THE word immoral is used to describe a behavior not in conformity with accepted standards or principles; wicked; and lewd.

This is how the Catholic Church see the controversial "Reproductive Health and Population Development Bill" or RH Bill that is still being debated at the Lower House of Representatives.

House Bill 5043 or the Reproductive Health Bill and Population Development Act of 2008 (RH Bill) seeks government funding for population management programs that would provide reproductive health education and give access to both natural and artificial family planning methods to all Filipinos. Albay 1st District Rep. Edcel Ladman, primary author of the bill, earlier said the main focus of the RH bill is "the exercise of freedom of informed choice by women and couples on what method of family planning they want to adopt". In short, its main goal to reduce the population by reducing pregnancies.

Much has been argued about by the multi-faceted issue of reproductive health -- mostly religious and political in nature. Nonetheless, the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) has taken a firm stand on the reproductive health bill because its provisions are anti-family and anti-life.

Monsignor Paul Cuizon, Chancellor of the Archdiocese of Davao and parish priest of Sta. Ana Church, said the anti-RH Bill stand is not just of the CBCP's but of the universal Catholic Church.

"It has been the constant teaching of the Church. It is contained in the Encyclical letter of the late Pope Paul VI called Humanae Vitae. It's not just about the union of the husband and wife. The union sould always be open to life," Monsignor Cuizon said referring to Humanae Vitae (meaning "of human life") which describes a morally licit sexual act as one that involves both procreative and uniting elements.

"Artificial contraception eliminates the possibility of a pro-creative element," Mosignor Cuizon. "Kung hindi kasi open to life, the sexual intercourse would just be like for the human satisfaction and pleasure. When you engage in the sexual act, that means you are ready to take the responsibility. The natural law is pro creation."

Most feminist groups argue that reproductive choice is essential to authentic women's liberation and that this choice includes safe, available, affordable contraception.

Cuizon, however, said the use of contraception is already cutting off the union and the pro-creation.

Overpopulation

Pro RH-Bill groups, Monsignor Cuizon said, have always argued on the issue of poverty.

"The overpopulation theory is a myth. There are several studies showing the issue isn't overpopulation but the lack in distribution of wealth. If you put all people in the state of Alaska, they will all be accommodated in that part of the globe. Siguro there's just a concentration of people in the city. Take a plane ride and look down, you will see a lot of space," he added.

For Cuizon, it is a flawed way of thinking that blames hunger and poverty in a country on the number of people it has. It has the simplistic notion that there is hunger because there are too many people to feed.

"Prove it scientifically, that's my challenge. Why impose on us when that's not what the whole picture is all about. If you manage the population well and plan out give them work and education, then we shall expect economic growth. I hope the pro groups would study very well not just mouthing about it," he said.

Corruption

"Actually, overpopulation is wrongly connected with poverty. The admitted cause is corruption. There are others things that should be looked upon Good management of a population can be an asset instead of being a liability."

He said poor families would rather wish that they be given proper education instead of contraceptives.

Amidst the snowballing opposition to the RH Bill, Cuizon said it is not productive to face them head on. He said he'd go for the formation approach.
"The Church will always continue to inform the Faithful about the dangerous effects of the RH Bill. We will continue to be guardians of morality through preaching."

Preaching, he said, is not only in the pulpit but also through mass media. It's a mandate that Jesus Christ gave to the Church. It's the role of the Church to clarify moral issues to its flock.

"Kung susunod sila or hindi, its their prerogative. Nontheless, it will always be our task to teach prophetic roles. Let there be no conditions, there, there are many means."

A volunteer group -- Family and Life Apostolate -- in every parish have been helping promote value of life and family.

He leaves everything to the decision of the lawmakers though. "It's their turf. I honor invitations to City Council sessions and find it as a good venue to impart the Church's stand. I will not be there to ostracize them."

The kind of aggressiveness they undertake against RH Bill is just like how a mother protects and cares for her children. "Life has to be appreciated and valued as something sacred," he added,

On ex-communication

Monsignor Cuizon clarified that the Davao Archdiocese was just misquoted in earlier reports about its plan to ex-communicate 14 councilors supportive of the RH Bill.

"I was misquoted perhaps. Yun kasing ex-communication as a canonical penalty could not be imposed if it is not according to Vatican law. And there's only a list of sins with the sanction of ex-communication and supporting the RH Bill is not in the list," he said.

There are three grave acts that merit ex-communication along the intellectual level: heresy, apostasy, and schism. Heresy is teachings contrary to the Church; Apostasy is a sin against religion against God; while schism is breaking away from Church authority.

"RH bill may not fall under heresy but it can be a ground for ex-communication if the actions are upfront to the Church's teachings."

HIV/Aids

For the Catholic Church there is no other compromise for the natural method of contraception therefore, no culture of promiscuity.

The RH Bill should neither be used to justify the use of condoms.

Neither will the use of condoms help reduce the high incidence of HIV/Aids cases, Cuizon said.

"If are an HIV positive, then it means you can only abstain from having sex. Because you know you are sick there should be value and sacrifice," he added.

People's voice

When the Church speaks on RH BIll, it is from a standpoint of giving voice to those who cannot speak for their opinions.

"Ano mangyayari sa city kung walang voice na mag stand out to speak. The Church will always intervene. But how to effectively put these people to our cause is only through the power of the truth, he added. "The truth per se is powerful.

Even in politics, the church is mandated to intervene if it morality is at stake."

With arguments backed with evidences, the pros and the antis have their causes to further and therefore misuse of religious authority, delaying tactics, name-calling, and intensified misinformation are not needed but definitely should leave a lot of room for further examination and criticisms.

So while the fate of the controversial RH Bill is on the hand of our politicians and lawmakers, let us examine also the pit and the pendulum surrounding the issue, and how to properly address this in a language that everyone can understand.

Gigie Arcilla-Agtay/taxonomy/term/209
Marginal Lives

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