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> The Ateneo's official stand on HB 4244 (a.k.a., the RH bill), A last great act by Fr. Ben (mabuhay kayo!)
post Mar 31 2011, 04:58 PM
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24 March 2011


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There is a recent article in the press that “UP, Ateneo Profs call for passage of RH Bill.” The article also lists the signatories from the University of the Philippines and the Ateneo de Manila.

A similar position paper was issued by Ateneo faculty on October 15, 2008 and, on that occasion, I issued a statement to the Ateneo community to clarify the stance of the University. In that memo, I said that the position of the Ateneo de Manila is as follows:

1) We appreciate the efforts of these members of the Ateneo faculty to grapple with serious social issues and to draw from Catholic moral teaching in their study of the bill.

2) We acknowledge their right to express their views as individual Catholics and appreciate their clear statement that their views are their own and not that of the University.

3) However, the Ateneo de Manila University does not agree with their position of supporting the present bill. As I said in my letter of October 2 to Archbishop Aniceto and Bishop Reyes, it is “the considered opinion of our moral theologians that, although there are points wherein the aforesaid bill and the Catholic moral tradition are in agreement, there are certain positions and provisions in the bill which are incompatible with principles and specific positions of moral teaching which the Catholic Church has held and continues to hold.”

We thus have serious objections to the present bill in the light of our Catholic faith.

4) Ateneo de Manila thus stands with our Church leaders in raising questions about and objections to RH Bill 5043.

5) It is also the responsibility of the Ateneo de Manila as a Jesuit and Catholic university to ensure that, in our classes and other fora, we teach Catholic faith and morals in their integrity.

6) At the same time, as I also wrote on October 2, we support continuing efforts on the critical study and discussion of the bill among Church groups including the University and in civil society.

The position of the Ateneo de Manila remains the same. In matters of faith and morals, the Ateneo de Manila as a Jesuit and Catholic university, stands with the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) and the Philippine Province of the Society of Jesus. At the same time, we recognize the right of our faculty, as individuals, to express their views and appreciate their clear statement that these views are their own and not that of the University.



as posted on the ateneo website. for the longest time, i was wondering what might be the university's position -- and by extension that of the philippine province of the society -- on this very contentious issue. i had always figured that, as agents of the Church, the jesuits should be aligned with her position. but also knowing how the jesuits have often been tagged -- rightly or wrongly -- as "liberal," i thought there would be some waffling and hemming-and-hawing about their stand.

at least now it's clear -- and i'm happy. (IMG:style_emoticons/default/smile.gif)

in so many other social issues in the past, i would agree for the most part with the faculty (e.g., GMA and allegations of corruption, the plagiarism issue, etc.). but this time i'm glad fr. ben has put down, in no uncertain terms, what a CATHOLIC and JESUIT university needs to say about this issue that bedevils us now.
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post Apr 1 2011, 08:18 PM
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might be a good idea too to post something that was released by some Jesuits a few months back:

Talking Points for Reproductive Health Bill (Issued by LST and JJCICSI)

date posted: 2010-10-11 09:54:04

Below is a paper issued jointly by the Loyola School of Theology and the John J. Carroll Institute on State and Church Issues. This paper is intended to stimulate meaningful and thoughtful dialogue on the Reproductive Health Bill (HB 96). Kindly read, reflect, and repost.

Thank you.

Roberto E. N. Rivera, S.J.

John J. Carroll Institute on Church & Social Issues Ateneo de Manila University, Loyola Heights
1108 Quezon City, Philippines
Tel: +63-2-426-6001 local 4657
Fax: +63-2-426-6070


Talking Points for Dialogue on the Reproductive Health Bill (HB 96; filed July 1 , 2010)
Issued jointly by Loyola School of Theology and the John J. Carroll Institute on Church and Social Issues
Authors: Fr. Eric O. Genilo, S.J., Fr, John J. Carroll, S.J., and Fr. Joaquin Bernas, S.J.

The polarization of Philippine society over the Reproductive Health Bill has been a source of discouragement and discontent among Filipinos. It is unfortunate that the debate has focused only on whether the Bill should be passed or rejected in its present form. Either option would not be good for Filipinos. The Church sees in the proposed Bill serious flaws that can lead to violations of human rights and freedom of conscience. It would not be acceptable to pass it in its present form. Total rejection of the Bill, however, will not change the status quo of high rates of infant mortality, maternal deaths, and abortions. It is a moral imperative that such dehumanizing conditions should not be allowed to continue. What is needed is a third option: critical and constructive engagement. By working together to amend the objectionable provisions of the Bill and retain the provisions that actually improve the lives of Filipinos, both the proponents and opponents of the Bi ll can make a contribution to protection of the dignity of Filipinos and an improvement of their quality of life.

The following are talking points and proposals for dialogue and negotiation on the objectionable portions of the Bill:

The Protection of Human Life and the Constitution

. The Church insists on protection of human life upon fertilization. The question to be answered by the State is if this is the same position it will take regarding the protection of human life.

. The Philippine Constitution says that the State will protect the life of the unborn upon conception. It is not specified in the Constitution whether conception means fertilization or the implantation of an embryo in the womb. The Constitutional Convention seemed to favor fertilization. The definition of conception will have a bearing whether contraceptives that prevent the implantation of embryos would be legally allowed or not. This definition of conception in the Constitution must be worked out both by medical and legal experts in order to determine the parameters of what reproductive services can be provided by the Bill.

Contraceptives that prevent the implantation of embryos

. At the center of the controversy regarding abortion and the RH Bill are IUDs and other contraceptive medications and devices that may have the possible effect of preventing the implantation of an embryo, which for the Catholic Church, is considered an abortifacient effect. [Contraceptives without abortifacient effects are treated differently in church teaching. They are forbidden for Catholics but other religious traditions allow them.]

. Proposal: The State first has to make a clear position whether it considers the prevention of implantation of an embryo as an abortion. If the State takes this position, there must be a careful and scientifically based evaluation of each of the medicines and devices provided by the Bill. Those contraceptive medicines and devices which are determined to have abortifacient effects are to be banned even now and regardless of whether the RH Bill is passed or not.

Age Appropriate, Value-Based, Integral Human Sexuality Education

. The mandatory nature of the sexuality education curriculum proposed by the Bill is a concern for the Church because it would compel Catholic educators to teach parts of the curriculum that may be unacceptable for Catholics. The Church is also concerned that the parents' right to decide on the education of their children would be denied by such a mandatory curriculum for all schools.

. Proposal: For the purpose of protecting academic freedom and respecting religious traditions, should not the right of religious schools to write and implement their own sexuality education curriculum according their religious traditions be respected? For public schools and non-religious private schools, an appointed panel of parent representatives, educators, experts in child development and psychology, medical experts, and representatives of religious traditions can write the sexuality education curriculum and the DEPED can monitor the implementation. Parents with children in public schools should have the right to have their children exempted from the sexuality education class if the curriculum is not acceptable to them. The Constitution allows religious instruction in public schools only if the parents consent in writing. Should a similar provision be enacted relative to sexuality education? The Bill must also respect the conscientious objection of individual educators who refuse to teach a sexuality curriculum that violates their religious beliefs.

Providing Reproductive Health Information and Services for a Multi-Religious Society

. Even if the majority of the population of the country are Catholics, our democratic system should ensure that public polices are not determined solely by majority vote but also by a careful consideration of the common good of all, including non-Catholics.

. The Compendium of the Social Teaching of the Church rejects any imposition of norms by a majority that is discriminatory of the rights of a minority: (#422) "Because of its historical and cultural ties to a nation, a religious community might be given special recognition on the part of the State. Such recognition must in no way create discrimination within the civil or social order for other religious groups;" (#169): "Those responsible for government are required to interpret the common good of their country not only according to the guidelines of the majority but also according to the effective good of all the members of the community, including the minority."

. It is the duty of various religions to teach their faithful and form their consciences about what their religious tradition allows and prohibits with regard to family planning. It is the duty of the government to provide correct and comprehensive information on all non-abortifacient (as defined by law) family planning methods that are available. Consciences will thus be better equipped to make informed choices according to their religious traditions.

. Proposal: There can be two separate parallel programs for providing information and training, one for NFP and another for artificial methods of family planning (with separate budgets). The separation of the programs will ensure that NFP will get adequate funding and those trainers who wish to teach only NFP for religious reasons will not be forced to teach artificial methods. The conscience of health workers and trainers should be respected. If a Catholic health worker or trainer conscientiously objects to teaching contraception methods, he or she should be allowed to teach only NFP methods.

Limits to the Anti-Discrimination Provision

. The current Bill prohibits the refusal of health care services and information based on a patient's marital status, gender or sexual orientation, age, religion, personal circumstances, and nature of work. This provision must have parameters. For example, if a doctor refuses to administer an IUD to a minor who requests for it, would that be considered age discrimination?

. Should the provision apply equally to both in the public and private health care providers or shouldn't private practitioners have more leeway in practicing their medicine as they see fit?

Employers' Responsibility

. Employers should not be required to provide in their CBAs reproductive health services of their employees. To enforce this requirement would be a violation of the conscience of Catholic employers.

. Proposal: Such a provision is unnecessary because the general Philhealth medical coverage, which is mandatory for all employees, provides for such reproductive health services upon request of the employee. This allows employers with religious objections to contraceptives or sterilizations to avoid direct formal cooperation in the provision of such family planning methods to their employees.

Contraception as Essential Medicines in Government Health Centers and Hospitals

. The Church's objection to this provision is that it appears to treat pregnancy as a disease.

. Proposal: The question of whether contraceptives are essential medicines should be resolved by a panel of objective medical experts such as the Philippine Medical Association. What contraceptives actually prevent diseases? It would be helpful to be able to present cases where the use of a contraceptive is a medically indicated treatment for a particular disease or emergency situation. If some contraceptives are ultimately decided as essential or emergency medicines that should be stocked in government health centers and hospitals, no contraceptives with abortifacient effects are to be allowed.

Freedom of Speech

. Proposal: The Bill's provision that penalizes malicious disinformation against the intention and provisions of the Bill should be refined by a clear description of what constitutes "malicious disinformation," or failing that, the provision should be scrapped.

Implementing Norms

. Proposal: The committee to be in-charge of the Bill's implementing norms should have representatives from major religious traditions to ensure that the rights of people of various faiths would be protected.

The above proposals are intended to generate constructive and respectful dialogue leading to concrete actions that would correct the RH Bill. It is hoped that the parties involved in the RH debate would move away from hard-line positions and consider negotiations as a more positive step towards working for the good of all Filipinos, with special consideration for the unborn, the youth, women and families in difficult circumstances.

Finally, we can turn to the following Christian maxim as our guide in our search for answers and solutions regarding the RH Bill: "In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; and in all things, charity." For things pertaining to protecting human life and dignity, we need to come to a consensus for the common good; for things that can be left to individual decisions without violating human life and dignity, we need to respect freedom of conscience of every Filipino both Catholics and non-Catholics; in all our discussions, we need to speak and act with charity and understanding as members of the same human family and community.
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post Apr 2 2011, 09:52 AM
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many thanks, big blue, for that paper. i received that, along with 2 other items, when i requested a faculty member -- he is a regular at all the games and is a member of this online community as well as gameface (IMG:style_emoticons/default/wink.gif) -- of the loyola schools to provide me whatever inputs or documents are being circulated in that community regarding this issue. as an alum, i'm more on the outside looking in, but at the same time looking up to the alma mater and especially the jesuits for guidance on this very acrimonious issue.

i'm also posting the other two items here, one a column by ASOG dean tony la vińa, and the other by arni clamor of the theology department. along with big blue's post from the jesuits, these three documents have been very helpful to me in framing and crystallizing my position on this issue. as a catholic who is serious in adhering to the Church's teaching but at the same time aware that much needs to be done in protecting women's and children's health, i'm grateful for the gravitas put forth here by these excellent inputs. i urge all catholics truly desiring to adhere to Church teaching and wishing to arrive at an intelligent position consistent with that teaching to read these documents.


Still on Reproductive Health
by Dr. Antonio La Vińa
Date Published: 10/12/2010

Eagle_Eyes_THUMBNAIL.jpgDean Tony La Vińa's latest piece for his column Eagle Eye in The Manila Standard Today.

My column last week on reproductive health (RH) was well received. Through Facebook, Twitter, emails, text messages and personal contact, people told me they appreciated my perspective. Many Catholics were grateful I affirmed Church doctrine on this issue without being combative or defensive. Supporters of RH rights, while disagreeing with me, appreciated the tone and openness of my writing. Inevitably, however, there were misconceptions of what I actually think about this issue.

The first thing I want to clarify is to say that my support for the Catholic Church doctrine on conjugal and family love, where the teaching on contraception and abortion is simply a consequence, is absolute and unconditional. That is a faith decision and choice that my wife and I have made which has withstood the test of time and through intellectual doubt and practical uncertainty. Because of its personal nature, I would have preferred to keep this to ourselves; however given the state of discourse on RH, silence is not an option. I do not have political motives in doing this. It is certainly not intended to help the Catholic Church prevail on this matter. The Church throughout history has been salt and light for many and it will outlast this issue.

In last week's column, I made sure I articulated Church doctrine accurately, not diluting it to make it more palatable. The truth is that it is a difficult doctrine to accept and follow. That is a reason, among others, why my wife and I do not judge other Catholics or persons whose decisions differ from ours. If I have any criticism of the institutional Catholic Church, it is that it has not evangelized on this matter effectively. Such evangelization should focus on the message of love, not on the prohibitions, and should be delivered with practical options for couples. For my wife and I, belonging to a Catholic community that emphasized adult Christian formation helped in being faithful.

read the rest of the article here: http://www.asg.ateneo.edu/blog2.php?newsid=151


Dear Professors and Colleagues in the Ateneo,
Allow me to address you as friends. You know that I have nothing against a Reproductive Health Bill. On the contrary, I believe that a more comprehensive Public Health Bill should be legislated to benefit the poor and the marginalized in our country. I appreciate the efforts of our legislators to draft a better version of the Reproductive Health Bill with House Bill 4244: “Responsible Parenthood, Reproductive Health, and Population and Development.” But I am obliged in conscience to voice my concern over some inconsistencies in the present consolidated bill and to take exception to some of the claims in the petition “Pass the RH Bill Now” that was circulated among select professors in Ateneo and UP. What are the “major, major” problematic areas that I find in HB 4244?

A. The Beginning of “Human Life”
There are 29 terms defined in SEC. 4 of the Bill, but no definition at all of the meaning of “conception.” But this is a central issue. When does the “conception” of human life begin: at fertilization or at the implantation of the embryo in the womb? The medical community seems inclined towards fertilization, that is, when the zygote that is formed possesses all twenty-three (23) chromosome pairs, equivalent to all the genetic material needed to constitute a distinct human being. If “fertilization” has already occurred (whether in utero or in vitro), then we are dealing with human life, properly speaking, human life which is protected by the Philippine Constitution. Consequently, contraceptives preventing the implantation of an embryo would then be considered having an abortifacient effect, and hence, illegal, according to our Constitution. These should be categorically banned, whether the RH Bill is passed or not. Is it too much to ask for a clarification on this non-negotiable principle?

B. Freedom of Choice (bis), but no “Conscience”?
The copy of the RH Bill (apparently not the actual HB 4244 but an earlier version) that was attached with the petition repeats this provision: “Freedom of choice, which is central to the exercise of right must be fully guaranteed by the State” (first mentioned in SEC. 3a, and then again in SEC. 3c ). Forgive me for making this observation, but I could not help but ask: How many of our “enlightened citizenry,” who answered surveys and even signed petitions, have actually read the latest version of the Bill and noticed inconsistencies and typographical errors?
Above all, I was wondering why, while “freedom of choice” was emphasized, the “respect for moral and religious conscience” never figured in the list of guiding principles. You will perhaps cite SEC. 28.3a as application of this latter principle:
“Provided, That, the conscientious objection of a healthcare service provider based on his/her ethical or religious beliefs shall be respected; however, the conscientious objector shall immediately refer the person seeking such care and services to another healthcare service provider within the same facility or one which is conveniently accessible who is willing to provide the requisite information and services.”
One can very well imagine a scenario like this, however…
Healthcare service provider to patient: “Listen, I think it is immoral to do this procedure
because it is tantamount to an abortion; but here is someone who could do it for me…”
So much lip service to respect of ethical and religious beliefs!
After all, what makes for authentic human freedom and development: Is it freedom of choice per se, or the activation and development of a well-informed conscience? This is important because it bears on a number of other provisions in the bill, namely:
B.1. “Mandatory” Age-Appropriate Reproductive Health and Sexuality Education (SEC. 16):
I believe an education in sexuality is necessary, but it is the “mandatory” nature in this provision that I find problematic. If the Bill passes, and its application is made mandatory to both public and private schools, would this not violate the conscience of Catholic educators who would be compelled to teach parts of the curriculum that they find morally unacceptable? This provision, as a matter of fact, contradicts the first guiding principle of SEC. 3a (freedom of choice) because it violates the freedom of Catholic educators and parents to choose a sexuality education that is consistent with their moral and religious beliefs.
Sexuality education, moreover, can only be a humanizing education when it is also an education in freedom and responsibility, when it fosters a sense of human dignity. How do you train teachers for this daunting task, especially since it bears on a matter that is so close to the heart and soul of the human person? Sexuality is so vital an energy, so powerful a force that it would be a challenge for any serious educator to help our young people find ways to channel this energy in ways that are truly life-giving. I don’t see how it is possible to write a comprehensive sexuality and values education curriculum for at least six grade levels (Grade Five to Fourth Year High School) in a year’s time, even if you have five agencies working together on it. You would know, dear colleagues, as educators in this university, that it takes years to develop a good course curriculum! Unless, of course, our legislators envision simply borrowing the existing education program of SIECUS (the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States). So much for promoting Filipino values!
[I heard that some of the public schools in Metro Manila (e.g., Payatas) have been pilot testing the UNFPA and DepEd program Adolescent Reproductive Health (ARH) Through Life Skills-Based Education. You claim that HB 4244 “is not a population control bill,” but why is the sexuality education program on trial co-produced by the United Nations Fund for Population Activities (UNFPA)?]
Honestly, would you suffer your own children to have to undergo a “mandatory” sexuality education that is ill-prepared, without your being able to have any say in it as a parent? If an inadequately prepared sexuality curriculum would not be acceptable for your own children, why would it be acceptable to others, especially our poor kababayan? Should we not do our utmost to give our poor kababayan the best of Philippine education since they are the ones who stand most in need of it? Surely you would see it a duty for both legislators and educators to give more careful thought to this “mandatory” provision and to amend it accordingly? As an educator, I personally find SEC. 16, as it stands, not only morally problematic, but also practically unfeasible.
B.2. In similar vein, SEC. 21 on Employers’ Responsibilities is not only redundant (we already have PhilHealth), but could be a violation of the Catholic conscience of some employers.
Again, imagine this scenario at the Health Office: “Could the Ateneo (a Catholic Jesuit University)
please pay for my vasectomy?”
B.3. Regarding SEC. 28e on “Prohibited Acts”: What assures us that the sincere effort to articulate the demands of conscience would not be counted as “malicious” disinformation? And, IF “scientific” studies one day conclusively prove that condoms DO NOT effectively protect against Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs), then your own petition’s claim (on p. 2) would backfire and be counted against you as irresponsible and “malicious” disinformation! SEC. 28e should be dropped.

C. Family Planning Supplies as Essential Medicines (SEC. 10)
If “essential” medicines are those that satisfy the priority health care needs of the population, perhaps we need to “scientifically” identify these. If this priority list does not include Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs), I don’t see how it could justify the inclusion of contraceptives as “essential” medicines, unless, of course, low-risk pregnancy is considered a “disease.”
One of my students, an Environmental Science Major, pointed out in her undergraduate thesis that some oral hormonal contraceptives (i.e., levonorgestrel) can even be harmful not only to the person using it, but also to the environment. Incidentally, levonorgestrel (the hormonal ingredient in the “morning-after pill”) is actually included in the “WHO Model List of Essential Medicines.” Even the World Health Organization, it seems, needs to update its own list of medically and environmentally safe “essential” medicines. Surely the medical and scientific community could help us on this.
Further Suggestions: The section on “essential” medicine should include a provision for a constantly updated list of medically and environmentally safe non-abortifacient medicines.
Correspondingly, SEC. 28 on “Prohibited Acts” should include a provision against promoting and obtaining the substandard contraceptive products of pharmaceutical companies that would contrive, through unscrupulous individuals and groups, to pass these off as “essential” medicines, etc.
Statement: Unless these problematic portions of the consolidated bill are amended, I do not see how HB 4244, as it presently stands, could pass for good legislation. And I make this appeal to our legislators who “rely on scientific evidence when they craft legislative proposals”: Could you not show a little more respect for our moral and religious convictions?

D. Empowerment of Women and the Poor
Please do not get me wrong. I raise these questions not from a purely academic concern. As a Filipina, an educator and a Catholic layperson, I feel morally obliged to demand some basic clarification as well as a deeper reflection in the drafting of this bill. I do believe that our less privileged kababayan deserve the best in education and in health care.
But I wonder how we as a people could speak of achieving the broad goals of “social equity, poverty reduction, and national development” when we are not even sensitized to listen, much less allow the dissent of moral and religious conscience. How could we speak of real concern and compassion for “the poor and the marginalized” when we can’t even protect the most vulnerable human being: the unborn child? How do we truly empower our women when we do not sensitize them to care for the gift and miracle that is human life?
I do not think I am alone in voicing these objections. But it is not my wont to circulate a petition to get “kakampi” among my colleagues. Their position regarding House Bill 4244 is up to their conscience. But because the questions I posed are real questions of conscience, I too deserve a hearing, with or without the backing of Church authorities or ideological group mates.
I thank you for listening to my efforts to make my Christian faith dialogue with reason. I have always tried to awaken this search for truth and conscience among my own students, and have been rewarded by their sharing of precious insights regarding the RH Bill, among others. There is much that we could learn from each other and from our students. If there is indeed “overwhelming scientific evidence” to support the claims of the present RH Bill, this could stand under close intelligent scrutiny. However, many of my students who initially fully supported the RH Bill were obliged by “reason” to temper their enthusiasm – and eventually revised their position – when confronted by the inconsistencies they discovered upon a close reading of the Bill. A deeper quality of discourse is achieved when you challenge students to struggle with the text and think for themselves. Stock arguments that either demonize or canonize the RH Bill neither serve intellectual integrity nor respect moral-religious convictions. Polarizations like these are a disservice to both Church and country.
The Church hierarchy has been much criticized for refusing to dialogue with those who support the RH Bill. Forgive me for saying this, but I find this way of approaching individual professors in the Ateneo to get signatures for another pro-RH Bill petition a similar refusal of dialogue.
You say that the academe has “a distinct role to play in achieving social justice and national development.” How true! The Pro RH Bill group in this university is very organized in terms of lobbying strategies. Why not put the same effort to bring Church and State, academe and masa, or even the different disciplines in this university to work together to make the benefits of social justice reach the poorest of our poor?
You petition says “Pass the RH Bill NOW!”
I ask: “WHY pass the RH Bill now when it is clearly in need of REVISIONS?”
It is our kababayan who stand to profit from a good piece of legislation. It is also the poorest among our poor who will suffer most when we allow our ideological passions get the better of our search for the common good.
Unless there is a real effort to attain an intelligent conversation between the Christian gospel and contemporary [“scientific”] culture – with all its plurality and richness, its passions and struggles, its convictions and aspirations – I don’t think we do ourselves justice as academics in a Catholic Jesuit University.

As a final word, allow me to greet you, dear colleagues, mga kapatid:
Today’s feast (March 25th) celebrates the “Conception” of the WORD in the human womb of MARY.

Yours in Jesus Christ,

Assistant Professor, Theology Department
Ateneo de Manila University
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post May 23 2011, 11:02 AM
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Check out today's column of Fr. Joaquin Bernas, S.J. on the RH issue


Sounding Board
My stand on the RH Bill
By: Fr. Joaquin G. Bernas S. J.
Philippine Daily Inquirer
1:49 am | Monday, May 23rd, 2011

I HAVE been following the debates on the RH Bill not just in the recent House sessions but practically since its start. In the process, because of what I have said and written (where I have not joined the attack dogs against the RH Bill), I have been called a Judas by a high-ranking cleric, I am considered a heretic in a wealthy barangay where some members have urged that I should leave the Church (which is insane), and one of those who regularly hears my Mass in the Ateneo Chapel in Rockwell came to me disturbed by my position. I feel therefore that I owe some explanation to those who listen to me or read my writings.

First, let me start by saying that I adhere to the teaching of the Church on artificial contraception even if I am aware that the teaching on the subject is not considered infallible doctrine by those who know more theology than I do. Moreover, I am still considered a Catholic and Jesuit in good standing by my superiors, critics notwithstanding!

Second (very important for me as a student of the Constitution and of church-state relations), I am very much aware of the fact that we live in a pluralist society where various religious groups have differing beliefs about the morality of artificial contraception. But freedom of religion means more than just the freedom to believe. It also means the freedom to act or not to act according to what one believes. Hence, the state should not prevent people from practicing responsible parenthood according to their religious belief nor may churchmen compel President Aquino, by whatever means, to prevent people from acting according to their religious belief. As the “Compendium on the Social Teaching of the Catholic Church” says, “Because of its historical and cultural ties to a nation, a religious community might be given special recognition on the part of the State. Such recognition must in no way create discrimination within the civil or social order for other religious groups” and “Those responsible for government are required to interpret the common good of their country not only according to the guidelines of the majority but also according to the effective good of all the members of the community, including the minority.”

Third, I am dismayed by preachers telling parishioners that support for the RH Bill ipso facto is a serious sin or merits excommunication! I find this to be irresponsible.

Fourth, I have never held that the RH Bill is perfect. But if we have to have an RH law, I intend to contribute to its improvement as much as I can. Because of this, I and a number of my colleagues have offered ways of improving it and specifying areas that can be the subject of intelligent discussion. (Yes, there are intelligent people in our country.) For that purpose we jointly prepared and I published in my column what we called “talking points” on the bill.

Fifth, specifically I advocate removal of the provision on mandatory sexual education in public schools without the consent of parents. (I assume that those who send their children to Catholic schools accept the program of Catholic schools on the subject.) My reason for requiring the consent of parents is, among others, the constitutional provision which recognizes the sanctity of the human family and “the natural and primary right of parents in the rearing of the youth for civic efficiency and the development of moral character.” (Article II, Section 12)

Sixth, I am pleased that the bill reiterates the prohibition of abortion as an assault against the right to life. Abortifacient pills and devices, if there are any in the market, should be banned by the Food and Drug Administration. But whether or not there are such is a question of scientific fact of which I am no judge.

Seventh, I hold that there already is abortion any time a fertilized ovum is expelled. The Constitution commands that the life of the unborn be protected “from conception.” For me this means that sacred life begins at fertilization and not at implantation.

Eighth, it has already been pointed out that the obligation of employers with regard to the sexual and reproductive health of employees is already dealt with in the Labor Code. If the provision needs improvement or nuancing, let it be done through an examination of the Labor Code provision.

Ninth, there are many valuable points in the bill’s Declaration of Policy and Guiding Principles which can serve the welfare of the nation and especially of poor women who cannot afford the cost of medical service. There are specific provisions which give substance to these good points. They should be saved.

Tenth, I hold that public money may be spent for the promotion of reproductive health in ways that do not violate the Constitution. Public money is neither Catholic, nor Protestant, nor Muslim or what have you and may be appropriated by Congress for the public good without violating the Constitution.

Eleventh, I leave the debate on population control to sociologists.

Finally, I am happy that the CBCP has disowned the self-destructive views of some clerics.

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post May 26 2011, 01:20 PM
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From: Camp Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo
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This is from today's Inquirer. I thought I'd copy it here in full. - - -

Salve’s Life: A Strong Case for RH Bill

By Kristine Felisse Mangunay

MANILA, Philippines—In a tiny house at a resettlement area in Valenzuela City, a woman recounts a scene: watching her eight children devour half a kilo of rice among themselves.

Pregnant again, 37-year-old Salve Paa says she is just as hungry. But she tells herself that a mother must make sacrifices, and waits for her turn to eat.

Minutes later, one of the boys starts to cry, a little finger pointing at the empty plate before him.

The scene, though seemingly surreal, is typical in Salve’s life. Until recently, she has not heard of family planning and has no idea of the reproductive health (RH) bill, and admits that having so many mouths to feed has made such an episode a general norm.

It’s something she laments, especially because she and Alfredo Francisco, her partner of 22 years, do not make much. (Alfredo, 64, has a first family from whom he is separated.)

“It’s difficult. The little that we earn just goes to food and other expenses in the house,” Salve tells the Inquirer in an interview at Northville, where families dislocated by the North Rail project were resettled by the city government.

P5,200 a month

Salve works in a plastics factory (but she is temporarily off the grind because she is due to deliver another child this month).

She is paid based on her output: On good days, she earns P1,500; on bad, P700. Alfredo earns P150 a day selling cotton candy.

In all, they take home an estimated P5,200 in a month.

“But minus the expenses, we can barely make ends meet. We can hardly complete three square meals a day,” Salve says.

She details the monthly expenses as: P200 for the house, P200 for electricity, P300 on the average for water, “which is only retailed to us,” and food for 10 people, among others.

As a result, a regular breakfast for the family consists of rice porridge (lugaw) bought at P3 a cup. Small galunggong, the so-called poor man’s fish, bought at P20 a handful, are “delicacies.”

“If there is enough, we have bread for breakfast, but that is very rare,” Salve says.

Because of the money constraints, not one of the 37-year-old’s children has been able to finish his or her studies.

Ana Liza, 21, managed to complete the sixth grade—the highest educational attainment in the family. She is married but often visits.

Her brothers—Aries, 15, and Albert, 12—reached the first grade and prep school, respectively

Throw ’em out

“We can’t afford to send the children to school,” Salve says. “It’s already a struggle to put food on the table for them every day.”

Then there’s the space problem.

The family lives in a 32-square-meter enclosed space with two tables and a makeshift wooden bed. A hole in the ground serves as the toilet.

The windows consist of square holes covered with leatherette.

During the rainy season, the water easily seeps through the concrete walls and onto the floor, Salve says.

In the summer, the sun’s rays easily heat up the structure. “The roof has not been fixed,” she explains.

At night, Salve has a hard time making the children fit on the “bed.” She says she manages to squeeze herself in, and shows the Inquirer how it’s done.

Alfredo sleeps on the floor.

The situation has moved Salve to throw out two of her elder sons—Alvin and Alfred—several times in the past.

She says that with the two fending for themselves, she figured that she could concentrate on feeding and caring for the rest who cannot as yet survive alone in the world.

Take Angelito, the sickly 3-year-old who has been in and out of the hospital in recent months. The bills for his blood transfusions alone have amounted to some P16,000, Salve says.

“When he becomes ill, I take him to the National Children’s Hospital on Espańa. They care for Angelito there, free of charge,” she says.

But despite having been driven away repeatedly, Alvin and Alfred always came back, and Salve took them in with open arms. After all, she says, she is still their mother.

12, actually

The family should have been much bigger because Salve has given birth to 12 of Alfredo’s children.

Christian and Trisha, then 4 and 7 years old, respectively, died in 2006, followed a year later by Sarah Fe, then 10. Doctors said the three died of sepsis, or the invasion of the body by pathogenic microorganisms.

In 2008, Alvin was accidentally run over by a bus in La Union. Salve lamented the loss of her son, also because the then 18-year-old, who worked as a truck helper, was a big financial help to the family.

Salve admits that her family experiences financial difficulties primarily because she has too many children.

It was only when she was 26 that she learned out about artificial contraceptives. But by then, she had already borne eight children.

In an effort to lessen the number of mouths they were obligated to feed, she and her partner also tried abstinence. But the attempt did not work.

“At one point, I slept at the factory just so I could get away from Alfredo. But he followed me there,” Salve recalls with a chuckle.

Planning a family

Salve does not know what the RH bill is, or what it stands for. But when asked, she says that she is not opposed to sex education.

Had she known about the importance of family planning much earlier, she would not have allowed herself to get pregnant so many times, she says.

This view is in line with some of the provisions of the measure that proposes the integration of sexual awareness in school curriculums and offers couples an informed choice in ways to plan their families.

The proposed legislation is being debated upon in the plenary in the House of Representatives. If passed, it will be sent to the Senate, which can choose to adopt it or pass another version of it.

President Benigno Aquino IIi himself has expressed support for the RH bill. But the Catholic Church and a number of lawmakers remain firmly opposed to the measure and have vowed to block its passage.

Late awareness

“If we had fewer children, then we won’t have most of our financial problems,” Salve muses.

She says that in her community, large families are the trend because some, if not most, of her neighbors do not become aware of family planning methods until much later.

She cites as an example her elder sister who, in her 40s, has seven children.

Salve says that like herself, her sister has to carry on her shoulders the responsibility of feeding too many kids with very little income.

“If you don’t have much money, having too many children is too stressful,” she says. “You’re always thinking of ways to get them through the day.”

Because of her newfound knowledge, Salve plans to undergo tubal ligation to avoid getting pregnant again.

Her ninth (or 13th) child is due, but she says she cannot even think of celebrating. “Our earnings are better spent on food on the table,” she says, smiling weakly.

This post has been edited by joescoundrel: May 26 2011, 01:21 PM
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post May 26 2011, 01:30 PM
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Member No.: 2197

^ In Salve's case above, what are we supposed to do for her? She has eight children, a ninth on the way, with a horny-as-a-rabbit partner, and subsisting on only P5,200 a month.

The 40,000 words posted in all the articles and papers above hardly mean anything to someone like Salve.

If any of us had to talk to her what would we say?

"Salve, makati pa kasi sa koneho 'yang mister mo. Dapat sa inyo mag-kapote, o kaya magpatali ka na, o magpatali na si mister mo. Kasi mukhang hindi niyo talaga matiis ang hindi umararo araw-araw, pang-siyam niyo na 'yang dinadala mo.

Katoliko ka ba? Nakupo... papano 'yan, depweds pala kapote o tali sa inyo. Pakabait na lang pala kayo para at least magkita-kita kayo sa Langit balang araw.

Hindi kayo kasal...? Patay... derechong impyerno na pala kayo at parurusahan kayo sa dagat-dagatang apoy... pagdarasal na lang namin kayo, good luck, take care..."
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