Palace, Church OK Ceasefire
By LESLIE ANN G. AQUINO- MB.com.ph - 10/04/2010MANILA, Philippines — The Catholic Church has agreed to the request of Malacañang for a “ceasefire” on the controversial Reproductive Health Bill, deciding not to issue any statement until a bigger dialogue between President Benigno S. Aquino III and the bishops takes place.
“We are acceding to the request of the President not to issue unnecessary statements while the face-to-face dialogue between the bishops and the President has yet to take place,” Fr. Melvin Castro, executive secretary of the Episcopal Commission on Family and Life of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, said in a phone interview.
“We are respecting that request and I think it will also be good to the public that in this moment of silence, they’ll be able to study all the issues,” he added.
The CBCP official, however, stressed that the temporary silence does not in any way mean that the Church is compromising its position.
“It does not mean that the Church is compromising, it simply means that it is good that there is this lull moment to pause, to assess things and to pray and hope for a genuine dialogue,” said Castro. (Dialogue about what? The Bishops appear to want a one sided monologue.)
When asked regarding the protest actions being planned by the laity against RH, he said, the bishops and priests are in full support of such initiatives.
“The bishops and priests totally support them but as of now there will be no public statements. But they are moving and certainly the leaders are silently but strongly supporting them,” Castro said. (Interesting definition of a cease fire when simultaneous statements like this are issued.)
“I believe the protest actions will not come until after the dialogue. Depending upon the outcome,” he added. (It's hard to have a meaningful dialogue when threats are issued about the outcome before the dialogue has begun.)
On Monday, Presidential Spokesman Edwin Lacierda called for sobriety amid the growing tension between the Catholic Church and the government by avoiding unnecessary statements.
Meanwhile, former President and now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo said that the government should work to curb maternal and infant deaths, as debates on the controversial reproductive health (RH) bill heat up with renewed threats from the Church for civil disobedience if the RH bill would encourage the use of products that in effect are abortive.
“Where we still have a big challenge is in the maternal mortality. And when you talk about girls and maternal mortality, teenage mortality is a concern. We need to address the issue of preparing girls for the world and reducing maternal mortality because many of maternal deaths involve teenage pregnancies,” Mrs. Arroyo said in an interview last week. (This is sadly true, but Church teaching on women's reproductive health places the well being of the mother secondary to her biological ability to procreate and makes no distinctions between a thirty year old woman and a nine year old girl.)
The decrease in maternal and infant deaths is among the results that proponents of the RH bill claim would be realized if the bill is passed into law.
President Aquino had earlier bared plans to distribute contraceptives to curb population growth, which the Church viewed as an endorsement in favor of the RH bill pending in Congress.
Mrs. Arroyo's spokeswoman Elena Bautista-Horn said the Pampanga solon has not moved to oppose the RH bill, and would push for consultations with groups supporting and opposing the RH bill so both their concerns would be addressed.
“She hasn't moved on the reproductive health bill. She just wants that it should be consultative,” Horn said.
Horn was reacting to reports that Mrs. Arroyo has signified her opposition to the RH bill by co-authoring a bill in Congress that seeks to protect the rights of unborn children.
This situation in the Philippines has major consequences for global Catholicism. In some respects the consequences are more serious than the outcome of any gay marriage initiative in the US or elsewhere. The Philippines represents a major conflict between the sensus fidelium and the teaching magisterium about a cornerstone in Catholic sexual morality and the gender role of women. Sixty two percent of Filipino's favor the use of birth control for married couples in order to help enhance a family's capacity to responsibly raise and space their children. For these Catholics birth control is not a matter of population control. It is a matter of responsible parenting.
The idea of responsible parenting is one idea which is completely ignored in the Magisterium's blanket opposition to birth control. Instead they talk about disciplined sexual expression in the context of natural family planning. Unfortunately NFP is not always a very successful form of birth control, and make no mistake, it is a form of intentional birth control. In fact, it is the form of birth control which mandates the highest level of intentionality to avoid the procreative intent of marriage. It fundamentally violates the secondary idea of married sexuality, which is partner bonding. This is so because to be successful at NFP, sexual expression is tied to external limits, all of which are focused on the biological cycle of the woman.
What I've always found interesting is that NFP gives women a say in one limited aspect of sexuality which is fundamentally denied her in any other aspect of sexuality. In other words she is allowed to say no, mandated in fact, at certain times in her menstrual cycle, but expected to say yes at every other point of the reproductive process, even if it kills her. Even if she's a child and a victim of incest.
NFP is a tough form of birth control to practice in cultures which are predominately patriarchal and do not support the rights of women as opposed to the rights of men--especially in conjugal rights. Many Filipino women have stated the desire for artificial forms of birth control precisely because of the battles with in their marriage over conjugal rights. Men are not conditioned to accept 'no' when it comes to their conjugal rights. It would be nice if the Philippine bishops could at least hear that very real concern when they engage in their 'diaologue' with President Aquino.---Actually it would be nice if there was a married couple or two present, since celibate bishops having a dialogue with a confirmed bachelor might not truly represent the concerns of married men, much less married women.
In any event, the debate about this RH bill has already made some important points. The first is that the birth control teaching is not well received by a significant majority of Filipino lay Catholics. This is exactly as the situation stands in the rest of the Catholic world. The percentage may be lower than the 90% who reject the teaching in the West, but the Philippines is considered a bastion of conservative Catholicism. If 62% reject it in the Philippines this number is more telling than the 90% in the 'secularized and relativistic' West. Even for Catholics who practice a more traditional liturgical expression, the prohibition against artificial forms of birth control make no sense for parents who feel an obligation to take personal responsibility for the children and number of children they bring into the world.
In the whole scheme of parenting, conceiving children is the brainless ten second easy part, raising them is the much harder and very long term part. It no longer makes sense to lay Catholics to have a marriage and sexual morality based almost exclusively on the brainless ten second part, while ignoring the long term part. It could be the lay Catholics in the Philippines will be the Catholics who finally get this message across to their teaching authorities.