Saturday, November 22, 2008

The Catholic Church's Reproductive Health Initiative

A Reuters report has this for a headline: Philippine Catholic Church drafts own population bill. It's an interesting read. It goes:

MANILA (Reuters) - Powerful Roman Catholic bishops in the Philippines are drafting their own version of a bill on maternal health care, rejecting a pending bill that also promotes artificial contraception.

Reverend Father Melvin Castro of the Episcopal Commission on Family and Life said Thursday that the bishops have been working with lawmakers to draft an alternative to the population control bill pending in the lower house of Congress.

"It should not be labeled as a church bill," Castro told foreign correspondents in Manila. "There are so many Catholics there in Congress who are willing to sponsor the bill and the church is only helping draft it."

Castro said the bishops have rejected the current bill in Congress, describing it as unconstitutional and infringing on religious rights of most Filipinos. About 85 percent of nearly 90 million Filipinos are Roman Catholics.

"We would not allow a legislation that would allocate money from a majority of the taxpayers who are Catholics to be allocated to a program which is against their beliefs," he said, referring to provisions that promote artificial contraception.

The Philippines is already the world's 12th most populous country and is projected to have a population of over 140 million by 2040, putting a huge strain on its creaking health system, schools and other services, and its ability to feed itself.

The bill on maternal health care, which requires the government to promote artificial contraception if it becomes law, has become a battleground between the powerful church and activists in the staunchly Roman Catholic nation.

Some bishops have said they will refuse communion and other sacraments to politicians who support the bill. xxx
Three points in relation to the abovequoted article:
First point. With all due respect to our prelates, there is this little provision in the Constitution also known as separation of church and the state. Let me iterate that in passing a law, the lawmaker does not merely look at the interest of a particular RELIGIOUS group alone. More so if the bill will benefit the majority, especially those in the lower strata of our society. Okay, I'm not really a credible source, so let me quote Fr. Joaquin Bernas on this matter:
The fundamental fact of the matter is that our nation today is characterized by religious diversity more pronounced than when we first accepted a democratic system of government. We have chosen to reject the established church of Spanish times. But “We,” the sovereign people in the Preamble of our Constitution, who have covenanted to “establish a government that shall embody our ideals” are a people who, while firmly adhering to certain common ideals, are nevertheless divided in many vital matters, many of them flowing from religious belief. Hence for the purpose of maintaining unity amid diversity we have also covenanted to respect religious liberty within a system that institutionally divides church and state.
If a married Catholic woman does not want to avail of artificial contraceptives, she is free to do so. But she should not deprive the non-Catholic of availing these contraceptives by blocking H.B.5043 , just because they have differing opinions on the matter. That, I think, is the essence of the separation of church and state.

Second point. Again, with all due respect, the Catholic church - singing praises for natural family planning - has not even lifted a finger in disseminating the information about the method that they sacrosanctly uphold. No information about it in church bulletin boards or in homilies. Maybe parish priests feel queasy about discussing it because it's too intertwined with sex. Indeed, the only information related to family planning that the church propagates is "Go forth and multiply!" We all know where that will lead to.

Third point: I don't know, but refusal of communion and other sacraments to politicians who support the bill is such a childish tactic in my opinion. What about refusing communion to politicians who actually break the Ten Commandments: openly cohabiting with someone who is not his/her spouse, stealing people's money, ordering extrajudicial killings? I'm nitpicking, sure.

I'll stop at three - my parents might excommunicate me for blasphemy if I give more arguments.

May I just offer a humble suggestion to our church leaders. If you really believe that there is a groundswell of support for natural family planning and natural family planning alone, maybe you should do an Initiative. R.A. 6735, otherwise known as Initiative and Referendum Act, allows the people to directly enact a law. You don't even have to include congress. All you need is to prepare your petition; to get the signatures of at least 10% of the total number of the registered voters, of which every legislative district is represented by at least 3% of the registered voters thereof; and to register the same with COMELEC. With 85% of the Filipinos being Catholic, it shouldn't be hard for the church to get the needed signatures.

A parting shot: if the church exhibited the same fervor in denouncing graft and corruption, our country would be a much more moral place.

Photo: B Cleary, stock.xching


  1. It seems you don't really understand what you're talking about.

    1. Separation of church and the state. This provision does NOT mean that the Church cannot engage in politics. Read the Constitution. You will find absolutely nothing there that says the Church -- or its clergy -- cannot engage in politics or attempt to speak out on such matters.

    In case you haven't, artificial contraceptives are ALREADY available to anyone -- some of it for free! And the Church can't (and does not) legally stop anyone from using these things. The Bill, however, will coerce people to distribute such and use public money to do the same. That is most certainly objectionable! it even will prohibit opposition to this, under the guise of preventing "disinformation" (Section 21 (e)). So much for "freedom of choice"! The bill is coercive and unjust.

    2. Catholic church efforts to promote NFP. What planet do you live on? I have seen such efforts to promote NFP with my own two eyes. Perhaps they are not as often as they should be, but that does not mean nothing is being done. You should get your facts straight before subjecting everyone to such ignorance.

    3. Is the refusal of sacraments to politicians who support the bill a childish tactic? I cannot see how it can be childish. Why should the Church NOT refuse sacraments tot hose who openly, publicly, and consistently refuse to follow Church teachings? To continue to turn a blind eye to the scandal of these turncoat politicians is in itself a scandal and will be perceived as condoning their wrongdoing. Perhaps PLS should try to figure out what excommunication and other such pastoral actions are int eh first place.

    I am amazed at how you can comment on these issues from a position of such IGNORANCE. No wonder the debate is so muddled.

    May I add my own contribution to the debate? We have released a position paper against HB 5043. The links tot eh paper are:

  2. My parting shot:

    It seems you haven't been keeping up on current events. The bishops have been denouncing graft and corruption so fervently and so often that even persons sympathetic to them see this as undue meddling in politics.

    Please get your head out of the sand.

  3. Thank you for your insights, Manny.

    I have read your position paper. I respect your stand against the bill, but I reiterate my earlier arguments.

    If you have read my whole post, I am offering an alternative to you and others who oppose the bill. Start an Initiative. Draft your own law and propose it straight to the people. It shouldn't be very hard if you have the numbers.

    As to your second comment, while there are some who are very vocal about corruption in the country (e.g. Oscar Cruz), the bishops have not made a categorical denunciation of corruption until recently. Members of the CBCP has not even made a unified stand against graft and corruption up to now.

    I believe you're a decent guy. Easy on the ad hominem attacks. Once again, thanks.

  4. For a person who prides of his Catholic Education and his "spiritual and moral values", I am appalled by Manny's show of utter disrespect.

    I, too, have graduated from a Catholic School (a school run by nuns, at that). and I still distinctly remember my Good Manners and Right Conduct (GMRC) Teacher reminding me to "respect the opinions of others". I guess Manny's Catholic School fell a tad bit short of similar reminders.

    I also went to the same university as Manny and even my Jesuit Theology teachers had always encouraged free/critical thinking.

    Now enough about Manny. The issue, after all, is not about Manny, in the same manner that it is not about PLS or myself. At the heart of the controversy is the Reproductive Health Bill vis a vis the Catholic Church's "counter draft bill".

    Indeed, this is a very contentious issue. People, Catholics and Non-Catholics alike, have aired different, albeit equally valid, views on the issue.

    May I add my own contribution to the debate?

    1. While the Constitution does not prohibit the church from engaging in politics, it prohibits "excessive entanglement" of the Church and State and proscribes the establishment of religion (Article 3, Section 5 of the Constitution. Yes, I have read the COnstitution). Lawmakers, therefore, cannot pass a law which favor a particular religion over the others, otherwise, the law will be struck down for violating the non-establishment of religion clause under the Constitution. Neither can the lawmakers refuse to pass a law simply because it is offensive to the beliefs of a particular religion, for as long as it does not curtail the free exercise of such religion.

    I, therefore, believe that PLS' observation that,"in passing a law, the lawmaker does not merely look at the interest of a particular RELIGIOUS group alone" is perfectly valid, if not correct.

    2. Freedom of choice. I don't see how the Reproductive Health Bill violates ones freedom of choice. The Bill does not impose the use of contraceptives on the people. It merely makes the same readily available to those who may opt to use the same. In the end, a person is still left with the choice of whether to pursue it or not. Hence, contrary to the claim that the bill curtails people's "freedom of choice", the Bill merely seeks to provide the people with more viable options.

    Furthermore, the Bill endorses Reproductive Health Education to enable the people to have a more informed choice. How can that be a curtailment of ones "freedom of choice", as Manny calls it?

    There is similarly nothing objectionable to the use of public funds for information dissemination. It is, after all, for a public purpose. Again, what the Constitution and the laws prohibit is the use of public/taxpayers' money for private ends.

    3. Oppositors also object to the Bill because of its allegedly morally questionable consequences. They claim that it promotes abortion by the use of abortifacients. I have yet to read more on this, lest I be called IGNORANT. One thing I can say on this for now, however, is, just because our views on the use of contraception differ from the Catholic Church’s does not make us any morally depraved, vile or wicked.

    4. Manny, in his comment stated:

    "Is the refusal of sacraments to politicians who support the bill a childish tactic? I cannot see how it can be childish. Why should the Church NOT refuse sacraments tot hose who openly, publicly, and consistently refuse to follow Church teachings?"

    Now, this is “despotism”. Whoever said that the Catholic Church has a monopoly on wisdom…and when did Jesus ever demand blind obedience?

    But I respect Manny's opinion. I do encourage him to respect others' opinions as well. I believe we can all have a level-headed discussion sans the ad hominem attacks (to quote PLS).

  5. I Don’t Think So!

    IGNORANCE is lack of knowledge about a thing, an idea or an issue in a being capable of knowing.

    I may not share PLS’s stand on the issue but fundamentally speaking and with regard to the post, it demonstrate that he has a comprehension about the idea pertaining to the subject.

    Manny, ignorance is the outcome of the LIMITATIONS of your intellect!

    Banal na Aso, Santong Kabayo!

    Merry Christmas!!!


  6. Xancha said: "I don't see how the Reproductive Health Bill violates ones freedom of choice. The Bill does not impose the use of contraceptives on the people."

    Reply: Have you read HB 5043, specifically Section 21? As I said in the Position Paper against HB 5043:

    Section 21, number 5, of the bill requires doctors and health workers to dispense such abortifacients and other artificial contraceptive devices and methods. If they refuse to do so on religious grounds, they must still refer those who want to use such abortifacients to another person who will dispense them. Conscientious objectors are thereby required to cooperate in such acts, and if they refuse, they are slapped penalties ranging from one to six months imprisonment and a fine of P10,000-P50,000! HB 5043 eliminates any choice for conscientious objectors and makes no room for their legitimate concerns.

    That's called coercion, and HB 5043 has lots of it. Here's more from the paper:

    Section 21 (e) of the proposed bill lists the following as a prohibited act: "Any person who maliciously engages in disinformation about the intent or provisions of this Act. This provision is overly broad and "disinformation" could (and most probably will) be construed as prohibiting the expression of objections to the Bill, such as what we are presently doing. This provision is is obviously going to be used to suppress dissent, and is an undue restriction of freedom of speech. It has no place in any of the laws of a democratic nation.

    The Bill even prohibits people from criticizing it, under the guise of preventing "disinformation"! Cong. John Pablo Garcia characterizes this provision as stupid and practically an attempt to turn reproductive health into a "state-mandated religion". And he's right.

    The Bill does NOT merely provide options. Those options already exist. Rather the Bill FORCES persons (doctors, employers, and health workers) to engage in morally questionable acts.

    Xancha also said: "Now, this is “despotism”. Whoever said that the Catholic Church has a monopoly on wisdom... and when did Jesus ever demand blind obedience?"

    Reply: There is a clear logical error here: a strawman argument. There was no claim that the Church had a monopoly of wisdom. Nor does it demand blind obedience.

    Now there is nothing despotic about demanding obedience to doctrines of a group of which one claims to be a member, and as such to be a believer in its doctrines. If you don't believe, then don't, but at least have the decency to be honest about it. One should not claim to be a Catholic when he/she doesn't believe the Catholic Church's fundamental doctrines. To do otherwise is just plain dishonest.

    I think ANY group to which one claims to belong has the right to demand at least some intellectual honesty from its members -- and the right to remove those who do not believe in the group's stated beliefs.

    I disagree. A simple reading of the Constitution would have revealed that the comment on separation of church and state was quite irrelevant. And a look at the newspapers would have shown a number of bishops loudly complaining about corruption -- almost to the point of calling for civil disobedience.


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