Can CBCP compromise on RH bill?

“As we mentioned, age and parental consent – at the moment, that should be discussed, because the primary obligation depends on the parents. The state should not arrogate to themselves a right that is supposed to belong to the parents,” Palma told Rappler, in a mix of English and Filipino, after an anti-RH bill Mass last August 13.

The head of CBCP's family and life commission, Antipolo Bishop Gabriel Reyes, said the Church is not moving to ban contraceptives. He said the public, after all, can buy this in ordinary stores.

“What the Church is against, I repeat, is that government should promote contraception and provide free contraceptives to people,” Reyes said in CBCP's response to Jesuit constitutionalist Fr Joaquin Bernas' stance on the RH bill.

Violating teachings

But how Church officials can proceed in dialogue on the RH bill, without violating Church teachings, is anticipated by critics.

The CBCP's official stance on the RH bill, for example, is based on a key papal document.

Pope Paul VI's Humanae Vitae bans artificial family planning methods, which supposedly interfere with the body's natural rhythms. It also emphasizes that sexual intercourse should always both unite a married couple and remain open to procreation.

In another document, Evangelium Vitae, the late Pope John Paul II warned against a so-called “contraceptive mentality.” Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Tagle spoke along these lines during a grand anti-RH bill rally last August 4.

DANGEROUS 'CULTURE'? Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Tagle echoes the Catholic Church's fear of the RH bill.

File photo from Jesuit Communications

Nakilatis na ba ninyo? Ano ba ang kulturang Pilipino na inyong ibig ipasa sa amin at sa susunod na henerasyon? Ano bang kultura ang sisimulan nitong RH bill?” (Have you examined it? What Filipino culture do you intend to pass on to us and to the next generation? What culture will this RH bill begin?)

Church laws prohibit bishops from violating papal decrees, and indeed all Catholic teachings.

Public health analyst Marilen Dañguilan questioned the idea of the government and the Catholic Church drafting a "compromise RH bill."

"It's like asking a logger to draft an anti-logging bill or sitting down with the Ku Klux Klan to make a statement on racism. On contraceptives, the Catholic Church won't give in to women's and men's use of artificial contraceptives. For decades, the Catholic Church considers the use of artificial contraceptives as sinful. And it will always promote only 'natural' family planning methods," Dañguilan explained.

"A compromise RH bill? No compromises when it comes to contraceptives," she said.

Why them?

In the first place, however, the Technical Working Group (TWG) on the RH bill shouldn't include Catholic Church officials, said the group Filipino Freethinkers through its Twitter account.

“If the TWG on #RHBill amendments has (representatives) from the Catholic Church, it should also include representatives of other faiths and non-believers. If #RHBill TWG can't contain (representatives) of all faiths and non-believers, then be secular and don't privilege the Catholic Church over others' beliefs,” the Filipino Freethinkers said.

The Palace, for its part, hopes Congress could pass an RH bill “acceptable... to a greater segment of the population.” “This will be a good time... for reasonable men to come together and discuss what the amendments could be,” said Presidential Spokesperson Edwin Lacierda in a press briefing.

Early last month, anti-RH bill lawmakers threatened to inject "killer amendments" that will dilute the RH bill, to the point that its proponents themselves wouldn't recognize the measure. 

The authors of the RH bill, on the other hand, have listed 10 major amendments acceptable to them. These include the removal of a provision on the "ideal family size," as well as amendments regarding sex education. (Read the entire list below.) 

– Rappler.com

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Paterno R. Esmaquel II

Paterno R. Esmaquel II, news editor of Rappler, specializes in covering religion and foreign affairs. He obtained his MA Journalism degree from Ateneo and later finished MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email him at pat.esmaquel@rappler.com.

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