1. Greetings your Grace, we are the members of Seminarians for Life (Pro- Life) Pope JohnPaul II Major Seminary, Awka. We feel great and honored to be with you today.
    Please your Grace, would you like to introduce yourself to our readers?

Answer: I am Valerian Maduka Okeke. By the grace of God and the favour of the Apostolic See, I am the Archbishop of Onitsha and Metropolitan of Onitsha Ecclesiastical Province.

  1. Your Grace, today more centuries past, we live in a world where human rights in most part of the world is protected and defended.
    • Are there human positive laws that are against Divine laws?

Answer: Well, there is a concept known as law in the moral/ethical parlance and there are types of laws. One of them is the eternal law. The Eternal Law is the Divine Wisdom of God which oversees the common good and governs everything. Eternal law is God’s plan to lead all creation towards God’s eternal salvific plan to be holy and blameless before Him through Jesus Christ (Ephesians 1:4–5). God alone knows his law directly, yet through reason and revelation, humans are able to participate in his eternal law and thus fulfil their destiny.

On the other hand, Divine laws are laws arising from the nature of man and creation which can be recognized by man’s reason because its origin is ultimately traced back to the will of God who created nature and man, and willed the laws resulting from it. Divine Law is the historical laws of Scripture given to us through God’s self-revelation. It is divided into the Old Law and the New Law, which correspond to the Old and New Testaments of the Holy Bible. The Old Law, revealed by God to Moses,
“is the first stage or phase of revealed Law. Its moral prescriptions are summed up in the Ten Commandments” (CCC 1962). It has an extrinsic focus motivated by fear and promises earthly rewards (such as social peace). It expresses immediate conclusions of the natural moral law. The New Law perfects the Old Law. The New Law, through the teachings of Jesus commands internal conduct and reaches us by divine love promising love and heavenly reward. The New Law “is the Holy Spirit given through faith in Christ, which heals and is expressed through love.” It gives interior strength to achieve what it teaches. It is also a written law found in Christ’s teachings (in the Sermon on the Mount, the Beatitudes, etc.) and in the moral catechesis of the apostles, summed up in the commandment of love. Put better, divine law finds its fullness in the participation of the eternal law through revelation.

Human Positive Laws on the other hand continue asking and answering questions about reality in order to bring these higher norms to bear on practical life through a prudential determination. These kind of laws are human made laws that oblige or specify an action(s). The Human Positive Law is also described as law that applies at a certain time and at a certain place, consisting of statutory law and case law as far as it is binding. Sometimes, this law is confused with the natural law. This is because the natural law comprises inherent rights, conferred not by act of legislation but by God, nature or reason. To this effect, human positive law remains an act of legislation by man and to add still by reason.

Back to your question, whether there are human positive laws that are against Divine laws, it becomes clear that following human’s legislation and present happenings in our time, there are laws that are against divine laws. Among such laws include the regularization of abortion, embryonic stem cell research, euthanasia, homosexuality, trans-gender identity and a host of them. This shouldn’t be the case because all law should begin and end in God. To these kinds of regularization, the Catholic Church condemns and stands at the fore-front of their abolitions.

  1. Your Grace, under the umbrella of feminism, women had argued that they have right to decide what happens to their bodies especially with regard to abortion.
    • How can you describe this feminism?
    • Do you see their opinion as a violation of human freedom?

Answer: There are lots of feminists’ movement in the world especially in the West, right from the first wave of this movement in the 1870s. These movements have campaigned and are still campaigning for women’s rights. These include; right to vote, to be voted, hold public office, earn equal pay, own property, receive education, enter contracts, have equal rights within marriage and maternity leave. They have worked tirelessly to ensure access to legal abortions and social integration, to protect women and girls from rape, sexual harassment and domestic violence.

No matter what they campaign for and however one justifies this claim, when it comes to the issue of rights over their bodies like in the case of legal abortion (which now is an issue of life and not about law), feminism becomes ‘selfish’ and a ‘deprivation of good’. It becomes only a campaign for material good. It can never be justified. It also becomes ‘anti-life’. God has come that we may have life and have it abundantly, who then are the feminists to take away life or to decide what they have to do with life through legislating that they have rights over their bodies?

As Catholics, we believe that the unborn child is a human being regardless of his or her physical condition and regardless of what the mother-carrier has in mind. Abortion on the grounds of ‘right for women’ as in the case of feminism can never be justified.

The question we need to ask ourselves is: If the woman has her own right as a person to live, doesn’t the baby have his/her own right to live also? If they clamour for rights over their bodies, they should equally remember that the baby in question has a body which also has his own right to be respected and that also is an inalienable right. The feminists also should know following the Catechism of the Catholic Church no. 2273 that ‘the inalienable right to life of every innocent human individual is a constitutive element of a civil society and its legislation”. With this, ones sees that it is a case of robbing peter to pay Paul. And it remains a case of violation of the baby’s freedom to live.

  1. Your Grace, Nigeria and some other countries have strong laws concerning abortion. Whereas in countries like America, some states have ‘strict” laws against abortion based on weeks and months.
    • Can we say that Africa is more Pro-life than Europe and America?

Answer: Our focus I think shouldn’t be on who is more pro-life than the other. The focus should be on the universality of the dignity of human life and sacredness of life irrespective of geographical placements. So, we can’t say who is more pro-life than the other. Men as created by God are born pro-lifers. Life remains a gift from God and has to be protected.

Still, the same way Africans were called to defend life, so it is with Americans and Europeans. Though it may seem that with technological advancements, the western world may not be matching it squarely. I may not generalize here because there are westerners who are at the front of this campaign for life. All we can do is to keep praying for ourselves.

  1. Your Grace, Pro-Choice raises many ‘plausible” arguments in support of abortion.
    What is the basic church’s teaching concerning life?

Answer: The Catholic Church has always been a protector of life. Since life is God’s creative work, the Church cannot be an arbiter. The Catholic Church believes in the sanctity of the human life. “Human life is sacred because from its beginning it involves the creative action of God and it remains forever in a special relationship with the Creator, who is its sole end. God alone is the Lord of life from its beginning until its end: no one can under any circumstance claim for himself the right directly to destroy an innocent human being” (cf. CCC 2258)

The Catholic Church proclaims that human life is sacred and that the dignity of the human person is the foundation of a moral vision for society. This belief is the foundation of all the principles of our social teaching.
In our society, human life is under direct attack from Pro-Choice. The value of human life is being threatened by abortion, euthanasia, suicide, cloning, embryonic stem cell research, In Vitro Fertilization, homosexuality and the use of the death penalty. It may equally interest you to know that life is equally threatened by social injustice, ethnicism, nepotism, lop-sidedness of favours and other social ill ‘isms’. The intentional targeting of civilians in war or terrorist attacks is always wrong. The Catholic teaching calls on us to work to avoid war. The Catholic teaching calls for a distributive justice. Nations must protect the right to life by finding increasingly effective ways to prevent conflicts and resolve them by peaceful means. We believe that every person is precious, that people are more important
than things, and that the measure of every institution is whether it threatens or enhances the life and dignity of the human person.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church no. 2270 has this to say: Human Life must be respected and protected absolutely from the moment of conception. From the first moment of his existence, a human being must be recognised as having the rights of a person – among which is the inviolable right of every innocent being to life. No. 2271 says this: Since the first century, the Church has affirmed the moral evil of every procured abortion. This teaching has not changed and remains unchangeable. Direct abortion, that is to say, abortion willed either as an end or a means, is gravely contrary to the moral law.

  1. Your Grace, some Catholics have argued that contraception leads to abortion.
    • Why is the Church strong against modern means of contraception that in the words of some Pro-Choice, prevents even abortion?

Answer: The idea that contraception helps cut down on abortion is promoted by the Pro-Choice group. This is a concept that seems to make sense, since contraception is designed to prevent pregnancies. Of course, contraception would cut down on abortion if only two conditions were met – if the contraception worked perfectly and if human beings were perfect as well.

However, these conditions will never be met, considering the state of science and human nature. Contraception fails so often. Perhaps, the most direct way that contraception leads to abortion is that, when couples use it, they are consciously and deliberately closing themselves off to the gift of life. When their contraceptive method fails, as it so often does, they see the resulting child not as a gift from God, but as a ‘mistake’ and thus feel that technology has let them down. They feel entitled to an abortion, since they had already made an effort to avoid having a child. One sees then that as contraception use goes up, so does the demand for abortion, since contraception fails so often.

This is also is a case of misunderstanding of the Principle of double effects among the Pro-Choice group. This principle holds that a lesser evil should be chosen in place of a greater evil.

Though this principle suggests that sometimes it is lawful to tolerate a lesser evil in order to avoid a greater evil or in order to promote a greater good, but it is more important to note that it is never lawful, even for the gravest reasons, to do evil that good may come of it – in other words, to intend positively something which intrinsically 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 is to avoided.

With this I say; It is not valid to argue as a justification for contraception, that a lesser evil is to be preferred to a greater one. Consequently, it is a serious error, a fallacy to say that contraception prevents abortion. When it comes to matters of Life, it is not a case of the end justifying the means rather the means and end complementing each other.

  1. Your Grace, recent scientists show that abortion is higher among married couples, some argue that Natural Family Planning (NFP) is not accurate.
    • Your Grace, what does the Church teaches about this?

Answer: The claim of scientists that abortion is higher among married couples may not be false. Well, as scientists, they may have their yardsticks for measurements. But to say that Natural Family Planning is not accurate is wrong and false. The Catholic Church supports the NFP because they adhere and respect God’s design for married love. NFP as a ‘theo- scientific’ approach represents the only authentic approach to family planning which is available to married men and women because this method can be used to both attempt or avoid pregnancy. With the NFP, one can achieve and avoid conception. This method is based on the observation of the naturally occurring signs and symptoms of fertile and infertile phases of woman’s menstrual cycle.
Married couples using the NFP method to postpone conception abstain from sexual intercourse and genital contact during the fertile phase of the woman’s cycle. The NFP method also appreciates, reflects and nourishes the dignity of the human person in the context of the married life, promoting openness to life and recognizing the value of the child. NFP also enriches the bond between husband and wife by respecting the love-giving and life-giving natures of marriage. I would also like to say that helping married couples to deepen conjugal love and achieve responsible parenthood through Natural Family Planning is part of the Church’s total pastoral ministry to Catholic spouses. Fulfilment of this ministry includes
both education and pastoral care. This means “instilling conviction and offering practical help to those who wish to live out their parenthood in a truly responsible way (Familiaris Consortio, 35).

  1. Your Grace, how is the Church educating her children on life related issues in this part of the world, especially with regard to Sex Education?

Answer: The Church has been on the front line of education. The Church pays attention to education because education remains an inalienable right of every human person irrespective of age and sex. Also, education (following my pastoral letter of 2014) remains a veritable tool for the realization of hope of ‘fullness of life’.
True education is directed towards the human wholistic formation. This is because, with education one becomes conscious of his rights, dignity and responsibility towards playing active role in the society. “The value of education can never be over emphasized. It helps humans created in the image of God with creative capacity to create values and indeed to unleash their creative potentials on the society……Education makes a difference between merely existing and living” (Catholic Education and National Development, Pastoral Letter, no.10).
In canon 794, it is stated that “the Church has in a special way the duty and right of educating, for it has a divine mission of helping all to arrive at the fulness of Christian life”. Thus, the concern of the Catholic Church for education arises from the life and mission of Christ. The Church recognizes “the paramount importance of education in the life of men and its ever- growing influence on the social progress of the age” (cf. Vat. II. Gravissimum Educationis).
On the question on ground, the Church remains a force in educating children on life related issues both internationally and locally especially in this part of our world. This could be found in the schemas the Church sets out through the moral education commissions in the local churches in educating children and bringing them up morally. The choice of teachers of religion and moral education in schools who are outstanding in true doctrine, in the witness of their Christian life and in their teaching ability remains inevitable towards achieving this golden plan of the Church.
On the other hand, Sex education remains an important aspect of Catholic education. Hence, “Human sexuality is an important gift of God to his children. Well-rounded education should be conscious of the importance of this gift; be clear about its real purpose so as to avoid the temptation of
abusing it” (cf. Catholic Education and National Development, Pastoral Letter, no.25.7).

  1. Thank you, Your Grace, for your time………