Episode 5: Church and State

As a Catholic, I do not believe in artificial contraception. I believe it harms the marriage rather than helps it. I believe it detracts from the unitive character of the sexual act within the context of marriage by consciously taking away its procreative character. In this current day and age where sex outside of marriage has become socially acceptable and perhaps even a norm, I feel it is all the more important for the Catholic Church to remind Catholics of these fundamentals of our faith and to strengthen them within our communities.

That having been said, I am completely for the passage of a reproductive health law.

I fully recognize that although we are a predominantly Catholic country, we are not a FULLY Catholic country. We have among our citizenry non-Catholic Christians, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, atheists, and so many other religions, each with their own moral stand on family planning and reproductive health. The State, in observance with the doctrine of separation of church and state, is not obligated to legislate in favor of any single religion, and has the duty to ensure that everyone equally situated has equal access to reproductive health technologies and relevant reproductive health education.

Lately the Church has been under fire for its vocal stance against the RH bill. As much as I want to agree with the overall moral argument, I have to point out a few flaws in the specific arguments and approach of some sectors.

First, the RH Bill does not legalize abortion. In any way whatsoever. Some have pointed to the inclusion of contraceptive pills in the previous version of the RH Bill, claiming that such medicines are abortifacient. While I’m willing to concede that contraceptive pills IF ABUSED may have abortifacient effects, those who argue this must concede that a wide variety of legal prescription and over-the-counter medication WHEN ABUSED can also have abortifacient effects, so this argument cannot be limited to just the RH Bill. Those who uphold this argument must also concede the fact that the ABUSE of medicines in general is outside of the scope of the law, especially the RH Bill. This renders the argument moot.

Second, it is not simply a pro-life versus pro-choice argument. These two perspectives are not mutually exclusive. One can be pro-life AND pro-choice, within a context of being pro-responsible parenthood. The Church itself teaches that it is immoral for a couple to bring a child into the world that they cannot care for. It must reasonably be concluded that the pro-life paradigm necessarily includes choices in reproductive health practices that are acceptable to Catholics. We can argue against the use of artificial contraception, but we CANNOT, in a democratic country that Constitutionally guarantees freedom of liberty, force non-Catholics to follow suit.

Third, it is the work of the Church to strengthen our Catholic morals, remind us of Christ’s teachings, and to help us practice these teachings in our daily lives. It is NOT the role of the Church to be bullying the State into doing the Church’s work for it through favorable legislation.

In line with this, I find hilarious Msgr. Figura’s comment that these actions of the Church is a “collaboration” between the government and the Church. I fail to see how dangling the threat of excommunication and misinterpreting the text of the RH Bill to include legalized abortion can be construed as “collaboration” in any sense of the word.

The only point where I agree with the Church stand is the classification of contraceptives as essential medicines. Going by the definition in the Cheaper Medicines Law of 2008, artificial contraceptives do not fall within the definition of an “essential medicine” that should be given free at barangay health centers. The only way that can be argued is to (1) somehow show that sexually transmitted diseases are on the same level of commonality as measles, hepatitis, chicken pox, and so on; and (2) that artificial contraceptives can be classified as “preventive” medicine even if they cannot prevent such STDs 100%. Furthermore, they have to justify classifying artificial ccontraceptives as medication to begin with, as the very term “contraception” contradicts the notion of medicinee – unless you consider a pregnancy to be a disease.

My take on this is simple. The Church must meet the State on the State’s terms: the law. We can argue morality all year long, but at the end of it all we cannot legislate religious doctrine nor use it to invalidate law. Instead, we should be going by universal moral principles that are already inscribed within our fundamental law and use that to prove our case.

One last thing. Accepting support from shady elements will not help the cause of the Church. We don’t need that kind of political baggage in an already heavily politicized debate. Thank you for dropping by CGMA, you know where the door is.

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3 responses to “Episode 5: Church and State

  1. Pingback: Episode 17: The Year That Was, And How The Times They Are A’Changin « Letters from the Laughing Man·

  2. This is an old post, I know but I can’t help point out the disconnect in your position. If you believe artificial contraception is harmful to marriage and it’s unitive character, how can you agree with the passage of the RH bill? Does the harm that artificial contraception brings to the unitive and procreative character of marriage only affect Catholics or will the harm it brings be brought to bear on any couple, regardless of their beliefs? Because this is what the church argues, that it is harmful to man and society in general.

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