Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago always has a mouthful to say, but none perhaps as distasteful as when she said that Manny Pacquiao should not enter into the ring of the RH debates. That was classic intellectual arrogance. Adding to the fray was media’s suspicion that Pacquiao was cornered by the bishops into defending their stance against the RH bill.
Both are farthest from the truth.
Many people certainly do not know that Manny’s stand on contraceptive use, in fact, outdates all the current debates on the Reproductive Health bill. Early this year, a prolife advocate visited Pacquiao in Congress. There he told the story of his family to the advocate, an obstetrician-gynecologist from Davao City.
Prayer had always been a tradition in his family, he narrated. His mother Dionisia would never fail to gather the entire brood together and pray the rosary on their knees at four in the morning. That he, said, taught them to hurdle the many difficulties they had gone through in the past. It was this that not only solidified their family, but brought them to love the Catholic Church and its tenets.
He also said that he had long made up his mind on his stand against the RH bill. It was a stand that his family culture had shaped and molded long before.
For people to speculate now that he was only being used as a tool of the bishops and as a puppet by the anti-RH representatives in Congress is not only getting the facts wrong. It is precisely belittling Manny’s own ability to make judgments on an important social issue festering in the country. For those who believe that they are intellectually gifted, it is certainly a conceited way of saying that those who they perceive to have nothing between their ears have nothing to say on the issue. That is the height of egotism.
A family that prays and loves the Church and its tenets—these are in fact simple virtues but profound principles that are now staring us in the face in the midst of all this anti-Church bashing over the RH bill. And the lesson comes from Manny Pacquiao. His foray into the debates, I understand, has angered the pro-RH camp who would have loved to have had him as their poster boy. In fact, it is they who need enlightenment and change allegiances at this time to join him and those who are pro-life, many of whom are lay people and not bishops and priests.
For the RH debate is a debate about faith. It is not about the license to formulate one’s theological tenets. Commentary writer Minyong Ordoñez said it very plainly in his opinion piece last Friday. Those who openly bash the Church and think they are still Catholics are in fact living lives of inconsistency. “Why be a Catholic if one thinks his religion is erroneous?”
Those who profess for the side of contraception are in fact teaching a very erroneous type of faith. What they are saying now is for us to leave our faith at our doorsteps each time we venture outside the home. A fellow columnist once seethed with rage when I said that the bedroom is part of the Church, something that was not understood from the perspective of faith praxis. But it is correct, our faith is present everywhere we are, whether in the private or public forum.
When we leave the house, we cannot command our faith, “Stay!” as though it were a lapdog. Legislators who profess they are Catholics are in fact showing us the way to schizophrenia.
Faith cannot be legislated. Faith is a matter of personal preference. To legislate something that mandates people to act against their faith is abominable to one’s human rights. To use contraceptives is a personal question of preference. If one does not prefer to practice it because it is deemed against one’s faith, we cannot question that. Hence, to prosecute people for not allowing contraceptive use is the greatest coercion. The best way to end this division is not to have a Reproductive Health bill at all.
But these are times we live in when it is common for many Catholics not to agree with the official teachings of the Church. That is why surveys and polls are not the solution. Church teachings are not taught according to popularity. The so-called “sense of the faithful” becomes a sense only if those who avow it are truly faithful to Church teaching. Fidelity to the Church requires holiness. These are old truths that cannot be changed just because many do not agree with it.
If the Church were to cave in to pressure in the style of a cafeteria mob demanding that their individual choices be served pronto, what would become of it in the future, for the cafeteria fare also changes? Surely the Church would crumble. A Church it would be no more. That is precisely why the Church has survived all these centuries. This is certainly not the first mass issue it faces. It has faced more perverse issues in the past. But why has it survived? There is something there to be asked.
The RH bill can only be understood if we practice what we preach and preserve the integrity of our faith. It is in that faith where we find the answers. Even Manny Pacquiao may not have the answers. But he shows us the way.
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