Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Rejoinder to Antonio Montalvan

Antonio Montalvan in his column "Junking Noynoy" presents a strident defense of the status quo. He calls "Anti Life" those seeking solutions to urgent social problems: Widespread ignorance, dismal maternal mortality rates and 750,000 annual abortions.

These are facts, as distinguished from the fears peddled by Mr. Montalvan. Regrettably he exploits these unfounded fears not for his avowed purpose of protecting human life but for a less noble political reason: to attack Noynoy Aquino and help elect his perceived exemplars of moral probity such as Juan Ponce Enrile and Francisco Tatad.

In the process he makes more than a few assertions that can hardly be taken seriously:
1. "Abortion and contraception are Siamese twins." (Both concept and metaphor are demonstrably absurd.)
2. "There is no such thing as overpopulation." (The mathematical relationship between amounts of food, water and living spaces and the number of human bodies is lost on him.)
3. "Abortion has risen in countries that have made contraception the norm." (Naturally he fails to specify the countries. Neither does he establish a causal connection between access to means of contraception and incidence of abortion simply because there is none.)

Perhaps it is time to leave Mr. Montalvan's world of delusion and deception and engage in a balanced, realistic and reasonable presentation of perspectives.

It boils down to faith. The first of 7 themes of Catholic Social Teaching enumerated by the US Conference of Catholic Bishops is the sanctity of human life and dignity of the person. There is a tendency to overlook the second component.

Take me as an example. My wife and I trained in the busiest hospital in the Philippines as well as in the busiest hospital in New York City. We were exposed to all forms of contraception including abortion. After a period of discernment, we decided on natural family planning methods. We have 5 children, the youngest of whom is 3 months old.

At 47 (my wife is 46), we had not expected to experience again the pure, joyful blessedness of a child's birth.

Pope John Paul II states that Catholic social teaching "rests on the threefold cornerstone of human dignity, solidarity and subsidiarity." (1999 Apostolic Exhortation, Ecclesia in America, 55). Solidarity, John Paul II wrote is "not a feeling of vague compassion or shallow distress at the misfortunes of others. It is a firm and persevering determination to commit oneself to the common good" (Sollicitudo Rei Socialis, 38).

Complementing solidarity is subsidiarity. Pope Pius XI declared "that one should not withdraw from individuals and commit to the community what they can accomplish by their own enterprise and industry" (Quadragesimo Anno, 79).

During these partisan times when politicians pander to various interest groups in the spirit of expediency, let us not forget that each one of us possesses the capacity to prayerfully reflect upon our choices. For St Thomas Aquinas, conscience is the act of applying our knowledge of good and evil to what we do. The principle of the primacy of conscience is contingent upon education and enlightenment. John Paul II affirmed that "in order to have a 'good conscience,' (1Tim 1:5) a person must seek the truth and must make judgments in accordance with that same truth"(Veritatis Splendor, 62)

750,000 abortions each year is unacceptable (Pro-Life Philippines). In the absence of education, it is becoming the contraceptive of choice in our country. We must do something about this national tragedy. "And you experts in the law, woe to you, because you load people down with burdens they can hardly carry, and you yourselves will not lift one finger to help them." (Luke 11:46)

While I cannot support House Bill 5043 because of its punitive provisions towards health professionals and private enterprise as well as an inadequate educational component, we must persevere in crafting guidelines which will allow every Filipino to act according to their sufficiently formed conscience. We must have faith that each one of us, properly enlightened, will do right.


"Junking Noynoy"

THERE may be no such thing as a Catholic vote, but not for long. Notice, for example, how presidential candidates who used to be uncompromising in their stand on reproductive health have suddenly turned nuanced in their language, suddenly sounding neither here nor there whether they truly are for or against reproductive health.

The most nuanced stand on reproductive health is Noynoy Aquino's. From his "I don't care if the Catholic Church will abandon me because of my support for the reproductive health bill," his last pronouncement tried very hard to please pro-lifers. "I am against legislating the use of artificial contraception; however, contraceptives must be provided for those who ask"-meaning, he will commit public funds for its promotion.

Watching Ramon San Pascual and Sylvia Estrada Claudio, both prominent anti-life advocates (and media talk show favorites, on Cheche Lazaro's ANC talk show "The Platform"), expressing disappointment at Noynoy's nuanced stand, it was not surprising that Noynoy got low marks from them. Well, for his nuanced stand, he is also getting low marks from pro-lifers. And for a very good reason.

It is not farfetched to think that a Noynoy presidency will open the floodgates to artificial contraception. Noynoy is surrounded by senatorial candidates who hold the most radical views on reproductive health. They are Neric Acosta, Risa Hontiveros-Baraquel, Ruffy Biazon and Teofisto Guingona III. Noynoy's stand may be nuanced for now-we know that is just for election posturing-but not when he assumes the presidency. It is just all glib-tongue, campaign lingo. These days, he no longer admits that he was advised by Jesuit friends to support reproductive health. No, that would not be a vote-getting line.

But Noynoy's reproductive health stand has the liberal media and poll survey organizations on his side. Media, especially television, are mostly anti-life. In measuring the candidates' stand on reproductive health, "The Platform" never had anyone from the pro-life side on board.

Media personalities, especially those who mix inane editorial commentaries with the news, gloat over the fact that surveys have shown that the Filipino electorate will vote for a candidate who will legislate for artificial contraception.

Surveys, however, have nothing to do with measuring political correctness. Morality is not measured by popularity. Anti-life advocates obfuscate many aspects of the reproductive health issue. Survey respondents are not expected to be fully knowledgeable of the pros and cons. Much of the statistics, especially from the experience of countries that have opted for full contraceptive availability, are not being made known. That is not pro-choice.

It is absolutely not pro-choice when anti-lifers are silent on the fact that many of these contraceptives are actually abortifacients. It is not pro-choice when they give mute testimony to the fact that abortion has actually risen in countries that have made contraception the norm. Because they purposely keep quiet on the fact that contraception promotes sexual promiscuity among the young, they proclaim early on that they are against abortion. But that is a lie of the nth magnitude. Contraception and abortion, as the statistics say, are actually Siamese twins.

Survey respondents also are unaware of the demographic winter. It is only candidate Ruffy Biazon who has so far expressed publicly that he fears, however, that we may go the way of Singapore: an aging population where government has to spend exorbitantly on social welfare but is now expressing mea culpa by asking its citizens to reproduce more children. It goes without saying, of course, that basketcase Philippines can ill afford to support an aging population. But survey respondents are nowhere near those data.

The most serious charade, however, is mouthing the line of overpopulation. That is definitely a bogey. Humans are resources that governments only fail to develop because of graft and corruption and misgovernance. There is no such thing as overpopulation.

1 comment:

Pheelyp said...

It is heartening that you understand the Church's teaching and use it in your reasoning.

Solidarity and subsidiarity indeed demand that the community empower individuals to make decisions that they themselves can competently make. However, I think the state should not support people making a decision that is immoral. The Church teaches that induced abortion for contraceptive purposes is intrinsically evil, so that no properly informed and formed conscience would choose it. Providing material support to people who make this unethical decision would make the state an accessory to the evil. Presenting it as a viable and acceptable option works against the dignity of the person too, in my opinion.

That said, the people should be given the support and information that they need to address the reasons that they resort to abortion in the first place.