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Tuesday, May 31, 2011

A lay Catholic's response to Fr. Joaquin Bernas S.J.'s column "A war of religions"

Dear Editor,

I am very grateful for stumbling-upon the article of Fr. Joaquin G. Bernas, S.J., "A war of religions" (posted May 2, 2011) for two (2) reasons.

The first reason is that Fr. Bernas enumerated some of the changes RH Bill proponents have made to the draft bill to allegedly make it acceptable to those opposing it. The enumerated changes are as follows:

1) Local government units will "help implement this Act", instead of "give priority to family planning work". (in Section 13 of HB4244)

2) "Parents shall have the option of not allowing their minor children to attend classes pertaining to Reproductive Health and Sexuality Education." (in Section 16 of HB4244)

3) Deletion of the section on employers' responsibility on reproductive health. (Section 21 of HB4244)

4) Deletion of the specific enumeration of allowable contraceptive devices and methods. It will be replaced with the proposal for the allowance of contraceptive methods that are in general safe and legal.

These changes, I believe, are still to be declared and incorporated to the draft bill during the second-reading sessions at the House of Representatives.

I agree with Fr. Bernas that these changes are not enough to stop the opposition of the bishops of the Catholic Church to the bill. The bishops have been insisting from the very beginning that the bill is an attempt to legalize the use of artificial contraception. The bishops have been exhorting the faithful, and the nation at large, that artificial contraception is contrary to the moral law as declared by Pope Paul VI in 'Humanae Vitae'. The bishops have been reminding the nation that something immoral, or against the Ten-Commandments, cannot be legalized or be established in human laws. The bill despite the latest changes still contains provisions that promote artificial contraception and there is no way for the bishops to agree with it.

The second reason for being grateful to Fr. Bernas is his attempt to encourage both sides of the debate to view the issue in the light of religious freedom and respect for human dignity as enunciated in the Second Plenary Council of the Philippines (PCPII), the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Catholic Church and 'Dignitatis-Humanae'.

In my opinion, the only way for both sides to respect each other's freedom and dignity is for RH Bill not to be enacted into law at all, given that artificial contraception is immoral! It is timely to remind ourselves of the exhortation in 'Dignitatis Humanae' to political authorities that "government is also to help create conditions favorable to the fostering of religious life, in order that the people may be truly enabled to exercise their religious rights and to fulfill their religious duties, and also in order that society itself may profit by the moral qualities of justice and peace which have their origin in men's faithfulness to God and to His holy will." (Dignitatis Humanae, 6)

There are other options available for the government to reduce maternal mortality other than legalizing artificial contraception.

Though I am grateful to Fr. Bernas for his article, I am also disappointed by the vagueness of his position on the RH Bill. He could be of great service to the ordinary faithful if he will be more categorical and direct in his position.

During World War II when ordinary foot-soldiers were in the midst of a gun-battle and artillery barrage, these soldiers (who were mostly young, uneducated, rural boys) greatly appreciated and were extremely grateful for the concrete, simple, and direct tactical directions of their front-line commanding officers.

I believe, we are in a great spiritual battle in this RH bill debate. The more concrete, simple, and direct our declared position in this issue, the better we can serve the simple flock we are shepherding.

Thank you for this chance to write. Should you decide to publish this letter, please show only my email address. Thank you and more power to PDI!

Author's Note:
This letter was submitted by website feedback form on May 3, 2011 (Manila time).

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