MANILA, Philippines – So who will win the Reproductive Health (RH) bill’s August 7 vote? Church bishops say they have enough votes to junk the bill. Paterno Esmaquel reports the Catholic front is not as united as it seems because other voices inside the Church offer divergent views. (Watch video below.)
They’re the voice of the Catholic Church. Bishops and priests take a hardline stance against the RH bill. But other Catholic voices also speak up for the bill, and cite Catholic teachings to support it. Fourteen Ateneo professors say Catholics can support the RH bill in good conscience.
They cite figures that show the poorest women bear more children than they intend. In contrast, the richest get to plan their families better.
They also say the RH bill fulfills the so-called preferential option for the poor. The concept means God “has a special concern for the poor and the vulnerable.” The professors note the RH bill expands the options of the poor by giving them access to contraceptives.
MARITA CASTRO GUEVARA, INTERDISCIPLINARY STUDIES FACULTY, ATENEO: Poor women, poor couples should have the right to be able to follow their well formed consciences. The problem is, they don’t have the means, for example, the financial means to access the reproductive health service, or the family planning service that they think will be compatible with their lifestyle and their bodies.
The professors’ statement goes against the Church position on birth control. In the encyclical Humanae Vitae, Pope Paul VI bans family planning methods that supposedly interfere with the body’s natural rhythms.
Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Tagle, for his part, debunks arguments the RH bill will help alleviate the plight of the poor. Tagle explains contraceptives do not sufficiently address poverty.
LUIS ANTONIO TAGLE, MANILA ARCHBISHOP: Poverty, talaga namang may dehumanizing poverty. At lahat tayo, Katoliko man o hindi, kailangang mai-angat ang dignidad ng tao sa pamamagitan ng karampatan at akma na pamumuhay. Kaya ang sabi natin, baka yun ang dapat tugunan. Make people productive rather than manipulating life for so-called prosperity.
On the other hand, lay people claim this runs against actual experience. They say married people find contraceptives more effective in planning their families and fighting poverty.
MARY RACELIS, RESEARCH SCIENTIST, INSTITUTE OF PHILIPPINE CULTURE: If you say more than 80 percent of Filipinos queried in the Social Weather Stations surveys and other surveys, have shown they want the bill, they want access to modern family planning, why don’t they listen? We’re saying, we’re the laity, we are the Church, why are we not included in some of these discussions? It’s only you who seem to assume that you are the Church.
It may be true, some bishops are clandestine supporters, but Catholic teachings will take decades or even centuries to evolve. For now, pro-RH bill Catholics will remain torn between their church leaders and their conscience.
Paterno Esmaquel, Rappler.