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Bishops answer Jesuit constitutionalist’s stand on RH bill

September 1, 2012
Bishops answer Jesuit constitutionalist’s stand on RH bill thumbnail

The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) published a newspaper advertisement on Friday, August 31, to debunk the claims of Jesuit constitutionalist Fr Joaquin Bernas on the Reproductive Health (RH) bill.

The CBCP did not name its fellow clergyman in the organization’s statement published in the Philippine Daily Inquirer, the top newspaper that carries Bernas’ regular column. It only referred to “a columnist in one of our newspapers,” then cited direct quotes from Bernas, who is also dean emeritus of the Ateneo de Manila Law School.

In a column published August 6, Bernas emphasized his stance on the RH bill, which includes points on freedom of religion in a pluralist society. The priest did not explicitly support the controversial measure that is now in crunch time at the House of Representatives.

Bernas, in fact, began his column by saying he adheres to Catholic teaching against contraceptives – only that he respects the freedom of others to believe otherwise.

In the paid ad signed by Antipolo Bishop Gabriel Reyes, chair of the CBCP Episcopal Commission on Family and Life, he labeled the CBCP statement a “defense.”

Reyes referred to Bernas’ supposed claim that the Church’s opposition to the RH bill “is against religious freedom.”

The constitutionalist, however, did not make such a categorical statement. What Bernas said, which Reyes also quoted, is a general tenet: “The state should not prevent people from practicing responsible parenthood according to their religious belief, nor may churchmen pressure President Aquino, by whatever means, to prevent people from acting according to their religious belief.”

Nevertheless, Reyes defended the CBCP’s stance by saying the Church is not moving to ban contraceptives – the non-abortifacient ones, according to him – in opposing the RH bill. The Church will be “happy,” however, if the government bans these.

Anyone, after all, “can buy contraceptives from drugstores and even from some ‘convenience stores,’” he noted. “What the Church is against, I repeat, is that government should promote contraception and provide free contraceptives to people,” Reyes said.

“Therefore it is wrong to say that the Church wants the government to ‘prevent people from practicing responsible parenthood according to their religious belief’ and that the Catholic churchmen are compelling ‘President Aquino, by whatever means, to prevent people from acting according to their religious beliefs,’” he explained.

This is a claim challenged by RH bill advocates, however. Those who support the bill claim that without funding, the government is practically preventing the poor from using contraceptives. [More]

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