President Aquino, who enjoyed Catholic support for his recent election victory, is now being threatened with excommunication over his support for birth control.
CBCP reminds Aquino about excommunication
By Philip Tubeza - Philippine Daily Inquirer - 09/30/2010
MANILA, Philippines—The president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines on Wednesday reminded President Aquino III that providing contraceptives to poor couples who opt for artificial birth control face excommunication from the church.
Speaking on the Church-run Radio Veritas, Bishop Nereo Odchimar of Tandag, Surigao del Sur, the current CBCP president, said that even Mr. Aquino may be covered by excommunication. Mr. Aquino, a practicing Catholic, has stood by his position that Filipino couples who choose to use artificial contraceptives should be allowed to do so.
"Well, being the President of all, you must consider the position of the Catholic Church because we are approaching these issues from the moral aspect like the unborn. Abortion is a grave crime. Excommunication is attached to [it]. That is an issue of gravity, that is a violation of God's commandment," Odchimar said. (President Aquino said nothing about legalizing abortion.)
When asked if Aquino might be excommunicated if he insists that government should distribute artificial contraceptives, Odchimar said: "That is a possibility.... Right now, it is a proximate possibility." (It does seem to be the current strategy of the Hierarchy to conflate birth control with abortion.)
The Church reserves excommunication, its highest punishment for erring members, for those who assault the Pope or are involved in abortion. Catholic groups claim that some artificial contraceptives are abortifacients.
"But right now, we are open for dialogue," Odchimar said.
Unfortunately, according to the CBCP president, there has been no reply from Malacañang to the bishops' call for a dialogue.
"As a matter of fact we opened that already before his (State of the Nation Address). The CBCP issued an open letter stating our position that there should be a dialogue," Odchimar said. "We do not have any feelers. We don’t want to be confrontational. We want a dialogue. We are just waiting,” he said. (Threatening someone with excommunication is an interesting means of opening a 'dialogue'. Sounds like a monologue to me.)
Odchimar said he has talked to bishops in Mindanao and the Visayas and they were supportive of calls by lay Catholic groups to hold protests against the government’s plan to distribute artificial contraceptives.
When asked if he still trusted Aquino, Odchimar said: "Aahhh... we will exhaust all peaceful means. I mean for means of dialogue. We will be discussing that when I go to Manila."
But the bishop added that the President's rallying call for Filipinos to take the "straight path" should be taken "with a grain of salt" because of his position on the use of artificial contraception.
"Because the position of the Church (is) that human life is conceived at the beginning of the conception, with contraceptive pills that are abortifacient, that is killing of the fertilized ovum," Odchimar said. (Condoms do not kill ovum, nor do many other forms of artificial birth control.)
He reiterated the Church’s opposition to the passage of the reproductive health bill, which has been re-filed in Congress.
"We have been consistent with our position that we are against it. Because if the reason is the population problem connected to poverty alleviation, I don’t (think population increase) is a problem. (That) is not an issue," Odchimar said. (Maybe the reason is because poor people can not responsibility provide for unlimited children.)
"There are also other things to be considered like the migration of people flocking to the cities and they cannot find work. Ours is an agricultural country. Agriculture should be enhanced," he said. "But it is ironic that the (International Rice Research Institute) is in the Philippine but we are importing rice from Vietnam which was ravaged by the Vietnam war. Vietnam is exporting rice to the Philippines."
Odchimar said the bishops were "aware that there is much money (for the) lobby for the passage of the reproductive health bill."
"It's an open secret that the pharmaceuticals and laboratories will be the ones who will benefit, because they are the ones supplying the pills and other contraceptive devices," he said. "We will be planning our next move....We do not have police power, we don’t discount the possibility of mobilizing the lay organizations," he added. (Who benefits from over population and poverty is the better question.)
In threatening President Aquino with excommunication over politically supporting access to birth control, the Philippine bishops are most definitely upping the ante in the Catholic culture wars. Here is an example of Catholic reproductive morality being subject to relativistic interpretation or a slippery slope.
The bishops also appear to be threatening civil disturbance over the issue: "We don't want to be confrontational. We will exhaust all peaceful means,". Demonstrations are one thing, but the recent calls in Mexico City for demonstrations against the gay marriage decision turned very ugly on the part of the demonstrators.
The Philippine faithful are not buying the Bishop's view on artificial birth control. 62%, or close to two thirds, want access to artificial birth control. Is President Aquino supposed to use the power of the State to force Filipino's into adhering to Catholic doctrine? What kind of 'true' doctrine could this be if the secular state is needed to enforce it because the faithful flat reject it? The Church has a very ugly history of coercing states into enforcing rejected doctrine. This tendency did much to spur on the Protestant reformation and the Enlightenment. Does Catholic history have to repeat itself in the Philippines?
There is another important story being developed over on Talk 2 Action By Rachel Tabachnik concerning Bishop Eddie Long. This one is not about his alleged sexual proclivities, but about the financial and governance structure of his religious empire. What's fascinating about it is Bishop Eddie seems to be creating a Catholic like hierarchical structure with himself as Pope. What's more fascinating is there are a whole host of Evangelical Eddie Longs carving out their own 'archdioceses' and anointing themselves as their only accountable authority. Long himself wrested control of New Birth Ministries from the democratic governance structure it had when he was first hired. What ever Long maybe now, he is no longer a hireling.
Like the glue that has held the Catholic version of a pyramid scheme together for eons, the major virtue in Long's scheme is the total obedience and trust demanded of his flock. It's a direct appeal to his "Apostolic Authority". Where have we all heard that before? I suspect President Aquino is going to get thoroughly sick of hearing that particular appeal from his own Philippine bishops.