Home > fr. joaquin bernas sj, reproductive health, RH Bill 5043 > fr. bernas answers bishop reyes & the CBCP : points out where the bishop erred on rh bill

fr. bernas answers bishop reyes & the CBCP : points out where the bishop erred on rh bill

we have been waiting for the answer of fr. bernas on the 3/4 print ad released by the CBCP and bishop reyes of antipolo. we have marked the important points made by fr. bernas. (click to read: CBCP answers fr joaquin bernas on rh bill via print ad at philippine daily inquirer)

we have a few more:

  • fr. bernas is incorrect when he said this: “Third, the Church teaching on contraception is based not only on Faith or revelation but also on natural law.”  in fact the bishop admits its opposition to the rh bill is NOT based on faith or revelation, ” It is also good to point out that the church teaching regarding contraceptives is not based on Faith or revelation, although it is confirmed by our Faith.”
  • fr. bernas being a catholic priest is anti rhbill but he is also a professor of law, a constitutionalist, a pinoy and a human being. he answers the bishop being all of those, each one on 20/20 vision.
  • every time fr. bernas writes about the rh bill, he makes us think and reflect on our positions on the rh bill and from which we either confirm or change our positions. the point is fr. bernas always makes us think and reflect no matter what our position is on the rh bill.

Fr. Joaquin Bernas S.J.

A couple of days ago Bishop Gabriel Reyes of Antipolo diocese, writing under the stationary of the Catholic Bishops Conference, published an ad in the Inquirer and Philippine Star, expressing his disagreement with the views of an unnamed columnist on the merits and demerits of the RH Bill.  The regular readers of my columns in the Inquirer immediately recognized that the Bishop was referring to me. I too recognized it immediately as referring to me.
Not that I object to the reference to me nor to being quoted.  In fact I welcome the bishop’s ad and take it as an invitation to dialogue.  Dialogue among Christians, high and low, is highly encouraged by the Church today.  “In the modern world, the scandal is not that Vatican officials would engage scientists who disagree with church teaching, but rather that such engagement is regarded as taboo.”
The Bishop takes exception to my statement that “the state should not prevent people from practicing responsible parenthood according to their religious beliefs nor may churchmen compel President Aquino, by whatever means, to prevent people from acting according to their religious beliefs.”  The Bishop says that he “would be happy if the (non-abortifacient contraceptives) were banned” but that the Church is only against the state promoting contraceptives and providing free contraceptives to people.
From the bishop’s ad, I gather three points for dialogue. First, the bishop says that now “anyone can buy contraceptives from drugstores or even from ‘convenient stores.’”  Second, (but this is implicit) the state should not use public money to make contraceptives freely available.  Third, the Church teaching on contraception is based not only on Faith or revelation but also on natural law.
Let’s converse about these.
First, on easy availability of contraceptives in drugstores.  The clear implication is that the world is free and anyone can buy these.  This is simply not true.  Only those who have the money can buy them.  Legislators, however, are thinking of the vast majority of poor people who need help to be able to practice responsible parenthood.
It is good to remember that responsible parenthood means the exercise of freedom.  The exercise of freedom is only possible if one has the capacity to choose.  A person in shackles is not free to move even if he wants to.  The government is thinking of the vast majority of poor and uninstructed people who do not know what the choices are or who cannot afford to make their free choice and are sometimes driven to abortion.  What the government hopes to do is not to compel them to use contraceptives but to capacitate them to make their free choice and perhaps even save them from abortion.
This, brings me to what I call the bishop’s second point.   I say that the government can only capacitate the poor to make their choice by using public money.  Some would claim that the use of public money or tax money for purposes contrary to some religious beliefs is an illicit use of tax money.  The bishop does not say this in his ad but it is implicit in his desire that the government should not distribute free contraceptives.  Can tax money be used for this purpose?
One must distinguish between tax money and donated money. The use of donated money is limited by intentio dantis or the intention of the donor.  Tax money, on the other hand, can be used for any legitimate public purpose authorized by Congress.  Tax money has no religious face.  Whether or not its use is licit can ultimately be decided by the Court.
But, and this is the bishop’s third point, natural law prohibits contraception and natural law binds everyone because “By studying through correct reasoning the nature of the human person, we arrive at this teaching regarding contraception.”
One might flippantly answer by asking whose correct reasoning are we talking about?  Plato, Aristotle, Aquinas, Grisez, Chapell, Finnis, etc.? But the statement deserves more than just a flippant answer.  And it is not flippant to say that many serious thinkers have also studied the human person and have not arrived at the conclusion that contraception is evil.  Serious thinkers of other religions have not arrived at such conclusion and for that reason the various religions in the Philippines are not of one mind on the subject.
This necessarily brings us to the matter of free exercise of religion and pluralism which are constitutionally protected.  The bishop argues that by opposing the RH Bill “the Church is not imposing its religious belief on others.  She is trying to stop a bill which is against  natural law, a law which all human beings, Catholic or not, should follow.”  What he is saying is that pluralism should not include what the natural law, as the Church sees it, prohibits.
I do not intend to dispute the meaning of natural law as the bishop or the Church, to which I also belong, teaches.  But  I believe that the bishop’s view is a very narrow understanding of the pluralism which is part of our constitutional system.  Pluralism, which flows from freedom of religion,  is not just about the plurality of theistic religions.  Neither is it merely a matter of which God or god to worship.  Constitutionally protected pluralism includes non-theistic religions such as Budhism, ethical culture, secular humanism and a variety of ethical philosophies.  Of course, it also includes the bishop’s understanding of natural law.  But his understanding is just one of the many including those which do not arrive at the bishop’s conclusion.
10 September 2012
  1. Papa Padol
    September 9, 2012 at 8:16 pm

    I’m a bit confused with Fr. Bernas’ argument on the State empowering the poor by giving them free contraceptives. Is doing something morally wrong part of the so-called empowerment? Yes, it can be argued that there are other belief systems who don’t consider the use of contraceptives as immoral. There are those who differ from the Catholic Church moral perspective. But to call freedom of choice the license to do what you like to do, even if the consequence leads to something bad (the culture of death as generally described), I don’t consider it as freedom. I call it misuse of freedom.

    It is from this vantage that I see the position of the bishops. As the shepherd of the flock, it is their responsibility to warn the flock against such evil, and to the best of their ability, they should stop the State from making it happen. And this must not be understood as the interference of one religion in the affairs of the State. Nobody today would hold the view of the State being subservient to the State. I would simply understand this as the shepherding role of the bishops, that is, to guide the flock and defend it from the possible attacks of its enemies. If the State would not listen, then the eventual law is considered as an immoral law. Laws that are immoral should not also be forced to the Church.

    Fr Bernas would like to refute the natural law as the basis of the Church position on this issue, that is to say, natural reason ending up to the conclusions of Humanae Vitae following a rigorous study of the human person. But I say that the fact that there are other thinkers, other religions, other views of what it means to be human, does not deny the truth value of natural law as consistently taught by the Catholic Church on this issue. We know very well that the oppositions of the Church teachings do not only come from the issues of the natural law. It comes from all directions and in almost everything that she teaches.

    I do not wish to argue with Fr Bernas understanding of pluralism and what the Constitution upholds. I’m not competent on legal matters. But in the name of pluralism and the constitution, every catholic has also the right to express their opposition to the bill he/she perceives as endangering the catholic culture, if not the family culture of the Filipinos. Catholics have also the right to question, laws that are considered immoral in their belief system.

    • September 10, 2012 at 8:17 pm

      a critical difference is that you see the use of contraceptives as morally wrong. it is not.

      NFP is a contraceptive and its promoted by the church. is NFP morally wrong too?

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