Tag Archive | "contraception"

Anti-RH Church Leaders Blame Calamities on RH

Tacloban_Typhoon_Haiyan_2013-11-13Why would God let calamity hit a predominantly Catholic country? “God is not the cause of the suffering,” answers Father Bacaltos, a Tacloban parish priest. “God cannot prevent this. This is the work of nature.”

Many Catholics would agree that nature, not God, is to blame for this tragedy. But for some leaders of the Catholic Church, the Reproductive Health (RH) law is to blame. Which leaders? Well, what a coincidence: the ones who are most vocal against RH.

Here’s Lipa Archbishop Ramon Arguelles, who campaigned against “Team Patay” through tarps, reminding us that rather than Nature’s random acts, calamities like Yolanda (Typhoon Haiyan) are God’s reminders. He adds that when we continue to oppose God through the RH Law, we put our lives in danger:

 What happens to us — earthquakes, floods, storms — are reminders.We are reminded to never forget life… Even our life is in the hands of God so we better make it meaningful… Let us not forget him. We remove Him, for example, in this [RH] law that goes against His will. So when we oppose God, we are in danger.” [some parts translated]

And here’s Manila Auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo, an anti-RH voice in mainstream media since 2010, explaining why Typhoon Pablo was no coincidence:

I don’t know if it’s a coincidence or it’s because the Lord is trying to tell us that if you talk about that [the then RH bill] seriously it’s like there’s a message saying that many difficulties happen to us… especially since we [the Catholic Church] don’t want the bill deliberated hurriedly and secretly so that it is passed.” [translated]

Finally, here’s Father Melvin Castro, who frequently heads anti-RH contingents during demonstrations and vigils, blaming the RH Bill for the heavy rains of “Habagat:”

Although we would not give other meaning to it, nonetheless God speaks through his creation as well. Nature tells us to respect the natural course of things.

If I researched further back in time, I’d probably find even more Church leaders who blamed calamities on God (or the people who disobey God, depending on how you look at it). And something tells me it’s only a matter of time before some distasteful CBCP leader does it again.

But there are priests, like Father Bacaltos, who are more tactful, more humble, and it’s Catholic leaders like these that I continue to respect. As Susan B. Anthony, a leader of the women’s suffrage movement, said:

I distrust those people who know so well what God wants them to do to their fellows, because it always coincides with their own desires.


image source: Trocaire

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Will RH Limit Freedom of Religion?

Outside of the completely false pseudoscience, misguided economics, and absurd natural law reasons presented in the Supreme Court, the only argument that the anti-RH side has is that concerning freedom of religion.

We can expect more of the same tired and debunked arguments in the coming Supreme Court sessions challenging the constitutionality of the RH Law. But, let us focus on something that might actually have some substance.


Will the RH Law Limit Freedom of Religion?

On the side of the Filipino public, the complaint that the RH Law curtails religious freedom holds no water. The RH Law coerces no citizen to pursue family planning, let alone use artificial contraceptives. “True” and faithful Catholics who refuse any sort of artificial contraception can continue without concern. Contrary to their fears, they won’t be force-fed estradiol under the RH Law.

On the side, however, of the Filipino medical community, there might be some conflict. The RH Law provides that health workers who are required but refuse to offer RH services on religious grounds must refer the patient to another who would. (Sec. 23(3)) The anti-RH side argues that this would still violate the freedom of conscience of the worker since they would be enabling an act they believe to be immoral.

In his Philippine Daily Inquirer column, Fr. Joaquin Bernas, SJ, however questions why a health worker would even remain in a job that violates their own principles, “…considering that this inability to perform a legal duty strikes at the very heart of the purpose for which the health center exists, is it reasonable or even just for the person to cling to the job?”


Religious Freedom to Torture Animals

In a similar case, philosopher Peter Singer has argued for outlawing the ritual slaughter of animals in the Netherlands even if it bans halal and kosher meat, which require killing by slashing the throat of a fully conscious animal. The animal cannot be stunned first and would be completely aware until their blood drains to the killing floor, from their brain through their neck.


Singer explains that Muslims and Jews are not required by their religion to eat halal or kosher meat, only that if they eat meat at all, they must be ritually slaughtered. Jews and Muslims don’t have to eat meat, at all. So, they can opt to be vegetarians under the ban and remain faithful religionists. In this way, the ban does not curtail their freedom of religion. It might make their religion a bit more inconvenient, but when has religion been about convenience?

As a compromise, the Dutch parliament allowed the ritual slaughter methods, provided that the animal loses consciousness forty seconds after its throat is slit. In doing so, the suffering of the animal is reduced (but not by much). A few other nations in the European Union completely ban the cruel practice.


Freedom to Disobey the Law?

Singer’s argument provides a fair test for conflicts between religious freedom and public interest. It is in the nature of faith that beliefs cannot be tested or improved. It is therefore easy to be insincere and abusive of religious freedom, at the expense of a nation’s well-being. We, as a society, must then find a way to respect freedom of religion, while still avoiding becoming victims of abuse.

Further complicating the anti-RH complaint, the majority of Catholics they speak for don’t even agree with them. Surveys show that 71% of Catholics supported the RH Bill’s passing. So, when they argue that the law is against religious freedom, it only refers to 29% of Catholics, or about 23% of the Philippine population.

Even so, religious freedom is a fundamental right that is not subject to majority rule. However, just like ritual slaughter for Jews and Muslims, Catholicism does not require members to work as health care professionals. They can remain faithful “true” Catholics as workers in other professions (such as law or business). Why then, as Bernas questions, would a person choose to be in a job that goes against their religious beliefs? And why should we expect a company to retain a person who cannot do their job effectively?

Seventh-day Adventists do not expect to be employed as Armed Forces members. Vegetarian Buddhists do not expect to work as butchers. Jehova’s Witnesses do not expect to work as med techs at the blood bank. And yet anti-contraceptive Catholics expect to work as obstetricians, nurses, or pharmacists?

There are even other health professions that will not likely encounter the problem of compromising conscience for the law. There’s radiology, dentistry, and so many other fields, if one insists to work in health care. Adventists, Buddhists, and a host of other religions have found balance between their faith and the country’s interests. Why can’t conservative Catholics?

Image Credit: Riad Shehata

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Double Standards – Contraceptives and Medicines

Imagine a woman warned by her doctor to refrain from having a fifth pregnancy for medical reasons. She decides to use natural family planning (NFP). Will the bishops of CBCP and their allies question her decision?

Certainly not. As early as 1951, Pope Pius XII in his Allocution to Midwives specifically accepted medical reasons as a justification for birth control. He said:

Serious motives, such as those which not rarely arise from medical, eugenic, economic and social so-called “indications,” may exempt husband and wife from the obligatory, positive debt for a long period or even for the entire period of matrimonial life. From this it follows that the observance of the natural sterile periods may be lawful, from the moral viewpoint: and it is lawful in the conditions mentioned.

Now imagine another woman with exactly the same medical reasons who chooses contraceptive pills. To be consistent with their own teachings, one would expect the bishops to simply say: right reason, wrong method. But no, they are now on a war path and have branded the use of contraceptives as treating pregnancy like a disease. In their desire to destroy the status of contraceptives as medicines and its value to public health, it seems they are willing to stigmatize pregnancy prevention as inherently immoral.

In his “contraception is corruption” speech, Archbishop Villegas said: “A contraceptive pill is to be considered an essential medicine. If it is a medicine, what sickness is it curing? Is pregnancy a sickness?” Weeks later, Senator Enrile echoed the same line: “In the case of a contraceptive pill, is pregnancy a disease that needs to be cured? Why do we need to prevent it?”

Sure, pregnancy is not a disease. But pregnancy and childbirth can lead to diseases or injuries. Even bishops must be aware of this fact, which makes their argument sound so contrived. The World Health Organization has a whole chapter listing such diseases and injuries in its International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems. Obstetricians exist to prevent or treat these conditions.

If the bishops of CBCP and the anti-RH camp are not yet convinced that they are stirring up double standards in morality, they should try asking this to any user of NFP: “Is pregnancy a disease to be cured? Why do you need to prevent it?”

A double standard in law is also being pushed by the anti-RH camp. The claim that medicines must cure a disease, or must not prevent normal bodily functions like pregnancy is not supported by our laws.

Anti-coagulants and contraception

As far back as the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act of 1963, drugs have been defined as articles intended “for use in the diagnosis, cure, mitigation, treatment, or prevention of disease,” or “to affect the structure or any function of the body.” The above phrases are retained in the latest version of that law, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Act of 2009. And in case the anti-RH camp will try to claim that medicines are different from drugs, they should read the Universally Accessible Cheaper and Quality Medicines Act of 2008 which defined drugs and medicines the same way, and included “drugs and medicines indicated for prevention of pregnancy, e.g., oral contraceptives” as part of the “List of Drugs and Medicines that are Subject to Price Regulation.”

Many substances classified as medicines without any controversy expose the hollowness of the “pregnancy is not a disease” argument. Blood clotting or coagulation is not a disease. Yet we have anticoagulant medicines, commonly used to reduce the risk of heart attacks and strokes. A functioning immune system is not a disease, yet we have medicines that suppress the immune system, a standard fare to prevent organ transplant rejection. Having gastric acid is not a disease, yet we have antacids to manage indigestion.

People do choose to avoid normal or even desirable activities to prevent possible future harm. I’m pretty sure even bishops and anti-RH campaigners do it. We avoid too much sun; avoid too much food; avoid too much reading; avoid crossing streets when overpasses are available. When the path towards harm is clear enough, stigmatizing people who steer away violates plain common sense. Unless the bishops have another brand new standard of common sense.

Double standard in action is my final beef with the “pregnancy is not a disease” argument. In that memorable August 16 Headstart episode [1], TV host Karen Davila asked Senator Tito Sotto if his wife has had a tubal ligation, and this in part is what he said:

She has to be ligated. Because, yes, because she had, how many pregnancies. … She had four cesarean operations. … So, pagkatapos noon, sinabi ng [obstetrician], “You have to be ligated.”

A few minutes before in that same interview, when asked why he was against the RH Bill, Sotto’s first response was to attack the status of contraceptives as medicines. This is what he said:

Medicine is supposed to be, must cure something. What does a condom cure? What does an injectable cure? What does an IUD cure? So they’re not medicines, they’re not essential medicines.

A tubal ligation is of course a contraceptive medical procedure, not a medicine. But women fearful of the health consequences of another pregnancy, whether using condoms, injectables, IUDs or tubal ligations to prevent the next one, would surely be hurt by the senator’s loaded questions. Sotto attacked the health benefits of contraceptives and admitted to using the health benefits of a contraceptive procedure. The double standard  is simply stunning. Perhaps Sotto should answer Enrile’s core concerns: “Is pregnancy a disease that needs to be cured? Why do we need to prevent it?”

[1] All quotes taken by the author from the video.


Images by Alex Brown and anqa, used under the Creative Commons license.

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A Rebuttal to the Defense of CBCP’s Stand on the RH Bill

In what seemed like an effort to show an appreciation of the separation of Church and State and to give an answer to Fr. Joaquin Bernas’s explanation that “public money is neither Catholic, nor Protestant, nor Muslim or what have you and may be appropriated by Congress for the public good without violating the Constitution,” Antipolo Bishop Gabriel V. Reyes defended the stand of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) on the RH bill by saying that their opposition to contraceptives, which the RH bill seeks to fund and promote, is not based on faith or revelation, but on “natural law.”

In a statement, Reyes asserted that:

“By studying through correct reasoning the nature of the human person, we arrive at this teaching regarding contraception. All human beings, Catholic or not, are obliged to act according to right reason. By the efforts of the Church to go against the RH Bill, the Church is not imposing her religious beliefs on others. She is trying to stop a bill which is against natural law, a law which all human beings, Catholic or not, should follow. The RH Bill, judged from the principles of natural law, is against the good of the human person and the common good.”

But what exactly is this “natural law” the bishops keep bandying about? Is it the physical laws of the universe that are observable in nature?

The term “natural law” is actually a misnomer, quickly misleading those hearing it for the first time. An entry in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy states that:

Thomas Aquinas
Image Credit: Wikipedia

“If any moral theory is a theory of natural law, it is [Thomas] Aquinas’s [the 13th century Dominican priest and theologian]. Every introductory ethics anthology that includes material on natural law theory includes material by or about Aquinas; every encyclopedia article on natural law thought refers to Aquinas.”

Aquinas held that natural law is given by God. This premise alone already makes such law supernatural. And by insisting that not only Catholics but all human beings are subject to this law, Bishop Reyes is overstepping the bounds of religious authority and disrespecting those who do not share his belief in God.

Aquinas also held that procreation is a good that we ought to pursue and that we know this immediately, by inclination. While this may have a ring of truth and even a Darwinian explanation, in no way is procreation an absolute good. A statement released by the De La Salle University faculty in support of the RH bill says it best:

“[B]eyond protecting the very important right of the unborn, [the meaning of the right to life] must extend to a recognition that a life that is weighed down by poverty, sickness, and social inequality—now compounded by environmental stresses—deprives humans of agency to transform themselves and the world for the common good.”

What good would uncontrolled procreation do when our children are left to the streets, begging for food and exposing themselves to diseases and sexual predators? To declare procreation as an absolute good (and contraception as intrinsically evil) is to invoke dogma. So while Bishop Reyes may claim that the CBCP’s opposition to contraception and the RH bill is not based on faith or revelation but on natural law, it is clear that their arguments are ultimately religious in nature.

Fortunately, the constitutional separation of Church and State makes sure that Aquinas’s law or any religious law for that matter is not forced on our citizens. Philippine jurisprudence states that:

“If government relies upon religious beliefs in formulating public policies and morals, the resulting policies and morals would require conformity to what some might regard as religious programs or agenda. The non-believers would therefore be compelled to conform to a standard of conduct buttressed by a religious belief, i.e., to a “compelled religion,” anathema to religious freedom.”

The CBCP’s objection against the RH bill is noted, and the bishops’ right to free speech is respected. Let us just hope that our lawmakers are keen enough to discern between secular and religious arguments, and that they do not forget to respect our Constitution, especially the clause that declares that the separation of Church and State shall be inviolable.

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“Your Mother Should Have Used RH,” Says BUHAY Spokesperson

I recorded this video interview with Frank when I got home from COMELEC before writing this post. Some details might be inaccurate, which I hope this post corrects. Toward the end of the video is footage of the BUHAY spokesperson saying the titular statement.

“Your mothers should have aborted you” is so 2010. I’m of course referring to members of Prolife Philippines wishing out loud that we hadn’t been born as we were leaving Manila Cathedral. We were there to listen to a discernment mass on the RH Bill, but weren’t allowed to attend because of the DAMASO shirts we were wearing. Aside from wishing we weren’t alive, a public exorcism on us was also attempted by Eric Manalang, president of Prolife Philippines.

Now it’s 2012, and the Prolife greeting has been updated. It now goes, “Your mother should have used RH.” We learned this yesterday when we expressed our opposition to BUHAY’s party-list accreditation at their COMELEC review hearing. After witnessing the most absurd justification for applying to be a party-list, we had an exchange of words with BUHAY that reflects a lot of what happened in the Manila Cathedral incident of 2010.

It began with a question. The BUHAY spokesperson who had represented them during the hearing approached us and asked, “Are you pro-RH?” “Yes,” answers Kenneth Keng, who had earlier expressed at the hearing our intention to oppose BUHAY’s accreditation. “Then your mother should have used RH. So you wouldn’t be here today.”

At this point, I was approached by another BUHAY member. “Did you go to school?” he asked. “Yes,” I replied. “Then why aren’t you using your education,” he said. He probably meant that my pro-RH position betrayed a lack of education.

I was about to explain how education actually leads to being pro-RH when I saw Ken being approached by several BUHAY members. They were trying to grab his camera away from him. I walked over and learned what was happening. The BUHAY spokesperson complained that Ken had started recording without his permission.

They had also asked whether Ken was with the media. Ken had initially said yes out of fear and confusion; their demeanor had given him the impression that they might harm him. He later clarified that he wasn’t with the media and was just a regular blogger, something that I’d clarified earlier with the BUHAY member I’d been speaking to.

At this point we were all huddled between the elevators and the COMELEC reception, where several security personnel were watching. The BUHAY member I’d been speaking to, the one who asked whether I was educated, started talking. He said that if we weren’t with the media, he doesn’t have to treat us that way, and can just treat us like kanto boys. He repeated this, removing his coat as if preparing for a fight. He told us that he would meet us at our levels as kanto boys and invited us outside.

I clarified: “Just to be clear, are you inviting us to a fist fight outside?” He replied, “Anywhere.” I was actually surprised that he was behaving like this in front of COMELEC security. When they finally got on the elevator, we decided it was probably wise that we stayed. Some members of the COMELEC security thought so, too. They advised us to stay for a bit because the BUHAY members might be waiting for us downstairs with less than good intentions.

Surely enough, they were waiting. As I was exiting the building, the BUHAY spokesperson blocked my path, holding a cameraphone to my face. “Excuse me, I need to get out,” I said. He stands aside after a few moments, keeping the cameraphone on me. He asked me for my name and organization, and I give it to him. At this point, Ken also has his cameraphone out, and we were recording each other (another member had a proper camcorder, too).

With all the cameras turned on I wished that Ken’s was on when the BUHAY spokesperson wished Ken’s mother had used RH. Luckily, he repeated his wish, and we got it on video. At first he said that he didn’t mean anything bad when he said this. After all, he says, isn’t RH a good thing? To this we agree, and I further explain that my parents used RH: after all, it includes family planning, birth spacing, etc.

Then he says that my parents used failed RH, because after all, I am here. By doing so he betrays the malice in his wish. To him failed RH means we are born, and successful RH means we aren’t, and it’s pretty clear which of the two outcomes he’d been wishing for us.

We explain that RH isn’t abortion, which is what he keeps on implying, but he disagrees. He advises us to read the Cairo conference. I explain that the RH Bill and the Cairo Conference are two different things. At this point Atty. Macalintal, who had been mostly quiet this time, left in a car with the BUHAY member who had challenged us to a fist fight.

We also headed for our car, leaving the BUHAY spokesperson alone, waiting for his. As we were leaving, I saw the Manila Cathedral and thought about how similar the event from 2010 was: the wishing we hadn’t been born, the prolifer’s fear of being caught on video, the trying to forcefully take our cameras. I sort of expected the BUHAY spokesperson to shout “Your mothers should have aborted you!” as we were leaving. But then I corrected myself: “Your mothers should have used RH.” Because “Your mothers should have aborted you” is so 2010.

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The Unborn Representatives: How BUHAY Makes a Mockery of the Party-List System

Note: Please also read how BUHAY responded to our opposition of their party-list accreditation in COMELEC.

The party-list system of representation is broken. Want proof? Consider the case of BUHAY party-list.

According to COMELEC, you have to be a member of the sector you claim to represent. BUHAY claims to represent “the unborn, the sick, the disabled and others not capable of protecting themselves alone, through observance of their basic right to live.” Never mind being sick and disabled and incapable of self-protection (all at the same time!). Is even a single BUHAY representative unborn?

Even if we grant for rhetorical purposes that every BUHAY representative is unborn, they would still be disqualified for one simple reason: the unborn is not a sector recognized by COMELEC. This fact was repeated several times at BUHAY’s accreditation hearing at COMELEC yesterday.

And every time the COMELEC official mentioned this, the BUHAY spokesperson would answer the same way: BUHAY representatives actually represent its own political party, which is the one marginalized and underrepresented.

Setting aside how self-serving this reasoning is, does BUHAY actually think that a political party should be considered a sector of society? Let’s humor them a little and pretend that it is. Why is BUHAY party marginalized?

According to their spokesperson, it’s because aside from their party-list seats, they haven’t won any major political positions (senator, president, etc.) in the past elections, so they aren’t a major political party. And according to BUHAY, that means they are marginalized. Poor BUHAY. Since 2004, they’ve only won 7 seats in the House of Representatives.

That’s right. Seven seats in almost as many years have been allotted to the unborn representatives of BUHAY party, each representing the unborn citizens of the Philippines, and of course, that other marginalized and underrepresented sector, the BUHAY party itself. If that can’t convince you that the party-list system is a joke, I don’t know what can.

But there’s hope. COMELEC has been reviewing the current party-list candidates, and from the way they’ve been conducting these accreditation hearings — I’ve witnessed a few — they seem to mean business. I just hope it translates to disqualification, especially in the case of BUHAY and Ang Prolife — another conservative Catholic religious group trying to disguise itself as a political organization.

When we opposed Ang Prolife’s application, I thought nothing could ever beat the absurdity of their claiming to represent OFWs and “the structure of the Filipino family.” Well played, BUHAY party. Well played.

Note: This post isn’t meant to be a comprehensive opposition to BUHAY’s application. We’ll leave that to our formal opposition, which we were given 3 days to file, and will post as soon as it’s available. For now, check out Kontradaya’s reasons for objecting to the accreditation of BUHAY (follow the link for other party-list groups they argue should also be disqualified):

Buhay claims to represent the following sectors: the unborn, the sick, the disabled and others not capable of protecting themselves alone, through observance of their basic right to live.

However, none of its present representatives in Congress, and nominees for 2013 elections belong to these sectors.

First representative Mariano Velarde, Jr., the son of El Shaddai’s Mike Velarde, has a personal net worth of P53.326 million for 2011. He does not belong to any of the marginalized and underrepresented sectors Buhay claims to represent. He is not unborn, sick, disabled, nor incapable of protecting himself.

So is second representative Irwin Tieng, whose net worth amounts to P20.054 and whose family owns Solar Sports. He does not belong to any of the marginalized and underrepresented sectors Buhay claims to represent. He is not unborn, sick, disabled, nor incapable of protecting himself.

Second nominee for the 2013 elections is Jose L. Atienza, more famously known as Manila Mayor Lito Atienza. Mayor Atienza served as Manila Mayor from 1998 to 2007. Previous to that, he served as Manila Vice Mayor from 1992 to 1998. He also held other high positions in government, being appointed by former President Gloria Arroyo as the Secretary of Department of Environment and Natural Resources.

Clearly Mayor Atienza can compete for a position in Congress through regular elections. This is in addition to the fact that he does not belong to any of the sectors that Buhay claims to represent, and neither is he marginalized and underrepresented.

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Pro-RH Catholics: Please Create a Pro-RH Church

Dear Pro-RH Catholics,

You’ve been asking the Vatican for pro-RH reforms for over four decades. During that time, your leader, the Pope, has made it absolutely clear that to be Catholic means to be anti-RH. You have been called “fake Catholics,” “cafeteria Catholics,” and even “oxymorons.” You have been told that if you cannot obey, you should just leave. Your Pope has answered requests for reforms by saying he prefers searching agnostics over fake believers.

You have no control over what your church officially does and decides. Yet you have fought long and hard to cling to your Catholic identity. I respect that, but I respect even more the fact that you recognize the moral value of RH despite the denigration of your detractors. So I’m suggesting that you consider indulging them.

What if you left the Roman Catholic Church completely and formed your own one? It would be identical to your old church, except for one critical difference: it would be pro-RH officially. Of course, your new church will no longer be recognized by the Vatican.

But what would losing Vatican recognition do anyway? If you cared about the Vatican’s official position, you wouldn’t be pro-RH Catholics. This implies that you don’t think the Vatican is the highest authority.

You probably think that Jesus Christ is, and that He is pro-RH. So don’t you owe it to Jesus to create a church that truly represents Him? If you create a church with pro-RH bishops and priests — and you’ve claimed that there are many of them — don’t you think that Jesus would let them represent Him even without the Pope’s permission?

Surely you don’t think Jesus gave the Vatican unconditional power. If the Catholic Church suddenly taught that child abuse was a sacrament, do you think Jesus would still be OK with them representing Him? Similarly, do you think Jesus would have a problem with good bishops just because they removed the “Roman” in “Roman Catholic”?

So you should have no doubt that Jesus will bless this Pro-RH Church that you are forming. Being a pro-RH God, it’s even reasonable to think He’d bless it even more. Your new church may not be as extravagant as your old church, lacking the expensive decorations and extravagant costumes (and you won’t have billions in reserve for that occasional child abuse settlement). But I don’t think a carpenter’s son who was born in a manger would care much for appearances.

I don’t think Jesus would mind plain silverware.

You may find the different surroundings striking at first, but I’m sure you’ll get used to it soon. Because you can keep almost everything in your new church the same as your old one. A blind person attending a Pro-RH mass wouldn’t be able to tell the difference. At least not until the priest sermons about the importance of informed choice, freedom of conscience, and of course, contraception.

Imagine not having the urge to walk out because you vehemently disagree with your priest. Imagine not feeling tricked whenever you’re asked to kneel, bow your head, and then pray against the RH Bill. Imagine not thinking twice about donating money that could be used to fund anti-RH campaigns. Imagine not feeling cognitive dissonance about supporting an anti-RH institution that claims to represent the pro-RH God you have faith in.

Forming a new church would surely take some courage, not to mention resources. But it wouldn’t take a lot individually if you did it together. If most of you joined this new church, yours would still be the largest church in the Philippines. Since most Catholics are pro-RH, you’ll be bigger than the Roman Catholic church.

The Philippines would now be predominantly Pro-RH Catholic (which it already is anyway). Your new bishops — who will actually represent your RH stance — will have more clout than your old bishops, who can no longer claim to represent 80% of the population.

Knowing the danger of bullying bishops, your new leaders probably won’t use their religious authority to meddle in politics. And they wouldn’t even have to. Because from now on, your representatives will no longer fear pressure from the bishops.

Anti-RH legislators who were just bullied by bishops could change their position. Closeted pro-RH legislators could now openly support the RH Bill. The passage of the RH Bill will finally be a reality, enshrining RH as a fundamental human right. This alone should make you consider forming a pro-RH church. Pro-RH Jesus would be pleased.




It wouldn’t hurt to disassociate from an organization that censures progressive theologians and nuns, discriminates against women, LGBTs, and non-Catholics, protects pedophile priests more than potential child abuse victims, and thinks that you deserve to burn in Hell.

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From Pro-Lies to Puro Lies: Why Ang Prolife Lied to COMELEC

Eric Manalang swore under oath: to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help him God. But it appears that God didn’t help because as we told you yesterday, he lied. Now I’m going to tell you exactly why he lied — because if he had told COMELEC the truth about Ang Prolife, their petition, then and there, would have been rejected.

Because Ang Prolife goes against the core principles of the Party-list system:

It is a mechanism of proportional representation in the election of representatives to the House of Representatives from marginalized or underrepresented national, regional and sectoral parties, or organizations or coalitions thereof registered with the Commission on Elections (Comelec).

It is part of the electoral process that enables small political parties and marginalized and underrepresented sectors to obtain possible representation in the House of Representatives, which traditionally is dominated by parties with big political machinery.

From this, we can see that to check whether a group deserves Party-list accreditation, we must ask three questions:

  1. Do they represent a marginalized group?
  2. Do they represent an underrepresented group?
  3. Do they lack “(big) political machinery”?

The answer to all three is “no,” and I’ll show you why.

For starters, read Ang Prolife’s official Party-list declaration. In ten pages, they make it absolutely clear that their primary purpose is to oppose the RH bill — and other such “DEATH” bills — and to ensure that such laws will never be legislated.

Their introductory principles are peppered with vague and religious statements, but eventually they talk about what they’ll do in concrete terms:

Ang Prolife… against all legislation and policies that seek to legalize or institutionalize, among others:

Un-reproductive Health Rights
Same-Sex Unions
Radical Feminism
Public Child Sex Education

We can see that two of these — un-reproductive health rights [sic] and public child sex education — are provisions of the RH bill, while two others — abortion and radical feminism — are what anti-RH groups perceive to be the RH Bill’s direct implications. Almost half the list then is RH-related, and if we consider their slippery slope thinking — RH will inevitably lead to others “DEATH” bills — then the entire list is an anti-RH advocate’s nightmare.

Which is exactly the group Ang Prolife actually aims to represent: anti-RH advocates.

But are anti-RH advocates marginalized? Are they underrepresented? Are they lacking in political machinery? History says no. Almost two decades of fighting for an RH law tells us that if anything, anti-RH advocates are overrepresented. Even the more prominent members of Ang Prolife will tell you this themselves. Not in those words, of course.

But ask them what they think will happen if the RH Bill is finally put to a vote and you’ll invariably get the same answer: “The RH Bill will not pass because we have the numbers.” That is, they claim they have more representatives in both houses of Congress, at least more than the pro-RH side.

And it’s easy to see just how committed anti-RH legislators are — from merely delaying the debates the way Team Delay has to saying that they’re staking their careers to stop the bill’s passage as Senator Sotto has. Can anyone honestly say the anti-RH is politically underrepresented?

They may argue that these anti-RH legislators are not directly affiliated with Ang Prolife. But that would once again be a lie. Two congressmen — William Irwin C. Tieng and Mariano Michael M. Velarde of Buhay party-list [Life (!) party-list] — are active members of Pro Life Philippines’ board of trustees. So is Buhay party-list’s secretary-general, Wilfrido Villarama.

Sure, Prolife Philippines is not the same entity as Ang Prolife, but with the same people and principles guiding both groups, this might as well be a distinction without a difference. Compare the Ang Prolife partylist declaration with the issues and principles in Prolife Philippines’ website. (You’ll probably find plagiarism, but then again, you can’t plagiarize yourself.)

We can even go further than saying Prolife Philippines and Ang Prolife is one and the same. They may do their best to deny it — in fact this is one of the first things they had to do — but Ang Prolife, if accredited, will be the CBCP party-list.

This is what logically follows from the kind of religious obedience Ang Prolife’s members give to their bishops in the CBCP. The similarities in their principles are not merely a correlation or coincidence. The relationship is causal. Whatever the CBCP teaches (or commands) Ang Prolife will follow. This is of course unstated in their declaration, but ask anyone in Ang Prolife if they have the ability to dissent with anything the CBCP says and you’ll get the same answer.

And even if the CBCP is not exactly the same as Ang Prolife (at least not on paper) the Catholic bishops are among the anti-RH citizens Ang Prolife aims to represent. And ideologically, the CBCP is the main source and promoter of every principle Ang Prolife wants to promulgate. It would be fair then to ask the same questions of the CBCP and the position they represent: are they marginalized, underrepresented, or lacking in political machinery? I won’t even justify the question with an answer.

It becomes clear then why Eric Manalang had to lie under oath and say (initially) that they had no plans about the RH Bill and that they would primarily represent the 10 million families with members who are OFWs. Telling the truth — that Ang Prolife is the political arm of Prolife Philippines — would get them an outright rejection.

One thing that baffles me though is the forethought (or lack thereof) they put into their lying. With all the effort they put into trying to convince COMELEC that they represent OFW families, they should have dedicated more space to OFW issues in their 9-page document. As it stands, they only put a single sentence:

Legislate entrepreneurial education programs to benefit families of Overseas Contract Workers.

I think we’ll have to change our term of endearment from “Pro-Lies” to “Puro Lies.”

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Monopolizing Marriage: Gay Marriage and Other Traditional Versions

It’s a good time to be gay (and lesbian and bi and trans). Obama’s support for same-sex marriage came shortly after another LGBT win: Miriam Quiambao’s recent homophobic statements galvanized support for the LGBT community, raising awareness and even sympathy for their cause.

Momentum is on the LGBT community’s side, and with this week’s celebration of International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia (IDAHO), debates on marriage equality and other LGBT issues have reignited. Although an LGBT win is not guaranteed, the debate itself is a minor victory; the status quo is a defeat by default.

Dictating Definitions

To maintain the status quo, the Catholic Church and other conservative elements will try to dictate definitions — the terms of the debate. In the reproductive health (RH) debate, the most time-consuming distraction they use is the question, “When does life begin?” Pro-RH legislators would invariably fall into the trap of trying to define “life.” The anti-RH then argues as if it had a monopoly on the its meaning, which is to be expected from a group that has proclaims itself the “pro-life” side.

In the marriage equality debate, conservatives will use a similar tactic: they will try to monopolize the meaning of marriage. Marriage, they will argue, is a Catholic sacrament reserved for one man and one woman who love each other (unitive) and intend to have children (procreative) — to go beyond that definition bastardizes its meaning and endangers the institution of marriage itself. But even a brief look at history will show that the Catholic marriage is nothing but a modern invention.

What’s God got to do with it?

Long before God even created the world 6,000 to 10,000 years ago (if you’re a Young Earth creationist), people were getting married. The institution of marriage was invented before history was recorded reliably, and there’s as much variation in its practice as there are ancient cultures.

Back then, marriages were personal agreements that did not need the approval of the government or Church, and could easily be done informally — ceremonies were optional.

The Lesser Sacrament

It was only in the 12th century that Catholics started calling marriage a sacrament, and only in the 16th that they made the status official. And even then it was considered one of the lesser sacraments, and until the 10th century it was performed outside the Church. Priests didn’t officiate until the 13th century, a fact that mirrors the low esteem many Catholic leaders had for marriage.

Although Augustine believed that marriage was a sacrament, he thought that it delayed the coming of God’s kingdom. Jerome, a saint and Doctor of the Church, called marriage evil. Tertullian, called the founder of Western theology, said marriage “consists essentially in fornication.” Opinion varied, but it’s clear that marriage was viewed by early Catholic leaders as a necessary evil at worst and a lesser good at best.

What’s love got to do with it?

Far from the formal ceremony it is today, marriage was originally an agreement between individuals, a partnership — not a permanent commitment of love. It did not need the approval of the church or state, and it was often done informally — ceremonies were optional.

Rather than love or even lust, these agreements had more to do with money and power. Wives were not loved by their husbands and vice versa: women were simply child bearers; men, child supporters. As Demosthenes explained, “We have prostitutes for our pleasure, concubines for our health, and wives to bear us lawful offspring.”

When a man loves a woman

Traditional marriage? Solomon had 700 wives and 300 concubines.

Before heterosexual marriage became the norm, same-sex marriages had been in existence for centuries. It was a socially recognized institution in Ancient Greece and Rome, in some regions of China, and in Ancient Europe.

The one-partner limit is also relatively new. In Old Testament times, husbands could take multiple wives at the same time. Solomon, with all his divinely inspired wisdom, thought it was a good idea — he had 700 wives and 300 concubines. It was only in 342 AD that Christian emperors enforced the one-woman-one-man rule and ordered the execution of those who disobeyed.

More than baby-making

Despite their differences, the Church version and the more traditional ones share having children as a goal. But unlike their other marriage restrictions (consanguinity, affinity, age, etc.) the intention to have children is impossible to check, and is therefore unenforceable anyway.

This is probably why marriage is evolving to be something more than just baby-making thanks in no small part to the rise of reproductive health services and education around the world.

Traditional Marriage?

This review of the history of marriage is hardly comprehensive, yet it sufficiently shows how marriage has changed. If we include in our scope the various versions of marriage practiced today, it will make one thing clear: there is no individual or organization that can monopolize the meaning of marriage.

Giving the LGBT community the freedom to marry is not a break from tradition but a return to it. To be more precise, although it is different from the Catholic tradition, it is part of an older one, and if history is any justification, it’s just as valid. So the next time somebody protests that same-sex marriage destroys the traditional one, ask them: which tradition?


Image Sources: 1, 2

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Don’t Think, Just Obey: Progressive Nuns and the Primacy of Conscience

Despite disagreeing with bishops on almost every political issue of controversy — contraception, LGBT rights, etc. — many progressives maintain their Catholic identity for one reason: primacy of conscience. But this doctrine is misunderstood, as I elaborated in my previous post on primacy.

Long story short, primacy of conscience means that a Catholic must always act consistently with her conscience. However, a Catholic’s first duty is to always have a conscience that’s consistent with the Church. Taken out of context, primacy seems to grant Catholics freedom. Taken in context, however, primacy gives Catholics freedom to do only what the Church tells them — which is not really freedom at all.

I strongly suggest that you read the entire post; I believe it has enough good reasons to convince most that primacy is a fallacy (at least in the way progressives usually understand it). Yet some still refuse to accept that a Catholic’s first duty is to obey, and I can sympathize; it implies that Catholics are intellectually enslaved.*

If the post doesn’t convince you, nothing I say will be enough. But maybe the Vatican’s recent actions will change your mind.

Progressive Nuns of the United States

While continuing to protect pedophile priests around the world, the Vatican is waging a war on nuns.

Why? After some investigation, the Vatican concluded that the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR)**, the largest group of nuns in the States, are apparently “radical feminists” who neglect their Catholic duty to fight contraception, defeat the gay agenda, and publicly agree with bishops’ political positions. (They were apparently too distracted by such relatively insignificant goals as feeding the poor and healing the sick.)

The LCWR’s offenses are so complex and countless that they’ve been assigned a babysitter supervising bishop and given up to 5 years to make their organization more consistently bigoted Catholic.

This space may not be enough, so instead of expounding, I’ll let former Nun Mary Johnson, who served with billionaire hypocrite Mother Teresa for 20 years, summarize the situation (emphasis added):

“The main complaint is that sisters are thinking for themselves,” she says. “No one says it in those words, but that’s the bottom line: you’re thinking for yourself, and we don’t like that.”

“The Catholic Church has long recognized that an individual’s first duty is to obey his or her conscience, but the bishops say that any conscience that conflicts with their teaching is a conscience in error.”

“Any questioning is seen as disloyal, even heretical—bishops aren’t used to being questioned.”

“The Vatican works like a dictatorship. They want blind obedience, as opposed to thoughtful ideas. The bishops insist that a faithful Catholic must submit to them.”

Don’t Think, Just Obey

The Vatican’s message to the US nuns — and to every progressive Catholic — can’t be any clearer. There may be some progressive theologians who disagree, but there’s a reason all they’re allowed is speculation and theory.

In practice, liberal bishops, dissenting priests, and progressive nuns know that the Vatican preaches only one kind of primacy: the primacy of obedience.

* The word “heretic” comes from the Greek “hairetikos,” which means “able to choose.” Heretics are those who choose their own beliefs, despite the doctrines of the Church. Following this definition, is a Catholic then one who is “disabled to choose”?

Although the worst punishment for a heretic is now excommunication — essentially being sentenced to Hell — the Church used to be so impatient that they’d start eternal damnation while the heretic is still alive, inventing all kinds of torture to simulate Hell on Earth.

** The way the Vatican is treating the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (and women in general), they probably think LCWR stands for “Let’s Crap on Women’s Rights”

Comic source: http://stmedia.startribune.com/images/548*425/sack043012.jpg

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Contraception, Corona, and Unimpeachable Dogma

The Hypothetical Case of Corona

Imagine that by some miracle, the prosecution managed to provide overwhelming evidence that could convict Corona. But for some reason, the senator-judges arrive at a surprising verdict: not guilty.

When Senator-Judge Enrile (still our hypothetical presiding officer) is asked about it, he explains that like the other Senators, he, too, was convinced that Corona should be convicted. However, Enrile explains, conviction was impossible.

Why? Because if Corona is guilty, it would mean that Ex-President Arroyo made a mistake in appointing him Chief Justice. And if Arroyo made a mistake, it means that presidents aren’t perfect. And if presidents aren’t perfect, then democracy is doomed. Therefore, Corona is not guilty.

Unless you are a Corona cultist, you’d think that such a verdict is insane. Corona himself would admit guilt instead of letting such a mockery of the legal system stand. (OK, maybe not.) In any case, you’ll surely admit that no one would find such insanity reasonable.

Yet many find insanity reasonable when done in the name of religion. This is what happened when Pope Paul VI confirmed that contraceptives were evil.

The Actual Case of Contraception

In the early 60s, many Catholics started suspecting the innocence of an old teaching: the evil of contraception. They expressed dissent so strongly that Pope John XXIII (and later Pope Paul VI) formed a commission to investigate the original teaching’s innocence, so to speak.

After 6 years on trial, the commission reached their verdict:

  • 9 of 12 bishops found the original teaching wrong
  • 15 of 19 theologians found the original teaching wrong
  • 30 of 35 lay members found the original teaching wrong

The commission had found evidence — from Scripture and Tradition to Science and Experience — to conclude that the original teaching on contraception was wrong; contraception was not always evil.

The commission submitted their official report, and Pope Paul VI agreed with it — contraceptives were not inherently evil. I emphasize “official report” because a small group of conservatives unofficially submitted what is now called (mistakenly) the minority report. Regardless of its official standing, the other report contained the argument that changed the Pope’s mind.

Infallible Defense

While the official report was comprehensive and complex — arguing from different perspectives, providing both traditional and modern evidence — the other report was simple and single-minded. It relied primarily on an old (yet relatively recent) Catholic teaching: that Popes can’t be wrong when it comes to faith and morals because Jesus magically protects them from the mere possibility.

All the rational and scientific arguments of the official report were trumped by the other one’s appeal to the miraculous. And the writers of the unofficial report were unashamed of resorting to this defense:

If we could bring forward arguments which are clear and cogent based on reason alone, it would not be necessary for our Commission to exist, nor would the present state of affairs exist in the Church… The Church could not have erred through so many centuries, even through one century, by imposing under serious obligation very grave burdens in the name of Jesus Christ, if Jesus Christ did not actually impose these burdens.

As one minority member put it, if the original teaching is wrong, what will happen to all those Catholic souls the Church previously sent to Hell ? To this a member of the majority had the perfect response: “Father Zalba, do you really believe that God has carried out all your orders?”

Pope John Paul II, then a Cardinal who was also part of the conservative minority, argued as follows:

If it should be declared that contraception is not evil in itself, then we should have to concede frankly that the Holy Spirit had been on the side of the Protestant churches in 1930 (when the encyclical Casti Connubii was promulgated), in 1951 (Pius XII’s address to the midwives), and in 1958 (the address delivered before the Society of Hematologists in the year the pope died). It should likewise have to be admitted that for a half century the Spirit failed to protect Pius XI, Pius XII, and a large part of the Catholic hierarchy from a very serious error.

This would mean that the leaders of the Church, acting with extreme imprudence, had condemned thousands of innocent human acts, forbidding, under pain of eternal damnation, a practice which would now be sanctioned. The fact can neither be denied nor ignored that these same acts would now be declared licit on the grounds of principles cited by the Protestants, which popes and bishops have either condemned or at least not approved.

When he became pope, he explained why infallibility was crucial to Catholicism:

I am convinced that the doctrine of infallibility is in a certain sense the key to the certainty with which the faith is confessed and proclaimed, as well as to the life and conduct of the faithful. For once this essential foundation is shaken or destroyed, the most basic truths of our faith likewise begin to break down.

In short, the conservatives used logic similar to that of our hypothetical Corona case:

  1. If the original teaching on contraception is wrong, then 2 previous popes were wrong.
  2. If 2 previous popes were wrong, then there’s no such thing as infallibility.
  3. If there’s no such thing as infallibility, then the Catholic Church is doomed.
  4. Therefore, the original teaching is correct.

Of course, other arguments were used in the so-called minority report. But those were the same arguments that had already been refuted by the commission. In the end, infallibility was the only argument left unanswered.

Unimpeachable Dogma

To this day, the Catholic Church still stands by its anti-contraceptive stance, and on the doctrine of infallibility that defended it. If the same kind of insane defense were to clear Corona’s name, an EDSA III would not be unlikely. Although surveys show that many Filipinos have already lost interest, I’m sure such an attack on common sense would motivate even the most apathetic to action.

Regardless of how the actual impeachment trial turns out, Filipinos should already be thankful for one thing: our public officials — unlike Catholic doctrines — are impeachable.

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Paalam, Soledad

Based on true events, “Paalam, Soledad” follows the struggles of Sister Soledad with her faith and her principles amidst the realities of Santa Clara, a small town ruled by closed minds, false hopes and repressed sexuality. [YouTube’s block has been resolved; this video is now viewable.]

Scene Selection

Group song welcoming people to Santa Clara (3:12)

First Act: Baptism (11:28)

Priest sings about sacrifice and the original sin (22:19)

Sister Soledad sings about the morality of changing and loving our bodies (24:50)

Second Act: Marriage (31:22)

Four women confront Sister Soledad about how society unfairly blames women (40:08)

Third Act: Funeral (46:49)

A happy, naughty song about the IUD (47:52)

Priest and mayor sing about their mutually beneficial partnership (1:05:05)

Finale: people sing about their hopes for Santa Clara (1:16:11)

Credits (1:20:24)

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Sin, Smallpox, and Sympathy: Why the Church Will Continue to Let Mothers Die

11 deaths a day. From a mere statistic it has become a mantra of the reproductive health (RH) movement. No matter how often it is repeated, 11 deaths a day still moves many to action and some to tears.

Yet the anti-RH — led by the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) and anti-choice Catholic organizations — doesn’t seem to care about 11 deaths a day. Some, such as Senator Sotto and his supporters, have more disparaging reactions, ranging from mere denial to outright ridicule.

Invariably, the anti-RH believe they are never responsible for 11 deaths a day. Yet even if they eventually realize that their anti-contraceptive position is indirectly responsible for thousands of maternal deaths — and even more due to AIDS and hunger, casualties that can also be minimized by effective contraception and sexual education — the realization wouldn’t make much of a difference.

Because for these anti-RH conservative Catholics, protecting human lives is not as important as respecting God. The act of disrespecting God — and the Church that claims to represent him — is called blasphemy:

Blasphemy is directly opposed to the second commandment. It consists in uttering against God – inwardly or outwardly – words of hatred, reproach, or defiance; in speaking ill of God; in failing in respect toward him in one’s speech; in misusing God’s name… The prohibition of blasphemy extends to language against Christ’s Church, the saints, and sacred things.
Catechism of the Catholic Church

The Gravity of Blasphemy

St. Thomas Aquinas, whose teachings also form the basis for opposing the RH bill, taught that blasphemy is a mortal sin punishable by death. For Aquinas, there’s no contradiction in killing someone for blasphemy, because he believed that blasphemy was even worse than murder:

If we compare murder and blasphemy as regards the objects of those sins, it is clear that blasphemy, which is a sin committed directly against God, is more grave than murder, which is a sin against one’s neighbor. On the other hand, if we compare them in respect of the harm wrought by them, murder is the graver sin, for murder does more harm to one’s neighbor, than blasphemy does to God. Since, however, the gravity of a sin depends on the intention of the evil will, rather than on the effect of the deed, as was shown above, it follows that, as the blasphemer intends to do harm to God’s honor, absolutely speaking, he sins more grievously that the murderer.

— St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica

If blasphemy is worse than murder itself, it is surely worse than merely letting mortals die. So it doesn’t matter if maternal deaths — or deaths due to poverty and AIDS — do infinitely more damage to people and the families they leave behind; no damage can be dealt to an immortal deity. What matters to Aquinas is the intention, not the effect; the gravity of the sin, not its actual consequences. Blasphemy must be avoided at all costs — even if the cost is suffering and death.

The Speckled Monster in Montreal

In 1885, one of the most horrible examples of avoiding blasphemy at the cost of human lives happened during the smallpox epidemic in Montreal, Canada. Smallpox was also called the “red death” and the “speckled monster” because of how it stained and ultimately killed its victims:

No pestilence had ever been so fatal, or so hideous. Blood was its Avatar and its seal –the redness and the horror of blood. There were sharp pains, and sudden dizziness, and then profuse bleeding at the pores, with dissolution. The scarlet stains upon the body and especially upon the face of the victim, were the pest ban which shut him out from the aid and from the sympathy of his fellow-men. And the whole seizure, progress and termination of the disease, were the incidents of half an hour.

— Edgar Allan Poe, The Masque of the Red Death

Although he wrote one of the most poetic descriptions of the disease, Poe was wrong about one thing: It was not fear of their appearance that kept the diseased from the aid and sympathy of their neighbors. It was dogma — the fear of blasphemy.

If the Catholic Church hadn’t used dogma to meddle with the government trying to contain the disease, many lives would have been saved. As James H. Marsh, editor in chief of The Canadian Encyclopedia, wrote, this is the real tragedy:

Smallpox is one of the most contagious and loathsome diseases ever to menace humanity. But the real tragedy of the smallpox epidemic in Montreal was that it was preventable. The practice of vaccination, developed by Edward Jenner in England in 1796, was so widespread and so successful that it was widely believed that the disease had been eradicated.

Deaths that can be prevented. By a scientific solution. That has already become so widespread and successful. Sound familiar?

Red Death and Reproductive Health

When it comes to the Catholic Church, history often repeats itself. Contraception is not the first scientific solution to a serious problem that bishops have blocked because they considered it blasphemous. Many examples of this meddling are recorded in Andrew Dickson White’s History of the Warfare of Science with Theology in Christendom. The book chronicles how the Church prevented progress in several sciences — geography, astronomy, geology, archeology, anthropology, biology, meteorology, chemistry, physics, medicine, and many others.

In each instance, the story would be the same:

  1. Someone proposes a theory that is contrary to Church teaching — dogma, doctrine, or tradition.
  2. The Church does everything in its power — blackmail, torture, murder — to oppose inquiry into and development of the theory.
  3. Accepting or even considering the theory becomes difficult — especially when reputations and lives are at stake.
  4. After unnecessary delay, the scientific community — and then society in general — accepts the theory and develops it further.
  5. After even more delay, from years to centuries, the Church finally accepts the theory.

This pattern is especially pernicious when the Church hinders progress in Medicine. When it comes to medical progress, delay is measured not only in time wasted but in lives lost. The smallpox epidemic in Montreal struck me especially because it’s so similar to our RH experience. Below is White’s account interspersed with my comments, comparing Montreal’s experience with ours:

In that year [1885] the smallpox broke out with great virulence in Montreal. The Protestant population escaped almost entirely by vaccination; but multitudes of their Catholic fellow-citizens, under some vague survival of the old orthodox ideas [1 paste below the early protestant theological basis of the old orthodox ideas], refused vaccination; and suffered fearfully.

Many who have escaped Catholic brainwashing already use contraception effectively. More than their conservative counterparts, contraception users are capable of reaching their desired family size, avoiding HIV and AIDS, avoiding induced abortions, and preventing infant and maternal deaths.

When at last the plague became so serious that travel and trade fell off greatly and quarantine began to be established in neighboring cities, an effort was made to enforce compulsory vaccination. The result was, that large numbers of the Catholic working population resisted and even threatened bloodshed.

11 maternal deaths a day, 500,000 induced abortions a year, and 7 new HIV cases a day should be enough to convince us: the RH bill is badly needed. And unlike vaccination, contraception will not even be compulsory. Yet the resistance was just as intense: from misinformation and fear mongering to threats of revolution and civil disobedience.

The clergy at first tolerated and even encouraged this conduct [threatening bloodshed]: the Abbe Filiatrault, priest of St. James’s Church, declared in a sermon that, “if we are afflicted with smallpox, it is because we had a carnival last winter, feasting the flesh, which has offended the Lord; … it is to punish our pride that God has sent us smallpox.”

This is no different from religious leaders saying that HIV and AIDS are god’s punishment for promiscuity, homosexuality, and even contraception. This also reminds me of an anti-RH lecture, wherein the lecturer said that the disaster in Japan was sent by God to punish them for having population control.

The clerical press went further: the _Etendard_ exhorted the faithful to take up arms rather than submit to vaccination, and at least one of the secular papers was forced to pander to the same sentiment.

Rather than cooperate, the anti-RH threatened to react with revolution, civil disobedience, or by not paying taxes. And instead of just one secular paper pandering to the anti-RH, I’ve read several columnists and cartoonists whose opinion seems to be based on nothing but Catholic bias.

The Board of Health struggled against this superstition, and addressed a circular to the Catholic clergy, imploring them to recommend vaccination; but, though two or three complied with this request, the great majority were either silent or openly hostile.

Instead of helping the DOH educate those at risk, the CBCP and anti-choice organizations instead give out misinformation about contraceptives: they don’t work, they all cause cancer, they are abortifacients. They even said the RH Bill is worse than corruption.

The Oblate Fathers, whose church was situated in the very heart of the infected district, continued to denounce vaccination; the faithful were exhorted to rely on devotional exercises of various sorts; under the sanction of the hierarchy a great procession was ordered with a solemn appeal to the Virgin [2], and the use of the rosary was carefully specified.

By the time rosary was recommended, prayer had already been shown to be ineffective in other parts of the world. Inoculation and vaccination, on the other hand, had already saved countless lives. [3]

Maternal deaths, abortions, HIV, poverty — what does the Church recommend to solve today’s problems? Prayer. Faith, abstinence, natural family planning — we’ve tried these solutions and they’ve been shown to be inadequate at best, and outright failures at worst. And instead of just praying for solutions, the Catholic Church is even asking its flock to pray against the RH Bill, the most valid solution in sight.

Meantime, the disease, which had nearly died out among the Protestants, raged with ever-increasing virulence among the Catholics; and, the truth becoming more and more clear, even to the most devout, proper measures were at last enforced and the plague was stayed, though not until there had been a fearful waste of life among these simple-hearted believers, and germs of skepticism planted in the hearts of their children which will bear fruit for generations to come.

Like the other stories in White’s book, there was a happy ending for Montreal. But not before they paid the price. Smallpox is considered by many to be the most devastating disease known to man, killing more people than all other infectious diseases combined. The Catholic Church may not have known the extent of the devastation and the effects of their dogmatism then. But history and hindsight are now on their side.

True Blasphemy

They have a chance to learn from the smallpox tragedy for which they were indirectly responsible. But it seems they are content to continue committing the same mistakes. How much suffering and death must humanity pay before the Catholic Church finally learns that protecting human lives is more important than respecting an immortal God? And if there were a God, and if that God were good, I’m sure she’d agree.

If there were a good God, she’d take more offense at the Catholic Church’s hypocrisy: claiming to have the Truth while they continue to lie about contraception; claiming to be against corruption while they’re in cahoots with corrupt officials; claiming to be against poverty while they have billions they choose not to use for the poor; claiming to be experts on morality while they cover up and coddle clerical child abusers.

These hypocrites are the earthly representation of divine truth and righteousness? Now that’s blasphemy.

[1] Theological Opposition to Inoculation and Vaccination

Below are excerpts from History of the Warfare of Science with Theology in Christendom showing how dogma made it difficult to accept inoculation and vaccination:

Rev. Edward Massey, who in 1772 preached and published a sermon entitled _The Dangerous and Sinful Practice of Inoculation_. In this he declared that Job’s distemper was probably confluent smallpox; that he had been inoculated doubtless by the devil; that diseases are sent by Providence for the punishment of sin; and that the proposed attempt to prevent them is “a diabolical operation.”

Not less vigorous was the sermon of the Rev. Mr. Delafaye, entitled _Inoculation an Indefensible Practice_.

A large body of ministers joined in denouncing the new practice as “flying in the face of Providence,” and “endeavouring to baffle a Divine judgment.”
Having thus settled his case for this world, they proceeded to settle it for the next, insisting that “for a man to infect a family in the morning with smallpox and to pray to God in the evening against the disease is blasphemy”; that the smallpox is “a judgment of God on the sins of the people,” and that “to avert it is but to provoke him more”; that inoculation is “an encroachment on the prerogatives of Jehovah, whose right it is to wound and smite.”

Among the mass of scriptural texts most remote from any possible bearing on the subject one was employed which was equally cogent against any use of healing means in any disease–the words of Hosea: “He hath torn, and he will heal us; he hath smitten, and he will bind us up.”

So bitter was this opposition that Dr. Boylston’s life was in danger; it was considered unsafe for him to be out of his house in the evening; a lighted grenade was even thrown into the house of Cotton Mather, who had favoured the new practice, and had sheltered another clergyman who had submitted himself to it.

“It was good that Satan should be dispossessed of his habitation which he had taken up in men in our Lord’s day, but it was not lawful that the children of the Pharisees should cast him out by the help of Beelzebub. We must always have an eye to the matter of what we do as well as the result, if we intend to keep a good conscience toward God.” But the facts were too strong; the new practice made its way in the New World as in the Old, though bitter opposition continued, and in no small degree on vague scriptural grounds, for more than twenty years longer.

The steady evolution of scientific medicine brings us next to Jenner’s discovery of vaccination. Here, too, sundry vague survivals of theological ideas caused many of the clergy to side with retrograde physicians. Perhaps the most virulent of Jenner’s enemies was one of his professional brethren, Dr. Moseley, who placed on the title-page of his book, _Lues Bovilla_, the motto, referring to Jenner and his followers, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do”: this book of Dr. Moseley was especially indorsed by the Bishop of Dromore. In 1798 an Anti-vaccination Society was formed by physicians and clergymen, who called on the people of Boston to suppress vaccination, as “bidding defiance to Heaven itself, even to the will of God,” and declared that “the law of God prohibits the practice.” As late as 1803 the Rev. Dr. Ramsden thundered against vaccination in a sermon before the University of Cambridge, mingling texts of Scripture with calumnies against Jenner;

[2] The Church’s Failed Smallpox Solution: Devotion to Mother Mary

At high mass, yesterday, in the Roman Catholic Cathedral, the Rev. Father Emard read the Papal decree, which is considered as applying to the smallpox epidemic in Montreal, and which was issued by his Holiness Pope Leo XIII… The decree alludes to the ravages of epidemic and plagues among the faithful throughout the world last year, and impresses upon Roman Catholics the efficiency of prayer in crushing these regrettable calamities.

New York Times Archives

To Mary, therefore, we must fly – to her whom rightly and justly the Church entitles the dispenser of saving, aiding, and protecting gifts – that she, graciously hearkening to our prayers, may grant us the help they besought, and drive far from us the unclean plague.


[3] The Effectiveness of Vaccination

In Berlin, during the eight years following 1783, over four thousand children died of the smallpox; while during the eight years following 1814, after vaccination had been largely adopted, out of a larger number of deaths there were but five hundred and thirty-five from this disease. In Wurtemberg, during the twenty-four years following 1772, one in thirteen of all the children died of smallpox, while during the eleven years after 1822 there died of it only one in sixteen hundred. In Copenhagen, during twelve years before the introduction of vaccination, fifty-five hundred persons died of smallpox, and during the sixteen years after its introduction only one hundred and fifty-eight persons died of it throughout all Denmark. In Vienna, where the average yearly mortality from this disease had been over eight hundred, it was steadily and rapidly reduced, until in 1803 it had fallen to less than thirty; and in London, formerly so afflicted by this scourge, out of all her inhabitants there died of it in 1890 but one. As to the world at large, the result is summed up by one of the most honoured English physicians of our time, in the declaration that “Jenner has saved, is now saving, and will continue to save in all coming ages, more lives in one generation than were destroyed in all the wars of Napoleon.”

— Andrew Dickson White, History of the Warfare of Science with Theology in Christendom

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Church Morality vs. Secular Morality: A Matter of Premise

Morality is such a divisive issue. In simple terms, morality is “the quality of being in accord with standards of right or good conduct.” The divisiveness lies not in whether an act is in accord with certain standards of right and wrong, but on which standard should the rightness or wrongness of an act be judged.

In society, Church morality and secular morality often come into conflict with each other because their standards, and especially their underlying premises which dictate these standards, are as different as night and day. As such, their moral conflict is essentially a matter of premise, as follows:


With such opposing premises, it is of no great surprise that the Church blames secularism for destroying the morals of society, while secularists accuse the Church of trying to impose a misogynistic and bigoted moral system straight out of the Middle Ages.

For instance, on the issue of birth control, the Church asserts that it is God’s will that the unitive aspect of sex cannot be isolated, through man’s initiative, from its procreative purpose, meaning sex should not be done only for the sake of pleasure and bonding while avoiding the responsibility that comes with bearing children. And on the issue of gay marriage, the Church insists that God designed marriage to be the exclusive union between a man and a woman.

Secularism, on the other hand, operating on the premise that no one really knows the will of God – assuming he exists – has no objection towards contraceptive sex as long as the state laws on marriage, rape, and abortion are not violated. As for gay marriage, secularism has no opposition to its legalization as long as it is between two consenting adults.

If a moral system is based on the premises of the Church, it is easily justifiable to ban contraception and gay marriages since both are condemned by God, and the pleasures as well as the sacrifices of this life are nothing compared to the potential happiness and suffering in the next. But as the blogger Philosophy Bro once tweeted, “‘Because God said so’ isn’t a bad excuse if He really said so – proving that is the hard part.”

Since it is clear to the secularist that this life is the only life we really know exists, welfare and happiness in this life should take precedence over any imaginable but unverifiable condition after death – especially since we have absolutely no idea how to secure an advantage in the next life, if there is one. What’s wrong with passionate sex without the possibility of pregnancy if both partners are enjoying it and hurting no one, not even a fetus or a zygote? What’s so objectionable about two people of the same gender falling in love with each other and wanting nothing more than to publicly proclaim such love and enjoy the legal rights and benefits of a state-sanctioned union?

These intimacy and relationship issues appear to go beyond the appreciation of the Church hierarchy, who in turn seem intent on imposing a great deal of self-denial on others not only by preaching against hedonistic sex but by actually blocking laws that help poor couples enjoy sex without having more children than they can feed. As Bertrand Russell said, “Religions, which condemn the pleasures of sense, drive men to seek the pleasures of power. Throughout history power has been the vice of the ascetic.” Indeed, what can one expect from powerful men whose own institutional tradition bound them to become lifelong virgins?

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