Render unto Caesar.
HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE By Jim Paredes
What a weekend it was. In just a few hours, cyberspace was abuzz with comments on the issue of Reproductive Health. The President’s expressed support for family planning, which he affirmed at a town hall meeting in the US, put the Philippine bishops on DEFCON 3. They were angry, armed and ready for war.
Government’s desire to curb population growth has always been met with outright hostility from the Catholic Church. [Now I think this is not fair. CBCP's hostility is TOWARDS Artificial birth control and NOT population control.] Each time the issue has been brought up, the entire cabal of Church spokesmen from the CBCP and the clergy are ordered to read pastoral letters spewing threats and imagined dire consequences about the Filipinos’ impending moral decline if any method of birth control, apart from the natural, is encouraged. [This is irresponsible. What the CBCP is mentioning is not only moral decline but the violation of the natural law.]
P-Noy’s insistence on challenging the stand of the Philippine church and doing the practical thing is the proverbial straw that has broken the camel’s back. [Why? Has the former senator and now sitting president advocating artificial birth control even before he became president? I don't think so.] And they have attacked him with everything they’ve got. [Not yet. Don't be too presumptuous.]
How dare he support something so unconscionable and despicable? Doesn’t he know it is against the law of God? [He knows it?!] Why doesn’t government give our people jobs instead of condoms? Besides, do we really have a population problem? [Do we? Prof. Bernie Villegas wrote an interesting article about this.] They even delved into conspiracy theory. This, they said, clearly has something to do with the CIA and the $400 million Millennium Development Fund he received from the US government, which supports its own pharmaceutical companies that make all these evil birth control devices to control the fertility of third world countries.
In short, they threw everything, including the kitchen sink, at P-Noy. They also threatened mass actions and a civil disobedience campaign against the government. And finally, the head of the CBCP casually dropped what must have been intended to stop the President in his tracks: the grave threat of excommunication. [Oh my goodness! This has already been clarified. It was taken out of context with Bishop Odchimar being asked a loaded question. And here we have it, folks. The media is partying.]
Almost simultaneously, as the chatter built up in cyberspace, rising like the floods of Ondoy, tour guide and artist Carlos Celdran pulled his stunning “Damaso” [that is probably the least of the adjectives I would use to describe that stunt] caper right before the CBCP hierarchy during an ecumenical service at the Manila Cathedral.
At this point, cyberspace, TV news, and everyone’s conversation became riveted completely on the topic and the conversation reached fever pitch.
The series of events that transpired last weekend was a deadly brew boiling in a piping-hot cauldron with three of the most potently explosive ingredients one can think of — politics, sex and religion thrown in together. What could possibly come out of this toxic mix that would provide nourishment? At best, it produced the most painful and acrimonious discussions among the faithful, many of whom expressed disappointment at the simplistic argumentation of the men of their Church. [Hey! Don't count out faithful lay men and women who are in support and who are even engaging in this debate! Our priests and bishops are not alone on this.]
People throughout history have gone to war many times over politics, religion and sex. [Huh? Does anybody know a story about a country going to war because of...sex?] From the Crusades to the World Wars, civilizations have clashed over these issues. Which is not surprising at all since these topics which can be reduced, at their basic essence, to one word: power. It is life’s greatest obsession.
In this case, P-Noy is exercising the power granted him by the people to create measures that will ease aspects of our lives, specifically outcomes relating to our sexual activities, and their relation to poverty and environmental ruin.
The Church, on the other hand, is using its power by flexing its muscles and threatening P-Noy to make sure he toes the Church line so government does not offer the people any choice with regard to their own fertility control, except the natural method that the Church propagates — albeit half-heartedly. For as long as family planning has been debated here, I have yet to see a full campaign by the Church to disseminate information on natural methods in the scale that it is well capable of doing. [Now this one I am most surely to agree with. This is where the CBCP failed miserably.]
The people, whom government and the Church claim to help, protect and nurture, are also exercising their power. At this juncture in our history, they are clearly appreciative of government finally standing up to the Church on the issue of family planning. If you don’t believe me, look up the results of the surveys, both scientific and anecdotal, that have been conducted in the past five years. [Here comes the numbers game. Sounds like Obama, eh?]
In the age of people power, greater democratization, and unbridled, open information, it is patently dictatorial, even fascistic, to deny people the right to judge for themselves what is best for their own individual life situations. [Now hold on for a second. When does the Church send you to the Inquisition for being adulterous or for using condoms? Huh? The Church reminds us of the sinful consequences of one's choice. IT DOES NOT COERCE YOU! We have to draw the line properly. Christ WILL NEVER force you to go to Heaven if you want to stay in Hell.] It also smacks of a medieval mindset [Now here comes the medieval thing. As if the Church did not support the work of scientific men, eh? No wonder we have modern genetics, thanks to Fr. Gregor Mendel and we have the Gregorian calendar. Geez, where do we get our history books?] to deny the science and effectiveness of, say, condoms in preventing pregnancies and protecting people from HIV. [Talk to Africans and they'll tell you why. I have blogged about this before. Remember the issue wherein Pope Benedict XVI said during his flight to Africa?]
I really wonder how the Pope could proclaim that condoms are porous and thus ineffective, in effect using his moral authority to propagate misinformation [You think a learned scholar like the pope would make rash pronouncements? Don't you think the Vatican is big enough to have scientists carrying dockets of papers about the topic?] and thereby condemning the populations of HIV-infected poor countries to the risk of infection. [Risk of infection?! How do you get them in the first place?] It is not rocket science to see that there is something factually wrong with this statement. It also doesn’t take a psychiatrist to recognize the unbridled exercise of moral power at work here to instill guilt and fear among unthinking and unquestioning people. [There you have it folks! The evils of Modernism. Let no one tell you what to do or let no one instill fear or guilt in you. Just do it! Remember that?]
While I respect people who follow the Church line on natural family planning, I have a problem when they cannot respect the rights of those who disagree with them, [Why? Do we result to insults and name calling? Or is it because we are well-informed of what to say or do in this issue?] and then seek to deny those people the right to choice. [Are we pointing a gun at those who are potentially going to use artificial contraceptives? Geez. You get the feeling that we are living in Nazi-era Germany or Martial Law days.]
There is so much breast-beating in the Church about being “pro-life.” [We haven't beat our breasts yet.] But I sometimes wonder if they are really “pro-life” or just “pro-birth”? [Wrong. Just pro-life. Period.] Aside from the charity work the Church does, [Which was completely thrown out of the window after pro-RH people started vilifying the Church. How good is that, eh? Out of the million good things you did, one thing you say that they do not like and you become Hitler incarnate.] there is hardly any talk coming from them about real solutions to national problems relating to hunger, homelessness, malnutrition, lack of educational opportunities, joblessness and environmental degradation that a runaway population has wrought on us and continues to do so. [Poor Jim. He does not even know that the Catholic Church is the biggest charitable organization in the world...feeding the hungry, sheltering the homeless, providing education to places that even the government has not reached, providing job opportunities to those who need them and some bishops have even more time fighting for the protection of the environment than taking care of the spiritual needs of their flock. And it is still not enough. Ok, got it. Very balanced indeed.]
While it is true that corruption in high places has and continues to ravage our poor, it is intellectual dishonesty, and a militant denial of reality, to be dismissive and say it is all the government’s fault that so many people are poor and live wretched lives, and then condemn government when it explores solutions that will empower people to ease their lives through family planning. [He condemned government when Gloria Arroyo was in power. But not now that Noynoy Aquino is in place. Nah-ah. Noynoy is HIS guy. So, don't you dare say anything against him.]
The “Damaso” incident at the Manila Cathedral sheds a lot of light on what has been going on since the time of Rizal to the present. [Oh brother. A fan.] There is something Damasonic about how the bishops are handling this issue of reproductive health. [How about other issues? Very quick to demonize the bishops.] And we, the Filipino people, are caught in a religion which on one hand manifests as oppressive, medieval and superstitious, but also open, and humanly liberating on the other — depending on the issue. [Maybe depending on what you choose!] Many of my younger priest friends are pained by the pronouncements of the bishops [I am sure they are Jesuits or educated at MST.] and have quietly expressed this through texts and veiled and cryptic Facebook and Twitter messages. I can only wish that more of them were handling Church policies. [Thank God they are not.]
I have often wondered why the Church can be so open and enlightened on many social issues but so irrational when it comes to sex. [What's irrational at keeping sex within the context of marriage? What is irrational at viewing sex in marriage as sharing in the power of God of bringing life into the world? Did I miss something here?] I do not want to open a can of worms here, [Who's can?] but the pitched Internet chatter over the weekend makes one thing clear — that there is great wisdom in the principle of the separation of Church and State. [Espoused by the Masons. Now that is "wisdom" he calls "great".] As someone wise and compassionate once said: “Render to Caesar what is Caesar’s and render to God what is God’s.” [Now he is even implying that the Wise and Compassionate One will agree to artificial birth control. Maybe he missed the point of the biblical passage. Try reading this and this, Jim. Wikipedia is free by the way.]
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I am a die hard fan of Jim Paredes' songs. After reading this article, it is STILL his songs. Just his songs...
By the way, he is Jesuit educated.
Now you know why.