Tag Archive | "impeachment"

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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Confessions of an Impeachment and RH Bill Fiend

Published February 12, 2012 in Business World




Sin number 1: My productivity is much diminished these days because I am addicted to watching the impeachment. Every boring detail. I seethe at every bone-headed move by the prosecution, at every legal victory of the defense. I think Juan Ponce Enrile is a vampire. He can’t be that good. Especially as I hated him during martial law. I think Serafin Cuevas is brilliant. But I don’t like his bombastic oratorical style. It reminds me of all those men thundering at us during the dictatorship, chief among them, macho Marcos himself.

And so, I am now in search of my ideal man, one with the soft rhetorical style of Neil Tupas and the competence of Cuevas. My ideal man would have argued that nothing prevents the Senate from conducting the impeachment more like a fact finding mission or a truth commission and less like a court.

Sin number 2: I am obsessed with the reproductive health (RH) bill and see connections between the impeachment efforts and the effort to pass the RH bill. I may have imbibed the conspiracy theory paranoia of the religious fanatics who keep claiming pro-RH people are drug company and imperialist lackeys.

I hope that Renato Corona is convicted. (Parenthetically, those who accuse me of not abiding by the rule, “innocent until proven guilty” are to be condemned to 20-minute tongue lashings by Miriam Defensor Santiago. That rule is meant to regulate the police power of the state. It was not meant to substitute for individual discernment and not meant to prevent the social disgrace of scoundrels. Taking that rule out of context would mean that citizens should not be concerned with graft and corruption since very few people get convicted anyway.) I believe Corona is an ally of Gloria Macapagal Arroyo who would uphold all her leanings including her refusal to pass an RH bill during her term. It was during GMA’s term that the Supreme Court junked the petition of 20 affected women to invalidate Lito Atienza’s egregious order banning contraceptives in Manila. From the anti-RH camp, even from some of the legislators we hear it often: “if the bill passes we will take it to the Supreme Court”. They say it with confidence.

So, long before the impeachment, I knew something had to be done to uphold the independence of the Supreme Court. It must be freed not just from GMA’s influence, but also from the unholy alliance of the Catholic Church and GMA.

The GMA-Catholic Bishop’s Conference of the Philippines connection on the RH bill has bothered me endlessly. Ricky Carandang decided to resign from the Catholic Church when he was still a journalist. He had interviewed CBCP’s Melvin Castro who, in so many words, said it would not condemn a corrupt politician as much as it would condemn a pro- RH one.

Thus I was not surprised when the Bishops agreed to mediate the escalating war of Pres. Aquino against Chief Justice Corona. The rest of the nation was going, “go, go, go Pnoy!!!!” while the CBCP was admonishing towards dialogue.

And so, while the CBCP called rallies against the corruption of Pres. Estrada, the Pontifical University of Sto. Tomas gave Corona a PhD in a manner I would describe as “wala lang.” Asked whether the CJ had earned his degree properly like the rest of us plodders, the public got less than satisfactory answers, and an argumentum ad hominem against Marites Vitug.

“To everything there is a season” according to Ecclesiastes. Except that while most of us are in the season of justice and retribution— the CBCP is in the winter of contradictory morality.

I am thinking, if the RH bill finally comes to a vote, all this tension between Pnoy and the CBCP would lessen. I am thinking, that for the sake of my Catholic friends, perhaps the Church no longer needs to go on its moral fugues once we can unstick the RH bill from its craw.

Sin number 3: I am guilty of extreme pettiness. I am upset at Corona’s cooptation of the color purple. Those who consider him innocent him are asked to wear purple. He just made my wardrobe defunct. My cabinets are full of purple things because, dear Chief Justice, THAT HAS BEEN THE COLOR OF PRO-RH ADVOCATES. As my friend and colleague Jonas Bagas says, “kung dilaw ka, dapat purple ka rin.”




Sylvia Estrada Claudio is a fellow of AER. She is a medical doctor and a PhD in Psychology. It would be her pleasure as an official of the University of the Philippines to show to Marites Danguilan Vitug the written rules and guidelines for attaining these degrees at the time these were conferred in order to remove any doubt that she earned them on her own merits.


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