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The Church and The State

There is no such thing as a “population crisis” in the Philippines and the controversial “Reproductive Health and Population Development Act of 2007 “is not needed to solve a problem,” said a leading social scientist.

This “leading social scientist” just happens to be the President of the Society of Catholic Social Scientists and Professor of Political Science and Legal Studies at the Franciscan University of Steubenville, Ohio, USA. (As if getting a foreigner as a resource person equals credibility). I wonder if this scientist ever visited the slums of Manila and encountered the many children there. I wonder if he knows how many children have stopped going to school because their parents can only afford to send one child among six. I wonder if he knows how someone in this country who earns less than minimum wage can afford to feed six children everyday. I wonder how someone far away in Ohio, USA can make the statement that “there is no such thing as a population crisis in the Philippines.” I don’t think one should just look at the numbers but look at the entire picture.

I don’t have the data but most probably, the reason there was a general decline in the number of children born in the Philippines in the last couple of years is that the middle-class and those who can actually afford to have a lot of children are now into “family planning”. Traditionally, Filipino families have a lot of children but due to the continuous increase of living expenses, people opted to be more practical and limit the number of children to two to three per family. This is not the case in the poverty stricken areas. There are couples there who still have four, six, even ten, twelve children! The parents can’t afford to feed themselves let alone their children.

The full article lists down the possible ill effects of the Reproductive Health Bill, citing what happened to the “morals” of other countries which adapted and encouraged the use of contraceptives.

…the practice of contraception and “its further encouragement by government policy has led to the breakdown of sexual morality and the further acceptance of a range of deviant and unnatural sexual behaviors, including massive premarital sexual activity, cohabitation, adultery, and homosexual acts.”

As if educating the masses about family planning and making resources available to them is equal to declaring to everyone to “go ahead and have sex with anyone you want because you can’t have babies! We have contraceptives! We’re all going to burn in hell!”

Apparently, Catholic leaders also believe that using contraceptives is the same as having an abortion. They’d rather that people use “natural” ways of not getting pregnant–withdrawal and rhythm method–techniques proven to be less effective than artificial contraceptives.

Such is the Church’s reaction over the proposed Reproductive Health Bill–a law lobbied to promote gender equality and reproductive rights in the Philippines.

Supporters of the bill are refused communion and are called atheists or even “alagad ni Satanas” (slaves of Satan). The Catholic Church also admitted to having a group of people whose obligation is to check on the bill’s progress. The Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines sent an emissary to Malacañan itself to talk personally to the President about the proposed bill.

Yet, the CBCP denies getting involved in politics. They’re not meddling. According to them, it is the politicians who are meddling into the Church’s teachings.

The Philippine Constitution clearly insists that there should be a clear separation between the Church and State. No matter how much they deny it, what the Church is doing does not adhere to the constitution. They claim that they are just voicing out their disagreement with the bill but not everyone can get a personal “visit” with the President to just “voice out” a disagreement. There is also an obvious effort to coerce lawmakers to lobby their way.

I support the Reproductive Health Bill not because I’m a heathen and a sinner. I support it because it lobbies for the proper education of the masses about sex and reproductive health. Having an educated public helps them make informed choices and will ultimately lead to healthier mothers and more responsible couples. No, I don’t believe sex education and contraceptives will promote promiscuity. The Church has to realize that sex is inevitable–they can’t prevent it. What we can do is make sure that the people who are actually doing it are safe and well-informed. Let the State do its job by informing and educating the public–let the family (and the Church) take care of the morals from home. Responsible parents will teach their kids to be responsible.

It is common for families in poverty-stricken areas to have four to ten children–children the parents can’t afford to feed or send to school. They have children because they don’t know any better. I’m not saying that having a lot of kids is bad–as long as you can feed, clothe and give them all of their basic needs, then go ahead and have ten children! What’s worse is that the Church seems to fuel the wrong belief that children should be “used” by parents as a way out of poverty–a cultural value of old that children should somehow “repay” their parents by getting rich and or by supporting them the rest of their lives.

My parents told me that it was their responsibility to raise me; to give me a roof over my head, to feed and clothe me, to send me to school. They told me I don’t owe them anything but they expect me to do the same to my children someday. My father always tells me that he didn’t have children so he doesn’t have to work–he has to work because he has children.

This has always been my problem with the Catholic Church: it seems to me that they would prefer blind followers. People who follow without asking or thinking are less trouble after all. Bottom line, the Church has to trust its constituents to think for themselves. Their tirade against the Reproductive Health Bill is another proof that one of the reasons why this country will never move forward is that the Church, despite what it believes are its good intentions, keep holding the State back.

  1. clare
    July 26, 2008 at 1:20 pm

    “What’s worse is that the Church seems to fuel the wrong belief that children should be “used” by parents as a way out of poverty–a cultural value of old that children should somehow “repay” their parents by getting rich and or by supporting them the rest of their lives.”

    — hay, i know exactly what you mean by this. i agree. wrong belief it. tama ang point of view ng parents mo about it.

  2. July 26, 2008 at 8:18 pm

    Hazel (psychogoddess),

    Received your comment on my site regarding abortion and thought I’d come over to your site. Glad I did. I will be creating a new post on this topic hopefully within the next week as I recently finished an article that the people at http://www.pathofreason.com will be publishing. I usually wait until a few weeks after they have published one of my articles before posting it on my site but because of your timely question I will be posting it simultaneously. I will be adding your comment to the new post so hopefully it will get you some answers. I’ll let you know when this happens. If you decide to check out their site I write under the pseudonym Thomas Keane.

    The stubbornness of the Catholic religion on this issue truly perplexes me. When the ‘morning after’ pill came out I thought we had finally found something that even the Catholic Church might be able to get behind as the morning after pill simply prevents the egg from ever implanting, much like your standard contraceptive pill. No implantation means no egg to be fertilized, means no chance of a baby. Simple. But the Church was having none of it. Their reasoning, if you can call it that, seems to be that by taking this pill, just like with other contraceptives, you are preventing the POSSIBILITY of that baby being born, and that is just as bad as an abortion. To me they are setting a bad precedent as what they are basically saying is that if there is a possibility of a baby, then doing ANYTHING to prevent that baby from being conceived and born is a sin. But this would mean that ANY woman that is capable of conceiving, MUST conceive. Period. To do ANYTHING to avoid having a baby would be a sin. That means a nun who has vowed to never have sex is, in essence, committing a sin, as she is preventing herself from conceiving.

    But I think the issue of abortion is missing the main point. —– I realized I was just basically rewriting my article as I continued so I decided to delete what I wrote and copy and past the article in my comment. I hope you don’t mind.

    The volatile and never-ending issue of whether or not a woman has the right to terminate her own pregnancy now seems to be centered on the question of when during the prenatal development the fetus is considered viable or human. For a very long time it was accepted that one wasn’t actually ‘alive’ until they were born and took their first breath. This was even supported in scripture; Adam only “became a living soul” once God “breathed into his nostrils the breath of life.” (Genesis 2:7). However, now some ultra conservatives actually argue that humanity (life) begins at conception. It’s not hard to imagine these same people grieving over the millions of potential humans that are lost every single time a man ejaculates.

    Whether it is more willful to suggest that life begins upon that first inhalation or when the spermatozoon joins with the ovum to form a zygote is all dependant on one’s own bias. As for where the law/government stands on the issue; as is often the case, it is somewhere in the middle. The determining factor seems to be the point at which the fetus can survive outside of the womb. It has been well established that any premature birth can, and often does, result in some sort of negative developmental issue, whether in infancy, childhood or adulthood. The most common afflictions are cerebral palsy, vision and/or hearing loss and learning problems. And yet none of these potential disabilities are taken into account when judging viability. In fact, the main factor that influences whether or not a woman may be allowed to request an abortion is simply the number of weeks of gestation that have elapsed in her pregnancy. In most U.S. states that magic number is twenty-one. If the fetus makes it into week twenty-two, the choice of whether or not it can be terminated is taken from the woman and given to the doctor.

    For pro-lifers, the idea that they are standing up for the rights of the fetus, who has no voice of its own, is an inspiring one. But is it also misguided? If it really is about the rights of the fetus and the fetus has no ability to express or even form its own opinion, does it really make the most sense that someone with no connection to the mother or any knowledge of the circumstances should be making the decisions? If the fetus is incapable of declaring an opinion for itself, doesn’t it seem reasonable that the person who should be allowed to decide for the fetus would be the woman whose body sustains and contains it? Is there a more logical candidate? Would this not be the case if we were discussing another living mass of cells residing within someone’s body, such as a tape worm (parasite) or a tumor? Shouldn’t this be the main focus when considering the topic of abortion, not whether or not the fetus is human, not when life begins, but who has the right to make the decision seeing that the fetus has no ability to do so for itself?

    If the decision on what can be done with what resides within a woman’s body is to be given to another, who should it be? A stranger? The government? A priest? The church? A parent? A doctor? A Judge? A husband? The ‘father’? Any man for that matter? How can anyone justify placing any of these people/organizations above the person whose body the fetus/tumor resides? And if you were to grant the government jurisdiction over a woman’s pregnant body, at what point would they take control? At conception? Upon first confirming that the woman is pregnant? After the quickening? After the first trimester? The second? If she were a first time mother? If she were a mother of fifteen illegitimate children? If she were an I.V. drug user? A victim of incest or rape? Mentally retarded? Mentally deranged? If she were a Mormon? A Scientologist? An Atheist? An illegal immigrant? Underage? Middle-Class? Homeless? HIV positive? Brain dead? And if the government was to take steps to protect the human rights of the fetus, shouldn’t it also monitor the mother’s consumption of tobacco, alcohol and drugs (both legal and illegal)? Shouldn’t the mother’s very behavior be authorized and restricted based on the perceived effect on the fetus? And why stop there? Why not also allow the government or church to decide who, when and if someone should be on birth control and what type. Why not have the government/church decide who we should be allowed to have sex with. Why make any decisions for ourselves? Why not just give up all control to the government and/or the church? Or should only the decisions categorized as moral be governed in such a way? And who is to decide what is moral? Would a Buddhist have a say? Would an Atheist?

    Good Samaritan laws state that a person can’t be forced to save another’s life if doing so would risk or even inconvenience their own except under highly specific circumstances. For example, you can’t be forced to be an organ donor; you can’t be forced to donate blood; if a person struggling to save a panicked drowning victim is forced to abandon their efforts in order to protect themselves, they cannot be charged with a crime if the person they attempted to save perishes. Yet, for some reason, forcing women to carry someone within their own bodies appears to be the exception to the rule. Somehow the rights of the fetus have superseded the rights of the woman to have autonomy over her own body even though the physical use of another’s body for one’s own survival is not, and has never been, a human right.

    If we as individuals continue to insist that our particular philosophical understanding of an issue be established as a universal absolute, governing the lives of all, then we will continue to be divided as a people. For if there is only one absolute truth, it is that there are no two people in the world, not Christian, not Atheist, not man or woman, who will ever be in total agreement on all things. No one will ever be so wise as to know what is right and what is wrong for each and every one of us. There will always be choices that we as individuals must be allowed to make for ourselves. Humanity thrives on such freedom. It is the core of the American ideal. We must strive to never forget that.



  3. July 28, 2008 at 7:09 pm

    @DT: thanks for the insight. Please let me know as soon as your article’s published.
    As you may have surmised, the bill and the church’s stand on it is quite controversial. What is frustrating is that when the supporters of the bill try to reason with the Church, it spouts scriptures and condemns them for being “instruments of Satan”; the writers of the bill are also accused of meddling with the Church’s teachings.
    I guess more than the issue about abortion and contraceptives, I am more annoyed at how the church is trying to manipulate the situation and how close minded Church leaders can be. I speak to Catholics everyday–practicing Catholics who hear mass every Sunday– who do not agree with the Church’s stand.

  4. July 29, 2008 at 7:02 pm

    I agree with you 100%! I’m a catholic and I agree that something should be done to control this problem. I hope the church can be open minded about this.

  5. Show-Ender
    August 10, 2008 at 2:52 am

    Whaddya expect, you’re in Jesusland!!! People here can’t think for themselves, no do they care. It’s all “the Lord will provide, hallelujah!!” for them.

    You wanna make poverty history, then feed the homeless to the hungry!!

  6. August 10, 2008 at 6:38 am

    @Show-Ender: I always believed that the best way to combat poverty is to have a well-educated public. Teach the people to take care of themselves.

    Both the Church and politicians are to blame for our people’s ignorance, not the people themselves. What can we do when we have a church that spread these kinds of teachings:
    – Children are a blessing (I agree with this point. This point only) so have as many as you want.
    – Don’t worry about anything. The Lord will provide. (some people actually take this literally)

    On the other hand, I have a theory that most politicians prefer an ignorant public–the kind of democracy we have in this country needs intelligent voters and an educated public won’t vote for most of those already in office. Madali kasi magpaganda ng imahe sa mga mahihirap. Bigyan mo lang ng bigas o ng pera, ang bait-bait mo na.

  7. Show-Ender
    August 10, 2008 at 7:17 pm

    My thoughts exactly. However the problem is simply too massive to contain, moreso without artificial state-sponsored population control. You really can’t hope to educate everyone below the poverty line, so the next best thing is “mass euthanasia.” Burn every godforsaken shanty in Metro Manila. Kill every beggar and street child at sight. Problem solved!

    Oh, and let’s add some hypocrites-in-robes in the mix. I’m sure their Te Deums will do nicely in flames.

  8. August 10, 2008 at 8:15 pm

    bakit kaya ang lakas ng influencia ng mga fraile..este.. ng Paring Noypi sa gobierno natin… eh sarili nilang hierarchy di nila malinis. dito nga sa Caloocan, dito sa San Roque may isang kura paroko nababalot ng misteryo. hehehe. ano gawa CBsipsipBee? wala… 😦 tahimick… hehe…

    oh well… better not touch this topic, baka ma criticize ako ng mga hardcore church (at least sa mga romantikong catolico lang) fans nila.:)

    peace out!


  9. September 10, 2009 at 9:31 pm

    Hi! I was surfing and found your blog post… nice! I love your blog. 🙂 Cheers! Sandra. R.

  1. August 5, 2008 at 8:52 pm

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