Oct 2, 2010

[Philippines] Fed Up With Our Political Catholic Church

Flickr: spentpenny - square the circle1
square the circle1
by spentpenny via Flickr.

Today marks the last day of Banned Books Week in the US. This unusual event was started in 1982 by the American Library Association to celebrate our freedom to read and the protections offered by the First Amendment. Thus history is littered with strange lists of some of the most banned books of all time, or even the Top 10 Banned Science Fiction Novels to boot. These represent the attempts of groups of individuals to impose their world view on the greater majority. Thus our continued efforts to fight for our right to free exchange of ideas and information as we see fit.

While not directly related to this US event in itself, recent developments in the local scene have been interesting given how they also reflect the efforts of a particular group to impose their views on the majority. What's worse is that we're talking about the views of a religious group, namely the Catholic Church, being imposed on the Government. We always talk about the constitutional protections that require the separation of Church and State and yet more and more it seems that this may not necessarily be the case.

More and more the Church is trying to throw its weight around in matter of public policy, but now they're faced with a President who has decided to take a harder stance against them. And I'd like to join the chorus of voices in support of the President's more enlightened view of things as opposed to the narrow-minded and irresponsible opinion the Church is trying to pass on as fact.

Flickr: m.e.c. - Baltimore Pride 2010
Baltimore Pride 2010
by m.e.c. via Flickr.

Celebrity tour guide antics aside, at the heart of the current firestorm is the Reproductive Health Bill, currently House Bill 96. The bill is a rather comprehensive piece of legislature that aims to establish a "national, rights-based, comprehensive and integrated approach to reproductive health", according to Elizabeth Angsioco, National Chairperson of the Democratic Socialist Women of the Philippines (DSWP).

The Catholic Church has been against the bill since the law supports the use of contraceptives. However the bill does not advocate one family planning method over another - it only calls for a comprehensive information program that ensures that everyone is aware of all methods, including those advocated by the Church. It's the equivalent of making sure everyone is taught a little about all religions and then is allowed to choose for themselves where to go. And it won't be some impulsive choice made at the drop of a hat - it'll be an informed choice based on making sure the individual gets their facts straight before committing to one course of action.

Things came to a head when President Aquino mentioned in a town hall meeting during his recent US visit that "I think the government is obligated to inform everybody of the responsibilities of their choices. At the end of the day, government might provide assistance to those who are without means if they want to employ a particular method", the Church saw this as a pro-contraceptives / pro-abortion stance and immediately began to organize protest actions against it. But thankfully the president held firm to his stance on the need for an informed choice when it came to reproductive health.

There's been back and forth sniping in the media by different groups and the CBCP as this issue has progressed (plus a lot of inaccurate and sensationalized broadsheet headlines). Then we reached the silly point when Bishop Nereo Odchimar, the current CBCP president, went on to discuss how excommunication is the default punishment for being involved in abortion after talking about the President's need to hear their side, well, that was some political saber-rattling that we didn't need. Of course when confronted about having threatened the President with abortion, Archbishop Gaudencio Rosales denied the statement was said in that manner and that all this was just media hyperbole or whatever you want to call it. Just like them to back down now that they've realized they're facing a president who will not bow down to religious pressure.

I admire the President for taking such a firm stance on this issue. While some might argue that pushing for this pro-choice, informed decision policy isn't as strong as taking a definite stance in support of contraceptives, but it's certainly a smart one. It's a solution that balances out the needs of our overpopulated country while still trying to allow religious groups to advocate methods they consider to be morally right.
But instead the Catholic Church continues to rabble-rouse and claim that the RH Bill is not pro-life and in support of abortions. The proponents and supporters of the bill continue to argue with facts and explain what the bill is really about while the Church refuses to listen, demands a dialog that favors their view and threatens their flock with doomsday scenarios and a so-called population winter. It's hard to argue with narrow-minded ignorants who keep sticks stuffed in their eyes while people continue to argue for the very real benefits of the bill versus the Church's imagined threats.

It's time we took a stand as well - a stand for reason and our right to choose. You Catholics are free to use whatever method of family planning that you see fit, that's fine. Just don't try to force your choice as law and impose your will upon the rest of the country. Respect the democracy. Let the politicians handle politics while you continue to care for your respective flocks or whatever it is that you do these days.

Stop denying people their right to choose for themselves!

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  1. sometimes I get to wondering, is the Catholic church actually afraid that people will choose methods they can't convince others to use that they have to resort to calling a pro-choice bill as pro-abortion?

  2. @Justin:
    Of course they are! It's not like they have a history of successful arguments beyond the basic logic of "God said so".