Talks

Key Note Sessions

Keynote 1: Humanae Vitae - The Deeper Significance

Fr James Yeo

Synopsis

People are given the impression that one should follow the teachings in Humanae Vitae and in fact, all of the Church teachings concerning faith and morals. But if that is “not possible” or “too inconvenient”, is it then alright to just follow one’s conscience?

Video recording of talk https://youtu.be/JHjW4_Q_Prg

Transcript of talk:

This year marks the 50thanniversary of the encyclical Humanae Vitaeissued by Pope Paul VI in 1968. All that need to be said about Humanae Vitaehave been said and all that need to be written about Humanae Vitaehave been written. What more is there for me to add? This was the question I posed to myself as I began to prepare for this address.

I want to begin my reflection today taking as my starting point two significant periods of my life. First, when I was a seminarian studying for the priesthood and secondly, the almost 30 years now that I have been a priest.

Pope Paul VI wrote Humanae Vitaein 1968. I was in the seminary from 1981 to 1988. I was ordained a priest in 1989. This means that Humanae Vitaewas written 21 years before I became a priest. During my 7 years in the seminary, I never had the chance to study Humanae Vitaein depth. There was no module in the seminary on this important document nor was I, during my seminary formation required to study or read the contents of this important document. All I got was a few ideas and quotations here and there from the document. Even in the module on Bioethics and Sexual Ethics, the teachings in Humanae Vitaewere simply glossed over.

If seminarians were not given the opportunity to read and study this document, the situation must have been far worse for the general Catholics in the pews. Till this day, I suspect many of our Catholics are still ignorant of the encyclical Humanae Vitaeand what this document really teaches, even after 50 years.

I was ordained a priest in 1989. From 1989 till now, that’s almost 30 years of priestly ministry, I must have heard thousands of confessions. Strangely, there was hardly anyone coming into the confession to confess the sin of using contraceptives. Why is this so? I thought to myself, the reason could be that our Catholics were never taught seriously that using contraceptive is an intrinsic evil and is forbidden by the Church. Many Catholics must have thought that it is not a sin and therefore, is alright to use contraceptives in their marriage.

The second reason and perhaps the more probable one is that our Catholics indeed are aware that the Catholic Church forbids the use of contraceptives but they have been given the impression that one can dissent from this teaching because it is not an infallibly proclaimed teaching of the Church so one can therefore, use one’s conscience to decide for oneself concerning the use of contraceptives. To them faith assent is not needed on this matter and it is assumed that one is free to use one’s conscience to decide for oneself. I am sure that this kind of thinking was exacerbated by the prevailing teachings by theologians and confessors that one is allowed to make a decision on this matter according to one’s own conscience.

Today as a lecturer in Moral Theology, I ask myself ‘What is the crux of the matter regarding the dissent and confusion arising from the teachings in Humanae Vitae?’  I surmise that it is more than just a contraceptive issue. There is a deeper and more troubling issue and it concerns the understanding of what conscience means. Although it is correct to make decisions on moral issues according to one’s conscience, I suspect that many Catholics actually do not know the meaning or the workings of the conscience. They have the wrong understanding of what conscience is all about.

As you might probably know moral theology has been divided into Fundamental Moral Theology and Special Morals. Fundamental Moral Theology provides the concepts and principles needed for a person to understand the more specific moral issues under Special Morals. So although Humanae Vitaeis a document dwelling largely on sexual and family ethics which are under the purview of special ethics, it cannot be understood without a good grasp of the concepts found in fundamental moral theology. I am not saying this just because I am teaching fundamental moral theology. I am saying this because without understanding fundamental concepts like conscience, there is no way one can accept and follow the teachings found in Humanae Vitae. People are given the wrong impression that one should follow Church teachings but if that is not possible, it is then alright to just follow one’s conscience. Sadly, many people have ascribed to this erroneous opinion.

Perhaps we can begin by asking whether one’s conscience is always right? The answer is of course, no. Having a clear conscience does not mean that what we are doing is in accord with the objective moral law. In other words, having a clear conscience does not mean what a person is doing is right. It may mean instead that the person’s conscience is not right. In this case, it simply means that the person does not possess a correct conscience. The Church teaches that one has the obligation only to obey and follow a correct conscience.

How can we know that we have a correct conscience to begin with before we even start drawing upon it? For a Catholic, the answer is so much simpler than those who are outside the Church. For non-Catholics, among other sources, they need to have recourse to the Natural Law. For a Catholic, he or she has the obligation to form his conscience according to the teachings of the Church which very often are already based on the Natural Law besides Revelation.  It is the teachings of the Church that inform and form our consciences and make sure that it is a correct one to begin with. Although it is true that conscience is always subjective and personal but a correct conscience has to be measured against objective moral truths as revealed to us by God and taught to us by the Church.

So as I see it, the fundamental issue pertaining to Catholics dissenting from the teachings of Humanae Vitaeis a wrong understanding of what conscience is. For many people, conscience refers to what I feel or what I think. So for these people if they think something is right for them or if they feel something is right for them then they conclude it must the workings of their conscience. For such people, they think that if a decision is a personal one then it is automatically the work of conscience. We know this is incorrect. In fact, this is the philosophy of relativism where there is no right and no wrong. Everything is up to the individual person depending on what he thinks and what he feels. The end result of this kind of mind-set is situation ethics where absolute truths are denied and replaced by one’s feelings and perceptions. This philosophy is best summed up by the position of Friedrich Nietzsche who says: You have your way. I have my way. As for the right way, it does not exist.

In denying that there are any absolute truths, these people are left with a vacuum. In this vacuum, they extol freedom to be the new absolute, thus creating a dichotomy between truth and freedom. Pope John Paul II in Veritatis Splendortells us that it is not the purview of our conscience to decide what truths are because truth are always objective and have already been revealed to us. The work of conscience is not to decide what truths are but rather it merely discovers truths and abides by them. Then of course, there are many others who have no qualms to use their consciences as a big loop-hole to just get away with whatever they like to do and to justify their actions, even to justify their sins.

I think we have neglected the teaching on what conscience really is and it is time we form our Catholics on the true understanding of what conscience is and is not. Dealing with particular moral issues in sexual ethics without first helping people understand the workings of the conscience will bring about nothing but dissent which is what we are experiencing now in the churches all over the world. So in my opinion, on all levels we need to help our Catholics understand the meaning of conscience and how it works. Once we understand what conscience really is and how it works, the next task will be to help people form their consciences.

Many people are not even aware that there can be an erroneous conscience, a wrong conscience. An erroneous conscience is a conscience that has been improperly formed. It could be due to laziness to inform oneself of the truths found in the objective moral order and simply accept a subjective truth as an objective truth. Subjective truth is simply based on personal preferences and opinions. For example, if I say that vanilla ice-cream is the best flavour. This is a subjective truth but it does not mean that this is universally true for all peoples, everywhere and for all times. Too many people have confused their own conscience by substituting objective truths with all sorts of subjective truths resulting in subjectivism.

I am sure by now you all know the meaning of Post-truth. In the simplest term, it means ‘fake news’. The term ‘fake-news’ was not invented by President Trump. Fake-news is as old as the Book of Genesis where the devil told Adam and Eve that they can be like God. That’s fake news. No one can be like God. My dear brothers and sisters, if we are not careful and vigilant, the theological culture of the Church may fall prey to this phenomenon of post-truth where people accept false theological opinions as gospel truths and perpetuate these false opinions as if they are truths taught by the Church.

It is sad that for many people, truth has become irrelevant. Even if you want to tell the truth, no one is interested to listen to it. People with a post-truth mentality don’t really care whether a teaching or a position is really true or not. What is important is that he feels good after hearing it, he feels happy hearing it. For such people, what is right is right not because it is the truth but because it makes me feel good, it makes me happy, it gives me comfort.  With this kind of mentality, not only do we have the proliferation of post-truth but objective truths also disappear, giving rise to relativism. In this age of fake news, there is also fake theology which seeks to confuse and to distort. We need to be vigilant lest our conscience becomes deformed by them. The Catechism of the Catholic Churchin number 1791 has this to say, “This ignorance can often be imputed to personal responsibility. This is the case when a man, takes little trouble to find out what is true and good, or when conscience is by degrees almost blinded through the habit of committing sin. In such cases, the person is culpable for the evil he commits.”

It is important to teach people that their conscience is not always infallible. Our consciences can be wrong. Our consciences can be mistaken. That is why conscience needs instruction, education and formation from the right people and from the right sources. It is therefore, a mistake to equate it superficially with the voice of God. Again, theCatechism of the Catholic Churchin numbers 1783, 1792 and 2039 tell us that a well-formed conscience will never contradict the objective moral law as revealed in Scripture and taught by the Church.Among other sources, it is the Church’s teachings that help form our conscience. If we allow our consciences to be formed by the Church, there should not be any conflict between Church teachings and one’s conscience.The problem is that we allow our conscience to be formed by erroneous opinions and fake positions put forth by those who have a hidden agenda in presenting what is forbidden by the Church as something correct and acceptable.

It is here that we want to remind ourselves of what the Catechism of the Catholic Church in number 1784 says, “The education of the conscience is a life-long task. From the earliest years, it awakens the child to the knowledge and practice of the interior law recognised by conscience”. I always like to compare our conscience to a thumb-drive. We can draw out data from a thumb-drive inasmuch as we put in those data. The data we put into the thumb-drive is the data we get out of it. If we put in wrong data, we will draw false data from it.

Therefore, as a conclusion to this address, I want to put before all of you a challenge. The challenge is the need for the formation of the conscience. I see this as of paramount importance. First we need to form our own consciences. Second, we need to form the consciences of those nearest to us, our own family members especially the young ones and thirdly, we need to form the consciences of Catholics in general. It is an uphill task because there are the alternatives voices and sources that are very interested to impart to us erroneous opinions based not on the objective moral truths but on their own agendas and preferences. We know they have already succeeded to a great extent.

How do we counter these alternative sources that are erroneously forming the consciences of our Catholics? I supposed our children catechism, our youth formation programmes, our adult catechesis and the formation of the Catholic population at large must necessarily change. Maybe changed is too drastic a word but modified. There has been a growing tendency to focus more and more on the experiential dimensions of faith. This is good but the doctrinal contents must not be compromised in any way. Our catechesis must not simply be a time of telling stories and sharing personal experiences, emphasising merely on fellowshipping and encounters. A Catholic catechesis must necessarily impart authentic Catholic moral and doctrinal teachings. As a Catholic, he or she must be taught the truths of the Catholic Faith from a young age and that as Catholics certain issues are not up for negotiation and as James McCledon, a moral theologian puts it, ‘as Catholics, certain decisions are not open to us.’ Today a great number of Catholics are afraid to make a definitive stand that certain actions are intrinsically evil and therefore, never justifiable. In the name of political correctness, many chose to keep silent on certain issues that clearly contradict revelation, natural law and the magisterium, lest they be construed as imposing their views on others or being insensitive to the feelings of others. This timidity has diluted the prophetic role of the Church.

By now, you would agree with me that the conflict between one’s conscience and Church teachings vis-à-vis Humanae Vitae can be traced to an ignorance of what the Church truly teaches on faith and morals. Therefore, I need to reiterate once again what I said earlier, that if we allow our consciences to be formed by the Church, there should not be any conflict between Church teachings and one’s conscience.

Pope Francis recently said that young people especially those preparing for marriage need to enter into marriage with a well-formed conscience. So let us make a concerted effort to form our own consciences and the consciences of the young with special attention to those preparing for marriage. To this end, Humanae Vitae remains one of the more important church documents to assist us in this task. 

 

Fr. James Yeo PhD, STL.

Rector,

Catholic Theological Institute of Singapore

 

14thJuly 2018

 

Keynote 2: What is the difference between NFP and Contraception - or is there any difference at all?

Fr David Garcia

Synopsis

It is often said that there is no difference between using contraceptives and NFP (Natural Family Planning). After all, their ends are the same, which is to avoid a pregnancy. Fr Garcia explores the issue further and discusses the subtle yet profound differences between the two.

Concurrent breakout sessions:

1(a). Can we sometimes do evil to achieve something good? Condoms and HIV - Medical aspects

Mr Nick Chui (Catholic Theological Network), Dr John Hui (Catholic Medical Guild)

The idea that ‘It is better that one man should die rather than the whole nation perish” (John 11:50) was the logic behind the high priest Caiaphas calling for the death of the innocent Son of God. Yet far from recoiling, many today consider life as too “complex” for absolute moral prohibitions. This talk explores the biblical and humanistic logic behind the Church’s teaching that some acts simply cannot be justified, regardless of intentions and circumstances. The example of HIV prevention would be used to show how this teaching can be applied in a concrete pastoral situation.

Condoms and HIV - medical aspects

It has been commonly thought that using the condom is the best way to prevent the spread of Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs).[1]

So one can imagine the huge uproar when Pope Benedict XVI, in response to a question of the use of the condom in preventing HIV/AIDS in Africa, said that "You can't resolve it with the distribution of prophylactics (condoms)… On the contrary, it increases the problem.”[2]

Criticism of the Pope came in thick and fast from the secular media. [3],[4]

Yet, at the same time, defence of the Pope came from some rather unexpected quarters. One such person was Dr Edward Green, a Medical anthropologist and senior researcher at the Harvard School of Public Health. In an interview with the Sunday Sequence, said:

“We now see HIV going down in about 8 or 9 countries in Africa and in every case we see a decrease in the proportion of men and women who report having more than one sex partner in the past year. So when the Pope said that the answer really lies in monogamy and martial faithfulness, that's exactly what we found empirically.”[5]

Referring to Uganda’s successful programme to reduce HIV transmission in the 1990’s, which saw infection rates in the adult population plunge from 15 percent in the early 1990’s to 4 percent in 2003, he quoted studies which indicated that this was largely due to the following factors: reduced rates of people having multiple partners, increased rates of monogamy, that is faithfulness to one’s spouse, and greater delay in sexual debut (abstinence).

Referring to Pope Benedict’s statement that promoting condom use can actually worsen the crisis, Dr Green said:

“we have for a number of years now found the wrong kind of association between condom-availability and levels of condom use.. You see the wrong kind of relationship with HIV prevalence. Instead of seeing this associated with lower HIV infection rates, it's actually associated with higher HIV infection rates. Part of that is because the people using condoms are the people who are having risky sex….

they (the people who were given greater condom promotion) actually were found to have a greater number of sex partners. So that cancels out the risk reduction that the technology of condoms ought to provide. That's the phenomenon known as risk compensation.”[6]

In his book entitled "Rethinking AIDS prevention: Learning from successes in developing countries", Dr Green noted that other African nations (such as Zimbabwe, Botswana and South Africa), had reported similar if not higher rates of condom use than Uganda, but their HIV rates continued to rise. [7]

What is more, promoting the condom as an effective way to stop HIV transmission presupposes that:

  • Contraceptives are effective in reducing pregnancy and STIs; and
  • Individuals will use contraceptives correctly all the time.

Both these presumptions are not supported by fact.

Firstly we must know that condoms do not offer 100 percent protection, as studies have shown that consistent use of the condom can only reduce the risk of HIV transmission by about 80 percent[8], Gonorrhoea by about 50 to 62 percent, and Chlamydia by about 26 percent.[9]

It offers much less protection against STIs that are spread by skin to skin contact, such as Herpes and Genital warts, since there are areas of the genitalia that are not covered by the condom.[10]

Secondly the condom can only be effective in reducing risk if it were used consistently and correctly. In reality, many people fail to do so. Besides the problems of improper storage(up to 19 percent) and damage with sharp objects (up to 11 percent), studies have found that up to 19 percent had experienced slippage, and up to 40 percent had experienced breakage.[11]

As for consistency of use, studies showed that only between 8% and 48.4% of those surveyed use the condom consistently.[12]

Thankfully the fight against HIV/ AIDS has developed by leaps and bounds since the early 2000’s with the advent of anti-retroviral therapy (ART). ART drugs have been proven to be highly effective in suppressing viral load, thereby reducing an infected individual’s infectivity, thus reducing the risk of HIV transmission. It has been calculated that, with viral load suppression brought about by ART, the risk of transmission is reduced to < 0.01 per 100 person-years[13], much less than the hypothetical scenario of consistent condom use, where the risk of transmission is around 1 per 100 person-years.

Perhaps the entire argument above can best be summed up by the findings from a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine in November 2017[14], in which the authors found a significant reduction in HIV transmission rates in Uganda since the mid 2000’s. This significant reduction in HIV transmission rates was associated with the following trends:

  • A rise in the use of ART among HIV infected patients;
  • A rise in the percentage of people who used ART and achieved near zero HIV viral load, and
  • A rise in the rate of abstinence among the younger people.

There was NO rise in condom use among the population studied.

So Pope Benedict XVI’s statement on the condom was proven right after all. More importantly, the pope went on to say that:

“The solution must have two elements: firstly, bringing out the human dimension of sexuality….and secondly, true friendship offered above all to those who are suffering.”[15]

This statement is profound, and based on an integral vision of the human person that Blessed Pope Paul VI had alluded to in that very important document that we celebrate today – Humanae vitae.[16]

_______________

[1]“The consistent and correct use of condoms has been proven to effectively STOP the transmission of HIV.” Dr Roy Chan, Action For AIDS, Straits Times Forum, 20/6/2005.

[2]Interview of the Holy Father Benedict Xvi During The Flight To Africa, Tuesday, 17 March 2009. http://w2.vatican.va/content/benedict-xvi/en/speeches/2009/march/documents/hf_ben-xvi_spe_20090317_africa-interview.html

 

[3]For example, ‘a cartoon in the Philadelphia Inquirer, reprinted in The Post, showed the pope somewhat ghoulishly praising a throng of sick and dying Africans: "Blessed are the sick, for they have not used condoms."’ http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/03/27/AR2009032702825.html?noredirect=onaccessed on 14 July 2018.

 

[4]The Guardian reported:

‘Rebecca Hodes, of the Treatment Action Campaign in South Africa, said that the Pope’s “opposition to condoms conveys that religious dogma is more important to him than the lives of Africans."’

 

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2009/mar/17/pope-africa-condoms-aids, accessed on 14 July 2018

 

[5]http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/ni/2009/03/aids_expert_who_defended_the_p.html

 

[6]ibid. According to Dr Green, risk compensation “is when somebody uses a technology, such as condoms or sun-block, to reduce the risk, but then they compensate for that, or actually lose the risk reduction, by exposure to the sun longer in the case of sun-block or they take greater sexual risks in the case of condoms.”

 

[7]“Rethinking AIDS prevention: Learning from Successes in Developing Countries”, Dr Edward Green, Praeger publishers, 2003.

 

[8]Weller S, Davis, K. Condom effectiveness in reducing heterosexual HIV transmission (Review), The Cochrane Library 2005, Issue 3

 

[9]The June 2004 Bulletin of the World Health Organization noted that with consistent use of the condom, the risk of acquiring chlamydial infection was reduced by about 26 percent, and that for gonorrhoea by 62 percent. Bulletin of the World Health Organization Vol. 82 Number 6 Genebra June 2004

 

[10]“Epidemiologic studies that compare infection rates among condom users and non-users provide evidence that latex condoms provide limited protection against syphilis and herpes simplex virus-2 transmission.” https://www.cdc.gov/condomeffectiveness/latex.htmlaccessed on 16 June 2018.

 

[11]“Condom use errors and problems: a global view.” Sanders SA et al, Journal of Sexual Health, 2012 Mar;9(1):81-95. doi: 10.1071/SH11095

 

[12]Are condoms the answer to rising rates of non-HIV sexually transmitted infection? No

Stephen J Genuis, British Medical Journal. BMJ. 2008 Jan 26; 336(7637): 185.

 

[13]Loutfy M, Wu W, Letchumanan M, Bondy L, Antoniou T, Margolese S, et al. Systematic review of HIV transmission between heterosexual serodiscordant couples where the HIV-positive partner is fully suppressed on antiretroviral therapy. PLoS One. 2013;8:e55747. 

 

[14]HIV Prevention Efforts and Incidence of HIV in Uganda. M. Kate Grabowski et al, N Engl J Med 30 November 2017; 377:2154-2166, DOI: 10.1056/NEJMoa1702150

 

[15]Interview of the Holy Father Benedict Xvi During The Flight To Africa, Tuesday, 17 March 2009. http://w2.vatican.va/content/benedict-xvi/en/speeches/2009/march/documents/hf_ben-xvi_spe_20090317_africa-interview.html

 

[16]Blessed Pope Paul VI had stated in Humanae vitae:

“The question of human procreation, like every other question which touches human life, involves more than the limited aspects specific to such disciplines as biology, psychology, demography or sociology. It is the whole man and the whole mission to which he is called that must be considered: both its natural, earthly aspects and its supernatural, eternal aspects.”

 

 Encyclical letterHumanae vitaeof the Supreme Pontiff Paul VI,25 July 1968.

http://w2.vatican.va/content/paul-vi/en/encyclicals/documents/hf_p-vi_enc_25071968_humanae-vitae.html

 

 

 

 

 

1(b). Can we sometimes do evil to achieve something good? Condoms and HIV - The moral aspects

Can we sometimes do evil to achieve good? What about using condoms to prevent HIV transmission between husband and wife?

  1. Introduction: WWJD? The moral life as the thinking with and imitating of Christ 
  • 1ststep (compulsory)“If you wish to enter into life keep the commandments” – Matthew 19:17
  • 2ndstep (invitation) Conscious of the young man's yearning for something greater, which would transcend a legalistic interpretation of the commandments, the Good Teacher invites him to enter upon the path of perfection: "If you wish to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me" (Mt19:21). – Vertitatis Splendor (VS no 16)
  • What would Jesus do in morally difficult situation? John 8 the woman caught in adultery.
  • Compassion vs sentimentalism

“The problem is sentimentality. Sentimentality looks like compassion – there is a pleasing gentleness about – but it lacks the truth that gives compassion its substance and strength. Try to imagine Jesus saying only “Neither do I condemn you” without his message to the unchaste woman. “Go and do not sin again”, and you have a definition. Sentimentality grants permission for people to continue in sinful and self-destructive behaviour because they feel it is “right” for them. It gives primacy to passions over reason and to emotions over the teaching of Christ and his Church, because we give too much weight to personal experience. (Fr Paul Check, in his introduction to Daniel C. Mattson’s Why I don’t call myself gay” (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, pg xxxv)”

  1. Is contraception permitted?
  • Definition of Intrinsically evil acts

“Consequently, without in the least denying the influence on morality exercised by circumstances and especially by intentions, the Church teaches that "there exist acts which per se and in themselves, independently of circumstances, are always seriously wrong by reason of their object.” With regard to intrinsically evil acts, and in reference to contraceptive practices whereby the conjugal act is intentionally rendered infertile, Pope Paul VI teaches: "Though it is true that sometimes it is lawful to tolerate a lesser moral evil in order to avoid a greater evil or in order to promote a greater good, it is never lawful, even for the gravest reasons, to do evil that good may come of it. (cf. Rom 3:8) In other words, to intend directly something which of its very nature contradicts the moral order, and which must therefore be judged unworthy of man, even though the intention is to protect or promote the welfare of an individual, of a family or of society in general". (VS no 80)

  1. Is condoms for HIV prevention permitted?

Fr Martin Rohnheimer

A married man who is HIV infected and use condoms to protect his wife from infection is not acting to render procreation impossible, but to prevent infection. If conception is prevented, this will be an unintentional side effect and will not therefore shape the moral meaning of the act as a contraceptive act.” – There may be other reasons to warn against the use of a condom in such a case, or to advise total continence, but these will not be because of the Church's teaching on contraception “The Truth about Condoms” The Tablet 10 July 2004

 https://catholicnews.sg/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=5245:the-truth-about-condoms&catid=187:bulletin-articles&Itemid=502&lang=en

 

  1. Other reasons against condom use if not contraceptive
  2. Purpose of the marital act. Speaking the wedding vows of being free, total, faithful and fruitful bodily. “This love is above all fully human, a compound of sense and spirit. It is not, then, merely a question of natural instinct or emotional drive. It is also, and above all, an act of the free will, whose trust is such that it is meant not only to survive the joys and sorrows of daily life, but also to grow, so that husband and wife become in a way one heart and one soul, and together attain their human fulfilment.It is a love which is total—that very special form of personal friendship in which husband and wife generously share everything, allowing no unreasonable exceptions and not thinking solely of their own convenience. Whoever really loves his partner loves not only for what he receives, but loves that partner for the partner's own sake, content to be able to enrich the other with the gift of himself.Married love is also faithful and exclusive of all other, and this until death. This is how husband and wife understood it on the day on which, fully aware of what they were doing, they freely vowed themselves to one another in marriage. Though this fidelity of husband and wife sometimes presents difficulties, no one has the right to assert that it is impossible; it is, on the contrary, always honorable and meritorious. The example of countless married couples proves not only that fidelity is in accord with the nature of marriage, but also that it is the source of profound and enduring happiness.Finally, this love is fecund. It is not confined wholly to the loving interchange of husband and wife; it also contrives to go beyond this to bring new life into being. "Marriage and conjugal love are by their nature ordained toward the procreation and education of children. Children are really the supreme gift of marriage and contribute in the highest degree to their parents' welfare." – Paul VI Humane vitae no 9
  3. Not every sexual act performed by spouses are marital acts due to the objective language of the body

“Could a sodomitical act, if performed by spouses, be considered a marital act? Sodomy fails to communicate love because it fails to take into account the ratioof the human body: it deposits the male seed in a place (albeit inside of the woman’s body) that is inapt because it is incapable of truly receiving it. It violates the structure of conjugal love because it violates the structure of the conjugal act. The wife cannot “receive” the husband’s substance in a sodomitical act, because only the wife’s sexual organs are capable of receiving his substance in the way relevant to the meaning of sexual union. -David S. Crawford “Conjugal love, condoms, and HIV/AIDS” in “Deus Caritas Est: A Symposium, Communio vol 23, no 3 2006,pg 510

“The person, by the light of reason and the support of virtue, discovers in the body the anticipatory signs, the expression and the promise of the gift of self, in conformity with the wise plan of the Creator.” -John Paul II Encyclical Veritatis Splendor no 42

  1. Why only penile-vagina intercourse is marital

“Here, of course, it should not be forgotten that while two persons in love want to give themselves to one another, to be united to one another, this desire of theirs remains, humanly speaking , on a purely volitional (intentional) level. They can bind themselves to one another, but they cannot actually give themselves. The greatest expression of a person's desire to give himself is to give the seed of himself. Giving one's seed is much more significant, and in particular is much more real, than giving one's heart. "I am yours, I give you my heart; here, take it", is mere poetry, to which no physical gesture can give full expression. But, "I am yours; I give you my seed; here, take it", is not poetry, it is love. It is conjugal love embodied in a unique and privileged physical action whereby intimacy is expressed - "I give you what I give no one else" - and union is achieved: "Take what I have to give. This will be a new me. United to you, to what you have to give - to your seed - this will be a new you-and-me, fruit of our mutual knowledge and love". In human terms, this is the closest one can come to giving one's self conjugally and to accepting the conjugal self-gift of another, and so achieving spousal union.” Cormac Burke Covenanted Happiness: love and commitment in marriage (Princeton NJ, Scepter 2009) http://www.cormacburke.or.ke/node/1005

  1. Ejaculating in a condom changes the language of self-giving. 

Such a use of the condom is like mutual masturbation or coitus interruptus…insofar as each fails (and in principle must fail) to communicate the husband’s substance and identity – his “flesh” to that of the wife” Thus freely adopting (and therefore intending) such acts as the object of choice implies the pursuit of sexual pleasure without the communication objectively necessary (according to the ratio of human bodily life and all of its implications) for conjugal love.  (David S. Crawford pg 512)

  1. Is condoms distribution as a public health measure acceptable?

-Benedict XVI on HIV prevention during his flight to Africa, 17 Mar 2009

“I would say that this problem of AIDS cannot be overcome merely with money, necessary though it is. If there is no human dimension, if Africans do not help [by responsible behaviour], the problem cannot be overcome by the distribution of prophylactics: on the contrary they increase it. The solution must have two elements; firstly bringing out the human dimension of sexuality, that is to say a spiritual and human renewal that would bring with it a new way of behaving towards others, and secondly, true friendship offered above all to those who are suffering, a willingness to make sacrifices and to practice self-denial, to be alongside the suffering.”

-Benedict XVI in his interview book “Light of the World in 2010”

“There may be a basis in the case of some individuals, as perhaps when a male prostitute uses a condom, where this can be a first step in the direction of a moralization, a first assumption of responsibility, on the way toward recovering an awareness that not everything is allowed and that one cannot do whatever one wants. But it is not really the way to deal with the evil of HIV infection. That can really lie only in a humanization of sexuality. The Church does not regard [condoms] as a real or moral solution but in this or that case, there can be nonetheless, in the intention of reducing the risk of infection, a first step in a movement toward a different way, a more human way of living sexuality. – Benedict XVI “Light of the World” (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2010, pg 119)

Conclusion – St John Paul II

A clear and forceful presentation of moral truth can never be separated from a profound and heartfelt respect, born of that patient and trusting love which man always needs along his moral journey, a journey frequently wearisome on account of difficulties, weakness and painful situations. The Church can never renounce the "the principle of truth and consistency, whereby she does not agree to call good evil and evil good"; she must always be careful not to break the bruised reed or to quench the dimly burning wick (cf. Is 42:3). As Paul VI wrote: "While it is an outstanding manifestation of charity towards souls to omit nothing from the saving doctrine of Christ, this must always be joined with tolerance and charity, as Christ himself showed by his conversations and dealings with men. Having come not to judge the world but to save it, he was uncompromisingly stern towards sin, but patient and rich in mercy towards sinners". (VS no. 95)

 

2. Why Sexual Desire? - A Brief Introduction to St John Paul II's Theology of the Body

Mr Andrew Kong (Apostolate for Catholic Truth)

Considered as one of the greatest legacies of St John Paul II, this catechesis explains Catholic teachings through the lenses of the nuptial mystery. Understanding sexuality, sexual desire, love and the meaning of life is critical not only to marriage and sexual morality, but concerns the entire Gospel, the Bible and in fact the whole Mission of Christ. A must for all in family and youth ministry and catechesis.

The transcript for the talk can be found at http://www.andrewkong.net/ak/TOB/TOB_files/TOB%201%20OF%208.pdf

 

3. 50 Years On, Was HV Right? The Prophecies of HV and Preaching its Truths Today

Mr Daryl Gomes OP (Lay Dominicans)

Humane vitae’s publication in 1968 was met with deep controversy for its affirmation of the Church’s traditional teaching against the use of contraception, amid widespread expectations that the Church would change its position. In explaining the Church’s teaching, Pope Bl. Paul VI in HV urged reflection on the possible consequences of contraception use in society, and shared his predictions that both marriage and society would greatly suffer should contraception use become widespread.

Fifty years on, there is increasing appreciation of the “prophetic” accuracy of Blessed Pope Paul VI’s predictions. During this session, the Lay Dominicans will explore how developments in the past fifty years have vindicated Blessed Pope Paul VI’s warnings, and how the Church’s wisdom as conveyed in HV remains relevant for our own time. We will also explore ways in which the faithful may participate in the work of proclaiming and sharing HV’s much-needed truths with others today.

Couple sharing 1 - Abortion - Having our baby diagnosed with abnormalities

A Story of Our Baby


We got married on 1stJanuary 2005 and within 2 months, Joan found that she was expecting our first child. 


Every visit to the hospital was so exciting seeing how fast our baby was growing! We eagerly awaited the scheduled detailed scan to find out if our baby was a boy or a girl, as we were so excited about giving our baby a name!


On one morning in May, during the detailed scan for our 19-week old baby, we were informed that our baby was a boy! But we were also told that our baby had abnormalities in the brain, heart and intestines. We were immediately referred for a Fetal Anomaly Scan. Before the scan, we spent time reading up on whatever little information we can get just to prepare ourselves for the worst but there was no doubt at all that we would keep our baby regardless of the outcome.


From the scan, the diagnosis was worse than what we had prepared ourselves for. Doctors told us our baby had 3 major problems: Firstly, he had a cyst in the brain and his head slightly flat at the back; Secondly, he had 2 major holes in the heart; Thirdly, his intestines were outside his stomach. With several major abnormalities appearing together, we were told there was a possibility of Down’s Syndrome or even worse, Edward’s Syndrome where babies seldom live till birth or beyond the first month after birth.


We were strongly advised to go for Amniocentesis, which is a medical procedure to determine the nature of the chromosomal disorder. We decided against it since we would be keeping the baby anyway. There was no need for us to risk a miscarriage just to find out if there was a chromosome defect. However, a Catholic doctor in the hospital advised us that the test would allow us to focus on the medical help we could provide for the baby after birth, and not whether to opt for abortion.

 

We left the hospital and went straight to Novena Church to pray and seek advice from the priest. Thank God a priest was there to provide the support and guidance we were desperate for. After a day of prayers and tears, we decided to do the test. We felt the test results could help us focus on what we could do once our baby was born. We prayed before going through the painful procedure. The results were scheduled for release two weeks later.

 

The wait was agonizing. Many of our family members, relatives and friends strongly urged us to abort our baby. They felt that we were being brash without considering the financial, physical and mental burdens of keeping the baby. The pressure was intense. We were extremely disappointed we didn't get the support we hoped for. We guess it did not matter to them that every parent who goes through an abortion will be haunted by the guilt of killing their own child.

 

Over the next few days of prayers, people around us slowly changed their hearts about abortion! They began to accept that every child is a blessing from God and every baby is beautiful just the way they are. It was really encouraging! And we named our little baby Joshua, meaning, "God is Salvation".

 

Two days before the scheduled appointment for the amniocentesis result, I received a call from the hospital. The result was out early. The nurse told me over the phone that Joshua had Edward’s Syndrome. My mind went blank at that moment but I did not cry. The result was not what we hoped for. The thought that came to my mind later was, “My baby is going to die… Why God did not give me a Down’s Syndrome child… Why must he take him away?” Tears only started to flow while I was on my way to the hospital. Over the next few days, we could only see Joshua’s funeral in our minds.

 

Encouraged by a friend, we visited the Carmelite Sisters for prayers. It was by the grace of God that we met Sr. Francisca at the monastery gates even though the monastery was already closed. We were again filled with a sense of hope and peace from her encouragement. She became our spiritual mentor since then.

 

Instead of dwelling in self-pity, we decided to treasure and enjoy every moment of Joshua’s life. Joshua was an active boy who was always kicking and moving about especially at night but he gave his last kick on my birthday. Sensing something was wrong three days later, we went to the hospital. The doctor told us Joshua’s heart was failing. All we could do was pray. When we went back to the hospital four days later, our doctor was surprised that Joshua’s heart had somehow recovered although his movements did not resume. Still, we were overwhelmed with joy.

 

When we went for another scheduled check-up three weeks later, scans revealed Joshua’s heart had stopped beating. We were shocked and heart-broken. We did not expect him to leave so soon so quietly. Over the next 3 days, we had to prepare for Joshua’s birth and funeral at the same time. Joshua was born on 5thAugust 2005 after 17 hours of induced labor. And on the next day, we held a beautiful funeral service for Joshua in church.

 

The period had been a difficult time for us. Although we looked cheerful most of the time, it has been a roller coaster ride of emotions for us. We had hoped for a miracle the way we wanted. There were really painful moments: When we carried Joshua after he was delivered, but not seeing him move or cry like the other babies in the ward; When we discharged from the hospital without him, collected his little body from the mortuary and watched him being laid into a casket instead of a cradle, and finally when we had to say goodbye to him after his funeral. It was also especially difficult when we went home empty-handed and had to live through the period of maternity leave without Joshua.

 

However, we brought Joshua home in our hearts and hold precious the experience of loving him unconditionally. Though we still cry today as we miss Joshua terribly, there is a sense of peace and joy that Joshua is now with God because he completed his mission... that is to teach all of us what love is about.

 

Most people tried to console us by saying, “It's over. Forget about it. You are still young and you can try again.” But for us, we will always remember our baby boy and despite the difficult times, we feel incredibly privileged to have him in our lives even if only for a very short time. God has blessed us with a very special boy and through accepting that, we experienced the joy and peace of keeping faithful to God despite our trials and tribulations. Joshua is a miracle. We love him dearly and would treasure every moment we had with him.

 

Sr. Francisca wrote to us, “The message that Joshua brings to this world is that pure love exists, we live out of love. We love through hearts. One little small heart has linked to many big hearts. My dear, the Lord gives, the Lord takes away. He is the creator. He has the right and He knows when is the best time for little Joshua to go back to Him as he has fulfilled the mission that God has entrusted him. He died in the love of mom and dad. I guess he was happy to slip away in silence because he loves you.”

 

God taught us the true meaning of loving children through Joshua. After Joshua, we were blessed with 6 pregnancies. However, 2 ended as miscarriages. Today, our children Julian, Jeanne, Joseph, and Joachim are 12, 9, 6, and 3 years old.

 

As we reflect on the events that happened in our marriage, we have no regrets and we know we won’t go wrong as long as we follow God in the choices we make.

 

Thank you and God bless.

 

 

Couple sharing 2 - NFP - Our Journey - Eugene and Trillion

The Freedom to Love as God Loves Us

Eugene and Trillion have been married for 20 years and have three boys aged between 14 and 18, the fruits of their love and God’s gift to them.

They hadn’t heard about HV until they became part of the expat church community when living in Shanghai in 2013, and they joined the MPC programme as volunteers. The curriculum was based on Theology of the Body by St Pope John Paul II and HV.

Despite their lack of understanding of HV, they had been practising NFP anyway, having been introduced to it during their MPC in preparation for their wedding 20 years before. “I was not a Catholic then,” says Trillion, “but NFP sounded like a really good idea as I didn’t want to take the Pill or use other invasive contraception methods for fear of side effects.”

“NFP is a wholesome, loving way of deciding together with our spouse how many children we plan for in the family,” explains Eugene. “At the same time, it allows us to be open to more children if God should kindly bestow them to us as a gift. I see it as God’s way of allowing us to co-operate with Him to building a family together.”

“One challenge is to abstain from sex during my fertile period,” explains Trillion. Working it out involved some discussion, adjustments and time. “We spend time doing non-sexual things and Eugene will try to distract himself by doing more housework and washing the car. Our friends are always amazed at how we can keep our house so clean without a helper. The secret is NFP!”

Jokes aside, the couple reveals that, as a result of NFP, their relationship is much stronger. They feel closer, sex is more meaningful, and because they focus on activities outside of their intimate time, they have grown so much more fulfilled as a couple – so much so that they often now think the same way, say the same things and behave similarly, as if telepathic.

“I’m just so thankful to our Lord for Trillion, and also for NFP as a gift being so instrumental to help me see her for the wonderful person she truly is,” Eugene exclaims. “One day we were driving and I was sharing with Trillion how much I loved her, how I miss her whenever she has to travel for work, how I yearn to be with her when she is not around. And maybe that is what it means to be one in the Sacrament of Marriage. Then it dawned on me that perhaps that is how God feels with us. That He loves us that much. He can’t wait to be with us, that’s why he is always beckoning to us, courting us. And perhaps why there is the Sacrament of Matrimony so that by loving our spouse so much, being called to be so close to each other as to become one, we can be privileged enough to have a glimpse of how much the Father and Son love each other.”

They are now a presenting couple at MPC and use the power of story-telling to share authentically about their experience practising NFP with engaged couples, sharing the challenges as well as the positive effect it has had on their marriage.

“It’s easy to learn,” promises Trillion, “and for the ladies, you will get to know when you are fertile and when you are not. This helps you, as it did me, when you are trying to conceive, space out your children or prevent a pregnancy.”

“Both Trillion and I are work in progress,” says Eugene. “We have much to learn and to progress through in our spiritual life. But through the practice of NFP, what we have found is a glimpse of true freedom. A freedom not shackled by or rooted in our personal cravings or desires, but a freedom to love.”

* This was taken from an article was first posted on the Archdiocesan Commission for the Family (ACF) website. https://catholicfamily.org.sg/humanae-vitae-the-stuff-of-heroes-and-heroines/

 

Couple sharing 3 - Subfertility - Our Journey - Liam and Shiling

Liam and Shiling

 

Liam: Hi everyone, my name is Liam and this is my wife Shiling. We are here today to share with you, a little about our journey through infertility. Infertility is a more common condition than most of us would realize. 1 in 7 couples in Singapore, and the world, suffer from this. Often though, it is a silent and barely heard of epidemic. 

 

Shiling: Our story began as many couples would. Very early in our marriage we decided to start trying for a child. And as with many couples, it all started with a lot of excitement and eager anticipation. However, months passed and nothing happened. A year passed and still nothing had happened. The excitement turned into anxiety, stress and despair. As we watched other couples around us get joyfully pregnant, some even on their wedding night, we started to ask ourselves if there was something wrong with us. 

 

Liam: The first thing we did in this modern age of course, was to get all our medical checks done. And these weren’t easy by any means. For the wife, it meant getting blood checks, physical-internal examinations, painful scans and finally even an operation under general anaesthetic. The man gets off far more lightly, but no less embarrassingly. 

 

Shiling: After completing all the checks, everything was found to be normal, and the Dr. suggested to us to keep on trying for awhile more and failing that, just to proceed to IVF. Being a cradle catholic, Liam knew the teachings of the church and was against IVF. I on the other hand was a new convert and was very keen to proceed with IVF. In my mind, if God was the creator of life, then for IVF to succeed, surely God still had to be involved, isn’t it? 

 

I wasn’t afraid of the pain, the regular injections, or the procedures required. Neither was I concerned about using up all our savings for the treatment, all I wanted was a child of our own. However, Liam was adamantly against this still. 

 

Liam: We spent countless hours and nights discussing this, praying about it, discerning as best we could, against a background of emotional turmoil, tears, frustration, hopelessness and at times, even anger towards God. Why us? What had we done to deserve this? Why did he make something so natural so difficult? How long more must we struggle in this nightmare? Will we ever be ‘rewarded’? 

 

IVF seemed like the only possibility at times. It was so easy and so tempting just to reach for this supposed panacea to infertility. There were many reasons why I felt that IVF was not the way for us. Besides “the church forbids it”, the basic premise that it violates the sanctity of marriage, life and morality is something I was not comfortable with. The base premise that life begins at conception – a life, a complete soul is formed at that point, made it difficult for me to accept that all these little souls would be stuck in a liquid nitrogen freezer, and eventually would likely be destroyed. This was definitely not something my conscience was willing to accept at that point. 

 

Shiling: It was a very trying and painful time for us. Despite our countless discussions, we still found it difficult to come to a united decision. 

 

Until one day, a thought came to me out of nowhere. That life is a gift, not a right. That every single life is a gift from God, and none of us has a right to it. Much as we desired a child, it was not our right. And it was not for us to demand a child out of God, or force a life out of God. 

 

At that very moment, I knew. Tearfully and painfully, that we could not proceed with IVF. God had a plan for us, and I knew we had to wait patiently for that plan to unfold.

 

I told Liam the insight I had been given, and despite the pain, we knew it was the right decision. That night, for the first time in a long time, we felt peace in our hearts. 

 

Liam: Despite coming to a ‘decision’, doubts and thoughts of IVF would randomly pop into our heads. Often precipitated by daily news, media, friends/colleagues/celebrities who had obviously gone through IVF and conceived. In other words, it still was far from easy. Then we next had to discern what path God had planned for us. 

 

Were we meant to simply keep trying, were we meant to seriously consider adoption as a possibility, or did God not intend parenthood for us – perhaps intending us to be fruitful in other ways.  

 

On a side note, can I just say, infertility and adoption are two separate issues. Too often, people will say in a rather insensitive fashion to couples who are trying, “have you considered adoption?” As if it were the next and most natural step, a salve for your infertility. Trust me, we have considered EVERYTHING! The saying, “Adoption cures childlessness, not infertility” never rang more true. 

 

Shiling: As time went on, we considered more and more the possibility of adoption. However, we knew that adoption had to be a distinct call from God. If we wilfully went ahead simply to ease the ache in our hearts, we would be doing great disservice to the children who may come into our lives. 

 

So hard as it was, we told ourselves to wait for God to show us the way forward. 

 

During this time, we tried TCM, Naprotechnology and anything else that could even remotely increase our chances of conceiving. But… nothing. 

 

The emotions that come with infertility are very complex. It is a silent pain, and a deeply private shame. It is a never ending grief cycle. Every month starts off with hope, but ends with disappointment and despair. And then we have to pick ourselves up to try once again the next month, reminding ourselves not to get our hopes up, yet deep down inside always hoping against hope. 

 

All this, while trying to answer questions like ‘when is it your turn’/’are you trying hard enough?’, while smiling and congratulating the couple who is having their next ‘accidental’ child, and while trying not to get angry with God when we hear yet another story of a child who’s been abused or forsaken. 

 

Liam: During this time, which occurred over quite a few years, it was often difficult to hear God’s voice and direction. There were times when we thought a new window had been opened, a fresh approach, many a false dawn we encountered. Perhaps even a sense of spiritual dryness. We looked around for support, but little support seemed to be available in our church. In fact, I dare say there is virtually NO support from the church in this area. Unfortunately, we quickly came to realize that this was the case both in the secular world, and in our catholic family.  

 

Along our journey, we did meet several of our priests who did try their best to support us spiritually and psychologically. And one thing came through very strongly in our journey is that, the church and our priests are here to support us. Not so much of “what is the church doing to help me”, as opposed to “how can I help the church to help me”. We had, like many, assumed the erroneous mentality that ‘the church’ almost owed us something. One could almost say, “as signed-up members of your organization, what service are you providing to support our needs?”

 

So we set about setting up our own support group. Kindly and generously guided on our path by Fr. David Garcia. It is a small group still, as this is a very raw, largely hidden and psychologically/emotionally difficult area of one’s life to open up. 

 

 

Shiling: Being surrounded by a group of people who intuitively understood all the emotions and pain that comes with infertility was refreshing. Coming together to share our innermost thoughts and anguish was a most cathartic experience. Being able to finally remove the mask of nonchalance and shed tears openly was a relief. 

 

The cross of infertility was still difficult to bear, but at least now we had companions on this journey. Companions in our daily struggles, and also in our spiritual lives.

 

There was continued suffering, but there was also healing. There was darkness but there was also light. There was pain but now there was meaning as well. 

 

Liam: For us, one month, wholly unexpectedly, there was a positive pregnancy test. It was the greatest shock as we had become almost accustomed to the monthly grief cycle. To cut a long story short, it wasn’t the easiest pregnancy as well with numerous episodes and periods where we thought we were going to lose the baby. But by God’s grace, all turned out well eventually.

 

 

Shiling: Today we have our son, and we thank God every single day for him. He is the result of God’s grace, and we believe, many intercessory prayers from our dear friends and family. 

 

One thing we remind ourselves constantly is that our son’s life belongs wholly to God, and not to us. For reasons known to God alone, we have merely been chosen as his earthly guardians. God has a plan for him, and our role as his parents is merely to help him discern that plan. Life is a gift, and God alone gives that gift. 

 

As we give thanks for our son, we also pray daily for couples who are still on this journey. We will never ever forget our brothers and sisters who are still bearing the cross of infertility. The pain and distress is something we will never forget. May God always make his presence known, and his comfort palpable to all who are still walking this path. 

 

 

 

 

Couple sharing 4 - Subfertility - Our Journey - Kelvin and Yvonne

 

Flash Slide 2 at the beginning of sharing

“So much suffering comes from disappointment. We wait for something which we believe will bring us happiness, and it does not arrive. We see only the negative things that have come our way, illness, a child with a handicap, and we close up in anger and rebellion.” 

Jean Vanier, Our Journey Home, p. 165

Kelvin

Hi, my name is Kelvin and this is my wife, Yvonne. We’ve been married for 8 years now and this afternoon we’ll be sharing with you our personal story.

 

I was raised as a Catholic, I knew about God, I had some idea that He existed, but up till a few years ago, I never really knew God personally. 

 

For most of my life, I stumbled through life just like the typical Singaporean male - I  first went to school, then served my National Service, went for my university studies, and then started work. I lived life without any intentionality, and direction, and without God getting involved. So for me, getting married, and having kids, was just the “next step” in my life. As a result, when we got married, I honestly didn’t know what I was doing. I was just going through the motions. 

Yvonne

Within two months of our marriage, we discovered that we were expecting. I hadn’t expect it to be so soon but I was happy. Afterall, the next progression after marriage was having children.

Kelvin

When Yvonne told me that she was pregnant. I wasn’t ready. Being married was already overwhelming to me. But before I could get over the shock, Yvonne miscarried.

 

Unable to cope, I detached myself from her emotionally, leaving her to cope with the pain and suffering on her own. I could only look at her helplessly.

Yvonne

The miscarriage marked the start of my three-year descent into absolute darkness, loneliness and pain. Because of the loss, I started yearning for children. It was a bottomless, aching pain that never went away.

 

For the next three years, I dreaded the sight of pregnant women and babies because they reminded me of what I yearned so much for but simply could not have. 

Kelvin

We tried to get on with life as best as we could. 

 

In 2012, Yvonne started attending the Rite of Christian Initiation (RCIA). I attended along with her, and that began my journey to once again get to know God.

Yvonne

It was around this time that I started to introspect and search for the meaning of life, children and family. 

 

By this time, we had tried everything we could, short of IVF and IUI. I was weary of trying and being disappointed month after month. I felt insufficient as a woman and a terrible person consumed by jealousy and envy.

 

I needed an answer for my pain. Badly.

Kelvin

Just before Yvonne’s baptism at Easter in 2013, we discovered that we were pregnant again! What joy and such a gift from God. However, one week after Easter, that little life returned to God.

 

This time, because I was beginning to discover the love of God, and was open to God’s love, I was better able to be present for Yvonne. St Paul’s letter to the Ephesians says, “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” (Eph 5:25). I had just begun to understand what it meant to give up my life for my wife.

 

But why did God have to allow two miscarriages in three years? Did God have a cruel sense of humour? I knew God loved us, but what did our situation mean in the light of His love?

 

Yvonne

This was the lowest point I’ve ever been in my life. Ironically, this was also when our lives started turning around.

Kelvin

No matter how difficult it is to believe, the truth we have discovered is that God is a loving God. He loves us and cares for us deeply. And our lives, all lives are truly gifts from God. 

Yvonne

In trying to make sense of everything, I told God honestly how I felt. I asked God if He truly existed. I told Him that if He did exist, He would have to do something right now because I know that I can’t survive this on my own. If He did not intervene, I would probably go into depression and my spirit would be broken beyond repair.

 

In that simple heartfelt prayer, God heard and God answered. He did not reverse the miscarriage nor give us another child immediately after it. 

 

He gave me a deep sense of assurance that everything was going to be alright. What was going to be alright? I didn’t know. But there was a deep peace within me. And this peace helped me to not just survive but thrive through this challenge and opened a new way for us to make sense of our suffering.

Kelvin

Five years on, we still don’t fully understand God’s plan and purpose for us, why He allowed all pain and suffering to happen. But through it all, we realised two things:

 

One, that a child isn’t something to be demanded, but every child is a gift from God.

 

Two, we discovered our love for young people, especially those who feel lost, lonely and rejected. The two miscarriages led us to draw upon the love inside of us to reach out to youth and young people.

Flash slide 3

“A child is not something owed to one, but is a gift … A child may not be considered a piece of property, an idea to which an alleged ‘right to a child’ would lead.” 

CCC 2378

Yvonne

Gradually, I realised that it hurt so much because I desired so much to love and give life to another. There was so much love welling inside my heart but it had nowhere to go.

Flash slide 4

Two group photos of our wedding anniversary lunch

Kelvin

Last month, we celebrated our eight wedding anniversary. In the past, we would celebrate this day by going to a good restaurant and pampering ourselves or go on a twosome holiday.

 

For this year, we decided that the most life-giving way for us to celebrate our eight years of marital struggle and triumph is by going for a nice meal with the fruits of our love — the young people we love dearly and who have also loved us into the people we are today.

 

While we do not know if God will ever bless us with children of our own, we are grateful to be able to share in parenthood by being with these young people. After all, the joy of life is not just in reaching the destination but savouring the journey taken.

Flash slide 5

Human wisdom means coming back down to earth; not closing ourselves up in a beautiful ideal which we must attain, but welcoming reality just as it is; discovering God present in reality; not struggling against reality, but working with it; discovering the seed of life, the possibilities hidden in it.” 

Jean Vanie., Our Journey Home, p. 165

Kelvin

It has been a difficult journey, and we still have days of frustration and anger with God. We have a glimpse of how many childless couples still feel. But through prayer and reflection, I believe that God will speak to all of us in our suffering and show us our mission. His Will, not ours be done.

 

Humanae Vitae begins with the sentence, “the transmission of human life is a most serious role in which married people collaborate freely and responsibly with God the Creator.” 

 

Our reflection on the document has led us to this realisation - the transmission of human life can be in the form of a child, but human life can also be transmitted by bringing life to those who do not have life. 

 

Thank you for listening to our sharing.