR, meeting at Morning Star College, Calcutta on 5th to 7th January 1995, chose to reflect on the topic of “Pro-Life” very appropriately at the conclusion of the International Year of the Family. The human family is modeled on the image of the Trinity and lives continually in its ambience, which is that of mutual love and abundant life, a life that comes from God and infuses the whole of our daily living.
Human Life is a gift from God. Against the present pervasive culture of violence and death, and amid the incidence of maternal fatality and infant mortality so common in our country, it is necessary for us, as the Church in India to affirm and emphasize the sacredness of human life from the moment of conception to its natural termination in God’s loving hands. We intend therefore, together with all believers in God, to promote a culture of life and of hope, so as to make the quality of life in the family and in society, a divine gift to the human community.
In order to enhance the value of family life, it is necessary to appreciate God’s invitation to regulate human fertility by natural means, in a manner consonant with his design that each new family members, conceived in his image, is able to experience an abundance of life in his loving plan, a life of faith that both overcomes and graces this world. At the same time it is necessary to ensure relentlessly, that the resources of this earth are distributed equitably, and according to the demands of social justice, so that each family and nation enjoys an appropriate share of its fruits.
In order to achieve this abundant life in the family, it is essential that a truly human understanding of God’s gift sexuality is inculcated in young minds from an early age. In human beings, sexuality is a gift to be exercised for the good of the spouse and of the child. This is the gift of continence – namely, self-control – which is one of the seven fruits if the Holy Spirit.
As youth mature into adulthood, they must learn to appreciate their own personal value and that of the opposite sex. Thus in marriage they will reach out in love and continence, with the capacity to channel their sexuality in the service of life, and so to enhance the life of their spouse as well as of the child to come.
The human body, they will learn, is a mystery, best understood in terms of the person, a temple of God, a dwelling of the Holy Spirit. In learning to respect the value of their own bodies, they will also respect the body and life of their spouse. To accept responsibility for one’s life and that of the other is an expression of covenant morality, a covenant between the spouses and of both with God.
In this setting, the use of natural fertility regulation, which must be promoted in the Church and in society, will increase the intimacy and bonding of the couple, and make every child conceived, a desired child. In this way, care for the spouse naturally opens itself to the exercise of responsible parenthood. Reverence for this developing life in the womb will bring forth anew being already immersed in the love of God, because of the love of its parents, and the cycle of abundant life, human and divine, will begin anew.
In this way the twin evils of contraception and abortion will be avoided, together with all their harmful effects in family and social life. In this context it must be recognized that the notion of “free choice”, as offered by pro-abortionists is a misnormer. While pretending to promote individual choice, they are actually exerting pressure on the woman to undergo abortion. Further, amniocentesis, undertaken for the purpose of female foeticide, is also part of the same scenario.
We must condemn this culture of death which has no hesitation in doing away with budding life in the womb, the precious fruit of human love and God’s creative gift, as the unwanted “products of conception”. Our Holy Father, Pope John Paul II, for upholding this central value of human living at the Cairo Population Conference, has richly deserved international acclaim.
We commend the large number of families living their Christian faith under the barrage of media propaganda and public pressure, amidst situations of great want and sometimes grave risks to the pregnant mother. In such cases we have been aware of many whose faith has triumphed over such adversity and have found the child so preserved, to be the greatest blessing in their lives.
We urge the strongest pastoral support and active sympathy for all families in such distress, for unwed mothers, for all those in need of psychological, educational and financial assistance. Unless the Christian community actively takes into its heart with love and care the condition of the least of its brothers and sisters, the Gospel will never be lived in its total reality.
We also commend couples who have chosen and practiced the ideal of continent self-gift, in their endeavour to regulate their fertility by natural means. The effect of public opinion and of the media is here even more pervasive, and to resist its influence requires a Christian fidelity of the highest order. There is also the proved experience that the adoption of contraceptive means, besides denigrating the value of the person, leads to recourse to abortion as a means of birth prevention.
Here we would like to mention the noble and valuable service rendered in these spheres by committed members of the medical profession, by the staff of Catholic community in urban as well as rural areas and by other para-medical agencies, whose faith and appreciation of life inspire an effective outreach to the poorest in India. The personal virtues of the medical practioner contributes greatly to the health care so generously bestowed: virtues such as honesty, loyalty, respect, caring, communication, patience and compassion. In this respect we would appeal to all medical professionals to be service-oriented and considerate, and to Christian doctors in particular to rededicate themselves to the values of the Gospel and fidelity to the teaching of the Church.
Christian faith has a unique and valuable contribution to make to environmental consciousness today. The person of faith will be drawn by mystical perception into the symphony of life, the respectful harmony between the universe, the earth, human beings and God Incarnate.