The raging debate surrounding the Reproductive Health (RH) bill took its turn for the worse for the Philippine Roman Catholic Church when their staunch defender in the Senate, Senator Tito Sotto, was pilloried all over media for plagiarizing blogger Sarah Pope’s article. To the majority of Filipinos supporting the RH bill, Sotto represented a ‘clown’ whose feet got stuck in his mouth while talking. Of course, the ‘clown’ tag easily sticks to Sotto who was once a member of the Tito (Sotto), Vic (Sotto) and Joey (de Leon) comic trio.
Untypical of a politician who would have mastered the craft called damage control — Sotto went on a media blitz and added fuel to the fire. A simple, sincere sounding apology would have cut his losses but he had to look down on bloggers and even tried to defend his use of the material that Sarah Pope wrote. He stirred a hornets’ nest and the flak exponentially multiplied. Other bloggers exposed that it wasn’t only from Sarah Pope that Sotto copied — but allegedly from four others.
Instead of promoting the conservative wing of the Philippine Roman Catholic Church’s view against the RH bill, Sotto diverted the discussion to plagiarism and the residual public perception that the anti-RH bill militants — militants because they’re few and very noisy — are intellectually bankrupt. If that’s not bad enough, the CBCP (Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines) President, Archbishop Jose Palma threatened to remove the Catholic status of Catholic schools that teach ideas that run counter to Church principles.
Posted last August 17 on the CBCP newsletter, the threat was being directed at the Jesuits after 160 Ateneo University professors publicized their collective position paper favoring the passage of the RH bill. It was the reaction that could be expected from a severely wounded and cornered animal. The conservative Bishops only succeeded in manifesting the desperation of their position and loss of equanimity.
“If we are a Catholic school, we should not teach anything contrary to the official teaching of the church,” Palma said. He added: “In some of the universities, we say that if you want to teach that idea, do not do it in a Catholic school because we are confusing the students… do it in other universities.”
How can Palma claim that pro-RH bill advocates are violating Catholic teachings when Pope Benedict XVI had already announced that the use of condoms could be allowed if its use is to protect human life? That reversal of what was once a strict NO CONDOMS policy opened a Pandora’s box of sorts for the Roman Catholic Church. The features of the RH bill are all meant to not just protect human lives but also to promote human dignity through responsible parenthood.
For the Jesuits, the threat from the conservative wing of Catholic Church is a mere rehash of persecution the order founded by St. Ignatius of Loyola had undergone in past centuries. Fr. Emetrio Barcelon, SJ provided us with insights to this sorry chapter of Church history in his January 21, 2012 article in the Manila Bulletin headlined “The Jesuits in the Philippines.”
Fr. Barcelon wrote: “Thrown out of the Philippines about 1766, the Jesuits are now celebrating their return 150 years ago.
The Bourbons did not like the Jesuits in Europe and in their empires since they were causing them too much trouble, probably reminding them of justice and love. At least that is what the Jesuits like to think, that they were a pain in the neck for the Bourbons for preaching against the excesses of power.
The Bourbons had enough power to make the Pope suppress the Jesuits, meaning they were no longer an approved institution of the Catholic Church in 1773. However, the decree of suppression was worded in such a way that it took effect only when the secular authorities approved it in their land.
It so happened, that Catherine of Russia did not like the Bourbons so she prohibited the reading of the decree of suppression in her lands. So the Jesuits survived in Russia.”
Fr. John J. Carroll, SJ wrote a May 4, 2011 article that was published in the Inquirer and pro-RH bill advocates have adopted his reasoning to counter the anti-RH Bill militants.
Fr. Carroll wrote: “…I recalled the unity in faith and hope of the millions who gathered 25 years ago at EDSA. But still there was an undercurrent of sadness, sadness due to the realization that the official Church no longer stands with a united people but with one part of a nation divided; and that the struggle is carried on, no longer in the respectful manner of the crowds at EDSA, but in an atmosphere of personal animosity and demonizing.
The sadness is made deeper by the sense that in the debate over the "RH bill, the Church seems to have backed itself into a no-win situation. If the bill passes over the total opposition of the hierarchy, there will be gloating in some quarters and a sense of “Who’s afraid of the big bad Church?” If it is defeated by the opposition of the Church, I fear a powerful backlash at the Church’s “interference in politics” and “reliance on political power rather than moral suasion”—the beginnings of an anti-clericalism such as has overwhelmed formerly Catholic bastions such as Spain and Ireland.
With all due respect for the position of the Philippine bishops, I do not see that total opposition to the bill necessary, once one gets past the polemics. First of all, the bill does not legalize contraceptives; they are already legal and may be purchased in any drugstore. What the bill proposes to do—rightly or wrongly—is to subsidize the cost of contraception as well as natural family planning to the poor. Neither does the bill legalize abortion; on the contrary it reaffirms the constitutional prohibition. It is highly probable in fact that if contraceptives become more available to the poor, the scandalous number of illegal abortions performed annually will be dramatically reduced.
On the tricky scientific question whether the IUD and some contraceptive pills may prevent the implantation of a fertilized ovum in the mother’s womb and so destroy a human life, the current draft of the bill passes the responsibility to the Food and Drug Administration, which should ban any such “contraceptives” from drugstores throughout the country.”
The Ateneo University is regarded as one of the country’s top educational institutions not because of its Catholic status but because of the deep bold thinkers of the Jesuit order. The Jesuits shouldn’t blink in the face of Catholic Taliban bullying.
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Shakespeare: “Madness in great ones must not unwatched go.”