'I am a nun but I am pro-RH law' – Sr Mary John Mananzan

MANILA, Philippines – Activist nun and former St Scholastica's College president Sr Mary John Mananzan does not share the stand of church leaders regarding the country's reproductive health (RH) law.

"I am a nun but I am for the reproductive [health] law, because I'm a woman. And I think the bishops overreacted," Mananzan said on Tuesday, May 16, during the She for She forum hosted by the France embassy in Manila.

The Catholic Church has been the strongest critic of Republic Act (RA) 10354 or the RH law. Signed in 2012 by former president Benigno Aquino III, the law grants universal access to contraceptives and other birth control methods.

The law has not been implemented since its passage because of the Supreme Court's temporary restraining order.

Bishops and priests oppose the measure, arguing that it promotes promiscuity and abortion.

But Mananzan said there has been a "lack of integrity" in the opposition to the RH law, because critics have been making false claims.

"A lot of things they say that [are] in the bill is not true," she explained. "It is not for abortion. There are 3 places [in the law] that say abortion is illegal in the Philippines so you cannot say that bill is for abortion. It is not."

Patriarchy in the Church

In her speech, Mananzan also talked about how the Catholic Church is lacking in terms of furthering gender equality and women empowerment.

The activist nun pointed out that women have yet to take on leadership roles in the Catholic Church, unlike in other churches.

"They are deprived of participation in the major decision-making processes and are denied full ministry in the Church. I am very sorry that I will never see in my lifetime the full ministry given to women in the Catholic Church," she said.

Mananzan noted that despite the limitations, women have been active in religious missions. They have been instrumental as well in running hospitals and schools.

"And of course, the special prophetic role of religious women during Martial Law [under the Marcos dictatorship]," she added. (WATCH: Sr Mary John Mananzan reacts to youth's views on People Power)

Another issue that the Catholic Church must address, said Mananzan, is sexual abuse committed by the clergy.

"We have to acknowledge and we have to condemn [cases of sexual abuse]," she said. (READ: Crisis in faith due to Church scandals– Rappler.com 

Patty Pasion

Patty leads the Rappler+ membership program. She used to be a Rappler multimedia reporter who covered politics, labor, and development issues of vulnerable sectors.

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