MANILA, Philippines, November 24, 2010 (LifeSiteNews.com) - Confusion in the Catholic and secular international media over Pope Benedict’s recent comments on the use of condoms may be seriously jeopardizing years of efforts by the Catholic Bishops of the Philippines to defeat what they believe is a dangerous “Reproductive Health” bill.

The bishops have condemned the Filipino government’s “opportunistic misuse” of the Pope’s comments on condoms to promote the highly-controversial bill heavily backed by local and international population control forces.

Among other serious objections, the Filipino bishops insist the bill will inevitably pave the way to legalized abortion in the strongly Catholic country. In their Catechism on Family and Life for the 2010 Elections, the bishops wrote:

A high-ranking official of a foreign country massively funding reproductive health services in the Philippines categorically stated last April that, “We happen to think that family planning is an important part of women’s health, and reproductive health includes access to abortion.” Many countries all over the world and the United Nations agencies work for reproductive health and rights until they have fully facilitated access to abortion.

President Benigno Aquino and other advocates of the country’s so-called “Reproductive Health” bill say the Pope’s reported comments on condoms will help them surmount the Church’s strong opposition.  “Our clergy cannot be more popish than the pope,” said Ricky Carandang, the president’s spokesman.

In a book-length interview with German journalist Peter Seewald published this week, Pope Benedict XVI defended his statement from Africa in 2009 that condoms were detrimental to the fight against AIDS.  While condoms are not a “real or moral solution” to the AIDS crisis, the Pope told Seewald, the use of a condom by a male prostitute could be “a first step in the direction of a moralization, a first assumption of responsibility.”

The world’s media took the Pope’s words to signal a relaxing of the Church’s traditional teaching against contraception, running headlines such as “Pope endorses limited use of condoms.”  International bodies like the World Health Organization and UNAIDS praised the Pope for making “a positive step forward.”

Carandang said the comments were “a good step,” urging the Filipino bishops to follow the Vatican’s lead.  “I think our own clergy should be informed by the views of the Vatican because they’ve always referred to the Vatican when they stated their position,” he said.  “Now that the Vatican’s position is such, then I think that should result in a corresponding flexibility on the part of our Church.”

House Minority Leader Edcel Lagman, the author of House Bill No. 96 stated in Monday’s Philippine Daily Inquirer, the Pope’s comments were a “departure from the strictly very conservative approach of the papacy and the Catholic Church” on contraception. He further added,  “Once you have opened up and made an exception, the liberalization of the Church outlook has started. And we’d expect further liberalization. He has made an exception, then more exception would be forthcoming.”

But orthodox Catholic leaders, theologians, and journalists emphasize that the Pope has not, and in fact cannot, change Church teaching.  Cardinal Raymond Burke, head of the Vatican’s highest court, insisted that “it’s clear that the Pope is holding to what the Church has always taught in these matters.”

“When he says that it could be a first step in a movement toward a different, more human way of living sexuality, that doesn’t mean in any sense that he’s saying the use of condoms is a good thing,” the American prelate told the National Catholic Register.

Nevertheless, one of the Philippines bill’s authors, Congresswoman Janette Garin, said the confusion generated both in the Church and in the world’s media will work to their advantage.  “It makes passage of the bill a lot easier because people would see the confusing stand of the church,” she told AFP.  “The educated and those who are confused about the bill will realize we (family-planning advocates) are concerned about the community while they (the bishops) are simply holding on to a Stone Age belief.”

Msgr. Juanito Figura, secretary general of the Philippines’ Bishops Conference, said that the Holy Father’s comment “does not in any way change the position of the church against artificial contraception,” and insisted the Filipino bishops would maintain their strong opposition to the bill.

On Tuesday, Archbishop Oscar Cruz urged President Aquino to stop the “opportunistic misuse” of the Pope’s comments.  The archbishop-emeritus of Lingayen-Dagupan emphasized that the Pope did not endorse the use of condoms, either for controlling population or as a moral solution to the AIDS epidemic.

“When we argue let’s not take half-truths because we will lose that way. I’m sorry to disappoint people who are hoping otherwise,” he said Archbishop Oscar Cruz, according to CBCPNews.

“I understand the RH proponents that they would even throw a kitchen sink just to push what they want,” he said. “Our only appeal is that for them to just stick with the truth… please!”

The Catholic bishops in the country, which is about 80% Catholic, have been fierce defenders of the truth on the transmission of life.  They have fought various incarnations of the “reproductive health bill,” which they have warned will eventually lead to approval of abortion in the Philippines, for over a decade.


Contact Information:

Willy C. Gaa, Philippines Ambassador the United States
Embassy of the Philippines
1600 Massachusetts Avenue, NW
Washington, D.C. 20036
United States of America
Tel: 202-467-9300
Fax: 202-467-9417
E-mail: Fill in form here.

Jose Brillantes, Philippines Ambassador to Canada
Embassy of the Philippines
130 Albert Street, Suite 606
Ottawa, Ontario K1P 5G4
Canada
Phone: 1-(613)-233-1121
Fax: 1-(613)-233-4165
E-mail: ambassador@philippineembassy.ca