I am reviving this blog after a long hiatus. This revival is partly due to a personal, felt need, queries from friends, and mostly the encouragement of my wife. I got distracted in large part by my job search, which many of you know about, including a quite unexpected trip to
Today’s blog is a slightly revised version of a letter I recently sent to the Philippine Daily Inquirer, by far the best English language newspaper in the
The letter addresses a recent controversy here in the Philippines involving the Roman Catholic Bishops’ opposition to birth control and their threatening to withhold communion from “pro-abortion politicians.” There are in fact no politicians in the
Thus far it has not been published, and I suspect it will not be. The length is not the issue. The INQUIRER publishes lots of long letters to the editor. I believe the issue is the INQUIRER’s fear of further antagonizing the Roman Catholic Church.
The odd thing is that there is nothing for the INQUIRER to fear. Nor is their anything for politicians to fear from the Bishops. Survey after survey indicates that very few Catholic Filipinos consider the positions taken by the Bishops on political issues or on candidates. When they vote, or make choices about their family or personal lives, Filipinos vote based on their experience. Despite an often magical world-view, Filipinos are very much this-worldly. There is no contradiction and that in it self could be the subject of a future blog.
I have been deeply nurtured in my spiritual and political life by Roman Catholic priests, brothers, sisters, and lay leaders. This has been the case in the
The letter follows:
For several days now the INQUIRER and other media have been covering the controversy around the issue of the Philippine Catholic Bishops recommending that their priests withhold communion from “pro-abortion politicians.” This issue has been taken up in news articles, columns, and editorials.
I believer the INQUIRER could do more to insist that the Bishops clarify what they are saying. It is not enough to simply give a daily “tit for tat” account of what the Bishops say one day and what some politicians say the next.
I will not address the moral arguments around abortion. For one, these are quite complex involving definitions of what constitutes abortion and issues of fetal development and consciousness. Secondly, no Philippine politician, to my knowledge, is advocating the legalization of abortion. The reproductive health legislation before the Philippine Congress and the ordinance approved by the Quezon City Council all explicitly reaffirm the illegality of abortion.
That is the point of this letter. What, exactly, are the Bishops saying? What is the point of condemning “pro-abortion politicians” when, in fact, there aren’t any? This is where the major newspaper in the
If pushed on their statements, the Bishops would probably say something like this: “Promoting artificial birth control lowers the overall moral climate of a nation resulting in more extra-marital and unplanned sex resulting in more pregnancies and ultimately in more abortions.” Again, the media need to push them on these issues as their reasoning is contrary to all empirical evidence and also shows a marked confusion over what the Roman Catholic Church actually teaches.
I have taught Christian Social Ethics (Moral Theology) to both Catholic and Protestant students preparing for ministry in both the
While the Roman Catholic Church opposes so-called “artificial birth control,” this is normally treated as a separate matter from abortion. According to Roman Catholic teaching, abortion is legitimate only when continuing the pregnancy threatens the life of the mother, or when it is collateral to some other life-saving medical procedure, such as removing a cancerous uterus that happens to contain a fetus.
With regard to “artificial birth control” such as birth control pills, vasectomy, or condoms, while the Catholic Church clearly opposes this, it is an area where a Roman Catholic may disagree with the Church and still be in communion.
As for suggestions that promoting “artificial birth control” somehow leads to more abortions, nothing could be further from the truth. On several occasions INQUIRER articles have cited the figure that there are close to a half million abortions per year in the
The aggressive promotion of birth control and family planning technology in
The basis of most Roman Catholic Social Teaching is what is called, “Natural Law.” Another way of talking about natural law is to speak of common sense or, simply, what we know from applying human reason. Common sense suggests that if couples have access to birth control – artificial or otherwise – there would be fewer unplanned pregnancies and fewer abortions.
Today in the
Insofar as there really is no abortion debate in the