THE Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines - Episcopal Commission on Family and Life (CBCP-ECFL) have issued guidelines on selecting political aspirants for the May 10 elections. The guidelines have not been formally released but according to Fr. Melvin Castro, the executive secretary of the Commission, one of the guidelines states that it will not be morally permissible to vote for candidates who support the Reproductive Health Bill, still pending in Congress.

In other words, the Bishops are advising the Catholics not to vote for Noynoy Aquino, because Noynoy has been early on coming out in support of the HR bill.

With his stance, Noynoy has shown courage and responsible leadership, even if it means antagonizing the powerful Catholic hierarchy. That is why, as a layman I strongly protest against this move of the Bishops. It certainly will affect the vote for Aquino, while Noynoy is in fact the only presidential candidate who can really bring about a change in the present political system of graft and corruption. If Noynoy will not win, the bishops must take the blame for this.

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The issue at stake here is the natural method of family planning against artificial birth control method through the use of contraceptives. In the first place, I believe that the natural method is in fact unnatural. Ideally it may be the best method but we do not live in an ideal world. The real world shows that it is unrealistic. How can the natural method be mandated by men who have never made love to a woman, or who have never lived with a woman as their wife, nor have never raised children on a 24 hours, 7 days a week basis?

How loving is it that the woman could tell her husband in that most intimate moment that, "Sorry, darling, we have to wait for a week before we can make love?" I believe that no one should meddle in the matrimonial bedroom, not even the Holy Father, the Pope, when the man and the woman express their love for each other in that most intimate expression of love - their physical union.

I am sorry to say this, but I believe that many bishops and priests have still a pre-Vatican outlook on sexuality and marital love. Humanae Vitae for them is dogma.

I believe in the beauty and primacy of love between a man and a woman, the mystical symbolism of the physical union between husband and wife. I believe also that women have the right to make informed choices about their bodies and reproductive lives, since it is the woman who bears the fetus in her womb. I believe that she more than the man has the absolute right to know how best to control her reproductive power, and decide how many children she should bear during that act of procreation, by using those methods that are helpful and healthful to her well-being.

The government cannot be cowed by the Catholic hierarchy. The proposed RH bill may have some imperfections; the bill is not pro-abortion and it is not anti-life as the pro-life fanatics say. The bill is pro-quality of life.

When Noynoy wins in the coming elections the first thing we may expect him to do is to bring in some necessary corrections and modifications in the bill and then move right away for its approval in Congress.

If Noynoy loses in the elections, we can expect a continuation of the old corrupt political system and the RH bill will be passed in Congress without any corrections or modifications. It's the Bishops who will be blamed for this.

I therefore urge all Catholic laypeople to vote according to their conscience and vote for Noynoy Aquino as President despite the advice of the Bishops.

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