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Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Filipino Seminarians' detailed critique of the RH Bill

The Seminarians’ Network of the Philippines, Inc.


1. More than a decade has passed since the very first “Reproductive Health Bill” was filed in Congress, a long period which is a testimony of how divided we have become as a nation on this issue. This issue has ripped us apart, set each of us up as either pro-RH or anti-RH, each against the other.

2. At present, no less than six such bills are pending in the two houses of Congress. And most widely known of them is HB 96 which is currently being studied by the appropriate legislative committees. Once more, we have become divided among ourselves. We hear and read various data and opinions said and written on television, radio, newspaper, and now, the internet.

3. Having read the bill and carefully listened to all sides of the issue especially that of the poor, having rigorously studied the insights of ethics and theology and the data from scientific research, and having discerned in our individual seminary communities and as one network, we, The Diocesan Seminarians’ Network of the Philippines, Inc. (SemNet), comprising Catholic theology seminarians who are preparing to take up leadership roles in our local Churches, wish to offer the following thoughts and sentiments.

Protecting Life

4. We call on everyone to pay attention to the fact that the principle that life is of fundamental value is not only upheld by Judaeo-Christian tradition (Evangelium Vitae, 1, 47) but also protected by the Constitution of our land, which defends it from the time of conception up to its natural end (Art. II Sec. 12). This provision set in our fundamental law stands as the testament to the commitment of the Filipino to care for life. As a nation, we believe that we will never attain true development if the right to life is violated in our society.

5. We therefore call the attention of our lawmakers to the knowledge about the micro-abortifacient nature and effects of some contraceptive medicines and devices like the IUD and some pills. We condemn the proposal in HB 96 (Sec. 4, 15 and Sec. 7) to use public funds for the procurement and free-access distribution of such abortifacients. Such a move is not only un-Christian, but also beyond doubt un-Filipino. Preserving the Family

6. We seek to defend the integrity of the family. We must not forget that we Filipinos are family-oriented. And we recall that good family life is the foundation of a stable and progressive society, for it is primarily in the family that mind, morals, and faith are formed (cf. Familiaris Consortio, 2) so that citizens may productively serve the society at large. Therefore, the integrity of the family must be one of the aims of any program for public health and responsible parenthood.

7. We believe that the couples must remain open to the gift of procreation, i.e. use natural means. Responsible parenthood—which includes family planning—is integral to ensuring family health (Humanae Vitae, 10). But the Church has always stressed the use of natural means in planning the number and spacing of children (Humanae Vitae, 14). Scientific research has developed many such natural means which when properly used prove to be highly effective. We fault the Department of Health for the disregard of and mere “lip service” to Natural Family Planning (NFP). Greater promotion of this morally superior option for the NFP must be done.

8. We are also against the proposal of HB 96 (sec. 9) to consider as “essential medicines” the devices and medicines for artificial methods of contraception. Such move promotes the mentality that pregnancy is a disease. We believe that such a mentality is largely based on the view about the sexual act that robs it of its loving and life-giving ends but instead reduces it to mere recreation.

9. We also believe that the most effective means to educate children and youth towards sexual integrity is through the family, especially the proper care and guidance of the parents (Gaudium et Spes, 49). This is also the best way to ensure that the youth grow in sexual awareness and maturity. To just disseminate to the youth “value-free” information about sex and contraceptives simply increases the risk of unwanted pregnancy and venereal diseases because they experiment with their sexual faculties.

10. We thus hold fast to the fact that education in sexuality is the primarily the right and duty of the parents, not of the school or the State. The parents’ exercise of their educative role must not be bypassed by any institution but rather be supported and enriched in implementing a program for sex education. Defending the Conscience

11. We staunchly oppose the provisions in HB 96 that violate the basic right of every person to live and proclaim one’s faith, i.e. according to his conscience (Dignitatis Humanae, 1) such as the following:

a. Obliging healthcare institutions and professionals to prescribe or provide to their patients artificial contraception or direct micro-abortion even if they consider it as immoral by reasons of faith (cf. HB 96 sec. 22).

b. Demanding employers to include provisions for artificial contraception or direct micro-abortion among the benefits of their employees (cf. HB 96, sec. 18).

c. Requiring schools, parents, and students to participate in sex education programs which partly or entirely violate the teachings of their religious affiliation (cf. HB 96, sec. 13).

d. Penalizing believers who speak out their conscience against a wide-scale program that includes micro-abortion and has insufficient regard for family integrity (cf. HB 96, sec. 22, e).

12. We also call on all Catholics to boldly defend their conscience, to heed faithfully the truths taught by the Church, and to eagerly proclaim these teachings to everyone. Let us not allow ourselves to be carried away by the culture that views sex as mere recreation and children as mere burdens. We urge spouses not to be afraid to witness to others about the benefits of responsible parenthood through the natural family planning. We also encourage our fellow youth not be ashamed of attesting to your fellow young ones the beauty of self-discipline and marital commitment. 

Realizing Democracy 

13. We acknowledge that a responsible parenthood program is essential to achieving national progress as long as it does not depart from the long-standing values of our nation. But we must also realize that we can only arrive at this goal through reasonable dialogue and responsible democracy. 

14. We urge those engaged in academic work, especially priests and our fellow seminarians to be more rigorous in studying and teaching ethics according to reason and faith. And as we do our learned ministry, let us not fail to attend to all angles of the discussion. Let us make it a point to listen especially to those most affected by this issue: the poor and the women. 

15. We also call on media companies to be responsible heralds of the facts. Do not editorialize the news. Do not misquote individuals or take the statements they make out of context. Do not sensationalize the news for the sake of ratings or profit. Inform the public of the whole truth. Deception of the public is grave treason to the nation! 

16. We urge every Filipino to learn the art of engaging in reasonable dialogue. The recent manner of discussion has been marked by exchanges of foul language and offensive words. Acts like these done by both “pro” and “anti” parties only bring about further unnecessary division among us. Let us not be narrow-minded. Let us read and listen so that we all may learn more about the issue and make well-grounded opinions. Only then can we exercise bayanihan. Only then can we be agents of significant development for holistic healthcare in our beloved country. 

Achieving Integral Development 

17. We firmly believe that overpopulation is not the root cause of poverty in the Philippines. It may be an actual concern, but it should not cover up the real deeper problems of inequitable distribution of the resources of our nation and the rampant corruption in our government. 

18. We likewise believe that instead of allocating large portions of our budget to the proliferation of contraceptives and abortifacients, it is much wiser to use our funds for more indispensable priorities like basic health services, free education for all, livelihood for the poor, better job opportunities, and infrastructure development. 

19. We acknowledge the nobleness of the principles enshrined in the first parts of HB 96: alleviation of poverty, education of the young, happy and healthy family life, safety of women, informed conscience, and development of the nation. 

20. However, reading the bill makes us conclude that its authors are careless with nomenclature when it comes to formulating methods to apply these principles. “Poverty alleviation” seems to mean means looking at persons as mere burdens. “Education” ends up introducing young minds to corrupt sexuality. “Family health” accommodates materialistic comfort and contraceptive mentality. “Women’s safety” could open the doors to libertine sexuality. “Informed conscience” effectively allows violation of the conscience. And “national development” could mask justifying the inability of the government to efficiently provide jobs and social services. 

21. The righteous path (daang matuwid) is necessarily constituted by respect for life, integrity of the family, reverence to the conscience, and responsible democracy. The Church has always offered both her criticism and her collaboration to the State to achieve these ends. We who will share leadership in the same Church in the future commit ourselves to the same. 

Calling for Self-Examination 

22. We also humbly admit that very few dioceses or parishes have effectively implemented programs for promoting the natural methods. It is a sad fact indeed that much of our advocacy for this cause are merely preaching and not positive concrete actions. 

23. We understand that promoting family integrity and family health are constitutive parts of the mission of the Church. (Familiaris Consortio, 3) While healthcare is first and foremost a task of the State, the Church must also contribute her part. Throughout the world, our Church has championed holistic healthcare. Our healthcare institutions render not only physical care but also psycho-social and spiritual. Let us not fail here in the Philippines when it comes to the health of our people. 

24. We therefore urge our bishops and priests, religious and laity to make real concrete measures for the promotion of natural family planning in all ecclesial communities in our nation. We cannot just keep on speaking against the evil that is happening. We have to make a more effective proactive response to make real our aims. 


25. In the end, we call on everyone not to drown in the details and debate. Let us not to lose sight of our ultimate aim: the realization of the kingdom of God, the kingdom of justice, peace, truth, and love. Thus, we offer a prayer: 

Loving Father, you have called every person to life through the love of a family. Grant us steadfastness in protecting these lofty gifts you have given us. Give us courage to champion the good you have instilled in us. And make us one nation in working for genuine progress. Mary, Mother of Life, Protectress of the Family, and loving Advocate of every Filipino, lead us to the path that is your Son. Amen. 

January 9, 2011, Sunday 
Solemnity, Baptism of our Lord 
Feast Day, Black Nazarene

1 comment:

  1. The catholic church is one of the major reasons why this country is suffering from poverty. You oppose necessary education and healthcare that should be rightfully given to filipinos. When you say that you think of and value life, you think of only the baby being born, but not what happens to the baby after. You don't think of how much they will suffer, being born to an uneducated, impoverished family. You don't think of the mother whose health may be affected negatively by pregnancy. You blindly follow rules, you believe it is right only because the church says so. You do not even stop and think of the consequences. For you, everything is simply black and white.