A Reuters report has this for a headline: Philippine Catholic Church drafts own population bill. It's an interesting read. It goes:
Three points in relation to the abovequoted article:
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
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