‘Catholic Church isolated on RH bill row’

Published by rudy Date posted on April 28, 2011

MANILA, Philippines—The support of non-Catholic religious groups like the Iglesia ni Cristo for the reproductive health (RH) bill has marginalized the Catholic hierarchy as the only institutional oppositor of the measure, according to analysts and key proponents of the measure.

House Minority Leader Edcel Lagman, the Albay congressman and principal author of the RH bill, Wednesday welcomed the endorsement of the Interfaith Partnership for the Promotion of Responsible Parenthood, Inc. (IPPRP) composed of the INC, the Iglesia Filipina Independente, and Evangelical, Methodist, Adventist and Episcopal denominations.

The support of the Protestant churches and the INC for the RH bill has only further isolated the Catholic Church, said political analyst Ramon Casiple.

Not fly-by-right

“These are religious groups, religious churches. These are not fly-by-night. And the more extremist position the [Catholic] bishops take, the more they alienate the flock, which is an irony because they’re supposed to protect the flock,” he said.

The support from the non-Catholic groups came on the heels of President Benigno Aquino III’s unequivocal support for the measure now awaiting plenary action at the House of Representatives, Lagman said.

According to Casiple, because of its “strident” opposition to the RH bill, the Church may be losing its ability to influence the Aquino administration.

The RH bill was a “test case of how far the Church can bend the administration to its will,” and it appears the Church is slowly losing the battle, he said.

“The Church has been orphaned by this issue because Noynoy Aquino doesn’t have that frame of mind to follow them. They can’t blackmail him, they can’t use the argument that he’s isolated. He doesn’t need them in relation to maintaining his popularity and goodwill,” added Casiple, executive director of the Institute for Political and Economic Reforms.

Church lobby

The Catholic Church, which has successfully lobbied against the passage of such a bill for more than 10 years now, opposes the RH bill because it allegedly allows married couples to gain easy access to condoms and other methods of contraception that can supposedly cause abortion.

But Lagman pointed out that individual Catholics themselves overwhelmingly support the bill as shown by the consistent results of surveys by independent pollsters Social Weather Stations and the Pulse Asia for almost two decades.

He said the snowballing of support of Catholics has been formalized with the nationwide organization of the Catholics for RH.

According to Casiple, Mr. Aquino is standing on solid ground since the majority of Filipinos support the passage of the legislation, as shown by poll surveys, he said.

Should the bill be approved and enacted into law, the Church would become “critical” of Mr. Aquino, and collaborate with the administration on a case-to-case basis, Casiple said.

“They won’t be close to Aquino as they were to GMA (former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo). There won’t be a Malacañang diocese,” he said.

Unless the Church changes its tack and comes out with the position that this issue is a “matter of faith,” it could further alienate some of the faithful, said Casiple.

“It’s isolating itself. We’re talking of a Church that’s determined to fight the reality of modern society, instead of adjusting,” he said.–Cynthia Balana, TJ Burgonio, Philippine Daily Inquirer

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