During HLI’s recent 20th Asia-Pacific Congress for Life, Faith, and Family (ASPAC) in Taiwan, I had the joy and honor of visiting with Mayor Sally Lee of Sorsogon City, Philippines. I first met this longtime friend of HLI and great defender of life and family in 2013 during the 19th ASPAC in Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia. Inspired by this Congress to protect her constituents from the violence of the Culture of Death, Mayor Lee, on February 2 of this year, declared hers a “Pro-Life City.”
On social, political, legal, and religious fronts we have seen a concerted effort to reverse laws that protect the family and human life. This effort of governments and multinational NGOs has also been successful in undermining healthy traditions and destabilizing religious and moral convictions. It has spread like a cancer throughout global communities, influencing and determining the world viewpoints of many, including, Catholics, religious and political leaders, and sadly, our youth.Nowhere has this battle been more heated than in the Philippines, which fought for twelve years against billions of dollars and political pressure from the United States and other governments. In December 2012, amidst a deluge of political chicanery that made the Obamacare fight look by comparison like a model of the democratic process, the Reproductive Health Bill was passed into law, making official what had already been happening unchecked at the local level and NGO level, enormous pressure on Filipinos to stop having babies.
Undeterred by the many threats hurled from the Family Planning Organization of the Philippines (FPOP), International Planned Parenthood Federation’s (IPPF) affiliate, and various Filipino governmental agencies, Mayor Lee continues to educate her fellow citizens on the destructive effects of contraception and its deadly child, abortion. During her presentation at ASPAC, Mayor Lee argued that the role of government is to protect its citizens from harm, not to cause harm: “Contraception and abortion destroy human life and undermine marriage and the family. These are not the answer to the struggles of my people.” She added further that government on local and national levels has a vested interest in promoting marital life and the family.
Inspired by Mayor Lee’s presentation, I thought of the words of St. Stephen of Hungary to his son, Emeric, who would succeed him as king: “My dearest son, if you desire to honor the royal crown, I advise, I counsel, I urge you above all things to maintain the Catholic and Apostolic Faith with such diligence and care that you may be an example for all those placed under you by God, and that all the clergy may rightly call you a man of true Christian profession. Failing to do this, you may be sure that you will not be called a Christian or a son of the Church.”
Mayor Lee, moved by Truth and conviction in her Faith, recognizes her obligation to stand in the breech, speaking on behalf of those who have no power to defend themselves against the violent onslaught being perpetrated by the opponents of life and family. She has made the mission of the Church her very own. She is courageous and a credible witness to the transforming power of the Gospel of Life, whose light shines in the darkness and brings hope in difficult situations. Rejecting the promotion of contraception and abortion as answers to the plight of her people, she instead highlights the real reasons why her people struggle – political corruption, lack of education and religious formation, and the lack of access to basic necessities that promote human dignity.
Her opponents, taking cues from their American counterparts, charge that she is imposing her Catholic values upon her city, though they are a bit fuzzy on how, exactly she is doing this. Even her Catholic opponents agree that is basic Catholic social doctrine that Church and State have a complimentary role in fostering the good of every human being. Mayor Lee is simply exerting her moral responsibility as a Christian and leader to defend her people against the unjust aggression of the State and its attack against human life and the family. By protecting the inalienable rights of the family, the basic cell of society, the state ensures security and prosperity for all its citizens.
The majority of Mayor Lee’s constituents are grateful for her courageous stance. What some criticize as ludicrous, others recognize as authentic leadership, care, support, and concern. Mayor Lee has inspired and received support from numerous Church and secular leaders who are discerning how they might learn from and follow her example.
What are needed are courage and determination to uphold and defend the truth about the dignity of life and family. Courage and conviction are seeds of authentic and positive transformation. It is uncertain of how Mayor Lee’s position will fare given the political storms in the Philippines, yet one thing is certain: Truth will ultimately prevail.