Bishop: Catholics are not obliged to follow any RH law

Published by rudy Date posted on May 12, 2011

Filipino Catholics will defy a reproductive health (RH) bill allowing artificial contraception if it becomes law, a bishop said Thursday.

Caloocan Bishop Deogracias Iñiguez Jr. said that while they are not pushing civil disobedience for now, Catholics are obliged not to follow any law that violates their faith.

“Eventually kung yan ay maging batas, hindi susundin ng mga Katoliko yan… Sa inyong pananampalataya, maaring ang inuutos ng state [ay] labag [sa] pinaninindigan kaya obligado kang hindi sundin yan,” Iñiguez, who heads the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) public affairs unit, said in an interview on dwIZ radio.

Meanwhile, another Catholic Church official called for an “all-out war” against the measure, after the CBCP terminated its dialogue with Malacañang on the issue this week.

Lipa (Batangas) Archbishop Ramon Arguelles said the talks were “doomed to fail,” because President Benigno Aquino III has long been a supporter of the bill.

“It’s normal that we are going to have a total war now against the RH bill … I said it before that the dialogue is useless … I know the President was not really open for a dialogue because of his fixed decision to push RH bill,” Arguelles said on Church-run Radyo Veritas interview, excerpts of which were posted Thursday on the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines news site.

On the other hand, Iñiguez maintained the Church is not endorsing civil disobedience, at least for now. Other bishops renewed their civil disobedience threat against the RH bill last February.

According to him, the Church is studying its options against the RH bill, including questioning its constitutionality before the proper forum.

“Pag naaprubahan yan, e gagawa tayo ng ibang pamamaraan… siguro titingnan din natin yung sinasabing this is against the Constitution. Titingnan natin ang anggulong yan (If it is passed into law, we will study our options against it. Some anti-RH advocates say the RH bill is against the Constitution. Perhaps we can follow that line of action),” Iñiguez said.

Moreover, he said opponents of the RH bill claim the proposed measure violates the Constitution’s provision to protect all life because it allows artificial contraception.

The Church prescribes only natural family planning to its flock.

Also, he said President Benigno Aquino III will not be excommunicated because of his stand for the RH bill.

Aquino told graduating students of the University of the Philippines last April he was willing to risk excommunication as he pushes the Responsible Parenthood (RP) bill, a consolidation of several reproductive health measures being proposed in Congress.

“Hindi ko nakikita ang option na yan (I do not see that as an option),” Iñiguez said when asked about the chances of Aquino being excommunicated.

Think of women’s health

Amid Church-government dialogues early this year, a group of Catholics supporting the RH bill sent an open letter to Catholic bishops urging them to think of women’s health and support the measure.

In its letter, the Catholics for Reproductive Health (C4RH) appealed to the Roman Catholic Church hierarchy to support the RH Bill, which it said, if passed into law, “is a significant responsible way to save and protect the lives of Filipinos from reproductive health infections and concomitant diseases.”

“Reproductive health is both a right and a responsibility,” the letter said. “We strongly believe that couples, especially women, would be given the freedom to choose the path they will take in raising their family and have the social responsibility to act in accordance with their conscience and the means within their disposal.”

It added that the bill will also promote responsible parenthood, thus contributing to the improvement of Filipinos’ quality of family life.

Lines still ‘open’

Meanwhile, the CBCP indicated its lines of communication with Malacañang are still open, despite the bishops’ pullout from the dialogues.

CBCP secretary general Msgr. Juanito Figura also said they are not taking it personally against Aquino.

“We are simply making a position just as any other stakeholders in the issue,” he said in an article posted on the CBCP news site Thursday.

Besides, he said Malacañang still expressed its desire for the church to keep its communication lines open.

“It is the bishops’ decision and they will have to talk about it in the next plenary council meeting,” he added.

Earlier, Figura explained the CBCP’s reason for quitting the dialogue, which he said “would not yield any further positive results.”

He said the consolidated RH bill in the House and Aquino’s five-point responsible parenthood agenda are deemed to be basically the same.

“The bishops do not see any reason to further undertake a serious study/dialogue on HB 4244 with the administration as was proposed by President Aquino, himself,” said Figura.

It was the second time that the CBCP halted the dialogue with the Aquino administration on the RH Bill issue.

Last February, the bishops suspended the dialogues citing the hasty process to pass the bill in Congress as among the reasons.

In late March, Aquino sent a letter to the bishops convincing them to resume the dialogue.

In its last meeting with Malacañang in March, both parties agreed to form a team that will take part in a focus group discussion to study and discuss the mandated RH bill.

Antipolo Bishop Gabriel Reyes, Cavite Bishop Luis Antonio Tagle, chairman of the CBCP Commission on Doctrine of Faith, and Parañaque Bishop Jessie Mercado, chair of the Commission on Laity were designated to compose the church panel.

But the bishops did not show up at the scheduled meeting on May 10 and instead sent Figura and CBCP legal counsel Jo Imbong as representatives.

The meeting lasted for around two hours and ended with the CBCP finally putting an end to the dialogues.

On the RH bill, Figura said the CBCP maintains that it really contains “bad” provisions that are interwoven with the good ones it carries.

The CBCP said the “bad” provisions include the promotion and legalization of contraceptives as a means to control population as well as the one that seeks to establish a mindset and value system that are “secularist, materialistic, individualistic and hedonistic” in the guise of development and modernity but are hostile to human life, family and religion.

“The Philippines does not need this bill. All the good provisions it contains are already mandated in the Constitution and are already programs of the government agencies concerned. They simply need to be implemented through aggressive and sincere policy enforcement,” he said.

Muffled voices

Decrying the amount of attention given to the views of Catholic bishops on reproductive health, former President Fidel V. Ramos appealed to the media last Wednesday to seek out the opinions of women.

“It is the lives (of women) and of their babies that the passage – or non-passage – of the RH bill will affect most intimately,” Ramos said at a festive gathering of RH advocates in the Crowne Plaza Galleria in Quezon City. “The voices of women are barely heard.”

At the same time, Ramos appealed for a more civil national conversation on the issue, saying there is “no need for bickering and name-calling – much less for threats of eternal damnation,” a sharp dig at the Catholic clergy who have used the pulpit to attack supporters of the bill. — LBG, GMA

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