Home > Church and State Relations, Essays in Diplomacy > Is the Church to blame on population problems? What’s a win-win approach to the RH Bill?

Is the Church to blame on population problems? What’s a win-win approach to the RH Bill?

Is the Church to blame  on population problems? What’s a win-win approach to the RH Bill?

(Last of three parts)

by Juan “Jed” E.  Dayang, Jr.

Can’t the Catholic Church easily be blamed for population problems?  Here’s the logic: the government is constrained in promoting artificial contraception. The Catholic Church can promote natural contraception. We have a booming population that can be described as problematic. Therefore, is the Catholic Church  doing enough to take care of the “morals” of people particularly when it comes to family planning?

I understand that this argument is flawed for many reasons: for one, population problems are connected with economic development, of which the government is the key figure. The Catholic Church can also simply pass on the responsibility of promoting natural contraception to the government. It does, however, caution us against making simplistic generalizations.

The way to navigate this complexity is to focus on the issue at hand: reproductive health/ family planning. The government must battle against stereotypes through massive information campaigns. Reproductive health is not just about condoms. Reproductive health, whether artificial or natural, is about planning for the future and enhancing the quality of life of your children. Reproductive health is not just about choice, but about informed decision.

The government must be able to make the debate on the RH Bill positive. However, what we see now is the dynamics of two opposing views. Some members of the Church have threatened to excommunicate or refuse to give communion to supporters of the Bill. On the other hand, you have anti-Church groups which are anti-clerical and have branded the Church as “Damaso” referring to national hero Jose Rizal’s caricature of a domineering, old-fashioned and hypocritical cleric in his novel Noli Me Tanghere, which influenced the Philippine revolution against the colonial rule of Spain. We also have groups who questions objective morality in favor of personal convictions criticizing the church.

In the ongoing contentious debate and mud-slinging, where do we place the ordinary Filipino who are the primary target of the RH Bill?  He or she must be beset by feelings of guilt in using artificial contraceptives but do not know what to go about planning their pregnancies.  Many are supportive of RH Bill (7 out of 10 Filipinos surveyed by the Social Weather Station in 2008) but majority are also supportive of the Church and  remain as its pious members attending Sunday masses regularly and receiving the holy sacraments.

For many,   the issue of supporting and rejecting the RH Bill is not an easy question. It involves a deeper reflection of their values and identity as a person. Asking the question of how do you balance Filipino values of  maka-Diyos (pro-God), maka-Tao/Pamilya (propeople), maka-Bayan (pro-country) at maka-Kalikasan (proenvironment)?  These questions are aspects of the moral dimensions that would have to be considered by individuals in making an informed decision.

I believe that this is where the Government should have a more comprehensive  policy on RH Bill.  The Government must do its role in educating comprehensively its citizens on  both artificial and natural methods of family planning and leave the decision to its citizens.  There is a need for competent counselors who are sensitive to religious and cultural beliefs of its citizens in promoting birth control methods. The government must also promote fully natural forms of family planning  which are acceptable to the Catholic Church such as  the symptoms-based methods, the calendar-based methods, and the breastfeeding or lactational amenorrhea method.  The government could  cooperate with religious institutions and organizations such as Catholic schools in  providing  information on reproductive health to parents, teachers, and students.

One cannot deny that the Church has a role in the education of the young  in the Philippines. The Government is better placed to be mindful of instilling values formation to children and the young in the importance of family values and human virtues such as charity, loyalty, prudence, purity and temperance, among others to form good citizens. The government must also remain inclusive and allow freedom of religious practice. Therefore, in crafting the Bill, it should refrain from imposing sanctions on conscientious objectors in keeping with the freedom of conscience which is protected under the Philippine constitution.

Another way to promote the bill is to underscore similarities between the RH bill and the stance of the Catholic Church. For all the public knows, the RH bill has 8,000 good provisions and we are merely arguing about three. A good bill is therefore left to rot in the chambers because we cannot move forward with three contested provisions.  Highlighting the similarities will give better context to the entire issue instead of just singling out and concentrating on the sensitive portions.

At the end of the day, the government must ensure that it gets the support of its citizen on family planning and responsible parenthood. The government must enact information and education campaign to enable citizen’s to make informed decisions.  After giving full information to its citizens on the various aspects of responsible parenthood and reproductive health, then it is best to leave  the decision on the method of responsible parenthood and family planning on the individual through the use of his conscience and free will.

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  1. Amar
    March 28, 2011 at 12:38 pm

    Thanks for your post again, Would it be possible to include references, which conclude to an argumentive support of 7 Filipinos out of 10 in favour of RH bill ?

    • March 29, 2011 at 12:27 am

      Hi Amar,
      Thanks for your comment. The survey was conducted in 2008 by the Social Weather Station which is an opinion poll. Here’s the link http://www.sws.org.ph/
      Cheers,

      Jed

  2. March 28, 2011 at 12:52 pm

    Thanks for linking up to one of my blog posts even if it was written quite lightheartedly. Please allow me to inject some of my other thoughts here in your essay.

    I feel that a lot of people think that the RH Bill can be a backdoor for the acceptance of abortion (which is unconstitutional), hence the hostility of some Christians towards it. The RH Bill is a hot issue, but no one is really going all out to clarify what it entails. Some even think that it makes having two children a strict gov’t policy.

    Critics also have to realize that to even touch the issue of abortion, that means that our dear legislators already has a clear definition of what it really means in the Philippines.

    Sir, I wouldn’t know if you’d agree with me. But don’t you think that the current incarnation of HB 4244 is still far from being perfect? I guess my wish is that both PROs and Antis come up with a middle-ground solution. The idea of promoting RH is here to stay. They might as well fine-tune it.

  3. March 29, 2011 at 8:11 am

    Hi Brianitus,

    Thanks for your comments. The RH Bill is very complex. Apart from the health sector, we have pro-abortion groups that are trying to insert their language in the bill. There are also women’s rights using the RH Bill to promote control of their bodies. Laws created through legislation will never come out as what they were originally intended. A law goes through deliberations and amendments until a final compromise document is agreed by the majority. I agree that we have to come up with a middle ground. One that has a long term plan on how we can make our people responsible.

  4. March 31, 2011 at 1:34 pm

    Maria Almeda (via FB 29 March 2011)
    i must commend u amigo for a job well done…sad to say, people are swayed because of their ignorance of such issues….catolica cerrada ako, but will the church ever learn to read between the lines?…how do u explain that to a family who is starving?..irresponsible parenthood?..what’s next?… prostitute their children?….deny them their education?…make them work at a tender age to help sustain their ever growin

    “contravida pa raw ako sabi ng friends ko…gee, whatever happened to free will?….tell that to a nation that is staring poverty before their very eyes..tell that to a child who is dying and the family cannot afford to pay for his hospitalization…tell that to the countless, marginalized sectors of society that cannot even put food on the table bcoz of the many mouths to feed?….bcoz the parents failed to practice family planning…we r not abt to take away lives….as i am pro-life….but pls….reflect, ask urselves what u can do to alleviate all these?…”

  5. Gabriela
    April 9, 2011 at 3:10 pm

    Hi!

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts concerning the RH Bill.

    Here’s an article worth reading by the head of the population research institute: http://pop.org/content/philippines-under-fire#comment-161

    The problem behind poverty is not overpopulation, but rather poorly governed policies.

    Janet Smith further expounds on the beginnings of the contraceptive mentality in the US and how “a little compromise” opened up Pandora’s Box of broken homes broken hearts and broken lives:

    http://www.janetsmith.excerptsofinri.com/

    Bottomline: with issues concerning family life and marriage, we cannot compromise. Italy decided to hop onto the ‘overpopulation bandwagon’ and is endanger of extinction: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/719423.stm. Even social security in the US is failing because people choose to have less children and given the demographic shift in the increase in elderly, there is not enough of the work force to support the aging Americans:

    http://www.pop.org/content/is-social-security-doomed-by-contraception-and-abortion-1263

    Filipinos are considering limiting their population…years down the road, will there be enough left?…

    There is some lack of logic when we say:’people are starving in the world, what they need is a condom…people need better health care, give them a condom…’ We cannot compromise in mattters pertaining to marriage and family life…even if “there are only 3 controversial issues and 8000 positive issues” concerning the RH Bill.

    Not to sound antagonistic or anything. But I sincerely believe that those who oppose the RH Bill are not merely protesting because we are ignorant conservative Catholics who only oppose it “just because the Catholic Church opposes it.” The scars of contraception and “family planning” are centuries old in developed countries and we are trying to protect our country from falling into the pit.

    Hope this sheds additional light concerning the matter…

  6. August 5, 2011 at 3:29 pm

    nice posting… i really enjoy it…

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