Last Thursday, Carlos Celdran, the original walking tour guide, artist, blogger, activist and Reproductive Health (RH) Bill supporter did the unthinkable in this largely Catholic nation...he disrupted a holy mass and was promptly thrown in jail! A lot of comments and reactions were made, both good and bad, but what struck me was the validation of a personal observation. I am not a religious person and I often forget to pray...but I have always had both a strong faith and conscience. Still, I never really had deep thoughts about God and religion until maybe in my mid 30's when life-changing experiences propelled me to seek more purpose and meaning in my life...which logically (at least for me) led me to understanding why I was a Catholic Christian. But for the majority of Filipinos, Catholicism is nothing more but trappings. They were born to Catholic parents, baptized at birth or usually before they learn to walk or talk, undergo catechism and have their first communion, get confirmed before they get married in church and the cycle continues. How many of these Filipino Catholics really understand and know the religion they practice? Thus, people like Carlos Celdran do irrational things and even get supporters! Perhaps if people understood clearly why the Catholic Church takes a stand against policies like the RH Bill, disrespectful and irreverent acts against the Church would not happen. The Bishops and the clergy need to go down to the level of understanding of the people and do better in their pastoral role. They should stop talking in abstract language and putting out thoughts only they understand. They should begin talking in the language of the people in order to avoid wrong perceptions. They should do as Jesus did...teaching in parables, something that people at that time understood, bringing His message across. A lot of comments regarding Celdran made free use of the word "dogma" in relation to church teachings on contraceptive use, a clear indication of the lack of understanding for the word. Media played it up further by declaring that the Bishops will advocate "civil disobedience"... encouraging people not to follow the RH bill hardly constitute civil disobedience! Unfortunately, like the rest of humanity, the Church itself is not perfect...there are so many problems besieging it that pastoral work suffers...and in the end, the conflict between church teachings and the world continues.
And the Reproductive Health Bill? Being in the medical profession, I am for planned and responsible parenthood. However, because I know what I am talking about in terms of maternal and child health, I also believe that another bill addressing Reproductive Health is unneccesary, redundant and will only add to the confusion of the already confused populace. The RH bill suggests that there is a need to address reproductive health issues of women because the country lacks services for these, when in fact all these are already in place in Department of Health Programs namely: Family Planning, Natural Family Planning , Safe Motherhood and Women's Health, Breastfeeding Program / Mother and Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative, and Adolescent and Youth Health and Development Program . It's ridiculous to have another law when the old laws cannot even be implemented well. The answer to our population problem is not birth control. Birth control distribution and availability will not prevent fetuses found in garbage cans...it will not end the problem of abandoned babies... nor will it create a more stable economy for the country. Anybody who believes the last one should live in Cuba or Mongolia...both have a low fertility rate and birthrate but you don't see their economy growing any faster. What it will inevitably result to and this is evidence-based as shown by US statistics is more separations/annulment or divorce, more adultery, increasing STDs, and yes, plummeting birth rates eventually ,which shouldn't really make everyone happy as its negative effects far outweigh the positive. So if not contraceptives, what then? How about good old abstinence? I know it's hard but it works! Or maybe we should just follow the Brazilians.