Congress passed the Reproductive Health bill in spite — or precisely because — of the self-righteous resistance of Catholic bishops.
Filipinos think. In survey after survey in the past two decades they have expressed their opinion about reproductive rights. Four in every five of them want planned pregnancies and responsible parenthood in order to avoid the sin and crime of abortion. Thus, they expect the government to provide them the wherewithal for safe prevention of fertilization.
Filipinos dislike being talked down to by sanctimonious hierarchs. They politely let bishops talk, but reject the line that they shall suffer eternal damnation if they defy them. They know that following their conscience is virtuous and not sinful. They know that bishops, because forbidden from matrimony, do not understand the difference between contraception and abortion.
Filipinos know, moreover, that not everything bishops say is ex cathedra. The bishops, in fact, have erred many times in the past despite vehement arguments about certain issues. Just three of many examples:
• the bishops’ rejection of Copernicus and muzzling of Galileo’s scientific finding that it is the Earth that revolves around the Sun and not the other way around (the Vatican apologized for it only in 1992);
• their baseless claim of Jesus’s nativity on December 25, when Roman emperors only aimed to appease early Christians in concelebrating their holy day with the pagan Saturnalia; and
• the centuries-long preaching — only recently rescinded by Pope Benedict XVI — that infants who die unbaptized go to Limbo to await Judgment Day.
Studious Filipino Catholics know that only two teachings, a century apart, truly are infallible, because unanimously upheld by bishops and theologians. These are the Immaculate Conception and the Assumption into Heaven of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The teachings are so right that they not only make Filipinos and many Latin American Catholics Marian devotees. It also convinced Christians and Protestants, after initial antipathy, to hail Mary as a very significant character of the Bible and catechism.
In their agitation the bishops condemned Reproductive Health supporters as anti-life. Filipinos will now have a chance to show that with contraceptives, they can eradicate induced abortions of unwanted fetuses. Up to half a million illegal abortions are committed each year, and a fifth of these lead to serious hospitalization of mothers. RH can now save lives, and so prove to be pro-life.
The passage of the Reproductive Health Act of 2012 will not weaken the Catholic Church in the Philippines. On the contrary, it will strengthen the congregation. True, the sore losers will, like Pharisees, continue to use harsh words and deeds against the RH supporters. But the latter will not leave the Church they so love; they will stay to go on reforming it, for that is what God wishes them to do. Conscience is with them.
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From American reader Paul Noel, Huntsville, Alabama: “I read (from the USA) about the destruction in Mindanao by Typhoon Pablo. Having recently visited Luzon for a month and knowing the general conditions of the country, I have a fair idea what is going on. A typhoon is a very damaging force. But wrong logging and agricultural practices also cause damage.
“The history of my area, North Alabama, is similar. We are long past it, but the Tennessee Valley Authority had to make farmers do things right and quit causing disastrous floods. If your people learn how we solved the problems in our country, maybe they will do better. Go to Google Maps or Google Earth and look up Huntsville, Alabama, and the big rivers and dams nearby. We have seven big dams within 140 km. The TVA has 45 dams in all and two million lakes and ponds, generating 48,000 megawatts of power for a population of 18 million people. That’s 2,667 watts/person.
“People need to understand that logging must be managed. Lakes must be built to store water. The flood you curse today can bring prosperity in the dry season. Two years ago in Luzon there was a devastating flood, with water pouring down from a river in Baguio.
A large dam that released some water got blamed for the flood. Nobody pointed out that the dam had reduced the flood to only a tenth. The bad flood it was would have been much worse without the dam. Your problem is a shortage of dams, not too many.
“Different new crops will have to be planted. Land will have to be terraced differently than it now is. People will need to relocate away from where the floods go. Dikes will have to be built.
“In 1900 the Philippines had a population of less than 12 million. By 1940 it had 16 million. Today there are 104 million. By 2045 it will over 200 million, and by 2070 400 million. Big changes will have to be made. People simply have to let go of the old ways and get with new ways that work. I know it will be most confusing, and difficult. There is no choice.
“In the next 20 years the Philippines must secure domestic energy sources for a total of 50,000 megawatts. Your current source limit is about 4,000 megawatts. Your ‘end goal,’ if there is one, should be to reach about 500,000 megawatts. This is entirely possible without burning one bit of fossil fuel. You have hydro and solar. You can get another 200,000 megawatts from geothermal. Your sea temperature differential from 500m deep to the surface (4 degrees C to about 25-30 C) can give you 500,000,000 megawatts.
“All this can bring up your fish food supplies by 100 times as well. The Philippines has unlimited energy potential. I have seen your national situation and am aware of the lack of vision for the future. The Bible says, ‘Where there is no vision, the people perish.’”
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Catch Sapol radio show, Saturdays, 8-10 a.m., DWIZ, (882-AM).