CBCP Pastoral Letter: Choosing life, rejecting the RH Bill

(A Pastoral Letter of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines)

Our Filipino Brothers and Sisters:

The State values the dignity of every human person and guarantees full respect for human rights (Art. II, Section 11). The State recognizes the sanctity of family life and shall protect and strengthen the family as a basic autonomous social institution. It shall equally protect the life of the mother and the life of the unborn from conception (Art. II, Section 12).

Background
We begin by citing the Philippine Constitution. We do so because we intend to write you on the basis of the fundamental ideals and aspirations of the Filipino people and not on the basis of specifically Catholic religious teachings.

We are at a crossroads as a nation. Before us are several versions of a proposed bill, the Reproductive Health bill or sanitized as a Responsible Parenthood bill. This proposed bill in all its versions calls us to make a moral choice: to choose life or to choose death.

At the outset we thank the government for affording us an opportunity to express our views in friendly dialogue. Sadly our dialogue has simply revealed how far apart our respective positions are. Therefore, instead of building false hopes, we wish at the present time to draw up clearly what we object to and what we stand for.

Moral Choices at the Crossroads — at EDSA I and Now

Twenty five years ago in 1986 we Catholic Bishops made a prophetic moral judgment on political leadership. With this prophetic declaration we believe that we somehow significantly helped open the door for EDSA I and a window of political integrity.

Today we come to a new national crossroads and we now have to make a similar moral choice. Our President rallied the country with the election cry, “Kung walang corrupt walang mahirap.” As religious leaders we believe that there is a greater form of corruption, namely, moral corruption which is really the root of all corruption. On the present issue, it would be morally corrupt to disregard the moral implications of the RH bill.

This is our unanimous collective moral judgment: We strongly reject the RH bill.

Commonly Shared Human and Cultural Values – Two Fundamental Principles

Far from being simply a Catholic issue, the RH bill is a major attack on authentic human values and on Filipino cultural values regarding human life that all of us have cherished since time immemorial.

Simply stated the RH Bill does not respect moral sense that is central to Filipino cultures. It is the product of the spirit of this world, a secularist, materialistic spirit that considers morality as a set of teachings from which one can choose, according to the spirit of the age. Some it accepts, others it does not accept. Unfortunately, we see the subtle spread of this post-modern spirit in our own Filipino society.

Our position stands firmly on two of the core principles commonly shared by all who believe in God:

(1) Human life is the most sacred physical gift with which God, the author of life, endows a human being. Placing artificial obstacles to prevent human life from being formed and being born most certainly contradicts this fundamental truth of human life. In the light of the widespread influence of the post-modern spirit in our world, we consider this position as nothing less than prophetic. As religious leaders we must proclaim this truth fearlessly in season and out of season.

(2) It is parents, cooperating with God, who bring children into the world. It is also they who have the primary inalienable right and responsibility to nurture them, care for them, and educate them that they might grow as mature persons according to the will of the Creator.

What We Specifically Object to in the RH Bill

Advocates contend that the RH bill promotes reproductive health. The RH Bill certainly does not. It does not protect the health of the sacred human life that is being formed or born. The very name “contraceptive” already reveals the anti-life nature of the means that the RH bill promotes. These artificial means are fatal to human life, either preventing it from fruition or actually destroying it. Moreover, scientists have known for a long time that contraceptives may cause cancer. Contraceptives are hazardous to a woman’s health.

Advocates also say that the RH bill will reduce abortion rates. But many scientific analysts themselves wonder why prevalent contraceptive use sometimes raises the abortion rate. In truth, contraceptives provide a false sense of security that takes away the inhibition to sexual activity. Scientists have noted numerous cases of contraceptive failure. Abortion is resorted to, an act that all religious traditions would judge as sinful. “Safe sex” to diminish abortion rate is false propaganda.

Advocates moreover say that the RH bill will prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS. This goes against the grain of many available scientific data. In some countries where condom use is prevalent, HIV/ AIDS continues to spread. Condoms provide a false security that strongly entices individuals towards increased sexual activity, increasing likewise the incidence of HIV/AIDS. “Safe sex” to prevent HIV /AIDS is false propaganda.

Advocates also assert that the RH Bill empowers women with ownership of their own bodies. This is in line with the post-modern spirit declaring that women have power over their own bodies without the dictation of any religion. How misguided this so-called “new truth” is! For, indeed, as created by God our bodies are given to us to keep and nourish. We are stewards of our own bodies and we must follow God’s will on this matter according to an informed and right conscience. Such a conscience must certainly be enlightened and guided by religious and moral teachings provided by various religious and cultural traditions regarding the fundamental dignity and worth of human life.

Advocates also say that the RH bill is necessary to stop overpopulation and to escape from poverty. Our own government statistical office has concluded that there is no overpopulation in the Philippines but only the over-concentration of population in a number of urban centers. Despite other findings to the contrary, we must also consider the findings of a significant group of renowned economic scholars, including economic Nobel laureates, who have found no direct correlation between population and poverty. In fact, many Filipino scholars have concluded that population is not the cause of our poverty. The causes of our poverty are: flawed philosophies of development, misguided economic policies, greed, corruption, social inequities, lack of access to education, poor economic and social services, poor infrastructures, etc. World organizations estimate that in our country more than P400 billion pesos are lost yearly to corruption. The conclusion is unavoidable: for our country to escape from poverty, we have to address the real causes of poverty and not population.

In the light of the above, we express our clear objections:

1. We object to the non-consideration of moral principles, the bedrock of law, in legislative discussions of bills that are intended for the good of individuals and for the common good.

2. We are against the anti-life, anti-natal and contraceptive mentality that is reflected in media and in some proposed legislative bills.
3. We object strongly to efforts at railroading the passage of the RH bill.

4. We denounce the over-all trajectory of the RH bill towards population control.

5. We denounce the use of public funds for contraceptives and sterilization.

6. We condemn compulsory sex education that would effectively let parents abdicate their primary role of educating their own children, especially in an area of life – sexuality – which is a sacred gift of God.

What We Stand For

On this matter of proposed RH bills, these are our firm convictions:

1. We are deeply concerned about the plight of the many poor, especially of suffering women, who are struggling for a better life and who must seek it outside of our country, or have recourse to a livelihood less than decent.

2. We are pro-life. We must defend human life from the moment of conception or fertilization up to its natural end.

3. We believe in the responsible and natural regulation of births through Natural Family Planning for which character building is necessary which involves sacrifice, discipline and respect for the dignity of the spouse.

4. We believe that we are only stewards of our own bodies. Responsibility over our own bodies must follow the will of God who speaks to us through conscience.

5. We hold that on the choices related to the RH bill, conscience must not only be informed but most of all rightly guided through the teachings of one’s faith.

6. We believe in the freedom of religion and the right of conscientious objection in matters that are contrary to one’s faith. The sanctions and penalties embodied in the proposed RH bill are one more reason for us to denounce it.

Our Calls

As religious leaders we have deeply and prayerfully reflected on this burning issue. We have unanimously made the moral judgment – to reject the RH agenda and to choose life.

1. We call for a fundamental transformation of our attitudes and behavior towards all human life especially the most defenseless, namely, human life being formed or being conceived. The cheapness with which many seem to consider human life is a great bane to our religious-oriented nation.

2. We call upon our legislators to consider the RH bill in the light of the God-given dignity and worth of human life and, therefore, to shelve it completely as contrary to our ideals and aspirations as a people. We thank our legislators who have filed bills to defend human life from the moment of conception and call upon all other legislators to join their ranks.

3. We thank the great multitude of lay people all over the country, and particularly the dedicated groups who made their presence felt in the halls of Congress, to defend and promote our position. We call upon other lay people and adherents of other religions to join the advocacy to defend and promote our commonly shared ideals and aspirations.

4. We call on our government to address effectively the real causes of poverty such as corruption, lack of social and economic services, lack of access to education and the benefits of development, social inequities.

5. We call for the establishment of more hospitals and clinics in the rural areas, the deployment of more health personnel to provide more access to health services, the building of more schools, the provision of more aid to the poor for education, and the building of more and better infrastructures necessary for development.

6. We echo the challenge we prophetically uttered 25 years ago at EDSA I and call upon all people of good will who share our conviction: “…let us pray together, reason together, decide together, act together, always to the end that the truth prevail” over the many threats to human life and to our shared human and cultural values.

We commend our efforts against the RH bill (or the Responsible Parenthood bill – its new name) to the blessing of our almighty and loving God, from whom all life comes and for whom it is destined.

For the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines.

+NEREO P. ODCHIMAR, D.D.
Bishop of Tandag
President, CBCP
January 30, 2011

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About Quirino M. Sugon Jr
Theoretical Physicist in Manila Observatory

23 Responses to CBCP Pastoral Letter: Choosing life, rejecting the RH Bill

  1. I AM GLAD THAT THE CBCP FINALLY ISSUED A PASTORAL LETTER EXPRESSING STRONG OBJECTION TO THE RH/RP BILL. THE LAITY HAS BEEN GIVEN THE REASONS FOR THE OBJECTIONS. THIS DOCUMENT SHOULD BE WIDELY AND QUICKLY DISSEMINATED SO THAT ALL CHRISTIANS WILL BE PROPERLY INFORMED. WE AWAIT THE CALL OF CBCP FOR COLLECTIVE AND DECISIVE ACTION TO STOP THE PASSAGE OF THIS BILL INTO LAW.

  2. Eduardo Salang says:

    About moral.where is the cbcp in the daily life? where is the daily guidance of the people, the teaching of being a christian in daily life? How many times do I see “christians”get drunk on parties, gambling, and do everything that God forbids? Is this true caring for God’s Church? Being church is not in pointing fingers, but in action, FEED the poor, Heal the sick,comfort, be an example: Like Our Lord has taught us: What you did not do to others, you have also not done to me. Be a church in action, get involved, follow our Redeemer, Christ Jesus. Then people will return to the church. Educate, be like Christ. On the fruit a tree is judged.
    Solo deo gratia.

  3. Erin Tolentino says:

    “Christians” can always do what kind of family planning they choose after the bills passage, so don’t whine, and give others the right to choose, the education, etc.

  4. Quirino M. Sugon Jr says:

    Erin,
    The government uses taxpayers’ money to buy these contraceptives. If 85% of taxpayers are Catholics, the Catholic Church has the right to make sure that the taxes of Catholics are not used for immoral purchases.

  5. Liezl says:

    I’d like to quote this letter coz I can’t find any Filipino/tagalog copy. Our priest read the tagalog version as the homily yesterday.

  6. Maribel P. Hernandez says:

    so… what can the church or the 85% catholic taxpayers do to help the government???? how can the church help educates those in the remote areas who are unemployed and yet have numbers of siblings???
    do we have that much to go everyday and do some “outreach” and give them lessons of natural birth control which is moral & safer????

    yes it might immoral and the church is against it but WHAT CAN YOU DO, WHAT WILL YOU DO????

    and please, separate church into politics … very disappointing ..

  7. I love the clarity of this document; it is better than anything our US conference of bishops has released (but Philippine history and constitution provides a better platform than ours). But it does have one problem. It cites ‘freedom of religion’ as taught by Vatican II, rather than the ‘religious tolerance’ that tradition taught. This might seem small, but already, of six quotes, one commenter already found the chink: ‘Christians” can always do what kind of family planning they choose after the bills passage, so don’t whine, and give others the right to choose, the education, etc.’ (Tolentino) Several of your legisators also cited ‘freedom to choose’ in promoting the HR bill. Even if this bill is dismissed, now that the door has been opened, this argument will come back again and again, and you will have to dedicate significantly more effort to defeat it each time, and eventually those forces waiting to enrich themselves at Philippino expense will win (these are, as the bishops’ document here points out, economic issues as well as moral ones). When the bishops say, in this document, that they reject the spirit behind the HR bill, the “spirit of this world, a secularist, materialistic spirit that considers morality as a set of teachings from which one can choose,” they do not realize that this concept of ‘freedom of religion’ is exactly that spirit. It seems so innocent but that makes it much harder to combat. We are NOT free to choose. As you may already know, “freedom of religion” which eventually mandates a secular government, is one of the three items on the table in the discussions between traditional SSPX and liberal Vatican forces (collegiality and ecumenism are the other two). I would be wary of harnessing any Ataneo spirit to that horse.

  8. This is the problem with the kind of Erin Tolentino. They think that the Catholic Church stifles the person’s right to choose.

    WRONG!

    You are, whether Catholic or not, have the birth right to do whatever you want to do with your life.

    But laws are there for a reason, right? Civil or religious, laws are put in place so that your rights do not trifle the rights of others. And the most basic of all human rights is the right to LIVE! How can you even begin to choose when you are not even given the chance to live.

    And to Maribel P. Hernandez: Disappointing that you have the time to react to a blog post but do not even have the time to read history and see how the Catholic Church started the university education system that educated your mind, our minds.

    You even forget how Catholic missionaries ALL OVER THE WORLD started schools for free, hospitals for free.

    Have you been to a remote barrio lately, say in Laguna which is a few minutes drive from Manila. You’ll be surprised that some farmers do not even know who the mayor of their town is because the government is incompetent to do its own job!

    The people I talked to are not even Catholic. They are Evangelical Baptists who have an average 5 children per family. They are also farmers. And I talk to them regularly.

    So before you bark your head off, get out of Manila and see for yourself what you are talking about.

    Disappointing.

  9. Jaycee says:

    Dear Pinoy Catholic,

    Is there a public Catholic School in the Philippines?? I don’t think so… What about the freewill of the married couples on what birth control they wanted to use? Maybe, if the Catholic Church trusts what its flock’s decision will be, they won’t be threatened by the RH bill.

    The Government has a job to do, let them do it. The best thing the catholic church can do is to guide its flock on their choice. Perhaps a public Catholic Church will suffice to help the poor kids have Catholic Education since the government can’t provide enough schools.

    Its very disappointing to hear the Church threaten that there will be a bloodshed if the RH bill will go through. That is kind of anti-life, eh??

  10. I AM HOPING THAT OUR LEGISLATORS HERE IN THE PHILIPPINES WILL COME TO KNOW THAT WE THEY BELIEVE ABOUT RH BILL WHICH THEY THEMSELVES ARE PRO, ARE ALL LIES. THAT THE TRUTH IS THAT THIS BILL AIMS TO PROMOTE A NATURE OF KILLING LIFE NOT PROTECTING IT. RH BILL IS FOR HEALTH? NO. THAT IS A VERY BIG NO NO NO FOR ME!ABSOLUTELY!

  11. @Jaycee: di naman siguro. Nararapat lang gawin ng Simbahan ang dapat at tama dahil para ito sa lahat.Sana naman maintindihan niyo po kung bakit oppose ang Catholic Church sa RH Bill. Try to be a faithful Catholic and you’ll know..I’m not arguing but i am just giving my own point of view about this ruining issue,

    Pax Cristi!

  12. Aslie says:

    @ Quirino M. Sugon Jr, re your post…
    ” Erin, The government uses taxpayers’ money to buy these contraceptives. If 85% of taxpayers are Catholics, the Catholic Church has the right to make sure that the taxes of Catholics are not used for immoral purchases.”

    Do not confuse the catholic taxpayer w the catholic church. the catholic church does NOT pay taxes, so they have no rights in this case. AND, there is quite a large chunk of catholics who disagree w the churches stand.

  13. katipunero says:

    “Human life is the most sacred physical gift with which God, the author of life, endows a human being. Placing artificial obstacles to prevent human life from being formed and being born most certainly contradicts this fundamental truth of human life.”

    how far will the catholic church continue to push the endzone when it comes to deciding where life begins? before it was from the moment the sperm fertilizes the egg, now it’s clearly when man meets woman, and at that exact moment they decide to get intimate *gasp!*.

    this constant finger putting on social and economic policies by the catholic church has stymied the growth of our country far too long. while freedom of speech and to the free exercise of religion are protected, the spread of wrong information and the imposition of religious dogmas on others are not.

  14. Reynald Puche says:

    Sa ganang akin, dapat na ipasa na ang RH Bill, mas dapat nga i-revised ito at ipanukala na magkaroon lamang na 2-3 anak anag bawat pamilya para mabawasan na ang lumalaking populasyon ng bansa. Dahil dito mas gusto kung isisi ito sa simbahang Katoliko, sa mga paring magbibigay ng payo sa mag-asawa na magmahalan at MAGPAKARAMI…pero hindi nila ipinapangaral ang PAGPIPIGIL na siyang utos ng Diyos sa mga mag-asawa…
    Ginagawa ng gobyerno na kahit papaano ay matugunan ang pangangailangan ng bawat Pilipino at iyon ay inuumpisan nila sa pagpipigil sa paglaki ng populasyon.
    Minsan naman sana malaman ng Simbahang katoliko na wag makialam sa ibang aspeto ng Gobyerno. Kasi kung tutuusin, Simbahan man o gobyerno pare-parehong maybaho at umaalingasaw ito.
    Kaya kung maari ipasa na lang ang RH Bill at bahala ng ang taong-bayan ang tumangkilik dito o hindi.

    @The Pinoy Catholic, re post
    “But laws are there for a reason, right? Civil or religious, laws are put in place so that your rights do not trifle the rights of others. And the most basic of all human rights is the right to LIVE! How can you even begin to choose when you are not even given the chance to live.”
    Kung mabubuhay man, ano pang karapatan nyang mamili sa kalagayan ng bansa natin. Di ba andun pa rin sya sa buhay na naging buhay din ng mga magulang niya. Maganda maging positibo sa lahat ng pagkakataon pero sana maging REALISTIC tau. Ano bang meron ang karamihan ng Pilipino sa ngayon? Magkakaroon bang mamili ang mga isisinalang na susunod na salin-lahi kung karukhaan ang kanilang kamumulatan.

  15. Quirino M. Sugon Jr says:

    Reynald,

    God did not command that husband and wives use contraception and limit your children to only 2 or 3. This is what God commanded:

    “Be fertile and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it. Have dominion over the fish of the sea, the birds of the air, and all the living things that move on the earth.” (Gen 1:28)

    “Children too are a gift from the LORD, the fruit of the womb, a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children born in one’s youth. Blessed are they whose quivers are full. They will never be shamed contending with foes at the gate.” (Ps 127:3-5)

  16. Anonymouse says:

    Blah this and blah that. But catholic church doesn’t do anything but rant and rant and against this and that. We need you to ACT NOT WRITE if you find RH bill inhumane.

  17. kristine says:

    Hey there…
    thumbs up to Erin Tolentino’s comment and for those who supported RH BIll..
    for me, against RH bill is an act of Selfishness… RH BILL is for all.. and as for individuals, it’s a choice… haven’t you notice?? CBCP acts Like FATHER DAMASO in Noli me Tangere.. Brain washing every individuals that are too vulnerable..READ THE RH BILL BEFORE REACTING ON THE MATTER.

  18. Quirino M. Sugon Jr says:

    kristine,

    I have read the whole Reproductive Health Bill and found it wanting. It is not pro-women because contraceptives harm women’s health. Contraceptive pills pollute our waters. And many contraceptives actually induce abortion. If you want a bill that is really pro-women and pro-family, you may like to read my proposed draft bill:

    http://monkshobbit.wordpress.com/2011/05/22/draft-for-an-anti-rh-bill-maternal-health-bill-of-2011/

  19. Pingback: ETHNIC CLEANSING « The Professional Heckler

  20. Ang ginagawang ito ng Simbahang Katoliko ay pangingialam na sa buhay ng indibidwal…tandaan na hindi lahat ng Pilipino ay Katoliko…and desisyon nila ay di desisyon ng nakararami…dapat galangin nila ang Separation of Church and State…hayaan ang indibidwal na magdesisyon…wag takutin ang mga pulitikong sumusuporta sa RH bill na wala silang makukuhang boto sa inyo…WALANG block vote ang simbahan kaya wag na kayong mangarap…sali na lang kayo sa partylist kung gusto nyo mamulitika…wag nyo na banggitin ung role nyo nung EDSA 1 unless babanggitin nyo din ung role nyo nung EDSA 2 pati ung kawalan nyo ng boses nung panahon ni pandak.

  21. Quirino M. Sugon Jr says:

    Edsel,

    Hayaan ang indibidwal na magdesisyon. Let those who wish to buy condoms, buy them. But do not use the taxes paid by Catholics to buy the condoms.

  22. Loida says:

    Am praying that more and more, the Catholic Church’es leadership will be able to secure the support of the majority of the congressmen and senators. They can get the ‘gifts’ but they should vote for a the preservation of life, family and morality. In our midst are chaos, poverty and lawlessness. Crimes, heinous crimes, deception of the poor and very low level of service to the people abound. Our hope is in building stronger faith in th eLord that He will do miracles to save our country and people from further poverty.the so called ‘gains’ made so far have not trickled down to the common man’s family life. May the Holy Spirit guide our bishops in this difficult time.

  23. Manding Azares says:

    Please carry on, CBCP. Kasama po ninyo kami sa pagtutol sa RH Bill.

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