MANILA, Philippines, January 4, 2013, (LifeSiteNews.com) – The Catholic bishops in the Philippines are calling for stronger preaching against contraception in the wake of the devastating passage of the country’s RH bill after a decade-long battle against government leaders.
Father Melvin Castro, executive secretary of the bishops’ Commission on Family and Life, said the political loss was “providential” because it forces the Church out of its complacency.
“It’s a great awakening on the part of Church leaders that it’s about time to re-win the hearts and minds of the people,” he told the Manila Bulletin on January 2. “For so long a time there’s silence on the issue [of] contraceptives — I think this time the teaching that it is not acceptable will be much clearer.”
The Reproductive Health bill, which was passed Dec. 17 and was signed into law Dec. 21, guarantees universal access to contraceptives and mandates sex education in schools from the fifth grade.
The Catholic bishops had led the opposition to the bill for the last decade, and many prelates showed up at the legislature on the day of the vote to underscore their opposition.
The bishops’ conference made a final plea to legislators and citizens to reject the bill in a Dec.15 pastoral letter entitled “Contraception is Corruption.”
“The Reproductive Health Bill, if passed into law in its present form, will put the moral fibre of our nation at risk,” wrote Archbishop Socrates Villegas, vice president of the conference. “As we your bishops have said in the past, a contraceptive mentality is the mother of an abortion mentality. The wide and free accessibility of contraceptives, even to the youth, will result in the destruction of family life and in greater violence against women.”
Msgr. Joselito Asis, secretary general of the bishops’ conference, says the bill’s passage is “a wake-up call to Catholic voters, for them to choose the right leaders who will truly represent their beliefs.”
“That’s our call to Catholics to stand up to their faith especially in this Year of Faith. They must show how strong their faith is,” he told the Manila Bulletin.
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Fr. Castro said the fact that so many Catholic legislators supported the bill is a “great awakening” to the fact that the overwhelmingly Catholic country “is only devout externally but do[es] not really embrace the teachings of the Church.”
The Church’s condemnation of contraception has been a taboo subject for many Catholics since the 1960s and a rallying point for dissidents since Pope Paul VI reaffirmed the teaching in his 1968 encyclical Humanae Vitae.
But many have noted a shift among Catholic leaders in recent years to defend the teaching.
In America, the U.S. bishops’ unanimous opposition to the Obama administration’s HHS mandate, which forces employers to cover contraceptives and abortion-inducing drugs, has forced both clergy and faithful to re-examine and explain the Church’s teaching.
Cardinal Timothy Dolan, who heads the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), admitted in March 2012 that Church leaders had failed over the years to transmit its teaching on contraception. As a result, he said, they “forfeited the chance to be a coherent moral voice when it comes to one of the more burning issues of the day.”
“I’m not afraid to admit that we have an internal catechetical challenge—a towering one—in convincing our own people of the moral beauty and coherence of what we teach. That’s a biggie,” said Dolan. “We have gotten gun-shy… in speaking with any amount of cogency on chastity and sexual morality.”
In Canada, which became a flash point in the controversy over Humanae Vitae when the country’s bishops formally dissented in their Winnipeg Statement, the bishops have now formally endorsed Pope Paul’s encyclical. In their 2008 pastoral letter “Liberating Potential,” they invited Catholics “to discover or rediscover” the message of Humanae Vitae. They have so far refused to rescind the Winnipeg Statement, however.
In Humanae Vitae, which many orthodox Catholics view as prophetic, the pope warned that acceptance of contraception would lead to infidelity and general moral decline, a loss of respect for women, and even an abuse of state power.