On RH: Setting the Record Straight, Part 1

A few weeks ago, my 5-year-old surprised me with this question, “Mama, what is the HB Bill? The one they show in church?”

It took me awhile to remember that they flash a couple of info slides before mass at our parish, realizing that he meant something else. “Oh, you mean the RH Bill.”

“Yeah, that’s the one. What is the RH Bill?”

Taking a deep breath (and for the record, No, I did not expect to have this conversation with him at this time), I chose my words slowly and carefully. “The RH Bill is a law–that’s like your rules in school–that the people who pray to Jesus (how I chose to refer to the Church) feel will hurt Jesus. That’s why they don’t want it passed.”

He then gave me a genuinely puzzled look. “But how come it says on my way to school, ‘RH Bill Now!’?” (He was pertaining to this huge cartoon mural on a wall depicting a distraught mother carrying all of her 10 or so children).

My ever observant little boy notices everything.

For my little boy, the logic was simple. If they think it is something that will hurt Jesus, why on earth would they ever want it?

I am well aware that not all religious sects share this viewpoint, but they are not my target audience in this blog (check the blog’s title atop this page). I’d like to address here the Catholics–Sunday Mass-going, Communion-receiving, Angelus and Rosary-reciting Catholics–who have made a decision, correctly and adequately informed or not, regarding this bill. Rather than an admonition, consider what I say here as an invitation:

Have you read the actual RH bill in its entirety, with all its components?

Have you read the CBCP’s (Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines) Pastoral Statement on the RH Bill for yourself, and not rely on what this priest said, or what that anti-RH person wrote? (Because sadly, the voices of “others” have been much louder than the CBCP’s, and yet how many have so unfairly written or said or made a judgement against them? By Catholics, no less!)

Have you studied Pope Paul VI’s encyclical Humanae Vitae, written in 1968, in which the Holy Father acknowledges the growing problem (even then) of overpopulation and makes an appeal to public authorities, who are in a position to “contribute so much to the preservation of morals,” to “not tolerate any legislation which would introduce into the family those practices which are opposed to the natural law of God”?

Have you given the Church, your Church, the chance to teach you the why’s behind her stance, or have you dismissed her arguments as outdated (or worse, ignorant) and irrelevant to the “national” issue of poverty? (Again, I reiterate: have you listened to the Church’s stance, and not the speeches and statements of personalities who have spoken out about this bill, whether in their own words or in the words of others?)

Until recently, my answer to these questions would have been a timid “No.”

If you’ve read my earlier post on the RH bill, you may have noticed that I never said I was pro- or anti-RH. From what I knew of the bill (which was little) and of Church teaching on contraception (which I had earlier on personally accepted and adhere to), there were issues that remained unresolved in my head: Was the Church imposing her beliefs on others who held things differently? Was it unfair to expect the whole nation, especially the poor and uneducated, to choose a way of life (I’m talking about Natural Family Planning) that I understood only after a considerable degree of study and prayer? And, I suppose this is the most basic question to ask, if RH is not the solution to poverty and overpopulation, then what is?

I struggled with this conflict within me while avoiding debates about the bill because I knew this would only leave me more confused. I couldn’t say I was anti-RH precisely because of these questions in my head, but at the same time neither could I profess a pro-RH stance out of loyalty to my Church (which, for those who didn’t get it, was my main point in writing that first post on RH).

Catholics must realize that statements like this are not just about “standing up” for what, in your opinion, is right–it is like cutting off a part of the Body of Christ, choosing only what you like and can live with, then throwing out the parts that are inconvenient.

Another blogger recently commented on my RH post, very graciously volunteering to pray for me. “I will be praying for you, hoping that your faith may reach to an understanding with the issue of the RH Bill.” No judgement, no finger-pointing, no you’re-wrong-and-I’m-right.

It was just the kind of prayer that I needed.

Now that I know where I stand, I can finally set the record straight.

(Go on to read Part 2 by clicking here.)

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