Saturday, July 19, 2008

Voting Priests in Office

There is something woefully wrong when old men who, by their chosen vocation, can never experience married life, engage in sexual intercourse and have children, are the first to galvanise the citizenry on issues of family planning and reproductive health.

Kristine Alave's news article yesterday, entitled "Army of priests ordered to talk to 50 lawmakers" seems to mirror the battle raging in Congress these days. Alave writes the Catholic Bishop's Conference of the Philippines "has directed its army of priests to 'reach out' to lawmakers supportive of the reproductive health bills in Congress to pressure them into withdrawing their support for the measures."

Now if that isn't lobbying, I don't know what is.

Should we start electing our parish priests? If they get a say on these matters - and if members of Congress - representatives of the People, must explain themselves to the Catholic hierarchy, and whose chances at re-election are threatened, then there should be some mechanism to make these purveyors of morality accountable as well.

So, who's for electing our Catholic hierarchy?

In the meanwhile, Mary Racelis notes the absence of poor women's voice with regard to the raging debate. These women, after all, bear the burden of lack of access to alternatives.

Of the 473,400 Filipino women per year estimated in 2000 to have undergone an abortion (about equally divided between induced and spontaneous), statistics from 1,658 hospitals revealed that 105,000 women wound up in hospital beds from complications, mainly hemorrhaging and infections. An estimated 12 percent, or 12,600, died. How many more never made it to a hospital but met the same fate, or continue to suffer lifelong disabilities, is anyone’s guess. Research on the subject is taboo in official Catholic circles and viciously attacked by militant “pro-life” groups. The conspiracy of silence triumphs again.

Although abortion is linked in the public mind to panicky, unmarried pregnant young women, it is actually married women with children who form the vast majority of those seeking it.
There are also shades of the class divide in Racelis' article. A Catholic faithful, perhaps representative of the Pro-lifers, denies the statistics. A bold assertion to which women from the grassroots organisations retort "Totoo po iyon. Iyon po ang ginagawa ng mga babae sa amin kapag ayaw na nilang magkaanak."

Racelis ends her article with a biting commentary. I agree 100%

The conspiracy of silence among Catholics becomes even more appalling because the Church of the Poor exhorts us to “listen to the voices of the poor.”

Although the face of poverty in the Philippines is clearly that of a woman, are Church leaders listening to the voices of poor women? Is the Church of Poor women enabling women to speak without condemnation about the fear of having another child she knows she cannot properly care for—and helping her do something about it?

Is the Church of Poor Men teaching Filipino males that marital rights do not include forced sex—and eventually another child—anytime they feel like it? Will both Church and government offer the meaningful and practical family planning solutions poor women and men seek?

Here is a copy of Representative Edcel Lagman's bill on Reproductive Health. Although I myself see nothing wrong with legalising abortion, Lagman's proposal is still quite conservative.
This bill continues to proscribe abortion which is a crime under the Revised Penal Code. However, when abortion is resorted to, despite the prohibition, there is a need to manage post-abortion complications in a humane and compassionate manner. The patient should not be suffered to die due to her desperation.
So what is the fuss all about Fathers?

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