[UPDATE: http://ncronline.org/blogs/grace-margins/churchs-ban-contraception-starves-families-and-damages-ecosystem Note the pontifications about infallibility -- but to a large extent bishops have been responsible for creating this theological primitiveness, by a failure of catechesis.]
Despite their intelligence and warm human qualities, the Filipino people have been very much under the boot of oppressive overlords -- Spain, the United States, the Marcos family. Marcos was put to flight in a People's Power revolution in 1986 and perhaps just now, with polls showing 70% opposition to their policies on the legalization of contraception, the country's Roman Catholic bishops are also being told to stop abusing their power.
As the BBC reports (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-15822637), despite the disturbing population explosion in the Philippines in recent years, and despite the fact that children live by scavenging on insanitary mountains of refuse in Manila (a spectacle I saw with my own eyes in 1987 and which continues unchanged today) and also in Cebu, the bishops continue to lobby politicians to block access to contraception.
One bishop says that for the Government to distribute condoms is as offensive to Catholics as if they were to urge pork-eating on Muslims. The same rather fetishistic thinking underlies the condom-burning ceremonies patronized by some Filipino bishops.
"The family is the most important sector of society" say the bishops; yet a mother who has to feed 10 children on an annual wage smaller than the cost of a pectoral cross seems unlikely to have the freedom to cultivate true family values.
The bishops state that Catholics, some 85% of the population, who support or use contraceptives will be denied communion, baptism, confirmation, wedding and burial rites.
This attitude seems to have won papal approval: "I commend the Church in the Philippines for seeking to play its part in support of human life from conception until natural death, and in defense of the integrity of marriage and the family," Benedict XVI said, praising them for defending truths about the human person and society "which arise not only from divine revelation but also from the natural law, an order which is accessible to human reason and thus provides a basis for dialogue and deeper discernment on the part of all people of good will."
Europe is familiar with the spectacle of episcopal over-reaching (on abortion and divorce in Spain, Italy, Ireland, for example) and with its discomfitures. Filipino bishops seem to have been spared any such demonstrations of the limits of their authority until now. The present controversy may become a time of learning for them.
“A government that pursues the short-sighted policy of contracepting the present generation is committing the resources of future government to provide for the social security requirements of this contracepted generation.This is precisely the problem faced worldwide by countries that have contracepted and aborted their next generation labor force. From an advantaged position of having a huge labor force of young people we should learn from their experience,” the bishops said. What is the use of a large labor force when unemployment runs at close to 30% and poverty at close to 40%?
According to the bishops, 'the very name “contraceptive” already reveals the anti-life nature of the means that the RH bill promotes. These artificial means are fatal to human life, either preventing it from fruition or actually destroying it... Condoms provide a false security that strongly entices individuals towards increased sexual activity, increasing likewise the incidence of HIV/AIDS. “Safe sex” to prevent HIV /AIDS is false propaganda. Advocates also assert that the RH Bill empowers women with ownership of their own bodies. This is in line with the post-modern spirit declaring that women have power over their own bodies without the dictation of any religion. How misguided this so-called “new truth” is! ... Advocates also say that the RH bill is necessary to stop overpopulation and to escape from poverty. Our own government statistical office has concluded that there is no overpopulation in the Philippines but only the over-concentration of population in a number of urban centers. Despite other findings to the contrary, we must also consider the findings of a significant group of renowned economic scholars, including economic Nobel laureates, who have found no direct correlation between population and poverty. In fact, many Filipino scholars have concluded that population is not the cause of our poverty. The causes of our poverty are: flawed philosophies of development, misguided economic policies, greed, corruption, social inequities, lack of access to education, poor economic and social services, poor infrastructures, etc. World organizations estimate that in our country more than P400 billion pesos are lost yearly to corruption. The conclusion is unavoidable: for our country to escape from poverty, we have to address the real causes of poverty and not population."
The bishops "object strongly to efforts at railroading the passage of the RH bill," which they have themselves succeeded in blocking for years. They "denounce the over-all trajectory of the RH bill towards population control."They "are deeply concerned about the plight of the many poor, especially of suffering women, who are struggling for a better life and who must seek it outside of our country, or have recourse to a livelihood less than decent." They "believe in the responsible and natural regulation of births through Natural Family Planning for which character building is necessary which involves sacrifice, discipline and respect for the dignity of the spouse." "We call upon our legislators to consider the RH bill in the light of the God-given dignity and worth of human life and, therefore, to shelve it completely as contrary to our ideals and aspirations as a people."