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Monday, May 30, 2011

A lay Catholic's response to Fr. John Carroll S.J. over the RH bill

Dear Rev. Fr. John J. Carroll, S.J.

I am very happy to read your Commentary at Philippine Daily Inquirer (PDI) entitled "'For he is our peace" (Eph. 2:14)". 

It seems to me that you are admonishing everyone to be calm and level-headed in the issue of the Reproductive Health bill (RH bill) under discussion at the Philippine House of Representatives. The way you are proposing is by forging a compromise between the two sides of the issue.

I also notice that you are alarmed by the obstinacy of the Catholic hierarchy in the Philippines in insisting in the total and complete dismissal of the proposed law or bill.

With all due respect for your reverence, I wish to send you my seven (7) reactions to your commentary. These are the following:

1. ON THE APPARENT MEDDLING OF THE CHURCH IN POLITICS. I think it is only proper and note-worthy for the Philippine bishops to interfere in political exercises, such as the passing of new laws, when the spiritual welfare of the faithful is dangerously at stakes. It is their duty and responsibility to speak-out that the RH bill contains provisions that are immoral and contrary to natural law and God's will (contraception is immoral). I am convinced that this alleged meddling of the Catholic bishops is not a violation of the "separation of Church and State". Since both the Church and the State are serving one and the same society of human beings, there is bound to be some overlapping of interventions, particularly in matters of faith and morals. Indeed, the RH bill is a moral issue due to provisions on contraception embedded in it.

2. IS IT LEGALIZING CONTRACEPTIVES OR LEGALIZING CONTRACEPTION? I beg to disagree that "the bill does not legalize contraceptives". Aside from the attempt to legalize the practice of contraception, RH bill seeks to enshrine contraceptives (drugs and devices) as "Essential Medicines". Is that not an attempt to legalize contraceptives? It is true that contraceptives are already available to those who can afford. The RH bill attempts to make contraceptives even more available and free-of-charge. Moreover, RH bill attempts to legalize the human act of tampering with the divinely ordained procreative process by means of technological devices, so-called contraceptives. Thus, RH bill attempts both: the legalization of contraceptives and contraception.

3. IS RH BILL AGAINST ABORTION? Blessed Pope John Paul II has already mentioned that "the negative values inherent in the 'contraceptive mentality'-which is very different from responsible parenthood, lived in respect for the full truth of the conjugal act-are such that they in fact strengthen this temptation when an unwanted life is conceived. Indeed, the pro-abortion culture is especially strong precisely where the Church's teaching on contraception is rejected." (Evangelium Vitae, 13). It may be claimed that abortion is not explicitly promoted in the RH bill, but the common mentality from which the two arises makes RH bill suspect of being pro-abortion by implication. Moreover, there are valid claims that some contraceptives are abortifacient in its biochemical physiological mechanisms.

Blessed Pope John Paul II has already refuted the claim that "if contraceptives become more available to the poor, the scandalous number of illegal abortions performed annually will be dramatically reduced." He wrote, "The close connection which exists, in mentality, between the practice of contraception and that of abortion is becoming increasingly obvious. It is being demonstrated in an alarming way by the development of chemical products, intrauterine devices and vaccines which, distributed with the same ease as contraceptives, really act as abortifacients in the very early stages of the development of the life of the new human being." (Evangelium Vitae, 13)

4. DO WE WAIT FOR FOOD AND DRUG ADMINISTRATION (FDA) TO DECLARE SOME CONTRACEPTIVES ABORTIFACIENT? In a globalized world, it is a waste of time to "reinvent the wheel". There are already valid credible and conclusive studies in other countries that some contraceptives are abortifacient. These have been banned and thrown away in these countries. The burden of proof should be in proving that these are not abortifacient in the Philippines, not the other way around. Indeed, it is a "tricky scientific question".

5. "OPT OUT" PROVISION FOR PARENTS. Sex education should be the prerogative of parents as primary educators of their children, that is, they should decide, by default, when and how to impart sex education to their children. The "opt out" provision is a violation of that parental right. The provision is based on the assumption that the state must teach sex education to children, by default. The right of parents to "opt out" could be liken to an "after-thought". Moreover, it does not take a rocket-scientist to forsee that, in implementation, very few parents will bother to choose to "opt out" their children from state-mandated sex-education, since, by experience, very few parents bother to inform themselves of their children's school activities.

6. "CONSCIENCE CLAUSES" AND OTHER FREEDOM OF CONSCIENCE PROVISIONS. These are applicable only when all the desired behaviours and expected actions are licit and only differ by cultural preferences. These loses its significance and authority when the mandated action is immoral. No amount of "conscience clauses" can hide the damage that a "legalized" immoral act can inflict to society.

7. "THE FAMILY IS ALREADY AT GREAT RISK - AND NOT BECAUSE OF CONTRACEPTIVES". Indeed, the institution of the family is already at great risk even at the dawn of creation after our first parents committed original sin. The threat is rooted in the heart of every woman and man. Perhaps, interventions to strengthen families have not really identified the root cause of the problems. Blessed Pope John Paul II and the magisterium of the Catholic Church has been exhorting all the faithful that the family ought to be built upon the institution of marriage (cf. Pope John Paul II, Letter to Families, 1994) It might be possible that interventions to strengthen the union of couples in marriage have not been enough or lacking. Figures have shown that many couples in slum areas are just cohabiting or in "de-facto unions" which are not suitable substitutes to the institution of marriage. In addition to family-life education and family support services, it would be good to explore initiatives to help couples to enter into legal-marriage or, better yet, to receive the sacrament of Matrimony. It is easier said than done, I admit. But the desire and honest-to-goodness effort to undertake these solutions is already note-worthy.

Irresponsible male partners will not be cured by teaching their women partners artificial birth control. Sad to say, contraception could make the irresponsibility more worse. I hope, artificial birth control is not viewed as the "silver bullet" to kill the "were-wolves" of irresponsibility of men.

Finally, I am sad to find your commentary to reflect a certain bias towards favouring RH bill. I am afraid your position even make the division of the Filipino nation on this issue more worse.

Thank you for giving me the chance to give my feedback. I am a simple college graduate who tries hard to live an upright life. Thank you.

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