On RH: Setting the Record Straight, Part 3

(Read Part 2 here, or start with Part 1)

Reading my friend’s comment on my first post on the RH Bill felt like diving into cold water.

For the longest time, I had been walking safely along the water’s edge–hearing voices from the side of land, telling me that where they’re at is the safer, wiser, more practical choice. But I could also hear the crashing waves, with shouts too distant to be discernible. I knew that if I wanted to hear what they were saying, I’d have to dive into the icy water. So rather than make a choice, I cowered under a small shelter in the middle–not far enough into land to stay completely dry, yet not close enough to water to get my feet wet. I shied away from dialogues and debates about the bill, politely smiling as friends and family who knew where they stood boldly broadcasted their arguments with self-appointed authority. I, for one, did not know where I stood, and so I stooped–that way, no one could see me, no one could hear me, and no one could attack me.

I so get why Peter was afraid when Jesus called him to walk on water.

And so, revising one draft after another, I tried to write a piece that didn’t talk about my thoughts and questions on the bill, just my issues on the words and actions I felt were hurting the Church.

But in the end, I still felt attacked–because someone presumed I was anti-RH.

Reading his comments on my post was such a difficult, heart-wrenching task because of the emotions his words unexpectedly roused up in me. Yes, I found my heart racing with every “the Church is being unreasonable/unfair” and “our side/your side” because these were exactly the kind of words and attitude I had just written about in dismay. But his other statements about the bill, to my surprise, were pushing me–pushed me–to think about what was really important, and opened my eyes and heart to remember what it is I put my faith in.

A lot of points were raised in his comments, but let me summarize the main idea that pushed me overboard, so to speak. He made clear that the pro-RH stance was the more practical one, and that this made more sense to him than taking a stance based on moral grounds alone (by virtue, among other things, of the consequences–unwanted pregnancies and worsening poverty for one side, moral decline on the other) He posited, (with palpable resentment) that the Church has an unfair advantage in that the thousands (millions?) who go to church on Sundays are a captive audience to the anti-RH sentiment, and that it was “their” responsibility to use whatever means at their disposal–social media included–to educate, to make others aware of reality, to see beyond “the default moral stance the anti camp seems to solely rely on.”

One of the things that struck me was how he was trying to “educate” me on the struggles and environment of the poor. Though I do not claim to have reached saintly perfection in my service to the poor, I do keep their plight in mind and in heart. To feel the need to illuminate me on their situation presupposes that I do not know…and that I do not care. In all humility, I tried not to be insulted. Going further, this is also an accusation the Church has had to face, despite being responsible for hundreds, if not thousands, of social-oriented programs and organizations all over the country.

The Church sees, the Church knows, and is doing the best She can.

Another is the assumption that a stance based on moral grounds alone is automatically the weaker one. And I guess this is why I do not expect anyone “pro” to change their mind after reading this, or any other article explaining the Church’s stand–because we hold different things as more important.

The Church is being labeled as naive, ignorant and impractical because it is assumed that the Church is clueless to the real situation. “If only the anti people would open their eyes to reality, if only they’d accept the facts, if only they wouldn’t be so stubborn.” But the Church does know all these things, but still maintains that morality, specially in this day and age of its widespread decline, is worth fighting for.

Because our faith believes in Christ’s promise of Life Eternal. In the end, the consequences of our actions is not about being hopelessly poor, but about being devoid of Hope for eternity.

Now which holds the more dire of consequences?

Though it is true that sometimes it is lawful to tolerate a lesser moral evil in order to avoid a greater evil or in order to promote a greater good, it is never lawful, even for the gravest reasons, to do evil that good may come of it—in other words, to intend directly something which of its very nature contradicts the moral order, and which must therefore be judged unworthy of man, even though the intention is to protect or promote the welfare of an individual, of a family or of society in general. –Humanae Vitae

This is why the Church needs to make a stand. This is why She needs to speak out, to remind her children that we are called for something greater than this world, for something more lasting. She exhorts us not to “conform to the standards of the present age, but [to] let the renewing of [our] minds transform [us], so that [we] may discern what is the will of God–what is good and acceptable and mature” (Romans 12:2).

Reading his comments was emotionally draining, but I am grateful for it. It forced me to walk the plank, the cold water finally awakening me from my fearful stupor. It forced me to choose: not between pro or anti, but between intellect or faith, eternal despair or hope, death or life.

No longer afraid of getting my feet wet.

I choose faith, I choose hope, I choose life. Any day.

(Now that I know where I stand, what next? Read the conclusion in Part 4.)


8 thoughts on “On RH: Setting the Record Straight, Part 3

  1. Just thought I’d share some thoughts about the RH Bill on the level of reason. A lot of people think the RH Bill is such a practical law, but it isn’t. I have two long comments to share here. The first one is about the talk about population control (and ultimately it is that) and the second one is about the consistency of the content of the bill (which, incidentally, claims initially that it is not about population control). The second long comment will be posted separately. This one is about artificial birth control and family planning with the goal of population control.

    Is it easy to teach people to use condoms? It seems like the answer is so obvious, but it isn’t. Improper use of condoms was a big problem before and introducing it to communities that have never been able to afford it will mean that it will be a problem for them. Check out: http://www.pancap.org/en/news-global/821-improper-condom-use-a-global-health-issue-improper-condom-use-a-global-health-issue.html

    So, someone might say, we’ll spend more to teach them. But here’s the problem, the RH Bill is not a distribute-condoms-to-those-in-need-and-teach-them-to-use-it law. It is not just about family planning. Its primary goal is basically to provide better health care to pregnant women in areas with poor hospital services (and I won’t even get into how realistic a goal that is with the small amount of money being set aside for it and how our government tends to spend its money).

    Now, let’s assume people learn to use it after the country spends a fortune to teach them. Is the solution to supply them condoms for life? Not realistic (and the budget for this is for something bigger than condom distribution). At some point, they will have to buy the condoms themselves. Condoms are not cheap. The people who are thought to need it cannot afford the extra expense.

    But, let’s pretend the artificial birth control and family planning part of the RH bill works out and people learn all about condoms and we somehow make it available for free or for a peso a pack. What happens?

    Do we really need to think this through? How many wealthy, educated children do we know who got pregnant or got someone pregnant in high school or college or during their years as a working adult? AIDS is back in the Philippines and it isn’t happening to the the poor in those areas the RH bill claims to want to help. It’s happening in call centers where people know about condoms, know how to use them, and can afford them.

    I recall that there are people who were interviewed who would say, “Gee, I wish I knew all about family planning (whether natural or artificial birth control) or could afford it (for the articial kind).” But, really, do we honestly believe the discipline and family planning will follow? The bill on this aspect is just not realistic. In other words, just not practical.

    I just want to end with this: Some people might say these families need to control their size. But is family size really the problem? Just one and two generations before mine, most families would have at least four children with a good percentage having six or more. And most of these families did well back then. The problem now is that inflation has far outpaced the minimum wage (and I won’t even get into how some people are paid less than half of the minimum wage just because they are contractual employees or in desperate need for a job). So, assuming have less members in the family of those below the poverty line, do we really solve poverty or just create a stop gap solution (which won’t work, by the way)?

    Remember the MMDA color-coding number-scheme solution? It was meant to be a temporary solution to our traffic problem until we could fix our roads and have more one-way streets and other solutions to fix traffic properly. What happened instead? We’re stuck with a stop gap that isn’t working. We wasted years with a stop gap solution that made the government lazy in solving the real problem of traffic with a real solution.

    The money and our time can be put to better use to help fight poverty and hardship than by this very impractical solution.

    • Thank you for your thoughts, How. Much appreciated 🙂

      The money and our time can be put to better use to help fight poverty and hardship than by this very impractical solution.

      That is what I plan to write about for the last installment of this series, the little things we can do that I feel would be far more fruitful than banking on this bill to solve so many of our problems for us.

  2. Hi Pauline,

    I’m saddened that you thought I was attacking, or that I was putting you on ANY side. I believe I was careful in stating anti people as “anti-people” or pro people as “our side” (simply because I admit I am on pro’s side) – not necessarily putting you on ANY side. If I made it seem that way (or slipped in my grammar) when addressing the “sides” – then I apologize.

    If ever I was judgmental in any capacity towards your character specifically, it was NOT because of your “side” (whatever it may have been) it was more on the fact that you’d rather NOT engage the debate on the simple grounds of “possibly offending the church.” That was the thesis of your original post di ba: that sure, take whatever side you want, but don’t attack the church (even if one truly felt that the Church was being irresponsible about its stance).

    I don’t know if I used the analogy in my original response – but I’ll try to keep this much shorter with the reiteration of a(the?) simple question: If this was the time of the inquisition – then would it be prudent to keep silent – to just say “agree to disagree” and let the Church go about their ways?

    So I hope you understand why we feel obligated to “stand up to the Church” – because unless they can offer something more tangible than simply “educating/informing” people (which technically, they have been doing ever since) – pro people can’t help but see the Church’s stance (of trying to influence government) as an injustice.

    Yon lang naman 🙂 And I’m glad you have (finally!) taken a stance – feels better di ba? And I’m fine with that, now let’s dialogue 🙂

    • Hi Carlo,
      First off, let me say that I spent a good amount of time contemplating about getting your clearance first before writing about your comments. Obviously, for whatever reason, I just decided to go ahead and post it. This may have been insensitive of me, and I, too, apologize.
      But here’s what I discovered about myself while reading your (first) comment–whatever pronoun was used in your discourse (they, them, you, we, us), I found myself personally (and genuinely) offended whenever the tone became remotely frustrated or angry at the Church and/or the Church’s stand. And this was where I was coming from, writing that first post: It was the week leading up to that infamous August 7 deadline, and Facebook was just bursting, exploding, with anti-anti-RH rants (I’ll explain anti-anti-RH later). And with each FB status that made fun of my Church, attacked Her, disparaged Her, I felt it all because I am a part of this Body.
      I was not joining the debate not simply because I didn’t know where I stood (again, more on this later), but because I believed it had escalated to a whole new level of pointlessness (please read Part 2 of this series). Yes, from how I know you, I know you would want to talk (and talk and talk), but forgive me, my friend, if I choose not to participate in a conversation that inevitably will involve defamation of something, someONE, I love very dearly.
      I think, if you read Part 2, really read it, you would understand what I was trying to say in “My Problem with the RH Bill.” For it has no longer been about the bill anymore, nor about the poor, nor about what will work for our country. It has been about, as you put it, the “anti-people” and “our side.” Somewhere along the way, no matter how pure intentions and thoughts were at the beginning, the fight has gone from being for or against the bill, to being just being against the other side, whichever side. (Hence my coined anti-anti-RH).
      Back then, I didn’t know where I stood, yet, and though I kept postponing it, I knew eventually I had to go through the process of researching, listening, praying, discerning where I stood on this. And that was my invitation, for Catholics to give the Church and our leaders the benefit of the doubt, to allow themselves to go through the process of questioning and discerning. Going back to my analogy of speaking ill of one’s mother–if there is trouble seeing eye to eye on this issue, then talk to your mother (look for a priest or lay person who exhibits holiness and wisdom) about it, rather than turning on her with your words and actions.
      No, I did not think you were attacking me personally, but as you can see, if you were my brother, and you did this to our mother? You might as well have been.
      But all is well, Carlo. I hold for you the same love for a friend as I always have, as I hope you do for me, too. 🙂

      • No need to apologize dear 🙂

        Being the “talker” I am (though “debater” would be more welcome hehehe) I never really took this whole issue personally (not this misunderstanding of ours ha, I meant the whole RH debate in general) – and I certainly can understand (as you have explained) why it was personal for you – and obviously in that context, I have no excuse but to apologize for hurting you, by slighting our “mother.”

        All the same, as far as what you “dished out” to me, no harm, no foul – just healthy debate “as hot as the blood that runs through all our veins” (I borrowed that from a friend about the cybercrime law, thought it put a nice perspective on everything) as far as I’m concerned.

        I also don’t mind you writing about my comments – clearance or no. This issue is important to you, and I’m glad my words were instrumental in you finally arriving at an answer (regardless if I agree with that answer). I’d like to think that it meant that you actually valued my opinion, as I do yours – and that means much more to me than any topic of debate. I wouldn’t want you to keep those answers just because it entailed having to attack me [inderectly] as well – plus syempre I’d be a hypocrite naman di ba if I say na I personally am fine with calling out the Church, then not allowing a friend to call me out. I’m a big boy na, I can take it 🙂

        I did read part two 🙂 And yes I do agree it has escalated to unreasonable levels and I also wish there was a more amicable way of dialogue. Unfortunately, I don’t have the answer; I had though thought the way I presented my “argument” the last time (my comment) was acceptable, but I still ended up being offensive pala 😦

        But I TOTALLY AGREED with this part: “Honestly, I wish they’d make a decision already, any decision, because the pointless debates have got to stop.”

        Totoo yon, ika nga sa isa kong blogpost; at the end of the day, REGARDLESS of the decision – it doesn’t affect the standard of living of our social class (middle to upper) We’ll still enjoy all the benefits/knowledge of any person earning a decent living and having a decent education, etc. Only the poor really have something to lose here (well not really lose, since they’ve already been losing all this time).

  3. Whoops!

    I made a mistake earlier. The RH Bill is not primarily about taking care of pregnant women. I think I made that statement because I believe the only good thing in the RH Bill is its desire to provide better healthcare to pregnant women.

    • Yes, How, those were the parts that I had in mind when I wrote that some features were not just necessary, but long overdue (coming from someone who has had exposure to government maternity hospitals).
      At our Sharedmeal earlier, (we missed you!), we were saying that you raised a lot of logical and important points in your longer comment above. You should share that. I think a lot of people will be illumined by it (or at least, finally find the right words for what they’ve always wanted to say). So I do hope you get it out there. 🙂

  4. It was never about what is the best practical thing to do but rather, what does God tell us to do… There is nothing wrong about being practical, but let us not forget a greater value that being practical that is by doing the right thing… Hence, the Church is trying to guide her children to this right choice… True, she had a share of her own mistakes, but at least she remained consistent on making a stand on truth and on what is right…

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