Monday, October 4, 2010

A Truce In The Philippine Battle Over Birth Control and Reproductive Health

Palace, Church OK Ceasefire
By LESLIE ANN G. AQUINO- - 10/04/2010
MANILA, 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.


  1. Colleen,
    You are correct, this is not a truce but a tactic that the Bishops are using to threaten and wear down the government. I pray that it does not work. dennis

  2. Dennis one aspect of this that I haven't gotten into, is that there is an advertising campaign that seems to be aimed not at the bill itself, but at the underlying assumption that Catholic bishops have some sort of innate right to do the thinking of their flock and be the dominant political voice.

    This particular campaign may impact the status of the Church far more than President Aquino ever could because it goes way beyond contraception.

  3. And that, Colleen is why this needs to be made clear... for if Gingrich wants to run... his catholicism needs to hung around his neck... given the bishops' desire to control policy.

  4. In 2008 51% of women in the Phillipines used contraceptives. Their infant mortality rate was 34 per 1000.

    Since 1990 there have been more literate females than males in the Phillipines. During the same time span the fertility rate or the average number of children per woman has dropped from 4.35 to 3.32 (Source: )

    For generations throughout the world women have made family planning decisions that reflect their calculation of how many children needed to be born to result in two or three adult children.

    One way or another women will have more and more control over their lives. This will not be denied by any Church hierarchy, nor should it be. Women are not sub-standard human beings. Nor are they only meant to be baby-makers. The current crop of bishops and cardinals were not raised in homes where their mothers were considered to be full human persons in the eyes of the church or of the law. Unfortunately it will not be until the men who are in authority are raised by women who have full rights that the institution will change. Unless the Holy Spirit flaps her wings and drops a bit of enlightenment on them.


  5. How on earth do the Bishops think that women will listen to them when it comes to their own bodies and their own lives and the lives of their children, when these same lame brain bishops have not a clue about what it takes to raise a child? They are delusional. They have not a clue about whom they speak and about whom they desire to order around. Women are not going to pay attention to these jackasses. They are blind jackasses.

    Women are awakening and the sooner the RCC realizes this, the better off the RCC will be. I'm not holding my breath though because the RCC since the 14th century, at least, has not reformed itself and desires instead a priestly prince-hood instead of reforming itself to be priestly servants of Jesus, such as St. Francis was.

    word verif is pyrapaw - hahaha

  6. Now butterfly, please don't demean the poor Ass, it is a rather hard working animal and does not merit being compared to these sociopathic old men!
    lol, dennis

  7. The Filipino bishops have had the Aquino and Arroya administrations in their pockets, and see themselves as the true leaders of the Philippines -- a country that has remained mired in poverty though once the jewel of Asia. The population has soared from something like 74 million to something like 92 million in ten years. This is a country where mothers literally living on rubbish dumps give birth to huge families. And what is the life expectancy?

  8. Actually life expectancy is not dramatically bad:

  9. Life expectance: Quality of life. I wonder what that is!

  10. When I think of all of the issues confronting Catholics the issue of birth control stands out as the fire that will burn the RCC hierarchs in their own stewing misogynistic juices. There is nothing more pathetic than in priests who claim to be celibate, of which a large percentage probably are not and they live a lie, and then trying to enforce the teaching against birth control.

    If the Bishops and priests in the Philippines decide to lead a shut down of the government over this issue then I see as a consequence the beginning of the end of the RCC in the Philippines as well, as this has been the historical trend for the RCC since the 14th century to bring about secular governments and create splits in the Church. Unfortunately, the predominant role in history of the RCC since Martin Luther has been to create the circumstances for wars and much bloodshed among the faithful, instead of the reform and leadership and the light of Christ leading the way. The magisterium is truly to blame for this sad state of affairs and by their own ignorance and bent for power and glory to themselves they have created a world of bloodshed, death and mayhem for billions of people.

    The disgust I have now for the current papacy and the fascist leadership in the RCC surely mirrors that of millions who were once blind but now can see the historical horrors that the policies of the RCC hierarchs have committed for too many generations. This type of evil leadership has to end and surely God agrees, it must end.

    Brood of vipers is perhaps a better description than jackass for the RCC Bishops and Magisterium, Pope and OD and all the other right-wing fascist nazi-tyrant-absolutist crazy nuts that whip themselves and pretend they are pious and holy, proclaim self-righteously their belief in the unbelievable falsehood of infallibility. May the people in the Philippines stomp out this brood of vipers!!

  11. Re people whipping themselves:

    Old Testament, God says: I want Mercy not sacrifice.