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Tag Archive | "contraception"

Primacy of Conscience in the Prison of the Church

Senator Miriam Santiago’s theological argument for the Reproductive Health Bill relies on the Catholic doctrine called “primacy of conscience.” But some conservative Catholics think her understanding is flawed, one of her many “booboos” intended to “mislead faithful Catholics.”

Is Sen. Santiago misleading Catholics when she argues that primacy of conscience allows Catholics to dissent on the RH Bill? Or are conservative Catholics just defensive because she found a loophole that allows Catholics to be progressive in such issues?

The answer is complicated, so I’ll try to state it simply before expounding. Primacy of conscience means that a Catholic must act consistently with her[1] conscience. However, a Catholic must also have a conscience that’s consistent with the teachings of the Church. Taken by itself, primacy of conscience gives Catholics freedom. Taken in context, it gives Catholics freedom to do what the Church tells them.

Conscience and Contraception

Consider contraception. The Church teaches that contraception is inherently evil. Catholics have an obligation to believe this — to make it part of their conscience. When a Catholic fails to believe this — or hold it as definitive — she is fully responsible for this sin (failure to believe) and is no longer in full communion with the Church[2]. When she uses a condom, she acts according to her conscience. Due to primacy of conscience, the sinful action cannot be fully blamed on her — she’s only fully responsible for the sin of doubt.

Yes, she had freedom to use contraception — she does have free will (another complicated doctrine) — and was even right in doing so according to primacy of conscience. But she did not have freedom to believe that contraception was OK — primacy of conscience only applies to actions, not beliefs.

In a nutshell, it was right to act according to her conscience, but wrong to form her conscience independent of the Church.

Cardinal Pell

Conscience and Confusion

If I failed to explain that simply enough, you can’t blame me — primacy of conscience is one of the most easily misunderstood Catholic doctrines. This is why Cardinal George Pell, Archbishop of Melbourne, has been fighting against the doctrine for years:

“The doctrine of the primacy of conscience should be quietly ditched . . . because too many Catholic youngsters have concluded that values are personal inventions.” Furthermore, the primacy of conscience is “a dangerous and misleading myth.” In fact, according to Pell, “in the Catholic scheme of things, there’s no such thing as primacy of conscience.”

Cardinal Pell is not alone. Although he doesn’t want to ditch the doctrine, Pope John Paul II understands how misleading this doctrine can be:

There is a tendency to grant to the individual conscience the prerogative of independently determining the criteria of good and evil and then acting accordingly… To the affirmation that one has a duty to follow one’s conscience is unduly added the affirmation that one’s moral judgment is true merely by the fact that it has its origin in the conscience.

— Pope John Paul II, Papal Encyclical Veritatis Splendor

The Vatican also acknowledges this confusion by warning of the “mistaken notion of autonomy of conscience, rejection of the Church’s authority and her teaching [emphasis mine]” which leads to erroneous judgment.

Conscience and Obligation

As Pope John Paul II explained, the confusion comes from extending primacy of conscience from the realm of actions to the realm of beliefs. And because one acts as one believes, Catholics have the obligation to educate their beliefs first:

Although each individual has a right to be respected in his own journey in search of the truth, there exists a prior moral obligation, and a grave one at that, to seek the truth and to adhere to it once it is known. As Cardinal John Henry Newman, that outstanding defender of the rights of conscience, forcefully put it: “Conscience has rights because it has duties”

Here Pope John Paul II explains that Catholics have a right to follow their conscience because they have a duty to follow the Church. And in case you’re wondering why I equated seeking the truth with following the Church, he made it very clear:

The Church’s Magisterium also teaches the faithful specific particular precepts and requires that they consider them in conscience as morally binding… When people ask the Church the questions raised by their consciences, when the faithful in the Church turn to their Bishops and Pastors, the Church’s reply contains the voice of Jesus Christ, the voice of the truth about good and evil.

But what about the current pope? Like many progressive Catholics, Sen. Santiago often uses Pope Benedict’s following statement:

Above the pope as an expression of the binding claim of church authority,” writes Ratzinger, stands one’s own conscience, which has to be obeyed first of all, if need be against the demands of church authority.

But that’s only part of the picture. Taken by itself, it does seem like the pope’s statement allows Catholics to dissent. But taken in context, Pope Benedict’s statement is consistent with those of Pope John Paul II and official Vatican teaching. He explains that although following conscience is a duty and is never wrong, informing conscience is also a duty, and neglecting to do so is always wrong:

It is never wrong to follow the convictions one has arrived at—in fact, one must do so. But it can very well be wrong to have come to such askew convictions in the first place… The guilt lies then in a different place, much deeper—not in the present act, not in the present judgment of conscience but in the neglect of my being which made me deaf to the internal promptings of truth. For this reason, criminals of conviction like Hitler and Stalin are guilty.

— Pope Benedict XVI (then Fr. Ratzinger) while serving as Chair of Dogmatic Theology at the University of Tübingen in 1968

Conscience and Clarification

There are two variables at play here. Let’s call them the two duties of conscience:

  1. Educate your conscience.
  2. Obey your conscience.

Chains Church

Primacy of conscience only applies to the second duty, and fulfilling it is not complicated: following your conscience is right, not following it is wrong. But primacy of conscience does not apply to the first duty. For this, primacy of Church is the rule: believing the Church is right, not believing it is wrong. With this, we come up with the duties of conscience according to the Catholic Church:

  1. Believe what the Church says should be in your conscience.
  2. Obey your conscience.

And if your conscience is consistent with what the Church says — and Catholics have a moral obligation to ensure this[2] — then we finally have this:

  1. Obey the Church.

Where did the primacy of conscience go? This is what our investigation has finally revealed. In the words of Cardinal Pell, “in the Catholic scheme of things, there’s no such thing as primacy of conscience.” At least not in any meaningful sense that actually grants Catholics freedom. Because as Rosa Luxemburg said, freedom is always the freedom of dissenters.

In the Catholic scheme of things, Catholics have a duty to obey the Church. But the clergy won’t tell you this. They’d prefer to tell the laity that their only duty is to believe, and I think progressive Catholics would prefer this, too. Why? Because Catholics are proud and even honored to be called believers. What do you call someone who is bound to obey?


[1] I’ll use the female pronoun because it’s RH and also to remind you that we’re celebrating 100 years of International Women’s Day.
[2] The Catholic Church requires all Catholics to accept three kinds of truths:

  1. truths that are divinely revealed or dogmatic teachings
  2. truths that are taught infallibly by the Pope or the authentic ordinary Magisterium (also called the ordinary universal Magisterium) or definitive doctrines; and
  3. truths that are taught fallibly (in a non-definitive way) but authoritatively by the Pope or the authentic ordinary Magisterium or authoritative, non-definitive doctrines.

You must be wondering why truths should even be categorized. Isn’t something either truth or not truth at all? The reason is there are different degrees of acceptance required for each truth — and corresponding punishments for failing to do so:

  1. dogmatic teachings are to be believed; failing to believe is heresy, which warrants automatic excommunication.
  2. definitive doctrines are to be held definitively; failing to hold definitively excludes Catholics from full communion with the Church. I wrote about the implications of this in “The Penalty for Pro-RH Catholics.”
  3. authoritative, non-definitive doctrines are to be accepted at a level that matches the importance of the doctrine; failing to accept warrants punishment of the same level, depending on the importance of the doctrine.

[3] Source of the Satu Mare Chains Church image.

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Sen. Santiago’s RH Speech: a Win for RH, a Loss for Secularism

I’m ambivalent about Sen. Santiago’s RH sponsorship speech. As an RH advocate, I’m happy. Her speech was effective in terms of increasing the chances of the RH Bill passing.

But as an advocate of secularism, I’m disappointed. She replaced arguing from one religious perspective — CBCP’s version of Catholicism — with arguing from another religious perspective — the progressive Catholicism adhered to by most Catholic advocates I know.

This wouldn’t be a problem if she held progressive Catholicism as one of her private motivations for being pro-RH. But to use it as a public argument in Senate is indefensible. This bears repeating: The Philippine Constitution states that secularism shall be inviolable. Although the Philippines may be predominantly Catholic, it should have a secular government — one that is religiously neutral.

Sen. Santiago’s speech is as religiously biased as it gets. How many times did she mention God and the Church in her speech? She didn’t even try to be pluralistic; she could have made God and Church applicable to other religions. But it was clear from the start that she was focused on no other religion but the Roman Catholic one.

Her main argument was that Catholics shouldn’t blindly obey the priests and Popes, their doctrines and dogmas; they should follow their conscience instead. Why? Because the 2nd Vatican council said so. But by following their conscience, Catholics will only be obeying a different group of priests and Popes and doctrines and dogmas.

And while Sen. Santiago argues with the CBCP about which group of religious leaders Catholics should follow, non-Catholic Filipinos remain unrepresented. Non-Catholics don’t care what a Catholic Pope or bishop says. Nor should a secular government.

Some might think it’s a good thing Sen. Santiago is fighting fire with fire, pitting her progressive theology against the CBCP’s conservative version. But by doing so, she has conceded the battleground. She has implicitly agreed that the RH bill is also about theology — the CBCP’s preferred arena. Instead of setting the stage for secular arguments, she left the door open for CBCP’s religious arguments. And in a supposedly secular Senate, even one is too many.

I believe the RH bill has come this far because of a shift toward a more secular outlook — decreasing trust in religious arguments and supernatural causes, increasing reliance on scientific evidence and real-world effects. Although it aims to weaken an ancient authority, Sen. Santiago’s speech strengthens an ancient paradigm: the Philippines is a Catholic country and you have to use Catholic arguments to change it.

Maybe Sen. Santiago thinks the only way to win the RH battle is to fight it theologically. A victory against the CBCP on its own turf might just be the push the RH bill needs to pass. Though such a victory is still uncertain, one thing’s for sure: using theology as a tactic is a clear defeat in the fight for secularism.

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Crossing Streets and Maternal Death Risks (part 2)

Hong Kong footbridgeOf around 3.37 M pregnancies that occurred in 2008, 17% led to induced abortions and 14% to unwanted births—more than a million pregnancies that women did not want. Some 92% of these occurred while using no method of family planning, or relying on a traditional one like the withdrawal or rhythm.

The fist half of this article likened maternal risks to similar risks when crossing busy streets. Risk reduction can be done two ways. One, make the process safer. Two, avoid it whenever possible.

Family planning (FP) is the second way. Using artificial or natural methods, it is a means to avoid unintended pregnancies. Using the road crossing analogy, effective FP methods are like overpass walkways that government builds to keep people away from harm. In turn, people need to learn and choose to use them to be of any good.

Relative Risks

An overpass is safer for most people, but is not risk-free. Nothing in life is. The overpass stairs may be slippery. Snatchers may declare the site as their emerging market. Civil engineers may have been sloppy. An earthquake, lightning or bullet from a cop’s warning shot may just strike while you’re in the middle of it. You simply compare all these with the risk of matching your footwork with running vehicles.

The same weighing of risks and benefits apply to all FP methods. For example, users of combined pills do have an increased risk of venous thromboembolism (VTE), a blood clot in veins deep inside the body that is 1–2% fatal. Anti-RH folks have often used this to scare people. What they fail to mention is that drug regulatory agencies have concluded that the increase in absolute risk is small, and that pregnancy confers higher risks of getting VTE than pill use:

Condition Risk of VTE
Not using pills, not pregnant 5–10 cases per 100 000 women-years
Using the most common pill
(low-dose ethinylestradiol + levonorgestrel)
20 cases per 100 000 women-years of use
Pregnant 60 cases per 100 000 pregnancies



Using an overpass is also not safe for everyone. Someone on wheelchairs who will try the atrociously steep ramp at the Quezon Avenue-EDSA overpass will probably careen down and break more bones. Urging someone with fear of heights or an asthmatic attack to climb up is courting trouble. Other more sensible methods should simply be made available.

For FP methods and all other medicines, the user may have a condition which makes the drug or procedure riskier than usual. If the risks outweigh the benefits, the medicine is contraindicated, meaning not recommended for use. Since people have unique genetics, medical histories and current conditions, the decision can only be done on a case to case basis.

For example, natural family planning (NFP) is effective for motivated couples. If one or both do not want to use it, the method is contraindicated. The risk of pregnancy would be too high. If the husband is violently uncooperative, the woman gets no benefit at all while risking a whole range of harm. Using the same principles, combined pills are not prescribed to women with pre-existing hypertension because of increased risk of heart attack and stroke; or to women with pre-existing breast cancer because both natural and synthetic estrogens stimulate the proliferation of breast cells.

Policy Choices

“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” is something we learn in elementary school. When anti-RH folks profess to support safety through maternal care services and in the same breath denigrate the value of family planning, I yearn for the simple lessons of our grade school teachers. The anti-RH position is akin to banning overpass walkways, insisting that people rely on the natural ebb and flow of traffic to safely cross streets, and allaying their fears by saying there will be more hospitals to save and mend broken bodies.

The RH bill’s safe motherhood proposal is simple. Women who are pregnant by choice or circumstance should get the standard care that has made maternal deaths a rarity in many parts of the world. Women who do not want more children or want to postpone the next pregnancy should get the family planning method of their choice to avoid maternal risks altogether.

Make the process safer. Avoid risks whenever possible. Both are needed, both should be done.

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Crossing Streets and Maternal Death Risks

Busy street in ManilaCrossing a busy street and testing one’s agility against vehicles has inherent risks. To minimize these risks, we create structures and social rules such as traffic lights, pedestrian lanes, speed bumps and so on. We also minimize the frequency of exposure to risks. Using overpass walkways, avoiding unnecessary trips and creating better planned neighborhoods are some of the ways we reduce the number of times people and vehicles cross paths.

The reproductive health (RH) bill’s approach to reducing maternal deaths follows the same dual strategy: minimize risks and minimize exposure to risks.

A woman’s lifetime risk of maternal death is a product of two factors: the risk of death from each pregnancy and birth, and the number of times she gets pregnant. The most successful countries in the world have managed to bring down both, and some of our ASEAN neighbors are on the way to making maternal death a rare possibility in a woman’s lifetime (see chart below).

Lifetime risk of maternal death

Source: World Health Organization, UNICEF, UNFPA and The World Bank,
“Trends in maternal mortality: 1990 to 2008”, Annex 1 & Appendix 14, 2010.


To reduce the risk of death from each pregnancy, the RH bill mandates:

  • sufficient number of skilled birth attendants (SBAs, referring to midwives, nurses or doctors) that can provide antenatal, birthing and postnatal services (Sec. 5 in both House and Senate versions);
  • enough facilities, equipment, supplies and health personnel to provide emergency obstetric and neonatal care (Sec. 6 in both House and Senate versions);
  • the maximum level of PhilHealth benefits for women with obstetric complications (Sec. 14 in House version and 11 in Senate); and
  • a review process to learn lessons from maternal deaths that do occur (Sec. 9 in House version and 8 in Senate).

Opponents of RH have expressed mixed reactions to this aspect of the bill. Some have accepted it as beneficial and have focused instead on their key issues of contraception, abortion and sex education. Others have branded it as unnecessary or a mere sweetener because the government has been doing maternal health programs without a law; or maternal death is not among the top-10 causes of deaths; or both. To check these claims, let us look at a key indicator of safety during pregnancy and birth: skilled birth attendance.

If women lack access to SBAs, they rely on the hilot (traditional birth attendants) to manage their childbirth and the immediate period after delivery. Unfortunately, around three quarters of all maternal deaths occur during these critical times. A hilot does not have the skills or resources to save women from the usual complications like severe bleeding, convulsions, sepsis and obstructed labor. How a hilot can totally mess up with diagnosing a complication and acting promptly to forestall death can be seen in the documentary Olivia’s Story. Only 37 years old, she died on May 2, 2009 in a poor community in Malabon (yes, hilots ply their trade even in a city in the country’s metropolis) after delivering her tenth child at home.

In 1999, a special session of the UN General Assembly agreed to work towards raising the use of SBAs to 80% by 2005, 85% by 2010 and 90% by 2015. What has the Philippines achieved? In 2008, actual use of SBAs by all women was only 62%, and the poorest women had use rates of only 26% (see chart below).

Percentage use of SBA, Philippines

Source: Macro International Inc, 2011. MEASURE DHS STATcompiler., June 14 2011.


Was the UN target too ambitious? No. Some of our ASEAN neighbors have proven that middle-income countries can attain the goal. Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam have met or exceeded the target. Indonesia is behind but has performed better than the Philippines (see chart below).

Percentage use of SBAs, selected countries
Source: WHO, Women and Health, Health Service Coverage,
Global Health Observatory Data Repository, June 16, 2001.

The average Filipina receives less skilled maternal care than some of her ASEAN neighbors. Those who are poor receive hardly any care at all.

Yes, the country does have a maternal care program which has been in place since perhaps the elder Aquino government, which merely reinforces the point that “business as usual” won’t be enough. Having something going on does not mean policymakers cannot make it better funded and more effective, equitable and enforceable. It would be both wise and charitable for the anti-RH forces to concede this issue in the RH bill debates.

Part 2: Family Planning and Reducing Exposure to Risks

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You’re objecting to the Pill, not the Bill

One of the secular arguments against the RH Bill is that it is unconstitutional based on the premise that certain oral contraceptives pills (OCPs), which the bill seeks to fund and distribute, have an abortifacient effect since they prevent the implantation of the fertilized ovum in the unlikely event of breakthrough ovulation and fertilization. This allegedly violates Art. II Sec. 12 of the 1987 Constitution: The State…shall equally protect the life of the mother and the life of the unborn from conception. Not surprisingly, the pro-life assert that conception means fertilization, the moment the sperm and egg cells meet, quoting Fr. Joaquin Bernas and Dr. Bernardo Villegas, both members of the Constitutional Commission of 1986:

“The intention is to protect life from its beginning, and the assumption is that human life begins at conception, that conception takes place at fertilization.” (IV RECORD of the Constitutional Commission 799,cited in Bernas, J., The 1987 Constitution of the Republic of the Philippines, Manila: 1996 ed., p.78)

“In the Philippine Constitution of 1987, conception is defined as fertilization, the moment the egg is fertilized by the sperm. This was the majority decision (32 to 8 ) of the members of the Constitutional Commission of 1986 convoked by the late President Corazon Aquino.” (

While the above would seem to stop the RH Bill in its tracks, a little research shows this isn’t necessarily so.

Regarding the quote from Fr. Bernas, the complete paragraph actually reads:

“The intention is to protect life from its beginning, and the assumption is that human life begins at conception, that conception takes place at fertilization. There is however no attempt to pinpoint the exact moment when conception takes place. But while the provision does not assert with certainty when precisely human life begins, it reflects the view that, in dealing with the protection of life, it is necessary to take the safer approach.” (p.78 Bernas, J., The 1987 Constitution of the Republic of the Philippines, Manila: 1996 ed.)

The last two sentences may seem contradictory: there is no attempt to pinpoint the exact moment of conception and yet it is necessary to take the safer approach. My analysis is that the first sentence clearly expresses what the Constitutional Commission did not do, that is, define the moment of conception, while the second looks like it is meant as a guide in legislation since Article II, where the protection of the unborn clause was placed, is in fact the Declaration of State Policies – not the Bill of Rights.

Moreover, Fr. Bernas wanted to use the term “fertilized ovum” such that “protection of life should extend to the fertilized ovum,” but that was not adopted by the Commission, ending up with “the State shall protect the unborn from conception” instead:

FR. JOAQUIN BERNAS: Perhaps you should say, “protection of life should extend to the fertilized ovum. (Record of the Constitutional Commission, Vol.1, p.690)

LINO BROCKA: I do not think that it should be implemented, for the simple reason that medically, there is no clear consensus that the fertilized ovum is considered human life. (Record of the Constitutional Commission, Vol.1, p.692)

REV.RIGOS: But our religious authorities sharply differ in their opinions as to when human life can definitely be regarded to have commenced. If we constitutionalize the beginning of human life at a stage we call fertilized ovum, then we are putting a note of finality to the whole debate. (Record of the Constitutional Commission, Vol.1, p.693)

MS.AQUINO: Even this Commission cannot settle the question of whether a fertilized egg has the right to life or not. Those experts in the field of medicine and theology cannot settle this question. It is bad enough for us to preempt this controversial issue by constitutionalizing the ovum; it would be tragic for us to provide for ambiguities, which may even disturb settled jurisprudence. (Record of the Constitutional Commission, Vol.1, p.695)

As for Dr. Villegas’ claim that there was a 32-8 decision where the members of the Constitutional Commission defined conception as fertilization, there seems to be nothing online that would validate such claim, much less explain the significance or effect of the decision, especially since the Commission intended to leave to Congress the power and mandate to determine the legal definition of conception:

MR. OPLE: We say, “Protect the life of the unborn from the moment of conception.” Is there in jurisprudence anything now that will help us visualize the precise moment, the approximate moment when conception begins and, therefore, the life of this new human personality entitled to all the protection of the laws in the Constitution begins? Is there any standard legislature or jurisprudence that will support an interpretation of the moment of conception?

MR. VILLEGAS: Jurisprudence? None… We believe that the abortion debate from a scientific standpoint must proceed on the assumption that…human life begins at fertilization of the ovum.

MR. OPLE: But we would leave to Congress the power, the mandate to determine.

MR. VILLEGAS: Exactly, on the basis of facts and figures they would obtain from experts.

MR. OPLE: Yes, to legislate a kind of standard so that everyone will know what moment of conception will mean in terms of legal rights and obligations… (Records of the Constitutional Commission No. 86 09-18-1986)

As of today, Congress has yet to determine the legal definition of conception. Until then, all these claims about the abortifacient effect of certain pills as well as the debate on when life begins are irrelevant as far as constitutionality is concerned.

More importantly, the pro-life are actually objecting to the use of oral contraceptive pills and not the RH Bill per se and should therefore focus their efforts in lobbying Congress to define conception as fertilization and have these OCPs banned by the FDA instead of blocking the passage of the RH Bill. Because even without the RH Bill, these pills they deem abortifacient are already available in the market. Conversely, if Congress defines conception as fertilization, these pills will be banned even if the RH Bill gets passed.

To the pro-life, let me say it again: you’re objecting to the Pill, not the Bill, and it is fallacious to equate the two. You are barking up the wrong tree, unless of course your true opposition lies in the use of contraception in general – even if certain contraceptives like condoms do not prevent implantation – because contraception is forbidden by the Catholic Church. But you know too well that religious arguments have no place in public debates since we’re living in a pluralistic society, so you might have decided to come up with a secular rationalization. And if that is the case, I object to your lack of candor.

(Special thanks to WillyJ for the very interesting discussion on another article which helped me come up with the idea for this post.)
* * * * *

Note: Someone accused me of attacking a strawman when I said that “one of the secular arguments against the RH Bill is that it is unconstitutional on the premise that certain oral contraceptives pills (OCPs), which the bill seeks to fund and distribute, have an abortifacient effect since they prevent the implantation of the fertilized ovum in the unlikely event of breakthrough ovulation and fertilization,” saying that that was never an argument made by secularists. The problem is that he defined ‘secular’ too narrowly and equated it with atheism or even objectivism so that only atheists and objectivists can make secualr arguments. That’s where he got it wrong. But if he can find the fallacy in the following argument, I’ll yield to him:

Premise 1: ‘Secular’ is defined as “not concerned with or related to religion.”

Premise 2: An argument about the RH Bill’s possible violation to the constitution is not concerned with or related to religion since it does not cite any religious doctrine. It cites only the constitution.

Conclusion: An argument about the RH Bill’s possible violation to the constitution is a secular argument.

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CBCP trademarks the term “Catholic”

Manila, Philippines — In response to the existence of Catholics™ for RH (C4RH), the Catholic™ Bishops Conference of the Philippines have trademarked the term, “Catholic™.”

An official of the CBCP said Monday that the term “Catholic™” is reserved for those who obey the Pope’s teachings and are granted an official license by the Vatican through its newly formed franchising agent in the Philippines, the CBCP Commission on Franchising and Life (COFAL). COFAL recently filed a complaint with the Intellectual Property Office of the Philippines against C4RH.

“Catholics™ for RH are not authentic,” added Cebu Archbishop Jose Palma, COFAL president. “They are not recognized as Catholics™.” Last week, Archbishop Palma refused to meet members of the group unless it changed its name. “Either they change the ‘Catholic™’ part or they change the ‘for RH’ part. As it stands their name is an oxymoron, let alone illegal.”

In accordance with the guidelines of COFAL, Laguna Bishop Leo Drona, COFAL vice-president, issued a “clarificatory note for the guidance of all Catholics™ so that they may not be deceived or misled by C4RH.”

Bishop Drona added that COFAL “does not consider nor recognize this group to be an authentically Catholic™ association or group since it espouses and supports a stand contrary and in direct opposition to the magisterial teachings of the Church. Their group violates not only Canon laws but intellectual property laws as well.”

According to Drona, trademarking the term prevents the formation of other groups such as Catholics™ for Divorce, Catholics™ for Abortion, Catholics™ for Euthanasia, Catholics™ for LGBT rights, and Catholics™ for Choice.

Because of the CBCP’s recent actions, some Catholics™ said that they’d leave the Catholic™ Church and form their own.

COFAL President Palma casually dismissed these threats. “They can do whatever they want in their own church but it is useless,” said Arhbishop Palma. “The sacraments, the prayers, even the bread and wine have no holiness or power unless properly franchised by the Catholic™ Church.”

COFAL have recently filed applications to trademark the terms “moral,” “family,” and “life.”

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Pia Cayetano’s Sponsorship Speech: A Secular Senator on the RH Bill

Count me as a fan.

After hearing all kinds of nonsense in Congress, from the religious arguments of Rep. Pablo Garcia to the superstitious ones of Rep. Roilo Golez, it was inspiring to listen to Senator Pia Cayetano’s sponsorship speech on the RH Bill.

It took more time for Garcia and Golez to blabber about what was not in the bill than for Sen. Cayetano to expound on what was actually in it. She even addressed common misconceptions and objections about the bill’s controversial provisions.

But what I liked most about her speech is that she spoke about secularism — the separation of church and state mandated by our constitution — and she did justice to it, a topic other legislators either misunderstand or disregard altogether.

If you cannot read her entire speech — which I highly recommend — at least read the excerpt below. In a country with a supposedly secular government polluted by so much nonsense, Sen. Cayetano’s rational, secular speech is a welcome breath of fresh air.

On the separation of Church and State and the freedom of religion.

Mr. President, we, as Senators have our own personal views and relationship with God. This is a part of who we are. Thus, I do not ask that we separate our moral values from our scrutiny of the bill. I simply ask that we remember that our religious views may be different from our neighbors and we cannot use our legislative seat to deprive a fellow Filipino of his legal and constitutional rights to exercise his religion, to make choices within the legal boundaries but based on his own religion and NOT ours.

Time and again, the position of the Church has been discussed as a basis for not supporting this bill, but as Senators, we are tasked to separate our religious beliefs when they interfere with matters that belong to the State. I simply ask that we recognize the right of every citizen to make choices regarding ones reproductive health based on one’s own conscience, moral and religious views.

Just because we are a predominantly Catholic country doesn’t mean we can impose Catholic dogma on every Filipino. That is the job of the clergy and they can do as they please in the Church and its activities with their flock. But, in the halls of Congress, the Constitution is clear, – – there must be a separation of Church and State. If for the sake of argument, 99.9% of Filipinos were Catholic and every single one expressed a certain view, I would still be standing here today to fight for the rights of that 1 Filipino who is entitled to choices based on his religion and not the religion of the majority … because that is the mandate of our Constitution — that we make laws respecting the freedom of religion of all without the Church interfering with matters that should be left with the State.

Following the same argument, if 99.9 % of the population belonged to a different religion, I would still stand up for that 1 Catholic to ensure that his rights were protected and that services and facilities were available to allow him to make choices based on his beliefs. Those are the principles of separation of Church and State and the freedom of religion.

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Atty. Jo Imbong on Imperialist, Non-Filipino RH Bill

Pre-colonial Filipino couple

The RH Bill did not come from Filipino legislators but from foreign organizations, Atty. Jo Imbong of the CBCP explained in English.

“It’s really introducing a different culture and replacing our own” — a culture which has been influenced by our Spanish, American, and Japanese colonizers — “with something else,” said Imbong.

“It is a cultural intrusion [in which] you supplant a beautiful thing with something that is alien,” said Imbong, possibly alluding to how our pre-Hispanic indigenous Malayo-Polynesian culture was supplanted with Spanish Catholicism.

Imbong and the CBCP oppose the RH Bill because it violates democratic rights — which originated in Greece — and religious freedom — which originated in Europe. They believe contraceptives are not a valid solution, let alone evil, consistent with the 1968 encyclical Humanae Vitae, which was promulgated by an Italian pope from Rome.

Instead of contraceptives, Imbong and the CBCP recommend natural family planning, a birth control method discovered and developed by individuals and institutions in the Netherlands, Japan, Austria, Australia, and the United States.

“It’s quite disturbing because our culture as it is,” said Imbong, “has very wholesome ideals, built on Christian values.” Christianity, a religion that began in Palestine, was influenced by Babylonian, Egyptian, Indian, and Chinese traditions, and was institutionalized as Roman Catholicism in Italy. It has evolved significantly thanks to theologians from all over the world, except the Philippines.

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Malta says “yes” to divorce, “yes” to secularism

Yesterday, the pro-divorce movement won the referendum on divorce with a majority of 54%, ending a battle that has delayed the much-needed measure for decades. The victory came despite the constant political meddling and religious blackmail of the Catholic Church.

Sound familiar? Aside from the happy ending, which left the Philippines the only country without divorce1, the story of Malta’s divorce referendum shares similarities with our own reproductive health (RH) debates:

  1. both countries are last bastions of Catholicism: Malta in Europe, the Philippines in Asia;
  2. both countries are predominantly Catholic: 95% in Malta, 80% in the Philippines; and
  3. both battles are primarily between progressive Catholics and conservative bishops.

And in both cases, the conservative bishops use fear mongering to keep their flock in line. In Malta, the religious blackmail came to a climax during a homily by
Bishop Mario Grech

In the sermon, he warned of “brigands” who want to “lead the flock astray” and “are going after marriage.” He said that members of the pro-divorce movement were lying about being Catholic:

Beware of the wolf in sheep’s clothing. And the wolf is now saying he is Catholic. This is a falsity, this is deceit. I am ready to dialogue with everyone but do not be false, do not lie. You cannot not be loyal to Christ and say you are a Christian or a Catholic. If you are not in communion with Christ’s teachings, you are not in communion with the Church and you cannot receive communion… we cannot pretend to be in communion with the Eucharist…2

The message is consistent with a nation-wide campaign the Church had launched, in which billboards featuring Jesus’ image said “Christ Yes, Divorce No.” Anti-divorce advocates also brought Mary into the picture:

Opponents of reform have invoked the Blessed Virgin and raised the spectre of Maltese society falling apart. Tonio Fenech, the finance minister and a Nationalist Party MP, wrote on a local news website recently: “I am sure Our Lady is very sorrowful that Malta is considering divorce.”

The anti-divorce campaign was denounced by Jeffrey Pullicino Orlando, an MP with the ruling Nationalist Party:

“The ‘no’ campaign has been disgusting,” said Mr Orlando, who set the referendum ball rolling. “Old ladies who said they would vote for divorce have been barred from taking Communion. An old electoral roll has been used, which means that 2,800 youngsters who are entitled to vote will not be able to. Lay Catholic organisations and 5,000 priests and nuns have also gone door-to-door campaigning. Limitless funds have been offered to the ‘no’ side.” Voting “yes” has been declared a mortal sin from the pulpit.”

To their credit, the bishops did say they were sorry if anyone was hurt by their anti-divorce campaign. Pro-divorce advocates, however, found this hard to believe:

In a reply, pro-divorce group StandUp Malta said the bishops’ statement was an apology which they found difficult to accept.

It was very hard to believe that the apology was genuine, especially since the Church’s campaign continued blatantly even on reflection day yesterday and voting day today.

The apology, they said, should have been made during the campaign when a lot of people were hurt by extreme declarations such as when those who were voting yes were called wolves in sheeps’ clothing.

The fact that the bishops wanted their apology broadcast once voting closed was Machiavellian and dirty.

Regardless of the bishops’ sincerity, I understand why they’re on the defensive. Winning the divorce debate is already Malta’s second secular victory in only six months. Last November, after a decade of opposition from the Catholic Church, they finally launched a long-awaited national sexual health policy — the counterpart of our RH Bill.

That’s two out of five D-E-A-T-H bills in half a year!3 How can a country that’s even more Catholic than the Philippines say “yes” to divorce and RH?

I believe the answer is secularism. While bishops fight to impose their convictions, progressive Catholics in Malta defend separation of church and state and respect the religious freedom of others — even those who have convictions different from theirs:

The Catholic pro-divorce group reiterated yesterday that although they held Christ’s teachings on marriage in high esteem they could not impose their beliefs on the rest of the people.

“Irrespective of how strongly we believe that divorce is bad for the country, we can never sideline the principle taught by Christ and expect others who do not share our faith to submit to our beliefs,” a group spokesman said.

The group said it was every Catholic’s duty to vote yes in the referendum because the issue at stake was whether what Catholics believed was right and wrong should be imposed by the state on everybody else. “We believe there should never be imposition…”

No imposition. Now — other than the bishops — who won’t say “yes” to that?



[1] No, I don’t consider the Vatican a country.

[2] Actually, you can be pro-divorce and still remain Catholic. But you could be excluded from Holy Communion for doing so. I wrote about these sanctions here.

[3] Divorce and Total Reproductive Health are down; Euthanasia, Abortion, and Homosexual Marriage remain.

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The Penalty for Pro-RH Catholics: Exclusion, Excommunication, and Eternal Damnation

Will pro-RH Catholics go to Hell when they die? If my research on the official teachings of the Catholic Church is correct, then it’s likely. This is not reserved for those who actually use contraceptives. Even Catholics who merely believe it’s OK to use them share the same fate.

I am not making this up. Nor is this based on some fringe fundamentalist position within the Catholic Church. This is based on the official teachings of the Vatican, and almost every statement I’ll cite to prove it came from the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

Threats and Taunts from the CBCP

Since an RH (reproductive health) bill was proposed over a decade ago, the CBCP and their cohorts have reacted to pro-RH Catholics in several ways, from threats of excommunication to insults such as “oxymoron,” both implying that an anti-RH position is required to remain in good standing in the Roman Catholic Church.

But are any of these threats and taunts valid? Are pro-RH Catholics still Catholic? Can the CBCP excommunicate someone for their pro-RH position? What happens to pro-RH Catholics when they die?

I’ll do my best to answer these questions — and explain how pro-RH Catholics could go to Hell — from the perspective of the Pope, the Vatican, and their version of God. I make this distinction because there are many progressive theologians and even more baptized Catholics who disagree with the Vatican.

As a freethinker, I do not believe in the Vatican’s authority — threats of excommunication and damnation are meaningless to me. And if there were a god — that is, an all-wise, all-loving god — I believe She’d have nothing against using artificial contraception and individual conscience. This is the God pro-RH Catholics believe in, and it goes without saying that She has no punishments reserved for the pro-RH.

Of course, this is all anathema to the Vatican, and whether this dissent is valid is a topic I’ll leave for another day. For now, here’s what the Vatican actually says about pro-RH Catholics.

I want to emphasize that I don’t agree with what the Vatican says. I don’t even think their views are worth anyone’s attention. But Catholics, regardless of their position on RH, should at least be aware of what their leaders think — especially those who claim to be infallible.


Are pro-RH Catholics still Catholic?

Yes. When a person is baptized Catholic, he remains Catholic until death.

Once someone is validly baptized, Catholic or otherwise, he is baptized forever (CIC 845). One can never lose baptism or become “unbaptized,” although one might lose the benefits of baptism by personal sin.

Once a Catholic, always a Catholic — even if they get excommunicated, disagree with dogma (heretics), join a different denomination (schismatics), or leave Christianity altogether (apostates). They just become excommunicated Catholics, heretic Catholics, schismatic Catholics, and so on. In other words, although they are not in full communion with the Church — not fully Catholic — they are Catholic nonetheless.

Can the CBCP excommunicate someone for their pro-RH position?

It’s possible, but highly unlikely. Even pro-abortion Catholics are spared from excommunication:

Politicians who vote in favor of abortion should not receive the sacrament of Holy Communion. “Legislative action in favor of abortion is incompatible with participation in the Eucharist. … Politicians exclude themselves from Communion.”

Next to excommunication — which excludes someone from all sacraments — exclusion from Holy Communion is the worst punishment a Catholic can get. We’ll return to this exclusion shortly.

What is the worst punishment possible for being pro-RH?

Eternal Damnation. Although there is no single statement that explicitly says this, we can follow the implications of several teachings and come to the same conclusion. I’ve elaborated this in 5 steps, each supported by official Vatican documents:

1. The Catholic Church teaches that contraception is inherently evil, and that this teaching is a definitive doctrine 1:

Every action which , whether in anticipation of the conjugal act, or in its accomplishment, or in the development of its natural consequences, proposes, whether as an end or as a means, to render procreation impossible is intrinsically evil.

Catechism of the Catholic Church 2370

The Church has always taught the intrinsic evil of contraception, that is, of every marital act intentionally rendered unfruitful. This teaching is to be held as definitive and irreformable. [In other words, infallible.]

Official Guide for Confessors issued by the Vatican Pontifical Council for the Family

2. Catholics who deny definitive doctrines are not in full communion with the Catholic Church:

Every believer, therefore, is required to give firm and definitive assent to these truths, based on faith in the Holy Spirit’s assistance to the Church’s Magisterium, and on the Catholic doctrine of the infallibility of the Magisterium in these matters.15 Whoever denies these truths [definitive doctrines] would be in a position of rejecting a truth of Catholic doctrine and would therefore no longer be in full communion with the Catholic Church.


3. Catholics who are not in full communion with the Church must abstain from receiving Holy Communion:

Presenting oneself to receive Holy Communion should be a conscious decision, based on a reasoned judgment regarding one’s worthiness to do so, according to the Church’s objective criteria, asking such questions as: “Am I in full communion with the Catholic Church? Am I guilty of grave sin? Have I incurred a penalty (e.g. excommunication, interdict) that forbids me to receive Holy Communion? Have I prepared myself by fasting for at least an hour?” The practice of indiscriminately presenting oneself to receive Holy Communion, merely as a consequence of being present at Mass, is an abuse that must be corrected.

– Joseph Ratzinger, Worthiness to Receive Holy Communion: General Principles

This is the same punishment proposed by the Vatican for pro-abortion Catholics mentioned above.

4. Catholics who do not fulfill their obligation to receive Holy Communion commit a grave sin.

The Sunday Eucharist is the foundation and confirmation of all Christian practice. For this reason the faithful are obliged to participate in the Eucharist on days of obligation, unless excused for a serious reason (for example, illness, the care of infants) or dispensed by their own pastor.Those who deliberately fail in this obligation commit a grave sin.

Catechism of the Catholic Church 2181

When you freely commit a sin knowing that it is of a grave matter, you commit a mortal sin. Note that receiving Holy Communion when you are unworthy is itself a grave matter (sacrilege), so freely committing it with full knowledge of its graveness is yet another mortal sin.

5. Catholics who die in mortal sin go to Hell:

The teaching of the Church affirms the existence of hell and its eternity. Immediately after death the souls of those who die in a state of mortal sin descend into hell, where they suffer the punishments of hell, “eternal fire.”

Catechism of the Catholic Church 1035

Remember that any contraception, if done freely with the knowledge of its graveness, is by itself a mortal sin. But what I’ve elaborated above shows that even the belief 2 that contraception is not inherently evil already disqualifies Catholics from partaking in Holy Communion. This is the same reason excommunication is a big deal: It excludes Catholics from the sacraments, of which Communion is the most important. And as I’ve shown, the Vatican teaches that without Communion, there’s no salvation.

Pro-RH Catholics and the Pope

So there you have it. According to the Vatican, Pro-RH Catholics, by their denial of a definitive doctrine, are not in full communion with the Church, preventing them from fulfilling their obligation to receive Holy Communion — a mortal sin, which if left unconfessed, means their souls will go to Hell when they die.

This should be more alarming than it is, but I realize this early that this information will be trivial to many. Because if you’re a pro-RH Catholic — someone who uses or promotes contraceptives in good conscience — you probably don’t care what the Pope says anyway.

The easiest way to get excommunicated

Not caring what the Pope says means you probably don’t believe in his infallibility. This, by the way, is a divinely revealed doctrine:

To the truths of the first paragraph [which refers to divinely revealed truths] belong … the doctrine on the primacy and infallibility of the Roman Pontiff …

Denying a divinely revealed doctrine, such as papal infallibility, is another mortal sin, one of the few that can get you an automatic excommunication:

These doctrines [divinely revealed truths] require the assent of theological faith by all members of the faithful. Thus, whoever obstinately places them in doubt or denies them falls under the censure of heresy, as indicated by the respective canons of the Codes of Canon Law.

So according to the Pope, thinking that he could be wrong in a matter of faith and morals — such as his views on the evil of contraception — will get you automatically excommunicated. But then again, if you’re pro-RH, you probably disagree.


[1] On questioning the infallibility of the contraception teaching

Some progressive Catholics argue that the teaching on the inherent evil of contraception (let’s call it contraception teaching from here on) is not an infallible one. They make this mistake because they think that the only way for a teaching to be infallible is for it to be pronounced infallible by the Pope.

And officially, no Pope has pronounced the contraception teaching infallible by himself. But when a teaching is taught for a long time by most (if not all) Catholic bishops together with the Pope, the teaching is considered infallible — infallible by the Church’s teaching authority. This teaching authority is also known as the ordinary universal Magisterium. Some examples of teachings considered infallible in this way are the inherent evil of murder, prostitution, fornication, homosexual acts, abortion, euthanasia, ordination of women priests, and finally, contraception.

So although the teaching on contraception was not pronounced ex cathedra (with a solemn declaration of infallibility) by any pope, it is infallible by virtue of the unbroken tradition of bishops and popes collectively teaching its inherent evil.

The infallibility of the contraception teaching was the same conclusion reached by most Catholic theologians, both progressive — such as Hans Kung — and conservative — such as John C. Ford.

Because the teaching on contraception is an infallibly taught truth, it is a definitive doctrine and should therefore be held definitively by all Catholics.

But why must infallible truths be held definitively? When the Pope or the ordinary universal Magisterium teaches something infallibly, it is as if the teaching is made by God himself. This is reflected clearly by the following statements made by Pope John Paul II on the contraception teaching.

In the late 80s, he said that Humanae Vitae was “written by the creative hand of God in the nature of the human person,” and that Catholic theologians could not doubt the ban on contraception because doing so would be like doubting “the very idea of God’s holiness.” If that doesn’t convince you he thinks the contraception teaching is infallible, I don’t know what will.

[2] The difference between a sin of action and a sin of belief.

You may commit a sin, while believing that it is wrong. In this case all you have to do is confess and try your best not to do it again. But if your sin has to do with failing to believe something you’re supposed to believe, you can’t just confess. You have to change your belief as well. If you can’t ever change your belief — or don’t even want to try — then you’ll be in a state of perpetual sin.

Consider contraception. An anti-RH Catholic might out of “weakness” be forced to use a condom while thinking that it is immoral. He will be guilty until his next confession, or probably a few weeks after that. But once he confesses, the mortal sin is forgiven, and he’s back in full communion, worthy to receive the Holy Eucharist.

This success story does not apply to the pro-RH Catholic. If a pro-RH Catholic uses a condom and thinks it’s OK, he can’t just confess the action. Forget that it would be weird for him to confess something he doesn’t think is wrong. But even if he does confess the action, if he doesn’t change the belief, he’ll still be unworthy of the Holy Eucharist. And if he continues believing “immorally,” he never will be.

Of course, some will say you can believe something and at the same time think that the said belief is wrong. I won’t even try to get into that.

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The Future Saint John Paul II

Pope John Paul II was beloved in the Philippines, which he visited twice during his reign, and all over the world. He was seen as the rock star pope, with a papacy that was known for its close ties with the laity. And when his almost 27 year reign as pope ended in 2005, after years of suffering Parkinson’s Disease, the people gathered at St. Peter’s Square shouted “santo subito!” (“sainthood now!”) and called him “John Paul the Great.” With his beatification this past May 1, sainthood is now all but assured.

The Catholic institution of canonization requires a total of two “verified” miracles in order to recognize a Catholic as being a saint who can hear prayers and intercede for those who ask for their help. It is theologically important to note that Christians are not “made” saints by the Church, but, rather, recognized. Before one is confirmed as a saint, however, one must first be beatified. In order to be beatified, a candidate must have one of the two required “verified” miracles under their belt.

The Roman Catholic Church takes miraculous claims seriously—having, until recently, the office of advocatus diaboli, or the Devil’s Advocate, which makes a case against the canonization of a particular candidate. Incidentally, it was John Paul II himself who abolished the office, which expedited hundreds of canonization proceedings. Christopher Hitchens, when he was asked to argue against the beatification of Mother Teresa after the dissolution of the office of the Devil’s Advocate, described his role as representing the devil “pro bono”. The Church investigates miraculous cures and requires that, in order to be attributable to the intercession of a candidate for canonization, the cure be instantaneous, complete, and lasting.

For John Paul II, one of his necessary miracles for canonization came in the form of Sister Marie Simon-Pierre, who is said to have recovered from the incurable Parkinson’s disease, the same illness suffered by the late pontiff. Sister Simon-Pierre wrote the name of Pope John Paul II after his death on a piece of paper. The next day, she was apparently cured and resumed her duties in her order.

It is, of course, entirely possible that Sister Simon-Pierre was simply afflicted by an illness that had neurodegenerative appearances similar to Parkinson’s, but was curable. A doctor charged with investigating the nun’s condition aired out similar doubts.

But, even if the good Sister Simon-Pierre had Parkinson’s, what the Church is expecting its faithful (and the secular world) to accept is that her recovery was not a natural event. The Church is asking the world to consider that not only have the laws of the universe been suspended (let that sink in for a while: the laws of the universe have been suspended) but that they have been overturned in favor of the Roman Catholic Church and in a manner suspiciously convenient for its politics. With its pastiche of medical investigations that could earn a mid-season replacement spot on NBC, the Catholic Church purports its canonization procedures as scientific: skeptical and rigorous. And what could be more scientific and intellectually honest than concluding from an inexplicable recovery that a person who has died is now watching us from heaven and can help get our prayers to God answered?

With his recent beatification, John Paul II is now just one miracle shy of a confirmed sainthood. A confirmed sainthood would mean that the Roman Catholic Church believes on faith that John Paul II is, in fact, in a place called heaven, in the presence of someone called Jesus Christ. This is the level of pseudoscience, rivaling only ufology and homeopathy, that every believing Catholic has to swallow for each and every saint venerated inside their opulent cathedrals. It’s hard to imagine a bigger waste of human productivity. But for the sole political purpose of establishing John Paul II as a champion of the Roman Catholic Church and what it stands for, the recognition of his sainthood is perfectly appropriate.

Defenders of the current pope, Benedict XVI, cite Darío Cardinal Castríllon Hoyos when pointing the finger at the late John Paul II for the child rape scandal sweeping the Roman Catholic Church. Cardinal Hoyos served as the Prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy and was in charge of priests and deacons who are not in religious orders. In this capacity, he praised a French bishop, Pierre Pican, for not sending the child rapist Rev. Rene Bissey to “civil administration” and congratulated Pican for being “a model of a father who does not hand over his sons.” Cardinal Hoyos revealed that he did so under the approval of Pope John Paul II and was authorized to send his letter of praise to other bishops around the world. Pican served three months in prison for protecting the rapist. Bissey was sentenced to 18 years for the rape of a boy and the sexual assault of ten others.

A good friend of Pope John Paul II, Father Marcial Maciel Degollado, “Father Maciel” as he was known, was the founder of the Legion of Christ. The pope described him as an “efficacious guide to youth.” Degollado used the Legion of Christ and his charismatic persona, targeting widows in particular, to funnel millions into Church coffers. The congregation’s assets have been estimated at 25 billion euros. Degollado had political clout with backers including current United States presidential hopeful Rick Santorum and the brother of former president George W. Bush, Jeb Bush, both noted conservatives in the Republican party. Father Maciel was honored by John Paul II in the Vatican in 2004 despite long-standing charges of sex abuse, which involved at least 20 Legion seminarians. As an efficacious guide to the youth, Degollado fathered several children, whom he also reportedly abused. The current pope, Benedict XVI, eventually invited Degollado to lead “a reserved life of prayer and penance”—apparently a punishment suitable for the crime. Degollado never faced any criminal sanctions and died in 2008 as a free man.

It was during Pope John Paul II’s reign when the late Archbishop Luciano Storero, the Holy See’s diplomat to Ireland, told Irish bishops that reporting the rape of innocent children to the proper authorities gave rise to “serious reservations of both a moral and canonical nature.” Under John Paul II, Archbishop Storero upheld that canon law was above the secular law of a nation, showing a characteristic Vatican indifference to state sovereignty and cries for justice by their employees’ victims.

Pope John Paul II maintained when the first child rape cases started cropping up in the news that it was entirely an “American problem.” Like many other claims by the Church, this ultimately proved false. The Vatican’s position on the crisis was, and still is, that society, not the Church and its self-preservationist policies, is at fault with its permissiveness and “hyper-inflated” sexuality.

Society’s permissiveness apparently drove John Paul the Great to allow Hans Cardinal Hermann Groer, who molested over 2,000 boys (a number so large that it retains almost no meaning) to hide from police in a nunnery. Cardinal Groer eventually died there without being prosecuted for his crimes. Of course, the Church’s repressive Victorian attitudes towards sex, which were strengthened by Humanae Vitae and Persona Humana and reiterated in the Pope’s own The Splendour of Truth, which put the use of contraceptives on par with genocide, were not to blame for its systemic problem with sins against the sixth commandment of the Decalogue.

Pope John Paul II reinforced the old boys’ club of puritans and conservatives in the Catholic Church by having papal nuncios spy on clerics and recommend only for promotion to bishop those who were strongly against contraceptives. John Paul II’s policy of narrow-mindedness was crucial in the assembly of retrograde anachronisms that comprise the CBCP, as well as the other institutions that make up the Roman Catholic Church hierarchy we have today. This is his legacy to the world.

Filipino pilgrims led by Gaudencio Cardinal Rosales watched Pope John Paul II’s beatification ceremony this past May 1. It was their homage to a man who was indeed loved by Filipinos. While Pope John Paul II was undeniably a man who argued for peace and acted to heal religious strife between mutually contradictory faiths, he was also instrumental in the continued suffering of innocent children and the continued impunity enjoyed by child rapists in the Church. And because this moral inconsistency seems to be the spirit that guides the Church he left behind, there really is no one else better suited for sainthood than the Blessed John Paul II.

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Fight Night, May 8: HARAPAN RH Bill

Attention fellow heathens, blasphemers, filibusters, fornicators, teroristas, and Nazis of all colors! If you don’t have any plans for this Sunday evening, you might want to take a look at ABS-CBN’s upcoming HARAPAN debate:

(Re-posted with permission from The Nightingale Chronicles)

RH Bill: Ipasa o Ibasura?
The Grand Debate
May 8, 2011/Sunday/9:15pm – 11pm

Debate Moderators:

  • Julius Babao
  • Karen Davila


PDA Hall or Studio 6 (ABS-CBN Compound)

Opening Statements ng Pro-RH at Anti-RH – 2mins each
Ano ang RH Bill? 3 Malalaking isyu sa bill


Issue 1: Saan ba nagsisimula ang buhay? (When does life begin?)
Debate Proper I


  • Fr. Melvin Castro
  • Dr. Ligaya Acosta
  • Couples for Christ (CFC) representative


  • Protestant Bishop Rodrigo Tano
  • Dr. Esperanza Cabral
  • Iglesia Ni Cristo (INC) representative

Poll Partial Results (Online & Text)


Issue 2: Responsible Parenthood, Overpopulation, State Intervention, and Contraception
Debate Proper II


  • Rep. Anthony Golez
  • Rep. Roilo Golez
  • Joey Lina


  • Rep. Edcel Lagman
  • Rep. Janette Garin
  • Carlos Celdran

Fast Facts or Poll Partial Results (Online & Text)


Issues 3: Sex Education, Access/Right to Information, Women’s Rights
Debate Proper III


  • Atty. Jo Imbong
  • Christine Jacob Sandejas


  • Risa Hontiveros-Baraquel
  • Beth Angsioco


CONCLUSION: Summary of points raised
FINAL TALLY OF PULSO NG BAYAN (online & text surveys)

If it were a matter of brute strength, our side has that in spades ,with speakers like Ms. Baraquel, Ms. Angsioco, Mr. Celdran, and Dr. Cabral offering their collective ass-kicking rhetoric to defend the bill. It’s beauty and brains, muscle and finesse, all rolled into one deadly combination!

On the other hand, the opposition is also worth a look. Will Dr. Acosta befuddle us once again with  those unorthodox, mind-numbing tactics she’s become notorious for in previous bouts?

Will Golez whips his trademark rope-a-dope strategy to  wear down the opposition? What the man doesn’t have in technical finesse or instinct, he makes up for with experience and tenacity.

And of course, remember to participate in the polls – the Anti-RH bloc just loves to brag about how they’ve got the winning team. A good pharngulating of ABS-CBN’s polls should let them know otherwise.

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Should the CBCP excommunicate themselves?

In a recent interview, Ex-CBCP President Oscar Cruz said that Noynoy deserved to be excommunicated if he was proven to have an indirect hand in abortions due to the passage of the RH Bill (emphasis mine):

There are 2 ways for someone to be excommunicated. Abortion or harming the pope. But just in case the President signs the bill into law…he will not be excommunicated. Unless, if the church proves that he has an indirect hand on abortions, meaning because of his approval of the bill and abortions happen, then he becomes guilty,” Cruz warned.

According to Oscar, indirectly causing an abortion is grounds for excommunication. According to this logic, if the passage of the RH Bill causes a single person to have an abortion, then all those involved in passing the RH Bill are equally deserving of excommunication.

If the RH Bill passes, popular support will be one of the main reasons. According to a 2008 SWS survey, 7 out of 10 Catholics favor the passage of the RH Bill. Should pro-RH Catholics be excommunicated as well?

Whatever the CBCP decides, excommunication is their call — the Vatican’s, to be more precise. But consider this: If indirectly causing an abortion is grounds for excommunication, then the CBCP should excommunicate themselves first.

Here are the facts. Studies from all over the world show that increased contraception use reduces the number of induced abortions1:

Recent studies offer strong evidence of a widely supposed but difficult-to-demonstrate benefit of reproductive health services: that increasing the use of effective contraception leads to declines in induced abortion rates.

In 2008, there were an estimated 560,000 induced abortions. If CBCP hadn’t been blocking the passage of an RH Bill for 13 years prior, this number would probably be a lot smaller. Stated more plainly, the CBCP is indirectly responsible for every abortion in the Philippines that could have been avoided through the information and contraception that a family planning program could have provided.

So before Oscar and the CBCP goes excommunication-happy on pro-RH Catholics, they should study the facts and check whether they still have the authority to excommunicate. They might have been auto-excommunicated a long time ago.


1 In cases where increased contraception use fails to reduce abortion incidence, here’s the story:

In seven countries—Kazakhstan, Kyrgyz Republic, Uzbekistan, Bulgaria, Turkey, Tunisia and Switzerland—abortion incidence declined as prevalence of modern contraceptive use rose. In six others—Cuba, Denmark, Netherlands, the United States, Singapore and the Republic of Korea—levels of abortion and contraceptive use rose simultaneously. In all six of these countries, however, overall levels of fertility were falling during the period studied. After fertility levels stabilized in several of the countries that had shown simultaneous rises in contraception and abortion, contraceptive use continued to increase and abortion rates fell. The most clear-cut example of this trend is the Republic of Korea…

Rising contraceptive use results in reduced abortion incidence in settings where fertility itself is constant. The parallel rise in abortion and contraception in some countries occurred because increased contraceptive use alone was unable to meet the growing need for fertility regulation in situations where fertility was falling rapidly.

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Lying for a Cause (part 2)

Cherry pciking image from article “Lying for a Cause” generated a response from the creator of the anti-RH video, the core paragraphs of which are as follows:

In the said article, they accused us of purposely lying because in the video was a picture of a small kid being vaccinated. The video subtitle said it was sterilization and they point out that the picture was taken from another article regarding swine flu (?) and they go on ranting about this mistake, and how sterilizations are about vasectomy and ligations. They therefore concluded that we lied.

First of all, it is a given that I used pictures from all over the internet. Is this how Freethinkers are supposed to think? Cherry-pick on a small issue that is virtually a non-issue? That’s just shows the intellectual void between your ears. By focusing on that small point, they missed the larger point of the video. You miss the forest for the trees. But hey, let’s not stop them from doing their thing. They’re freethinkers after all. That is how they think.

Lastly, the article pointed out vasectomies and ligations as ways of sterilizations. Haven’t they heard of vaccines that were deliberately sterilized people? Try visiting this and read up:

Anti-RH groups have consistently hammered on artificial contraception as their main issue against reproductive health. Female sterilization is the most popular method of artificial contraception worldwide (20% use) and ranks second here in the Philippines (10% use). Opponents of RH should know what they are opposing. Sterilization, tubal ligation and vasectomy are not esoteric procedures. If the video’s creator thinks that not knowing what he is opposing is “virtually a non-issue”, I do hope responsible members of his group will tell him otherwise.

Besides the cherry-picking defense, the video’s creator came up with a bolder counterpoint: that there are vaccines that deliberately sterilize people. This claim is dangerous to infants and mothers and deserves a longer response.

First let’s tackle the source. is a conspiracy theory site. It gave rise to Scopie’s Law which states: “In any discussion involving science or medicine, citing as a credible source loses the argument immediately, and gets you laughed out of the room.” Others have written extensively on the website which you can read here and here, or you can simply browse and judge for yourself the general credibility of the site. This article’s point is more on the anti-RH video, specifically these two contradictory claims:

Anti-RH video says: “In 1916, Margaret Sanger formed Planned Parenthood. She believed in racial purity and targeted Black People. Adolf Hitler eventually adopted Sanger’s Eugenics… and killed more than 4 million Jews.” says: “There isn’t any evidence for homicidal gas chambers, only gas shelters or disinfection chambers to kill lice that spread Typhus (hence the use of Zyklon B), a major cause of death at the time and the reason for all the bodies seen in the mass graves at Belsen, that were used to convince people of Nazi ‘death camps.’ The gas chamber myth can easily be seen in the absurdity of the morgues that are passed off as gas chambers at Auschwitz I and Auschwitz II, and in the actual mechanics of using gas to kill humans (see Mechanics of Gassing Gas chambers). There also isn’t any written evidence for a policy of genocide known as the ‘Final Solution’.”

If the video’s creator thinks is credible enough to support his bold claim on vaccines that sterilize people, will he also believe the site’s extensive denial of Nazi death camps and drop his Sanger-Hitler-genocide argument? Or will he just admit his mistake on the sterilization-vaccination link? (Before answering, he may also want to examine first articles in the site that touch on Catholicism such as this one The Homosexual Colonization of The Catholic Church and this page Popes.)

This photo was used in the anti-RH video with the caption “…and killed more than 4 million Jews.” On the other hand, claims in the photo caption that these are victims of typhus and starvation.

Caption of the anti-RH video: “The rest of the world have adopted an RH bill in one form or another. These countries eventually embraced abortion and the culture of death.” At the site where this photo is also posted, the topmost part of the page says: “Belsen photographs … Typhus victims were stripped after death in order to burn the clothing and destroy the typhus-bearing lice.”

Now on to the video’s message that contraception leads to genocide or is genocide. One test of this claim is to look at the Jewish people—the victims of Hitler’s genocide—and their current handling of contraception.

Genocide is punishable with death in Israel. Similar to the 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, Israel defines the crime as “any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious (hereinafter referred to as ‘group’), as such:

(1)   killing members of the group;

(2)   causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;

(3)   inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction, in whole or in part;

(4)   imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;

(5)   forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.”

Yet, despite Act number 4 above being defined as genocide, contraception is legal and practiced in Israel, with 30% using IUDs, 13% pills, 4% condoms and 5% other modern methods. The key word in Act number 4 is “imposing”—making people use birth control against their will. Contraception based on free choice is legal and accepted.

Another test of the contraception-leads-to-genocide claim is to look at disparities in the use of modern methods in the Philippines. If less powerful groups are being targeted for destruction through contraception as part of a eugenics agenda, then we should see higher rates of contraceptive use among these groups. But the opposite trend is quite apparent—more powerful groups use more contraceptives (see table below). Instead of evidence of genocide, what we have are signs that marginalized people do not have equitable access to contraception.

Percentage Current Use of Modern Contraceptives
Richest region (NCR) – 32% Poorest region (ARMM) – 10%
With college education – 36% With no education – 9%
Highest wealth quintile – 33% Lowest wealth quintile – 26%
Highest wealth quintile
using female sterilization – 12%
Lowest wealth quintile
using female sterilization – 4%
Source: 2008 National Demographic and Health Survey, p. 56


Forcible sex is rape. Forcing others to follow your sexual practices violates a host of civil rights. Sex between consenting adults is accepted by society. Similar norms are applicable to contraception. Imposing birth control is genocide. Imposing Vatican-approved methods—as was done in Manila by ex-mayor Lito Atienza of Pro-Life Philippinesis a violation of human rights. The freedom to choose a family planning method and government services to realize the choice is a fine policy, and is at the core of the current Reproductive Health bill.

(Next: Erroneous claims on vaccines and abortion/sterilization and the deadly consequences for infants and women)

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