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Tag Archive | "reproductive health"

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?


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Of Heroes and Hoaxes: Painting a CNN Hero in a Dangerous Light

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not out to demonize a woman who has obviously done loads for maternal and reproductive health. At 54 years old, Robin Lim has helped thousands of poverty-stricken Indonesian women to experience a healthy pregnancy and to safely give birth, and for that, she most certainly deserves to be hailed as this year’s CNN Hero.

As a rabid supporter of the passage of the local Reproductive Health (RH) Bill, it gladdens me to know that a person has actually built her life around providing the poorest of mothers with prenatal and postpartum care, birth services, and breast-feeding support — and has done so for free. Her Yayasan Bumi Sehat Foundation has done more for reproductive health in a single day than the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) has done in, well, ever. I seriously wish that there were more people as passionate and take-charge about the cause as she is.

Here we go again, Inquirer

What doesn’t sit well with me, however, is how the media is playing up the fact that she is an advocate of “alternative medicine.” I’m giving the stink eye to the Philippine Daily Inquirer, in particular, because as far as I know, CNN  and other news outfits have yet to mention the words “hilot,” “alternative,” “homeopathy,” and “herbal medicine” in its features of Lim, whereas the Inquirer has been practically framing her as the poster woman for “No Therapeutic Claims,” and actually sees this love for quackery as a good thing. (Incidentally, FF has had quite a beef with the Inquirer’s integrity, as can be read here, here, here, and here.)

Take note that Lim was awarded mainly for her outstanding efforts to practice and promote safe birthing. CNN as the awarding body did not bestow her the honor because she felt that “there should be a reinvention of the health-care system by including holistic medicine such as acupuncture, homeopathy, herbal medicine and physiotherapy.” If that were actually the case, then Deepak “Quantum Mysticism” Chopra should have been crowned President of the fucking Universe ages ago

Shit sells

Sensationalism is the culprit here, I think. It is this horrid excuse for journalism that possibly encouraged the Inquirer’s writers to play up the “alternative medicine” angle. In line with local media’s never-ending, unnerving campaign for this thing called “Pinoy pride,” there’s a good chance that this facet of the half-Filipino Lim was highlighted because her traditional healing background was the most “Filipino” of her qualities. This nation is, after all, known for its folkloric herbal concoctions and its faith healers, never mind that these concoctions can’t hold a candle to actual lab-developed drugs, and that these healers are money-grubbing quacks of the highest order. (This broadsheet has, unsurprisingly, had a history of publishing scientifically unsound things like “miracles” as fact, so there’s that.)

Another possibility is that Lim herself insisted on the topic of her Inquirer piece. If that were the case, though, then the Inquirer should have suggested a different angle, or at the very least peppered the article with disclaimers regarding the efficacy of traditional healing methods, in the hopes of maintaining the barest smidge of journalistic credibility. But they didn’t.

Ooga booga and mumbo jumbo

“Alternative medicine” is a load of bull. As the old joke goes, “alternative medicine” that is proven to work is just called “medicine.” It is this staggering lack of proof — and its advocates’ insistence that proof is neither necessary nor applicable — that sets the former apart from the latter. It goes out of its way to be baseless and unscientific, depending on flimsy, abstract concepts such as “auras” and “chakras” that have as much chance of being real as unicorns, mermaids, and the Jonas Brothers’ pledge of virginity. And while some unconventional healing methods are said to be okay complements for actual, scientifically proven methods and medicines, this so-called “complementary medicine” cannot and should not stand alone.

Even if Lim advocated the methods that worked in certain, complementary ways (and I use the term “work” very, very lightly), it was still publicized by the Inquirer in such a way that she seemed to be for “alternative medicine” in general, which includes a long, snaking list of  very bad decisions. (She espouses the whackadoodle fad that is homeopathy, which is bad enough, so imagine how much worse the stuff she doesn’t espouse are.)

Moreover, it’s also quite unfortunate and ironic that the article, which features a woman known for her hard work in furthering reproductive health, placed so much emphasis on highly suspect “remedies” that have nothing to do with RH, and in no way mentions how certain lab-developed medicines can do and have done so much for maternal health. In fact, it’s disheartening how the RH Bill, which promotes safe, effective, and clinically approved medicines in the form of family planning supplies, can be so easily dismissed by many, while something as impotent — and fatal — as faith healing gets good press at the drop of a hat.

A bad influence

In the end, by playing up this sorely misguided aspect of Lim’s, the Inquirer can be said to be taking part in putting people in danger. Ranked as the top newspaper in the Philippines, it’s safe to say that this broadsheet helps to influence many Filipinos’ opinions. It is only right, then, that they make sure that the stuff they offer as journalism is, in fact, journalism and not just a bunch of interesting-sounding yet highly deceptive words. But this is sadly not the case.

This piece on Lim could very well encourage many people to prioritize alternative methods over tried-and-tested ones and, thus, keep these people from getting the proper medical attention every one of them deserves. “If an actual CNN Hero is for it, then it can’t be wrong” is the kind of opinion that might proliferate. As much as we hope people to be more discerning of what they read, it’s always better to be safe than sorry and, in the Inquirer’s case, absolutely necessary to be factual than not.


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Tanod Tells Truth About Anti-RH Lies

We interviewed Tanod/BPSO Arsenio Dela Cruz Jr. today about his encounter with Rizalito David and the anti-RH camp. This confirms once and for all that the anti-RH lied about having permits, and then lied about lying about having permits to demonstrate at SB park.

This also reveals yet another lie: Rizalito David claimed to the tanod that he was a lawyer. As you might have guessed, nowhere in Mr. David’s WikiPilipinas page does it say that he is a lawyer. What it should say is that he is also an Old Snake himself.

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Let’s Occupy for RH!


Since our inception, the Filipino Freethinkers have been staunch supporters of the Reproductive Health Bill, and we remain dedicated to pushing for its passage. There has never been a more pressing time for you to join this cause than now. Tomorrow, November 21, we along with many other passionate organizations and individuals, will Occupy for RH. We will remain camped outside of Congress for as long as it takes to get our legislators to finally come to a long-delayed vote on this issue. Too much time has been wasted, and too many mothers’ lives have been lost since this fight began, and we are now pulling out all the stops.

Join us. Talking about the issue on social media is great, but it is not enough. If you truly believe that the RH Bill should be put to a vote, then camp out with us at Congress. It’s going to be a once-in-a-lifetime chance to be part of a vibrant community and help the country change for the better. As freethinkers, it is our responsibility to make our voices heard, to drown out all the falsehoods and bigotry that has surrounded this issue, and to finally let truth and life prevail.

Here’s the official statement of the Occupy for RH Movement:

It has been ten years since the first RH Bill, and after countless debates and delays we are no closer to a vote. The democratic process has stalled at the hands of time-wasting legislators and bullying bishops.

With mounting frustration we remind our public servants that for every day they delay the vote, Filipino families around the country lose their mothers. The time for delay is over. The time for a vote is now.

Starting tomorrow, November 21, RH Advocates from various organizations will occupy the park across the South Wing Gate of Congress, and launch a massive and sustained campaign to remind our Senators and Members of Congress of the urgency to vote on the Reproductive Health Bill before the year ends.

Pro-RH lawmakers, celebrities, artists, government officials, civil society and non-government groups, business, academe, youth, religious and non-religious sectors will show their support at this mass action,
and advocates will camp out in front of the South Wing Gate for as long as it takes for their voices to be heard.

We urge you to join us, tomorrow and onwards, and lend your voice to a movement that will save Filipino lives. Various activities will be held at the camp and at the South Wing Gate, such as a noise barrage, cultural and solidarity nights, pickets, creative and symbolic protests, actions that will make our legislators listen.

For ten years we have been ignored, the cries of the People drowned out by the powerful few. But no more. Together we will stand, together we will shout, and together we will Occupy for RH till our legislators vote for RH now.

For more details, visit the official site for Occupy for RH.

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Michigan’s Religious Bullying Bill

With the reproductive health bill still stuck in legislation, our legislators need a lesson or two about religious freedom. But I hope they don’t follow Michigan’s example.

Michigan recently passed an anti-bullying bill, but instead of discouraging bullies, the bill seems to empower them with a familiar excuse: religion. The bill allows bullying so long as it’s done in the name of God. Anti-bullying? The bill should have been named “Religious Bullying.”

Imagine the following scene:

Harvey: Teacher, teacher! Billy is calling me names and throwing rocks at me!
Teacher: Why are you doing this, Harvey?
Billy: Because Harvey’s a homo!
Teacher: Who told you it’s OK to do this?
Billy: My dad told me that God told him it’s OK, and God hates fags!
Teacher: Oh, in that case, carry on then.

Ironically, the Religious Bullying bill is called “Matt’s Safe School Law,” after Matt Epling, a bullied student who killed himself in 2002. Understandably, Matt’s father is not happy:

Matt’s father, Kevin Epling, expressed his dismay in a Facebook post after the state senate vote on Wednesday. “I am ashamed that this could be Michigan’s bill on anti-bullying,” wrote Epling. “For years the line [from Republicans] has been ‘no protected classes,’ and the first thing they throw in…was a very protected class, and limited them from repercussions of their own actions.”

Last year, in the span of around a month, at least five teens committed suicide because they were bullied for being gay. States such as Michigan are trying to respond, but I doubt that sectarian solutions such as the Religious Bullying bill will do anything to prevent incidents like this from happening. On the contrary, it gives a religious justification to actual bullies and a religious motivation to potential ones.

And Michigan students do not need a law to motivate them to bully homosexuals. They only need to follow their parents’ examples:

At the federal level, they unsuccessfully fought for the inclusion of a provision protecting religious freedom when Congress expanded the definition of a hate crime to include crimes motivated by a victim’s sexual orientation. They also strongly oppose legislation that would prevent discrimination against gay individuals in the workplace, charging that such a law would endanger religious freedom. A report on the Christian Broadcasting Network outlined one such concern: “The special protections for gay and transgendered teachers will make it extremely difficult for [public school] districts that might want to remove them from the classroom.”

In the Philippines, Catholic bullies use religious freedom to justify kicking out unwed pregnant mothers from Catholic schools. They use religious freedom to justify denying even non-Catholics the right to remarry. They use religious freedom to justify denying homosexuals the right to marry and be free from discrimination and violence. And to block the passage of the RH Bill, they use religious freedom to justify denying Filipinos their right to plan their families, protect themselves from HIV and pregnancy complications, and choose what’s best for their own bodies.

As Amy Sullivan wrote, they’re getting religious freedom wrong:

Social conservatives believe that efforts to protect gays from assault, discrimination or bullying impinge on their religious freedom to express and act on their belief that homosexuality is an abomination…

This belief, however, relies on a warped understanding of religious liberty. Freedom of religious expression doesn’t give someone the right to kick the crap out of a gay kid or to verbally torment her. It doesn’t give someone the right to fire a gay employee instead of dealing with the potential discomfort of working with him…

The same religious conservatives who applaud the religious exemption in Michigan’s anti-bullying bill would be appalled if it protected a Muslim student in Dearborn who defended bullying a Christian classmate by saying he considered her an infidel.

Worst of all, such abuses of the concept of religious liberty undermine efforts to focus attention on serious threats to religious freedom. A Christian pastor in Iran currently faces execution because he will not convert back to Islam. China openly represses religious minorities like Tibetan Buddhists and Uighur Muslims. Christians in Syria and Egypt continue to be targets of violence, and Muslims in Europe face civil penalties for wearing religious garb in public. Next to these realities, it takes a serious persecution complex to get worked up about defending the right of a Michigan high school student to target a gay classmate for ridicule.

I hope our legislators take the time to read Michigan’s Religious Bullying Bill. It serves as a perfect example of how religious freedom is done wrong.

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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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Satire and Straw Man: Truth and Fallacy in RH Discourse

Some anti-RH arguments are so stupid that satirizing them is almost too easy. Consider this series of lectures from an anti-RH forum four months ago. If we took the commentary out of the recap post, it could have passed for satire[1]. Which is why it took little effort from one of our writers to turn it into one of the most successful posts on our site. As of this writing, it’s received 95,187 views, 27,510 likes, and 4,745 comments.

Another successful satirical post is the one about the CBCP trademarking the term “Catholic.” It’s not as successful in terms of views, likes, and comments, but it succeeded in a different way: Despite the more ridiculous claims I tried to sell in that post, journalists from both social media and mainstream media bought it. Abante even interviewed several key people about the issue and published their report on the front page. (And they didn’t even give credit to their main source.)

What made these posts successful is the fact that although many of the claims made are false, they ring true. We never heard anyone use caves and the ocean floor as an argument against overpopulation. Nor did we hear that the CBCP even considered trademarking the term “Catholic,” let alone “moral,” “family,” and “life.” But these claims are at least consistent with much of the thinking and behavior that characterizes anti-RH individuals and organizations. This is key: In order to satirize well, you have to be able to characterize your target accurately.

This is why it’s close to impossible for the anti-RH to satirize the pro-RH. Either they don’t know the pro-RH position well enough, or they distort it too much it becomes unrecognizable except to them. In other words, instead of portraying the pro-RH, they create a straw man:

The Straw Man fallacy is committed when a person simply ignores a person’s actual position and substitutes a distorted, exaggerated or misrepresented version of that position. This sort of “reasoning” has the following pattern:

Person A has position X.
Person B presents position Y (which is a distorted version of X).
Person B attacks position Y.
Therefore X is false/incorrect/flawed.

This sort of “reasoning” is fallacious because attacking a distorted version of a position simply does not constitute an attack on the position itself. One might as well expect an attack on a poor drawing of a person to hurt the person.

Consider how the pro-RH position was portrayed in the anti-RH forum mentioned above. They say that “separating sex from procreation develops in the person an anti-life mentality.” In other words, they’re saying that using contraception will make people hate life — treat pregnancy like a disease, despise babies, etc. You must be thinking that they couldn’t possibly mean this; their position must be more nuanced than that. But they also said in the forum that in Japan, when the elderly can no longer be supported, the pro-choice solution would be to kill them.

Would it really be possible for the pro-RH to kill their parents and grandparents? Do the pro-RH really hate babies and think pregnancy is a disease? Do the pro-RH really think RH is good only because the US says it is? Do the pro-RH really hate reproduction and health and only advocate RH because they want money? These are just some of the straw men anti-RH advocates love attacking. I’ve met hundreds of RH advocates, and none of them fit these false characterizations.

While satire reveals truths about its target, straw man arguments say less about the target and more about its author. Are the anti-RH so helpless in the face of the real pro-RH position that they’re left grasping at straws?


[1] Since Youtube User Tamtampam thanked God for an earthquake that killed thousands of atheists in Japan, netizens have been debating about whether she was doing satire. Only when she came out as a troll was the question really answered. It’s tough to tell satire from straight news because there are actually people who think God should be thanked for teaching Japan a lesson. One of them is our very own Dr. Montes, from the same anti-RH forum above:

(while showing the population growth rates of Japan) “Ayokong isipin pero hindi ko ma-help i-connect yung disaster sa Japan doon sa facts na ang tagal-tagal na nilang nagaabortion at may policy on population control.” (I don’t want to think about it, but I can’t help connecting the disaster in Japan with the fact that the Japanese have long been purveyors of abortion and population control.)

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Stop the Witch Hunt of RH Bill Advocates


Sen. Vicente Sotto’s interpellation of the RH Bill at the Senate has deteriorated into a witch-hunt of organizations supporting the bill that, in his opinion, have an agenda to legalize or promote abortion in the Philippines. The organizations that he has named so far are the Family Planning Organization of the Philippines (FPOP), Likhaan Center for Women’s Health (Likhaan), the Women’s Global Network for Reproductive Rights (WGNRR), and the Democratic Socialist Women of the Philippines (DSWP). More could follow as the senator has asked for a list of all organizations that have expressed support for the bill.

Instead of arguing about the content of the RH Bill, Sen. Sotto has shifted to attacking advocates.

This crude antic is an implied admission of weakness in conducting a reasoned and respectful debate with fellow senators who are, in the final analysis, the authors and sponsors of the measure. Civil society organizations (CSOs) are formally invited to public hearings on proposed laws and asked to present and argue their position. This engagement of CSOs is a key feature of democracy, of governance through dialogue. Unfairly using the immense powers of the Senate to attack CSOs for their different points of view is the act of a bully and violates the tenet of responsive governance.

Some RH Bill advocates—like the organizations maligned by Sen. Sotto—are truly concerned about the harm to women and their families of unsafe abortion. Because of our work in very poor urban and rural communities, we know firsthand of women who have suffered severe complications—hemorrhage, infection and perforated bowels—some of whom survived, while others died. We know of women survivors who were subjected to verbal abuse, maltreatment, and neglect in hospitals by the medical people who were supposed to help them. We know too that the reasons that push women to have an abortion are desperate, that the decision to have an abortion is never easy, and that if women could prevent abortion, they would.

Beyond the RH Bill, we stand for openly and soberly discussing the impact of abortion in the Philippines and finding humane and workable solutions. Last time we heard it, discussing abortion is legal in this country. A century of criminalizing abortion has not stopped its widespread use, but only made it dangerous.

The RH Bill has at least three features that can substantially reduce abortions without even changing the law. Family planning—whether through natural or artificial methods—can address the root of abortion, unintended pregnancy, by enabling women and couples to plan the timing, spacing and number of pregnancies. Post-abortion care, including medication, surgery and counseling, can save women’s lives, preserve their health, and help them to use family planning that will prevent repeat abortions. School-based sexuality and RH education can address peer pressure and sexual coercion and violence, delay sexual experimentation, and promote responsible behavior so that unintended pregnancies are reduced.

Those who obstruct family planning while exulting in the Philippines’ extreme anti-abortion law—which has no exception even when a woman’s life is in danger—are morally responsible for the vicious cycle of unintended pregnancy and abortion that continues to kill and maim masses of women. If government-supported measures to reduce abortion or to treat and counsel women with post-abortion complications are denied, where else could women go? What else could women do?

Sen. Sotto, if he has a modicum of sympathy for women, should find solutions to the problem of abortion instead of maligning organizations that support RH. If he is against RH, what is he for?

Anyone concerned about the health of women and the families that they care for will find it unconscionable to object to the RH Bill. If Sen. Sotto is worried that the bill will legalize abortion, then he needs to simply study the text and accept or reject it based on what he actually reads, not on what he reads of advocates’ intentions.

Released 7 September 2011 by:

Roberto Ador
Executive Director,
Family Planning Organization of the Philippines

Junice D. Melgar
Executive Director,
Likhaan Center for Women’s Health

Sylvia Estrada Claudio
Women’s Global Network for Reproductive Rights

Elizabeth Angsioco
Democratic Socialist Women of the Philippines

For further information, contact: Joy Salgado • Likhaan Center for Women’s Health • 926-6230 • 411-3151

Image from

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Win Php25,000 in Mulat Pinoy’s “We Are RH” video contest

Win Php25,000 in Mulat Pinoy’s “We Are RH” video contest
PRESS RELEASE: Win Php25,000 in Mulat Pinoy’s “We Are RH” video contest
Amateur filmmakers are invited to submit short films on reproductive health.

Do you wish your videos were on TV instead of YouTube? Looking for extra cash to buy that nice phone? Hoping for your own cool video camera? Then this is what you’ve been waiting for.

Join “We are Right Here. We are RH.”! This amateur video contest aims to bring into the limelight young people’s take on responsible parenthood, reproductive health, and population and development.

Finalists’ videos entries will be featured in a TV special to be aired on one of the most prestigious networks in the country, the ABS-CBN News Channel. The producers and directors of the winning video clips will also be interviewed. Selected entries shall also be aired on the Knowledge Channel program, Peliculab.

Aside from fame and nationwide reach, winners shall also get the following cash prizes: Php 25,000 for the First Prize, Php 15,000 for the Second Prize and P10,000 for the Third Prize. They will also receive trophies, and video cameras from Creative Zen.

A special citation award shall be given by the United Nations Population Fund to one entry that best embodies their theme for 2011, “The World at 7 Billion.” The winner of this special award will receive P15,000, a video camera and a trophy. UNFPA will also use the selected video entry in their 7 Billion information campaign.

So, if you are 25 years old or younger, muster your creative energies and shoot the video that reflects your views. It can be about anything, not just the RH Bill: the use of condoms, family planning, sex education, overpopulation, virginity, STDs, AIDS. Be it a public service announcement or a commercial, a mini-documentary, animation or a dramatic scene, you have the freedom to speak your mind the best way you know how.

Join the discussion. Let your voice be heard. And let Mulat Pinoy be the channel for your shout-out to the world. Join “We are Right Here. We are RH.”

Regina Layug-Rosero
Project Coordinator, Mulat Pinoy
Email: HYPERLINK “mailto:[email protected][email protected], HYPERLINK “mailto:[email protected][email protected]
Telephone: (+632) 4330456

Mulat Pinoy "We Are RH" video contest

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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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Vatican celebrates 30th AIDS anniversary with more bigotry

Did the Pope’s 2010 statement about condom use in exceptional cases show that he’s changed his mind about them? Is the CBCP defying the Vatican by denouncing the Reproductive Health Bill in spite of the Pope’s pronouncement? Between the CBCP and the Vatican, which old boys club is more bigoted? These questions are answered once and for all by the Vatican’s recent efforts at the 2011 High Level Meeting on AIDS.

But first, some background.

In June 1981, the AIDS epidemic was formally recognized in the US. Since then, medical professionals from all over the world have failed in their search for a cure. Prevention, they discovered, is our best bet.

And out of all prevention technologies invented so far, none have proven more effective than the condom. Medical authorities, including the UNAIDS, UNFPA, and WHO, agree: “the male latex condom is the single, most efficient, available technology to reduce the sexual transmission of HIV and other sexually transmitted infections.”

But to the Pope, effectiveness alone is not enough. To him, contraception is always evil and should always be banned — even if it saves lives. And of the innumerable lives lost to AIDS, most have been those of Africans. Though they’re only 14.7% of the world’s population, Africa is inhabited by more than 88% of people living with HIV. In 2007, Africa had 92% of all AIDS deaths.

Which makes the Pope’s statements in a 2009 visit to Africa all the more disgusting. He said that “HIV/Aids is a tragedy that cannot be overcome through the distribution of condoms, which can even increase the problem.”

To the Pope’s credit, he’s only being consistent. From the start, the Vatican has been lobbying to ban reproductive health programs all over the world, with no sign that they’ll ever change their position.

Then in late 2010, Pope Benedict XVI gave an interview to a German journalist for a book, Light of the World, an appropriate title because it gave a glimmer of hope. Catholics all over the world celebrated the Pope’s statements. “Finally!” they thought, “the Pope has changed his mind about contraception!” UNAIDS even made a press statement welcoming the Pope’s support for HIV prevention.

But most hopes were dashed when the Vatican clarified the Pope’s views, stating that his views on contraception have not shifted. I say “most” because many Catholics still cling to the possibility that the Pope’s statements mean more than they do, that there’s still a chance for change. Even now, some pro-RH Catholics argue that the CBCP is defying the Pope when it continues to denounce contraception. It’s happened more than once that I had to point someone toward the Vatican’s clarification.

If the Vatican’s words aren’t enough proof, their recent actions should be. Yesterday, 30 years into the AIDS epidemic, the 2011 High Level Meeting on AIDS started, serving as another opportunity for the world to “come together to review progress and chart the future course of the global AIDS response.” For the Vatican, it’s another opportunity to take a stand against reproductive health, medical progress, and women’s rights.

When it comes to choosing solutions, the standard for most members is effectiveness in the real world; for the Vatican, it’s adherence to instructions from Heaven. Here are just some of the suggestions made by the Pope’s “all-male team”:

  • stripping all references to sexual and reproductive health and rights from the meeting’s declaration
  • gutting all mentions of education and prevention other than marriage and fidelity
  • insisting that “families” be replaced with “the family”, as though that monolith even exists or that it provides some kind of magic shield against HIV
  • deleting all mention of “female-controlled prevention methods
  • deleting the following sentence: “… by ensuring that women and girls can exercise their right to have control over, and decide freely and responsibly on, matters related to their sexuality in order to increase their ability to protect themselves from HIV infection, including their sexual and reproductive health, free of coercion, discrimination and violence.”

We’ll find out in a few days whether these suggestions are integrated into the meeting’s declaration. But I believe it’s not too early to come to the following conclusion:

The Pope, with his bigoted bishops representing the Vatican, are an enemy of progress, not only in dealing with HIV and AIDS, but in promoting reproductive health, informed choice, and women’s rights.

I hope the Vatican’s actions help Filipino Catholics realize that the CBCP is not alone in their bigotry. The CBCP has no mind (of its own). All of their statements and actions are dictated by the Vatican. “You will know them by their fruit.

And I hope the UN ignores the Vatican’s representatives and realizes that inviting them is ultimately counterproductive. On second thought, maybe the Vatican’s objections can serve as useful indications: If the Pope protests, you’re probably onto something good.

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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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Less Golez, More RH: Numerology and the Numbers that Count

Some superstitious people consider the number 4 unlucky because it sounds like the word “death”
(死 pinyin sǐ) in Chinese.

What does this have to do with the RH Bill? Nothing. Unless you’re a congressman who’s desperate to delay interpellations because you’re afraid of a deciding vote.

Trivial Numbers

During yesterday’s interpellations, Rep. Roilo Golez argued that the RH Bill (HB 4244) will lead to misfortune. Why? Because according to Rep. Roilo — I’ll refer to him this way to avoid confusion with the other Rep. Golez — its bill number contains three of those unlucky fours.

It seems that anti-RH legislators are not content to violate secularism. With legislators like Rep. Roilo, we might have to amend our constitution with a clause calling for separation of superstition and state.

Rep. Roilo’s fascination for numbers continued when he questioned why an earlier version of the bill changed to HB 96 from HB 3. At first, I didn’t know the reason he was so hung up on this trivial fact. Then I remembered that he threw reason out the door the moment he brought up numerology. I suspect that he simply prefers 3 because it’s considered a lucky number. (Regarding HB 96, although 9 is lucky, 6 isn’t.)

It would be interesting to know what Rep. Roilo thinks of Rep. Pablo Garcia’s bill: Hormonal Contraceptives Regulation Act of 2011. The bill aims to regulate the sale and advertising of birth control pills. This is a bill that Rep. Roilo would agree with, except for one detail: the bill is numbered 4482. Will he be against it because of those two unlucky fours? Or maybe the bad luck is mitigated by the lucky 8 and 2?

But hold on for a second, Rep. Roilo. It’s not OK to import foreign ideas from the US (family planning and population development), but it’s OK to import foreign ideas from Rome (Humanae Vitae) and China (numerology)? What’s the criteria for importing ideas?

Numbers that Count

I hope Rep. Roilo — or any of the other anti-RH legislators — doesn’t foray into numerology again. If they want to talk about numbers, there are many figures and statistics that truly deserve to be discussed. For Rep. Roilo’s sake, here are four:

ONE: 71% — the percentage of Catholic respondents who favor the RH Bill (8% are not, the rest are undecided) (SWS)

Even if these anti-RH representatives ignore people with different beliefs, who exactly are they representing? It seems they’re content to represent the 8% composed of the CBCP, Pro-Life Philippines, and their cohorts.

TWO: 11 — the number of women in the Philippines who die daily from maternal complications (Likhaan)

You’d think they’d have a sense of urgency with so many lives on the line — lives that are not merely potential but actual. While legislators are still busy debating about when life begins, it’s clear to the families left motherless when life as they know it ends.

THREE: 500,000 — the number of abortions that could be prevented if the RH Bill becomes law (Likhaan)

Countries that have an increased rate of effective contraceptive use have a decreased number of induced abortions. It’s been estimated that half a million abortions can be prevented by an RH policy. Are the anti-RH really pro-life?

FOUR: X Pesos — the cost in taxpayers’ money wasted whenever religion, superstition, and other tangents are discussed in Congress

Anti-RH legislators argue that the government lacks funds to implement the RH Bill. Yet they waste taxpayer money by discussing anything — Communism, Catholicism, conspiracies — other than what’s actually proposed by the RH Bill.

The Third Interpellator

After Rep. Roilo, there are as many as 36 interpellators left to go. That’s potentially 36 more hours of discussing religious interpretations, imperialist plots, and of course, Chinese numerology.

But let’s humor him and give numerology a chance. Out of the original list of 38 interpellators, Rep. Roilo was originally interpellator no. 3 — a lucky number. But when Pacquiao unexpectedly took Garcia’s slot, Rep. Roilo was bumped to no. 4 — the same unlucky number he argued against simply because of what it sounds like.

Some might think he got the number he deserves. But I disagree. Considering his tendency to inflate the importance of what words sound like, no. 3 suited him perfectly. For Roilo truly is a third.

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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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