Spirituality, Catholicism, and RH

Details Published on Wednesday, 19 September 2012 00:00 Written by A.G. ROMUALDEZ

‘Catholic teaching should reflect not only beliefs of the hierarchy but also those of the laity as expressed in practices especially with respect to real life situations.’

CATHOLICS for Reproductive Health (C4RH) was established more than a year ago by a group of practicing Catholics who in their personal capacities supported the legislative proposals on reproductive health and responsible parenthood.

It has allied itself with other mainly secular groups who together form the coalition of reproductive health advocates known as Alliance for Reproductive Health Network (ARHAN).

Still in its organizational early stages, C4RH has engaged in activities aimed at expressing Catholic lay support for the enactment of laws mandating government provision of reproductive health information and services particularly to economically disadvantaged segments of the Philippine population.

Presently, the formal membership of C4RH consists of the few hundred or so individuals who have participated in its two annual national meetings as well as individual chapter meetings in some provinces. However, the organization reaches thousands of Catholics of similar persuasions – including students and faculty of both public and private schools as evidenced by the attendance of over 900 participants at the recent assembly held at the UP College of Social Work and Development last Saturday.

The assembly, billed as the “C4RH Wo/Men’s Fare”, featured group prayers for passage of the RH Bill and a talk by RH co-author Miriam Defensor Santiago, who titled her talk “8 Reasons Why Catholics Support Reproductive Health” which is summarized and presented in abridged form below.

“Reason One – The Church does not consider anti-RH teaching as infallible.” Senator Santiago asserted that these teachings are not “Dogma” (i.e., infallible) but “Doctrine” (i.e., changeable over time). In support, she quoted a 1973 issuance of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith that states, “The expressions of revelation are historically conditioned, and therefore the meaning is not always self-evident to those in some other historical setting. The meaning in dogmatic language may change from one historical period to another. The truth itself may be expressed incompletely”.

“Reason Two – The Catholic enjoys freedom of conscience.” The Senator said that even the Church recognizes the primacy of “individual conscience over mere doctrine”. She cited Pope Paul VI’s letter entitled “Dignitatis Humanae” sometimes referred to as the “Declaration of Religious Freedom”. The quoted passage goes: “Man perceives and acknowledges the imperatives of the divine law through the mediation of conscience. In all his activity, a man is bound to follow his conscience in order that he may come to God, the end and purpose of living. It follows that he is not to be forced to act in a manner contrary to his conscience.”

“Reason Three – RH observes the preferential option for the poor.” Here Dr. Santiago reiterated that the mission of the Church as a whole (inclusive of laity and all religious – not just the hierarchy) “includes service to those in need, and, parenthetically, service to the women of the poor. The mission of the Church is not limited to the preaching of the gospel or the celebration of the sacraments.” She also quoted liberation theology proponent Gustavo Gutierrez who said: Let me say only that we have here two aspects of the church’s life that are both demanding and inseparable: universality and preference for the poor.”

“Reason Four – RH is part of today’s sense of the faithful, also known as ‘sensus fidelium’.” Senator Santiago maintains that Catholic teaching should reflect not only beliefs of the hierarchy but also those of the laity as expressed in practices especially with respect to real life situations. Such an expression is shown by the fact that the vast majority of Catholics all over the world practice birth control using modern contraceptives whenever these are available and known to them.

“Reason Five – Surveys showing Catholic support for RH is ‘a sign of the times’.” All of the reputable opinion polls including the most recent ones reflect this. The results are the same no matter the kind of question asked or the class of the interviewed segment. As mentioned above this view is shared by the population of other predominantly Catholic countries where RH is accepted and practiced resulting in low population growth rates “between .02 and .05 %” while the Philippines, without an RH law, has a population growth rate of 2.01%”.

“Reason Six – Since God is Love, RH is proof of love for the poor and therefore is proof of Love for God.” To discern this truth, Senator Santiago recommends that “The Filipino Catholic religious should engage all members of the Church in dialogues. The Catholic Church does not consist of the priests and bishops alone. Instead, the Church consists of the whole faith community.”

“Reason Seven – Anti-RH is cruelty to the poor.” In the Philippines, it is the poor who suffer most from lack of access to reproductive health information and services. As the Senator puts it: “They are miserable, because among other reasons, they have so many children. Without reproductive knowledge and information, the poor are just condemned to a vicious cycle of poverty, from generation to generation.”

“Reason Eight – The RH bill is over ten years old; it is cowardly to keep postponing the decision.” Senator Miriam believes that those who would delay passage through a filibuster or other parliamentary tricks are afraid of the so-called Catholic vote. She concludes that “some of our legislators refuse to face the facts squarely” and that “perhaps they think that if they are anti-RH, they will automatically go to heaven.”

***

Email: alberto.romualdez@gmail.com

Source: http://malaya.com.ph/index.php/opinion/13359-spirituality-catholicism-and-rh

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