While the interpellations over the reproductive health bill in the House of Representatives have come to an end, debates will continue for a long time, into the Senate and, more importantly, in homes, schools and churches.
Amid all the noise, we need to ask the local leadership of the Catholic Church to state, categorically, if they support family planning at all. From all indications, they oppose family planning, whether “natural” or “artificial.” And the reasons are not doctrinal, because there are numerous documents, from the Catholic Catechism to the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines’ own declarations on responsible parenthood, that in fact allow family planning, for as long as it is “natural.” (See Eleanor Dionisio’s column last week, “But doesn’t the CBCP support responsible parenthood?”)
What we hear from the bishops and priests is ideological fire and fury directed against all family planning, and it is time to look at how these arguments come from a strange mix of arguments from the Left and the Right.
The Left view is exemplified by Mao Zedong, China’s leader for almost 30 years. In 1958, Mao was said to have proclaimed, “In the past I said we could manage with 800 million. Now I think 1 billion would be no cause for alarm.” When Mao died in 1976, China’s population had hit 946 million. Mao Zedong believed that in a socialist society, with good governance and equitable distribution of wealth, there was no need to worry about population growth.
The Right end of the ideological spectrum, represented by the late economist Julian Simon, also sees no problems with a large population. Unlike Mao though, Simon and his followers believe that large populations are most beneficial for, and in, capitalism. More people mean more consumers, and more workers. Let things be, Simon argues, and capitalism will always find ways to meet the needs of a population, no matter how rapid its growth was. Simon also opposed environmental conservation efforts, again arguing that capitalism would find solutions to environmental problems, preferably without government intervention.
I wonder how Mao and Simon would respond if they saw how their ideas are now being combined and used by Catholic bishops. Mao would probably frown at the bishops talking about economic equality and yet pursuing extravagant lifestyles and cavorting with corrupt politicians. Simon, on the other hand, would be surprised to find that the very same bishops using his arguments against population control are also at the forefront of antimining and environmental causes. An example of how Simon-type economists dismiss environmentalism comes in an article by Joseph Kellard, writing in the magazine Capitalism Today. After praising Simon’s opposition to environmentalism, he proposes that “environmentalist doomsayers are a logical outgrowth of religious apocalyptics, and their believers are just another sect of mystics.”
Both Mao and Simon’s support for unlimited population growth has been heavily disputed. Contrary to Simon’s projections, our environmental problems have grown through the years, exemplified by human-induced climate change. Our bishops fret too about climate change, but seem to forget this is climate change induced by humans and population growth.
As for Mao, barely three years after his death his successors, led by Deng Xiaoping, launched a draconian “one child per family” policy to slow down China’s population growth, one that has led to many abuses.
A few years ago, when the reproductive health bill was still on low boil, a physician friend in the Visayas told me about how she had participated in an antimining rally, marching side by side with her bishop. At one point, the bishop turned to her and invited her to join another rally, this time directed against the “Ligtas Buntis” campaign of the Department of Health, which was a maternal health program but which the Catholic bishops claimed was a front for population control and abortion. My friend smiled politely and of course didn’t show up for the anti-Ligtas Buntis rally, being a firm believer in family planning.
Like my physician friend, I would like to see more consistency from Catholic church leaders. I am against corruption too, and not just in government but also in the private sector. But, as I always tell my students, you have no right to complain about corruption if you can’t get your own act together in school; for example, if you cheat in your exams. By extension, the Catholic Church’s moral authority emanates not from doctrinal declarations but from how it behaves, and in this day and age, we have seen how many of the faithful are appalled by the way child molesters among the clergy were protected, shielded from prosecution. I am anticipating angry letters from other Catholic faithful saying we should just keep quiet about all these scandals and trust our bishops. And to you, I say in advance, you are not being faithful to the Church; you are part of the corruption that is destroying the Church.
Finally, I couldn’t agree more about the need for an equitable distribution of wealth and resources, but again would like to see Catholic leaders walking the talk with their own vast wealth. We need to see a revival of the social action programs that began in the 1970s that worked with the poorest of the poor, not with dole-out medical missions but with capacity-building programs for livelihood, shelter, health care. Yes, Gawad Kalinga is doing some of that, but remember too how they came under attack from conservatives supposedly for moving away from more spiritual concerns.
A growing number of Christians, including Catholics, see faith as being built on social justice and it is this cardinal principle that makes us oppose population control, including the “one child per family” policy of China. But it is social justice, too, that makes us support family planning, in the interest of promoting better health and survival of mothers, children and families.
Since I began my column by referring to the two ideological camps that have provided the mix-and-match arguments for anti-family planning groups, I want to go back and say there are Marxists and “leftists” as well as “capitalists” who accept family planning. There are people on the Left who see no contradiction between fighting for social justice and providing family planning services.
Likewise, there are dyed-in-the-wool capitalists who recognize that a large population does not necessarily translate to more consumers or, as local Opus Dei economists keep arguing, to Filipino workers for export. A more realistic view from capitalists is that a large population and irresponsible parenthood strain our social services, and society itself, tearing families and communities apart.
Bishop sends gifts to solons; CBCP sticks to guns on RH
By Gil C. Cabacungan, Kristine L. Alave
Philippine Daily Inquirer
2:41 am | Wednesday, August 15th, 2012
Archbishop Ramon Arguelles has taken a different tack in the Church crusade against the population control bill, sending congressmen gifts of religious trinkets and images of the Blessed Virgin Mary hoping those pushing for the measure would have a change of heart.
“Forgive me if in the past, due to the issues I as a Church servant have to uphold, I might have spoken uncharitably even to and about some of our government leaders,” Arguelles said in a letter that accompanied the gifts.
“Hoping and pleading for your kind understanding for this little attempt to reach you and humbly assuring you of our great respect and great expectations,” he added.
But not so the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP). It maintained its defiant stance against the reproductive health (RH) bill.
In a strongly worded statement, the CBCP on Tuesday slammed the Aquino administration’s display of “naked power” and “unbridled resort to foul tactics” in a surprise vote on Tuesday last week to stop debates on the bill. The CBCP likened the move to the blitzkrieg fashion in which the lawmakers impeached Chief Justice Renato Corona.
Lack of quorum
The lack of quorum prevented the House from starting the period of amendments Tuesday. “If there are no people, it means they have no support,” Parañaque Rep. Roilo Golez said of the proponents of the measure.
Arguelles had criticized President Aquino’s endorsement of the RH bill as “selective ‘matuwid na daan (straight path)’ program” and his push for Congress to speed up action on the measure as a “bad omen.”
“Aquino declared an open war, a head-on collision against us and against the Catholic Church. So terrible, so blatantly Aquino missed the point,” said the archbishop of Lipa a week before Congress abruptly voted on Aug. 6 to end the debates and proceed to the next battleground—the period of amendments.
“Of course not all our lawmakers are Catholics. But I appeal to Muslim legislators to accept this image of the woman they also look up highly in the Holy Book. To others, please, do not be offended but feel free to return the gift to us. This is just a sign of our assurance of prayers that Congress will do what is truly right,” Arguelles said in his letter.
Malabon Rep. Josephine Lacson-Noel on Tuesday said that she and other lawmakers were surprised by Arguelles’ gifts, which were ostensibly meant to sway their stand on the RH bill.
She said all the lawmakers received the gifts, including her husband, An-Waray Rep. Florencio Noel, who is opposed to the RH bill, and those belonging to other religious groups.
Pangasinan Rep. Kimi Cojuangco said she would display her gift in her office “as a reminder of my resolve to help pass the RH bill so that Filipino women, just like the Virgin Mary, will be given a better chance for a better life.”
Diwa Rep. Emmiline Aglipay, who received a pendant with an engraved image of the Virgin Mary, said her support for the bill was not about personal beliefs but about the obligations of the state.
“I am a Catholic congresswoman not a congresswoman of the Catholic Church,” Aglipay said in a text message.
Akbayan Rep. Walden Bello said: “I’m returning it, like I would return a monetary bribe. What does Arguelles think this is—the Middle Ages, when the Church could buy souls with indulgences?”
The CBCP, which declined to comment on the bill last week to focus on helping the flood victims, blasted the Aquino administration and its allies for abruptly ending the debates on Aug. 6, a day ahead of schedule.
When no one was looking
The CBCP said the move was “remarkable in its stealth and swiftness.”
“It came a full day too soon, just when no one was looking,” it said, referring to the preoccupation with the monsoon flooding.
“We are dismayed by the display of naked power. We lament the unilateral disregard of prior agreement in the pursuit of selfish goals. We detest the unbridled resort to foul tactics.”
The CBCP also called pro-RH bill legislators as “schemers” and described Mr. Aquino as an “intrusive” President. The CBCP said Aquino’s hand was clearly seen in the House, given the haste at which the bill was deliberated.
The prelates said the tactics used by the administration were “reminiscent of the events leading to the impeachment proceedings” against Corona, who was later removed.
Pork as bait
In a forum on Tuesday, CBCP president Jose Palma said there were reports that the administration dangled the pork barrel to lawmakers to gain their support.
He warned the administration against using the pork barrel to get the votes for the bill.
“This is owned by the people,” he said. “It should be given whether you are pro or anti-RH bill.”
Also Tuesday, an 11-page declaration signed by 160 faculty members of Ateneo de Manila University was released to reporters.
It called on lawmakers to “muster the courage and wisdom to vote (for the RH bill), not on the basis of vested interests, but in the service of the Filipino people and especially the poor from whom they derive and to whom they owe their mandate.”
“We believe that the key principles of the RH bill are compatible with core principles of Catholic social teaching, such as the sanctity of human life, dignity of the human person, the preferential option for the poor, integral human development, human rights, and the primacy of conscience,” the paper said.
With reports from Jeannette I. Andrade, Leila B. Salaverria and Christian V. Esguerra
MANILA, Philippines—Senate majority leader Tito Sotto alleged on Wednesday that at least four non-government organizations presenting themselves as “pro-women” receive funding from international groups advocating abortion.
In the second salvo of his series against the Reproductive Health bill, Sotto charged that international organizations including the US Agency for International Development (USAID) have programs targeting developing countries that aim to reduce their populations.
In a speech delivered before a fully packed Senate gallery, Sotto named the local NGOs as the Family Planning Organization of the Philippines (FPOP), Reproductive Health Advocacy Network (RHAN), its affiliate LIKHAAN and the Democratic Socialist Women of the Philippines, which actively participated in hearings on the RH bill.
Among those in the gallery was former Health Secretary Esperanza Cabral who, just on Tuesday, asked Sotto to produce the death certificate of his infant son whom the senator said was conceived despite the contraceptives his wife took.
Cabral said contraceptives could not be responsible for the “weak heart” suffered by Sotto’s son but the senator insisted otherwise.
Sotto said he would give Cabral a copy of the death certificate.
“I would like to take exception to the statements made by Dr. Cabral and to a certain extent by Congresswoman Garin, in reaction to my disclosure and confession on the death of my first son, Vincent Paul. I find their statements callous and insensitive and it is unfortunate that the reproductive health debate has come to this level. They should have given the sorrow of my family more respect,” he said in his speech.
In his speech, Sotto said the NGOs “want to make it appear that their interest is the health of our women. But my research showed that they have partnered with foreign organizations to acquaint our society with modern and liberal RH schemes.”
The senator charged that FPOP, in particular, received a subsidy of $625,095 “or almost P27.5M” in 2011 from the International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF).
“FPOP’s website displays the organization’s support to the use of abortive facilities. In fact, the FPOP posted on its website an instructional brochure discussing different methods of abortion, depending on the weeks of pregnancy,” Sotto charged.
“Furthermore, FPOP’s website is linked to a website named Women on Waves which provides contacts to abortion clinics worldwide,” he added.
Sotto hammered on IPPF’s global agenda to promote abortion and the dissemination of contraceptives.
RHAN, on the other hand, even “submitted a budget proposal to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) containing a budget allocation for ‘nurturing legislators’ to expedite the passage of the RH Bill,” he said.
Sotto described RHAN’s affiliate, LIKHAAN as among the local groups “actively pushing for the RH bill.
“LIKHAAN openly supports abortion, as it features in its website step-by-step procedure on how to abort a baby. To make matters worse, the instructional material desperately intends to reach the Filipino masses by using Filipino language and putting pictures that clearly illustrate how to abort,” Sotto charged.
“In addition, there is a video featuring Dr. Junice Melgar, head of Likhaan who was quoted as saying, ‘If you are pro-women, you will have contacts to the services that are underground’ and whose other statements refer to abortion service providers,” he added.
“These organizations have such huge budgets so it’s not surprising that they have very active campaigns for the RH bill on radio, TV, print and especially the Internet,” Sotto noted.
“The strong pressure and the massive propaganda materials emanating from various groups cannot simply be put aside. They have been doing everything to impose their hidden agenda through the RH bill,” Sotto said.
He charged the DSWP of excluding unborn children in the definition of “children,” saying the group claimed that “calling the unborn a child is going beyond what the Constitution provides.”
“This organization further claims that only children have human rights, excepting the unborn,” Sotto said.
The senator blasted foreign organizations funding the local NGOs including the USAID, World Health Organization, World Bank and all economic agencies whom he said “were given a directive to gear their policies and programs towards promoting the reduction of the world’s population especially in less developed countries” based on National Security Memorandum 200 issued by Henry Kissinger.
Sotto said Kissinger was “the source of the entire family planning, population and poverty-reduction programs of the US. All loans, grants and aid coming from the US and Western powers must be based on reduction of population through birth control.”
“Since the USAID is the principal instrument for the so-called development programs, there are NGOs and government agencies in the Philippines that have been contacted, supported and funded by it,” he added.
“These foreign organizations underhandedly seek to legalize abortion in countries where it is still a crime. And that I believe is exactly what they’re doing now in our country through this bill. This bill is a foreign-dictated policy, forcing us to adopt population control and abortion, contrary to the values that we uphold,” said the staunch anti-RH senator.
Sotto also questioned the claim of RH backers that 11 Filipino mothers die every day due to childbirth complications.
Sotto said he sent his staff to conduct a nationwide survey of government hospitals to verify this detail.
Instead of confirming this, however, Sotto said the Nueva Viscaya Provincial Hospital recorded only two maternal deaths for the entire 2011; the Pangasinan Provincial Hospital, 4; the Batangas Regional Hospital, 7 out of 2,584 deliveries, or .27 percent, last year. Meanwhile, the Cavite Naval Hospital recorded no maternal deaths for 2011 at all.
“If the National Statistics Coordinating Board cannot confirm their claim of 11 maternal deaths daily, where did the Department of Health get this? Is it possible that foreign organizations fed it this figure to use it to pressure lawmakers like us?” Sotto asked.
“I think it was Joseph Goebbels, Hitler’s hated propagandist, who said that a lie repeated several times would eventually be accepted as fact by the people,” he recalled.
“This is exactly what is happening now since several documents have pointed out that the so-called 11 maternal deaths a day in the Philippines is a canard and yet RH proponents continued to hoist it as gospel truth. I challenge the RH bill supporters to give me the names of faces of the 11 mothers who died in one particular day if they want me to believe in their claim,” Sotto dared.
The senator said an employee of the Senate secretariat who visited Uganda recently reported that the same claim of 11 maternal deaths daily was also being bandied in that country by NGOs.
The proponents of the bill also did not escape Sotto’s tirade as he observed that they “admitted that they sought the assistance of various non-government organizations specifically to learn about the effects of certain procedures or nuances of terminologies used in the bill. This in effect gave these organizations the opportunity to incorporate their distorted beliefs and principles in the bill.”
At the behest of President Benigno Aquino, proponents announced Wednesday proposed 10 changes in the reproductive health (RH) bill to make it more acceptable, including deletion of any reference to family size and the classification of contraceptives as essential medicines.
The entire section of the consolidated bill which recommended an ideal family size to Filipinos was deleted, in deference to the wishes of the President, said Albay Representative Edcel Lagman, who was to introduce the alterations at the start on Tuesday of the period of amendments in the plenary.
The proposed changes—reached weeks before the Palace meeting with congressmen last week—suggest that the bill is not a population control measure and amend provisions that tie responsible parenthood and family planning components to antipoverty programs, according to its authors.
However, opponents of the measure, for the second straight day yesterday, managed to block discussions on the changes by delivering privilege speeches.
Lagman, principal author of the RH bill, said that the deletion of the section on family size was made to allay apprehensions that the measure was intended to impose a two-child policy.
He said that the deleted provision was never meant to be compulsory in the first place.
The authors of the RH bill also agreed to scrap the section classifying family planning supplies, including contraceptives, as essential medicines, according to Lagman.
This would be replaced by a new provision directing the Food and Drug Administration to determine the safety and efficacy of supplies for modern family planning methods prior to their procurement and distribution.
Ifugao Representative Teddy Baguilat said some of the proposed amendments dealt with softening language to remove contentious phrases to appease critics, led by the powerful Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP).
He stressed this did not necessarily mean that the intent of the RH bill would be diluted.
On August 6, hours after a meeting with the President, a majority of the congressmen in a voice vote ended debates on the bill to bring it to the period of amendments.
The swiftness of the Congress action was denounced by the CBCP as a display of “naked power” reminiscent of the impeachment in December of then Chief Justice Renato Corona. The bishops however insisted they have the numbers to squelch the measure
Foreign agencies denounced
In the Senate Wednesday, Majority Leader Vicente Sotto in the second part of his turno en contra speech on the floor denounced foreign agencies, including the US Agency for International Development, the United Nations and the World Bank, for promoting population control.
Last week, the country representative of the UN Population Fund said that the passage of the RH bill was essential to the Philippines reaching its millennium development goals of reducing poverty.
The Senate leadership has been accused of siding with the Catholic Church in blocking passage of the bill in the upper chamber. The period of interpellation has been closed, but was reopened after Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile said he still had questions on the measure which he was unable to ask because of his preoccupation as presiding judge in the recent impeachment trial of Corona.
Another proposed amendment in the House version of the RH bill seeks to change the age at which mandatory reproductive health and sex education would start, according to its authors. Under the new version, sex education would begin in the sixth grade instead of the fifth.
The teaching of values formation would take into account religious affiliation. The subjects to be included in sex education would include proper and responsible sexual values and behavior, delayed entry into sexual relations, abstinence before marriage, avoidance of multiple sexual partners, and prevention of sexually transmitted diseases.
Parents would also be given the option not to allow minor children to attend reproductive health and sexuality education classes to respect religious convictions and beliefs.
The proponents also agreed to delete the section on employers’ responsibilities on RH services for their employees.
Other proposals include:
■Funding of mobile health-care services for districts by the national government, instead of the pork barrel of politicians.
■Rephrasing prohibited acts and refusal to perform legal and medically safe RH procedures on the ground of lack of marital or parental consent and clarifying actions expected of a conscientious objector to certain family planning practices, and prohibiting pharmaceutical companies from colluding with government officials or contributing to partisan political activities.
■Revoking the license of pharmaceutical companies or its agents, and fining them for violating the law.
■Emphasizing that the state would fund the promotion of modern natural methods of family planning consistent with the needs of acceptors.
Guaranteeing religious freedom and the option of hospitals owned by religious groups in the provision of a full range of modern family planning methods. With reports from Christian V. Esguerra, Jocelyn R. Uy and Cathy C. Yamsuan
Bishop says Church has the numbers in Congress to defeat RH bill in a vote
By Jocelyn R. Uy
Philippine Daily Inquirer
1:10 am | Thursday, August 16th, 2012
The stunning manner lawmakers ended debates last week on the controversial reproductive health (RH) bill, which was denounced by Catholic bishops as a display by the Aquino administration of “naked power,” did not mean the Church campaign against the measure was doomed.
Antipolo Bishop Gabriel Reyes, chairman of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines-Episcopal Commission on Family and Life, on Wednesday insisted that the Church has the numbers in the House of Representatives to reject the bill when it comes to a final vote.
Reyes told reporters on Tuesday that not all of the lawmakers who voted on August 6 to end interpellation on the bill and bring it to the next stage, the period of amendments, meant they favored it.
He said he had received assurances from the congressmen even before the voting last week that they still sided with the Church.
“Those who voted to end the debates last week did not mean that they are already pro-RH,” Reyes said.
140 congressmen vs RH
He noted that the bishops’ count of 140 congressmen opposing the measure was also corroborated by a survey among lawmakers themselves. Prior to the meeting in Malacañang last week, a separate survey showed that 145 lawmakers were against the bill, he said.
“More or less, it coincided with our survey of 140… but that was before the meeting in Malacañang so the number might have changed,” the prelate said.
He also added that since the bill was already up for amendments, the Church would also push for the removal of “objectionable” provisions in the bill.
“We would want these provisions—first, the sex education without values and the need for employers to provide contraceptives to their employees—out of the RH bill,” Reyes said.
The provisions, especially the pills, were against “the faith” and “religious freedom,” he said.
In a statement on Tuesday, the bishops’ conference slammed the viva voce vote in the House on August 6 to terminate debates.
“We are dismayed by the display of naked power. We lament the unilateral disregard of prior agreement in the pursuit of selfish goals,” the bishops said, ostensibly referring to the lawmakers’ decision to move the vote a day ahead of schedule after a meeting with President Aquino. “We detest the unbridled resort to foul tactics.”
Women's health in the hands of senators and congressmen
FROM THE STANDS
By Domini M. Torrevillas
(The Philippine Star) Updated August 16, 2012 12:00 AM
For more than 10 years, concerned citizens have been lobbying for the passage of a reproductive health bill, but have been frustrated by stern opposition from the Roman Catholic hierarchy. The passage of the latest bill titled, “An Act Providing for a Comprehensive Policy on Responsible Parenthood, Reproductive Health and Population and Development and for Other Purposes,” now lies in the hands of the members of the Senate and House of Representatives.
But again, the church, along with anti-RH lay proponents, have been spreading misinformation about the bill (like saying it is for abortion and encouraging promiscuity among others), and warning pro-RH Catholic legislators of losing in the 2013 elections if they vote for the bill’s passage.
The misinformation being peddled by the clergy has compelled a group of RH supporters to place an ad in newspapers calling on the lawmakers to listen not to what the bishops say, but to the millions of Filipinos who want such a bill passed. “Sino ang BOSS ninyo?” (Who is your boss), the ad asks. “Ang taong bayan ang Boss ninyo, HINDI ang mga Obispo!” (The people are your boss, not the bishops.)
The ad cites empirical evidence that backs the critical need for the RH bill. Surveys show the following:
• Filipino mothers die each day due to pregnancy, and childbirth-related complications have increased from 11 in 2006 to 15 in 2011 (National Statistics Office, Family Health Survey 2006 and 2012).
• About 25 million Filipinos live in absolute poverty, many of them couples having more children than they want and can provide for.
• Half of all pregnancies (about 1.9 million) are unplanned or unintended. (University of the Philippines Population Institute/Likhaan 2009)
• Teen pregnancies have risen from 14 percent to 19 percent during 2006 -2011 (Family Health survey 2011).
• Eighty percent of Filipinos say that Family Planning is a personal choice and that no one should interfere with it (Social Weather Station, 2011).
• Seventy percent of Filipinos are in favor of Reproductive Health/Family Planning (SWS surveys).
Signatories of the message stress that while government works “to improve our economy and the lives of our people, poverty continues to rise. There are 25 million Filipinos living in absolute poverty according to official data, but this reality is made worse by the fact that most of the poor have more than they want and can provide for. They have more children than intended due to lack of accurate information on and services for family planning. Their children are deprived of opportunities to live decent and fulfilling lives. And many poor mothers die giving life.”
“Providing basic education and health care, housing and food, as well as creating jobs for the poor are the Government’s responsibilities, not the Catholic Church hierarchy’s who do not have the knowledge, capacity or even willingness to assume such responsibilities and burdens,” the signatories say.
“Are the empty threats from leaders of the Catholic Church more important than the threat of rising cases of HIV and AIDS, which has reached an alarming rate of one HIV infection every four hours?” ask the signatories.
“We believe that the more than 10 years of repetitive debates among members of the Senate and the House of Representatives are more than enough time to arrive at a decisive vote on the bill.”
The signatories have come together to make their “collective voice heard on the critical importance of the RH bill for the well-being of women, children, families, and the country’s long-term development. Most of us are Catholics who believe that reproductive health is a basic right and, hence, strongly support the passage of the RH bill.”
Filipinos, regardless of socioeconomic status and religion, have the right and the opportunity to live healthy, dignified and fulfilling lives, say the signatories, well-respected business executives, academicians and health professionals. “But this aspiration will not be attained if mothers and children are unable to access the full range of reproductive health services and information as intended by Senate Bill 2865 and House Bill 4244 providing a government policy framework for responsible parenthood, reproductive health, and population development.”
The signatories, well-respected businessmen, academicians and health professionals are Dr. Alberto Romualdez, Luz Frances Chua, Fidel V. Ramos, Cesar E.A. Virata, Oscar Lopez, Benjamin de Leon, Bishop Rodrigo Tano, Dr. Edelina dela Paz, Dr. Eden Divinagracia, Dr. Junice Melgar, Elizabeth Ansioco, Atty. Elizabeth Aguiling-Pangalangan, Gessen Rocas, Rosario Tanada, Alvin Dakis, Gibby Gorres, Dr. Esperanza Cabral, Dr. Ernesto M. Pernia, Dr. Jaime Z. Galvez-Tan, Roberto A.O. Nebrida, Romeo Dongeto, Cyndy Tan Jarabata, Red Tani, Rodelio Ablir, HOMENET Philippines, UP Economists, UP Institute of Human Rights, ReproCen, Alliance of Young Nurses Leaders & Advocates, International, Inc., Alliance of Young Health Advocates, Student Nurses Alliance of the Philippines, Reproductive Health Advocacy Network, and RHAN.
Catholic bishop goes after Ateneo professors for heresy
By Kristine L. Alave
Philippine Daily Inquirer
12:25 am | Tuesday, August 21st, 2012
It’s not exactly an inquisition but 159 members of the Ateneo de Manila University faculty may face investigation for heresy, and sacked—not excommunicated—if found guilty.
Bishop Leandro Medroso, in an interview over Church-run Radio Veritas Monday, called for an investigation of the Ateneo faculty members who signed a statement declaring support for the controversial reproductive health (RH) bill being pushed by the Aquino administration in Congress.
Medroso, the permanent council member of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) and chairman of the Episcopal Commission on Canon Law, said the university should make sure that the teachers who endorsed House Bill No. 4244 were not teaching concepts against Church laws.
“That has to be investigated. The first principle of Canon law about this matter is that we don’t allow teaching that which is against the official teachings of the Church. Now, if there is somebody who is giving instructions against the teachings of the Church, then they have to investigate immediately,” Medroso said.
Those found guilty of teaching students concepts contrary to Church teachings could be fired, he said. Church officials have previously raised the possibility of excommunication for Catholics espousing population control.
Ateneo officials were not available for comment Monday, a holiday.
Recently, Archbishop Jose Palma of Cebu, the current CBCP president, warned Catholic schools and teachers to toe the line or end up in hot water.
“They should be consistent and true to the nature of their calling, which is to enlighten and teach the Catholic doctrine. They should realize how important their vocation and their mission is, which is of course to impart the Catholic teaching,” Palma said.
The CBCP acknowledges that there are some differences in the beliefs of teachers and Church teachings on topics like reproductive health. The group said that while it respected academic freedom in colleges and universities, Catholic institutions should adhere to Church laws.
In issuing the statement of support, Ateneo’s faculty members said the RH bill would provide much-needed maternal and infant health care to all Filipinos regardless of religious beliefs.
“The reality is, despite the Philippines being predominantly Catholic, the majority of Filipinos want the full range of family planning services, including ‘artificial’ contraception,” they said.
“Our reflected and collective appraisal of the Responsible Parenthood, Reproductive Health and Population and Development Bill is that it is a vital piece of legislation that needs to be passed urgently,” the paper said.
The Guidon, Ateneo’s student newspaper, said it was not the first time that its professors had released a statement endorsing the bill, which has been pending for more than a decade. The first statement was issued in 2008, with 66 signatories.
The Guidon said another statement followed in 2011, signed by more than 200 faculty members from Ateneo and the University of the Philippines. With a report from Dona Z. Pazzibugan
The bishops have thrown the gauntlet at the Ateneo de Manila professors who have signed a statement in support of reproductive rights. The bishops direct their challenge to schools, warning that they can “strip a school of its affiliation with the Church” if they “teach anything contrary to the official teaching of the Church.”
The Ateneo president replied that the university does not support the passage of the Reproductive Health bill and that it differs with the 192 faculty signatories of the pro-RH statement. Ateneo’s carefully worded statement concluded by “ask[ing] all those who are engaged in the Christian formation of our students to ensure that the Catholic position on this matter continues to be taught in our classes, as we have always done.”
The website of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines mentions one example of a school that had been recently penalized—the Pontifical Catholic University of Peru—because some of its policies were “not compatible with the discipline and morals of the Church.” Perhaps it should have also mentioned that the Georgetown University law school has a fellowship that funds students who intern with the litigation office of Planned Parenthood Action Fund, and whose faculty and students have served as prochoice advocates.
I have long warned about the dark side of academic freedom. We generally try to insulate our universities from outside pressure coming from the government agencies. But that merely shows one side of the equation—that is, “institutional academic freedom” enjoyed by all schools of higher learning.
In the situation before us, the bishops pose no threat to the institutional freedom of Ateneo. The bishops are not part of the state, and the worst they can threaten is to withhold a school’s bona fides as a Catholic institution. That threat works only with schools for whom that certification matters. (Contrast that to this: Imagine that the CBCP makes that same threat to the University of the Philippines.) In other words, both the threat and the response are internal to a religion, left to its own believers to work out among themselves.
The real problem is when the school, acting on that religious belief, curtails the other aspect of academic freedom—namely, the individual freedom of its faculty members to speak on matters within their area of expertise and authority. If any disciplinary action is taken against faculty members who speak their minds and the school tries to immunize that decision from outside review, then we have a clash between the institutional academic freedom of the school (saying it is entitled to define its own institutional mission) and the individual academic freedom of its faculty (who are entitled to the mantle of constitutional protection when they speak as scholars).
A Facebook post, apparently from someone within the Loyola campus, said that the stance of Ateneo shows that it is more a Catholic and less a true university. Therein lies the irony here. The Constitution protects academic freedom only for schools of “higher learning.” One earns that protection only by acting like a true university. Let us support the brave 192 signatories.
Given the heated arguments, maybe the title should end with a question mark. Is it possible to be sober, rational and truthful about reproductive health (RH), and still be a good Catholic? I, for one, certainly wouldn’t give up trying. My father was prefect of the Sodality in his student days at Ateneo (and member as well of the Legion of Mary), and he would expect nothing less from his eldest son who chose to study at a pagan school in Diliman peopled by godless communists.
We must confine the debate to what the philosopher John Rawls called “public reason.” Rawls doesn’t call on people to cast away their “comprehensive doctrines of truth or right”—like religion—but only that in political discourse in a public forum, they should advance those beliefs in terms that are accessible to everyone.
In relation to RH, we should exclude arguments based on a specific religion, such as those made by that congressman who proclaimed on the floor of Congress that when the 1987 Constitution says “We, the sovereign Filipino people, imploring the aid of Almighty God…,” it refers “only to the Catholic God.” So what does that make of the millions of Muslim Filipinos? Since they are part of the “sovereign Filipino people,” we make them invoke our God instead of theirs? Good heavens.
Given the religiously charged debate on reproductive health, public reason demands that we argue only on terms acceptable to people of all faiths. When Catholic anti-RH crusaders invoke the Bible, that works only with their fellow believers, but not to nonbelievers. How would Catholics feel if Muslims invoked Koranic verses against them?
Admittedly, on some questions—“When does life begin?”—we can’t avoid religion. Science says the moment of “implantation,” the Catholic Church, “fertilization.” So for this debate, let us focus on the one birth-control method that prevents fertilization altogether, namely, condoms. In other words, if the bishops still object even when there is no fertilized egg at all, then it means they’re not really being candid with us. The anti-RH debate is merely a smokescreen for a different agenda.
It is time to end the congressional debate on the RH bill. It has dragged on for too long. The first RH bills were filed in the 11th Congress (1998-2001) and the 12th (2001-04), and both times the bills died at the first committee level. By the 13th Congress (2004-07), four bills were filed in the Senate and one consolidated bill in the House of Representatives, of which only the House bill got as far as the second committee level. More recently, in the 14th Congress (2007-10), the Senate and the House each had their own RH bills, and both bills this time survived the two committee levels and got as far as the second reading, where they got marooned in procedural limbo. It is only now in the 15th Congress that the bills have advanced to plenary debate, and thus the come-hell-or-high-water desperation of the anti-RH lobby.
In those debates, it is my hope that we can avoid deliberate misinformation: one, that the RH bill legalizes abortion (it plainly does not); and two, that it prescribes “artificial” methods of contraception (indeed, it offers married couples the full range of options).
Two, we musn’t ignore the facts. Figures show that each year in the Philippines, 473,000 unintended pregnancies end in abortion, 79,000 women are hospitalized due to abortion-related complications, and 800 women die due to such complications because they are often refused treatment and humiliated in hospitals.
In the words of Junice Melgar, M.D., of Likhaan (whom Sen. Tito Sotto singled out by name on the Senate floor): “Effective family planning minimizes unplanned pregnancies—the starting point of most women’s decision to undergo an abortion. Humane post-abortion care reduces repeat abortions through counseling and immediate access to contraception. Sexuality education by trained schoolteachers cuts down teenagers’ risky sexual behaviors.”
Three, the anti-RH crusaders must stop portraying pro-RH activists as bad Catholics.
If politics makes strange bedfellows, some (not all) anti-RH politicians make the creepiest bedfellows for the Roman Catholic clergy. They include characters whose extramarital lives do not conform to Catholic teaching, whose vices cannot by any stretch of the imagination earn heavenly indulgences, or whose inane utterances affront the rationality and eloquence of the Church’s great thinkers.
In contrast, many of the pro-RH advocates have been drawn to the RH cause precisely because they have taken to heart the Church’s teaching on the “preferential option for the poor.” They value life. They recognize the simple fact that less unwanted pregnancies will also mean fewer abortions. Here I borrow a quote I saw on Facebook: “[N]o woman has ever ambitioned to have an abortion. But abortion remains a fact of life, and a fact of death, for many women.”
RH advocates know that to oppose contraceptives is knowingly to abet abortions. They recognize that the loftiest sermons about chastity are empty and hollow to nubile girls who live under the flyovers of Edsa, in one-room hovels where unrelated males and females sleep in common areas, without toilets or showers, or in wooden kariton where they are vulnerable 24/7 to sexual predators. They know that the best way to strengthen the Filipino family is to empower fathers and mothers to plan their families responsibly.
Social justice is in the Philippine Constitution but it is equally a part of Catholic teaching. Reproductive health has been debated as an issue of free choice—rightly so—but it is time we recognized it also as a duty of the state to ensure the equal right of all Filipinos, especially the poor, to take charge of their lives.
EVEN before the "limits to growth" hypothesis broke out in the 1970s, as an economist I had always rejected any attempt to resuscitate the completely discredited theory that Thomas Malthus first proffered more than two centuries ago. My training at Harvard under Nobel Prize winners like Simon Kuznets inoculated me once and for all against the Malthusian germ. Over the last half century, the Malthusian theory has been disproved time and time again. Population growth does not lead to mass starvation given the unlimited propensity of the human mind to increase the productivity of the earth's resources. What limits human resources is the propensity of the human will to evil. But that's another thing.
No matter how convinced I am about my economic theory concerning population and poverty, however, I try to have the intellectual humility to admit that I could be wrong since economics is a very inexact science. Of course, the population controllers could also be wrong. That is why I want to turn in this instance to a science--theology--in which freedom from human error is possible. I am absolutely sure that the RH Bill can do much damage to Philippine society because it promotes artificial contraceptives which are intrinsically evil. I have the infallible authority of the Popes who pronounced many times that "every action which, whether in anticipation of the conjugal act, or in its accomplishment, or in the development of its natural consequences, proposes, whether as an end or as a means to render procreation impossible" is intrinsically evil (Humanae Vitae, 14). Under this declaration, contraceptive pills, condoms, IUDs, tubal ligation, vasectomy and other forms of artificial contraception are intrinsically evil from the moral point of view.
Before a few Catholic priests or lay people can object that this pronouncement of the Popes is not infallible because it was not made ex cathedra, let me remind them of the teachings of the Second Vatical Council (the fiftieth anniversary of whose opening we will celebrate on October 11, 2012). As any one can read in the document "Dogmatic Constitution on the Church" (Lumen Gentium) promulgated on November 21, 1964, "Bishops who teach in communion with the Roman Pontiff, are to be revered by all as witnesses of divine and Catholic truth; the faithful
for their part, are obliged to submit to their bishops' decision, made in the name of Christ, in matters of faith and morals, and to adhere to it with a ready and respectful allegiance of mind. This loyal submission of the will and intellect must be given, in a special way, to the authentic teaching authority of the Roman Pontiff, even when he does not speak ex cathedra in such wise, indeed, that his supreme teaching authority be acknowledged with respect, and sincere assent be given to decisions made by him, conformably with his manifest mind and intention, which is made known principally either by the character of the documents in question, or by the frequency with which a certain doctrine is proposed, or by the manner in which the doctrine is formulated (Lumen Gentium, 25). In short, the Vicar of Christ on earth, the Supreme Pontiff is infallible every time he teaches on matters of dogma or morals, even if he does not teach ex cathedra. His ordinary teaching authority is enough to oblige Catholics to adhere to his teachings.
I have news for Catholics – whether priests or lay people – who maintain that they can still be good Catholics while rejecting the teaching about the intrinsic moral evil of artificial contraceptives. You may not be excommunicated (considered today as too extreme a solution to doctrinal error). But you are violating the obligation to "submit to your bishops' decision, made in the name of Christ, in matters of faith and morals." You are willfully refusing to adhere to a teaching on morals (not economics or politics) with a ready and respectful allegiance of mind. In short, you can consider yourself a Catholic of good standing only by a wide stretch of your imagination. If you have influence on others because of your position or social standing, you are doing a great damage to the souls of others.
I am very glad that Catholic bishops in the Philippines have been very vocal about the infallible doctrine concerning the intrinsic evil of artificial contraceptives. As Lumen Gentium further states (Ibid.), "Although the bishops, taken individually, do not enjoy the privilege of infallibility, they do, however, proclaim infallibly the doctrine of Christ on the following conditions: namely, when, even though dispersed throughout the world but preserving for all that amongst themselves and with Peter's successor the bond of communion, in their authoritative teaching concerning matters of faith and morals, they are in agreement that a particular teaching is to be held definitively and absolutely."
With those who do not share my Catholic faith, I can only continue to dialogue in a friendly way about the harmful effects on the economy and on society as whole of a contraceptive culture or mentality. I don't expect them to accept lock, stock, and barrel my arguments based on the human sciences. I expect, however, my brothers and sisters in the Catholic faith to seriously consider the points I have raised here about the infallibility of the Pope (and the bishops united to the Pope) in everything that has to do with dogma and morals. The proper use of sex is one hundred percent a moral issue. For comments, my email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.