The Value of a Person

In his letter published in the February 3 issue of Inquirer, Mr. Arthur Buan asked, in reference to the people who suffer the deprivations due to poverty, “Why are we, as a nation, a baby factory? Why the preoccupation to have all these children?” He presented a truly pathetic story of a poor family with eight children. And he then challenged “some establishments and organizations (that) are against the use of contraceptives” to “get down from your ivory towers and see how these unfortunate beings live. Perhaps, then, you will change your minds.” He concluded by saying, “Remember: less is more. Fewer children, more to go around for every child.”

More than commenting on the arguments themselves, I would like to comment on the attitude or outlook that is behind the arguments of Mr. Buan.

Take the idea of a “baby factory”. Of course, he is simply using here a metaphor. The implied analogy is that the Filipinos “churn out” so many babies just like a factory might churn out so many cars, or soda bottles or canned sardines. But a hidden implication involved in the image is that persons are just like material goods and that reproduction is just like a machine that produces another commodity. This outlook is certainly off the mark. Babies are not goods or commodities: they are persons just like you and me. And reproduction is not a machine in motion; it is a very human and personal reality.

What can be worse than the attitude that regards babies as goods or commodities is the view, also possibly implicit in the above arguments, that regards babies are liabilities, a kind of evil that has to be avoided at all costs. Unfortunately, this is the attitude that has set in the minds of many peoples all over the world and so there are so many countries in the first world whose populations are imploding because they do not want to have babies. These are the same countries that are suffering economic problems because of the dearth of young people who can work and support the increasing number of old and retired citizens. In the end, “less” is really “less” and not “more”.

Together with the letter of Mr. Buan, Inquirer printed a photograph of a ward in a hospital that shows many mothers breast-feeding babies. If people observed the photo with understanding eyes, they would have seen the answer to the questions that were posed. Filipinos have babies because they still love babies. As a nation we still see having a baby as a true human good; a baby is an asset and not a liability. I hope and pray that we do not lose this human value.

I would like to set people like Mr. Buan at ease by assuring them that the Catholic Church, especially now with Pope Francis, is and has always been, very much involved with the plight of the poor people.


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