Babies are not blessings? A reply to Ana Santos of Rappler

A newborn baby glistening in amniotic fluid (Wikipedia)

A newborn baby glistening in amniotic fluid (Wikipedia)

Ana Santos of Rappler wrote a piece entitled, “Babies are not blessings.” Santos quotes the figures related to having babies as given by Dr. Emma Llanto of UP-PGH and Society of Adolescent Medicine in the Philippines.  The whole article hinges on the definition of a the word “blessing,” so let us examine Santos’ understanding of this word by dissecting her statements one by one.

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Even Saruman the Wise supports on the RH Bill: Ateneo professors and students endorses the bill

The number of professors who endorsed the RH Bill in their position paper now rose from 160 to 192.  Even after Fr. Jett Villarin, SJ distanced Ateneo from the faculty endorsers of the bill, another declaration of support for the RH Bill was signed by Ateneans for RH with 1465 from Ateneo de Manila University, 79 from Xavier University (Ateneo de Cagayan University), and 21 from Ateneo de Zamboanga University.  At such news we should rejoice and be glad: the depth and extent of dissent in Ateneo de Manila University on the Catholic teaching on contraception is now laid bare. I hope more students will add their names on the list so that the Catholic Church hierarchy can fully assess whether Ateneo still deserves to be called a Catholic university or not.

What we are seeing is a declaration of open rebellion against the Catholic Church, which began more than 40 years ago when clerics and bishops rebelled against Pope Paul VI’s Humanae Vitae.  What was once whispered in seminary halls became taught in the classrooms.  And what was taught in the classrooms became preached at the rooftops of cyberspace.

The pro-RH camp is now emboldened.  They have Ateneo professors and students supporting their cause–the elite thinkers of the country with more than 150 years of intellectual history.  The Jesuits, the Church’s shock troopers and loyal soldiers in the bygone years, appear weak and helpless in the face of the mounting opposition.  And even they themselves are divided.  There is no more a Padre Pastells who will debate with Rizal on the truth of the Catholic Faith or a Padre Faura who will scold Rizal for his heretical views.  The pro-RH groups are already at the Gate 2 and they demand that  the Church surrender to the modern world by embracing contraception and the RH Bill.

Saruman the Wise says it best:

And listen, Gandalf, my old friend and helper!… I said we, for we it may be, if you will join with me.  A new Power is rising.  Against it the old allies and policies will not avail us at all.  There is no hope left in Elves or dying Numenor.  This then is one choice before you, before us.  We may join with that Power.  It would be wise, Gandalf.  There is hope that way.  Its victory is at hand; and there will be rich reward for those that aided it.  As the Power grows, its proved friends will also grow; and the Wise, such as you and I, may with patience come at last to direct its courses, to control it.  We can bide our time, we can keep our thoughts in our hearts, deploring maybe evils done by the way, but approving the high and ultimate purpose: Knowledge, Rule, Order; all the things that we have so far striven in vain to accomplish, hindered rather than helped by our weak or idle friends.  There need not be, there would not be, any real change in our designs, only in our means. (Fellowship of the Ring, p. 291)

What does the RH Bill promise us?  It is the great Ring of Power: it will reduce poverty, promote responsible parenthood, and lead to good governance–the high and ultimate purpose that our country has striven hard to accomplish only to be derailed by the Catholic Church and the Anti-RH groups.  The RH Bill promises us a “choice”–to order our married life as we will.  We can bide our time until we are financially and emotionally ready to have children.  We can justify to ourselves that we are obeying our conscience whenever we use the condom or the pill, and ignore many things that pester our thoughts, such as the possibility of getting pregnant, because the unwanted child that can easily be disposed by morning-after pills or abortion. Each child should be a child we want to have and not a child by accident.  And as we use the pills more and more through the help of RH Bill, our power over our bodies will also grow, and we shall be like the gods who define what is good and what is evil through three criteria–me, myself, and I.  We can forget about what the Catholic Church says–it’s a Medieval institution out of touch of the modern-day Filipinos.  Mortal sin?  There is no sense of talking about “a sin whose object is grave matter and which is also committed with full knowledge and deliberate consent.”  These are scholastic definitions and modern man has no need for such rubbish.  And if the government passes the RH Bill, millions of dollars from UN and US will pour into the Philippines.  The poor shall be no more.  There will be a high quality of life for all.  By embracing the RH Bill, we remain as Pro-Life as ever.  There need not be, there would not be, any real change in our designs, only in our means.

Wonderful words befitting of Saruman the Wise. But his voice has already lost its charm: the end does not justify the means.

For my students, friends, and colleagues in Ateneo who support the RH Bill, let me end with the words of Gandalf to Saruman:

What have you to say that you did not say at our last meeting? Or perhaps you have things to unsay? (Two Towers, p. 205)

Sincerely yours,

The Monk’s Hobbit

Ateneo Guidon’s editorial on the “Life and Love” fair vs the Reproductive Health Bill

Ateneo Guidon Editorial March-April 2011

Gray Area

Last February, as a major graded requirement for Theology 131 class, some students held a “Life and Love” Fair: a week-long event where various moral issues, among them the Reproductive Health (RH) Bill, were presented to the Loyola Schools community with the objective of promoting the pro-life stand of the Catholic Church.

During the same month,k students under Theology Professor Aguido Florence Jalin, Jr. from the University of Santo Tomas (UST) flooded the Akbayan Party-list Facebook fan page with “anti-RH Bill messages” in exchange for higher grades.  Professor Jalin mentioned in his comment on the Akbayan Youth WordPress site that the messages posted by his students “were not ill-formed decisions” but consistent with the contents of the July 26 Pastoral Letter of the CBCP.

The students who posted these maessages on FAcebook were naturally practicing their right to express their opinion regarding the RH Bill.  However, a more significant question must be raised–how are these opinions formed?  The manner by which universities influence their students to form their own stands should be in the context of a culture where academic discourse is encouraged.  In light of the RH Bill, this academic discourse involves the critical study of the issue, where students are driven towards forming their own stands, and not simply complying with what is told to them as right or wrong with the threat of a low grade. It is of value to remember this–that despite universities having their own opinions on relevant issues, it does not mean that students must be required to echo their sentiments on these matters as amoral automatons.

This dissonance in views can be illustrated by stands taken by various members of the Ateneo community.  Fr. Bienvenido Nebres mentioned in a memo last March 25 that the university will continue to stand in opposition of the RH Bill.  A few days prior to this, it was reported that over 200 faculty members from the ATeneo and the University of the Philippines called for teh passage of the RH Bill.  It is important to remember that this divergence of views may exist even in the microcosm that is the classroom–and that the students who participated in the “Life and Love” Fair may have simply been afraid to voice out their own personal opinions of the RH Bill in class and in public in fear of a low grade.

A critical stud of the RH Bill and other sensitive issues is best done when ideas from both sides are exchanged in debate.  The RH Bill cannot be seen in mere black and white; when this happens, people form stands either for or against the RH Bill that are not supported by the foundation of a through understanding of the issue.  In addition, it is important to strike the right balance between the simplification of the issue and the emphasis on the gray areas–both the bill’s very essence and its nitty gritty must be taken into consideration.

Being a Catholic university, the Ateneo will always be anchored to the Catholic faith it perpetuates.  However, it is also the unversity’s responsibility to form and inform consciences in order to help students make better decisions.  In the context of the RH Bill debate, the fulfillment of this responsibility entails the school’s engagement of its students in the critical study of the issue.

Translation of Homily of Cardinal Rosales in the March 25 Pro-Life rally against the Reproductive Health Bill

Here is the full text of the homily of Cardinal Gaudencio Rosales which he preached at the Quirino Grandstand, during the Mass for the Feast of the Annunciation and the Pro-Life Rally against the RH Bill. The original text is in Filipino courtesy of Pinoy Catholic. Below is my English translation:

Feast of the Annunciation Pro-Life Rally vs. Reproductive Health Bill
by Cardinal Gaudencio Rosales

25 March 2011

Cardinal Rosales in 2011 March 25 Reproductive Health Bill Rally

Cardinal Rosales in 2011 March 25 Reproductive Health Bill Rally

The Lord God spoke to Moses and those who believe in Him the following words: “I call heaven and earth today to witness against you: I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. Choose life, then, that you and your descendants may live, by loving the LORD, your God, heeding his voice, and holding fast to him.” (Dt 30:19)

Let us start our reflection on the principle that life is the greatest gift given by our Lord God to anyone.  This is the fundamental belief and teaching of the Catholic Church that human life, though weak or suffering, remains the greatest gift of God’s goodness (Familaris Consortio, n. 30).

If you do not give value this life in any way or at any point in man’s life (baby, fetus, old age, strong or weak), any man’s life will not be respected–and here if life has no more value or is not given value, there is no one who shall defend it, human life will be cheated, dominated, kidnapped, perjured, and robbed.

That is why how beautiful is the Church’s teaching–take care, defend, and promote life.  Do not put barriers to life through any surgery or artificial contraception.  To debase this human life, whether strong or weak, that we always value is against the Filipino culture’s view on human life (Pastoral Letter, CBCP, 30 January 2011).

Poverty or overpopulation has real solution and the answer to this is also taught by our Lord Jesus Christ.  First, the world’s wealth or the product of man’s labor is enough or more than enough for all.  “Love one another” and be compassionate with each other in the name of love.  Second, there are natural ways designed by God in the human body that must be known or studied in order  to identify the days when sexual intercourse would lead to new human life.  In each sexual intercourse, the married couple cooperates with God in the creation of new human life. (Humanae Vitae, n. 11)

Married life is holy, and because it is holy, God provides joy and happiness in each marital intercourse, because they shall spend their whole life rearing their children to good values, a holy life where there is compassion and respect to others until old age.

There is a natural way to prepare for that important life.  And that is called NATURAL FAMILY PLANNING.  And this is given by God naturally to each man, male or female.  The Almighty God knows that the days are coming when we must strive to study and responsibly undertake the noble preparation for such life.  That is why God naturally placed in man’s body–male or female–the right and sure way and times when the the woman is fertile and ready to give birth to a new human life, which is created in the image and likeness of God (Genesis 1:27)

In studying the ways to determine these special days when the woman is fertile, anyone can use these information in order to know when not to engage in sexual intercourse.  This is man’s sacrifice.  There are times that discipline is needed.  If there is discipline in bed, then surely there will be discipline in the streets, in the wallet (credit cards).  Here we shall appreciate the “values” that are taught by the Church.

My brothers and sisters, the labor of a married couple is holy, that is why God blesses them with joy and happiness not only in the sexual intercourse, but also in the rearing of their children to good manners and right conduct, and help them grow in holiness.  In this endeavor, God is with the married couple.  And God never abandons a faithful couple.

Married life is holy; sexual intercourse is holy because this is part of giving forth a new life that is from God.  This is not a toy that must be taught to children how to use rubber condoms, in order to prevent the spread of disease?  Why are children taught these kinds of plays?  Is it not what should be taught to children are the good examples of the elders and the importance of life, the holiness in restraining oneself that is called discipline?  Before it was taught that if there is self restraint, there is discipline, respect, and human character.  Now what we now wish to teach our young is this: use the condom, and play!  That is how cheap human life is now.

It is a good thing there is still the Church and there is still the Faith that reminds us (even though there are some lawmakers or elders that have morally depraved minds, who are incapable of teaching the good values and laws that would bring back the slowly vanishing and weakening of the beautiful gem that is our Filipino civilization.

At why should the young be taught elders and lawmakers on how to escape from responsibility, without regard to reason and purity.  (They say that it is in the name of cleanliness and health).  False reasons are what few lawmakers want to teach to our young–that is what will be the future of the Philippines–a nation of false reasons, all knowing only how to bribe.  There is a danger that we are losing the Christian and Filipino values.  What should be taught to the young are purity of the soul, purity of the heart, discipline, self-restraint, and respect for other people’s money.

What kind of proposed law is this RH Bill which when becomes a law, if the Church and its ministers teach or explain things based from the Bible, Faith, and conscience of each Christian on Life and Purity, which are contrary to the RH Bill, shall be asked fined or jailed.  Shall all who follow their conscience and Faith be punished?  This is not the Philippines.  Let us not anymore mention any country, but this is not the Philippines that was loved at offered with the lives of our heroes, three of the ten priests–Padre Mariano Gomez, Padre Jose Burgos, and Padre Jacinto Zamora.  In El Filibusterismo, the first page is offered by Jose Rizal  to these three priests.  (And what others wish to remember is DAMASO who is not even a Filipino!)

This is what the Church stands for:

  1. The compassion for the poor multitude, especially those women who suffer and strive to make their lives better and those who go abroad to achieve it or enter into indecent work.  The Church deeply feels for them.
  2. The Catholic Church is for life and human life must be defended from conception to its natural end.
  3. The Church believes in responsible parenthood though Natural Family Planning.  Here what is needed is strong character that requires sacrifice, discipline, and respect for the dignity of marriage.  Without sacrifice, there is no character.
  4. All men are just caretakers of their bodies.  Our responsibility to our bodies must follow the will of God who speaks to us through our conscience.  If we do not heed God’s voice in our conscience, it is not the mountains the seas will be shaken but own conscience.
  5. We believe that in our choice regarding the RH Bill, our conscience is a sure guide which must be guided by one’s Faith.
  6. We believe that freedom of religion and the right not to do things contrary to the dictates of our conscience.  The penalties and punishments stipulated in the proposed RH Bill is the reason for our disapproval of the Bill. (Pastoral Letter, CBCP, 30 Jan 2011).

There is still time to avoid the moral tragedy that would be caused by the RH Bill.

Change that bill, or repudiate it entirely which is the nesting place for irreverence for life, loss of responsibility and discipline which is what is truly needed by our people and nation.

If the children can still be taught by the Church, we also remind our lawmakers.  All of you, today and tomorrow, are part of our prayers.

May God bless you and this Nation of God.  We are all loved by God and cared for by the Mother of Jesus!

+Gaudencio B. Cardinal Rosales
Prayer Rally
Feast of the Annunciation
25 March 2011

“Usapang Kapatid” in DZMM Radio and ABS-CBN’s The Filipino Channel: An interview with CBCP and Pro-Life groups on the Reproductive Health Bill

Source: Jescom (Jesuit Communications) Newsletter Issue No. 6

.. This Saturday on “Usapang Kapatid”

PRO-LIFE! Hear out the stand of the Church on the issue of the RH Bill. We’ll be joined by guests: Mr. Eric Manalang (President, Pro-Life Philippines, Inc.), Mr. Lito David (Member, Pro-Life Philippines, Inc.), Mr. Butch Valdez (political analyst); and phone interviews with Dra. Eleanor de Borja-Palabyab (Ob-Gyne), Dr. Joselito Sandejas (Chairman, Alliance of Family Organizations; Head, HB&A International-ARO Research) and Ms. Linda Ganar (CBCP Commission of Family and Life).

*Usapang Kapatid* airs every Saturday, 10:30pm to 12:00mn on DZMM Radyo Patrol 630, DZMM TeleRadyo [Sky Cable] channel 26, and The Filipino Channel (TFC).

Atty. Jo Imbong for Senator: Pro-family, pro bono, pro-Ateneo

NAME: Atty. Jo Imbong

POLITICAL PARTY: Ang Kapatiran

PERSONAL INFORMATION:

  • Born in Malaybalay City, Bukidnon of Ilocano parents.
  • Married to lawyer, Manuel B. Imbong. They have eight children.

WORK EXPERIENCE:

  • University Counsel and a Lecturer of the University of Asia andthe Pacific.
  • Faculty Member of the Ateneo de Manila University and the Konrad Adenauer Center for Journalism.
  • Head ofthe Legal Office of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines
  • Consultant to the CBCP’s Episcopal Commission on Family and Life, and the Office on Women
  • Trustee of the Alliance Against Pornography
  • Executive Director of the Family Media Advocacy Foundation
  • Writer for the CBCP Monitor
  • Member of the International Bar Association Media Law Committee.

For her pro bono work in the Family Rights advocacy, Atty. Jo as she is fondly called, is a recipient of the Fr. Paul B. Marx Pro-Life Award from Human life International, and the Blessed Pedro Calungsod Pro-Life Award from His Eminence, Ricardo Cardinal Vidal.

In 2001, she founded Abay Pamilya Foundation, an association of parents and families working for women’s and family rights. In the women’s rights circuit, she is currently Vice- Chair of Professional & Cultural Development for Women Foundation, a private voluntary organization engaged in the training and formation of working women and homemakers.

Today, her passion for pro bono work has inspired her to enter new corridors of advocacy—the Philippine Senate. She believes that the totality and awesome powers of the State are there simply to serve life, family, motherhood, children, progeny, and the common good—“not the other way around.”

Source: Ang Kapatiran Party

Philippine Knights of Columbus Organized Nationwide Rallies Against the Reproductive Health Bill

by Roy Lagarde

MANILA, March 21, 2009—As the battle over a ground-breaking reproductive health (RH) bill is heating up, thousands of people across the county protested its passage in simultaneous rallies held Saturday.

“No to abortion!” chanted some participants of “Walk for Life” in Tacloban City, some carrying placards. “We value life,” others answered.

“Reject RH bill!”

“Now!”

In Manila, opponents of the pending bill strongly disagreed on what its proponents will bring to the country. Church and lay leaders told the hundreds who attended the rally that lawmakers backing the proposed measure support a “culture of death.” Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) president Archbishop Angel Lagdameo called on the faithful not to waver in their faith, prayers and activities to block the passage of the bill.

“We should advocate responsible and ethical population management and family planning,” Lagdameo said in his statement read by Cubao Bishop Honesto Ongtioco.  “We oppose and shall oppose together with our people any law of the state that violate the conscience of the people and the supreme law of God about life and morality,” he said.

Culture of death

Saturday’s rally at the Bonifacio Shrine in Manila was the first of its kind held in the country organized by the Knights of Columbus (KC) Philippines, the largest fraternal organization of Catholic men. The rally was preceded by a mass held at the San Agustin Church presided by Bishop Ongtioco, who also served as KC’s Luzon State chaplain.

In his homily, the bishop said chided lawmakers pushing for RH bill which seeks to promote the use of contraceptives in family planning such as condoms and pills and to control the country’s population. He said that it’s evident that the main problem is not the population but the greed of the people which results to corruption and hoarding of supplies.

“The problem is not in population but wrong appropriation of budget and sharing of resources,” he said.

Ongtioco said that reproductive health and family planning must be founded from the perspective of values. But because of “selfishness,” he said, instead of promoting life, some people and groups promote the “culture of death—death of what true happiness, joy, peace and all the good things we ling to have.”

“As concerned citizens and responsible Christians we seek to promote the culture of life for it is important for the future of humanity,” the bishop said.

Mayor Lim joins protests

After the mass, KC members marched along M. Orosa-TM Kalaw-Taft Avenue route until they reached the Bonifacio Shrine near Manila City Hall. They were also joined by Manila Mayor Alfredo Lim. In his speech, Lim said he too is against the passage of the RH bill. He assured the crowd that the City of Manila is pro-life. And if in case the bill would become a law, he said that his administration will not follow its provision wherein the local government units will buy contraceptives using taxpayers’ money.

Surveys

One of the speakers, Msgr. Pedro Quitorio cautioned the rallyists to go easy with the surveys that always post the assumption that majority of Filipinos are for the passage of the Reproductive Health Bill which is anti-life.

“The empirical truth is that during the last elections, the most number of votes was garnered by the pro-life partylist “Buhay,” that took the highest number of seats in the House. On the other hand those that were openly anti-life, did not get peoples votes,” Quitorio said.

For her part, Human Life International-Asia Director Dr. Ligaya Acosta said that the Reproductive Health Bill is not about health. She encouraged Catholics to firmly make a stand against life.

“If we are Catholics we cannot be pro-choice,” she said.

Simultaneous

Protests have also been held in several Luzon areas, including San Pablo (Laguna), San Fernando (Pampanga), Cabatuan City, Isabela (Isabela), Tuguegarao City and Naga City. The rally in Cebu City was led by Cebu Archbishop Ricardo Cardinal Vidal. Davao Archbishop Fernando Capalla also spearheaded the rally in Davao City attended by various KC Councils in Mindanao.

Natural birth control

Among the bill’s objectives is to provide government-funded family planning, contraceptives, and sex education for youth. Backers of the bill said it’s needed to prevent illegal abortions and help curb poverty by addressing overpopulation. But the church sees artificial birth control as immoral and has long foiled any efforts to provide government funding for such methods. The Catholic Church only supports “natural” birth control, such as the “rhythm method,” by which women avoid having sex on the most fertile days of their monthly cycle.

Source: Roy Lagarde, “RH bill rallies stretch across nation” in CBCP News (Manila, 21 March 2009)