What does Joaquin Bernas REALLY think about the RH Bills?

When I checked out the Inquirer.net website this morning and scrolled down to the Opinion Channel section to find the name Fr. Joaquin G. Bernas, S.J. in the same line as the phrase “RH bill”, I thought: Finally! A man-in-robe with a brain weighing in on the issue!. I mean, it is quite reasonable for one to expect the Dean of the Ateneo Law School and a former president of the greatest education institution in the country to apply his vast intellect to sorting out the hairy topic of runaway Filipino multiplication.

Hairy indeed. The good Father Bernas himself pretty much admitted in the opening paragraph of his piece “Some issues about the RH bills” that his motivation for writing that article stemmed from a couple of letters from his readers — one expressing how “he could not wait for what [he] had to say” and the other suggesting “a piece on whether church can tell government what to do”. Hmmm… obviously a personal conviction on the issue of reproductive health on Fr Bernas’s part was not a strong enough motivator to writing this piece. Indeed, my skepticism that I’d be coming out of the ten to fifteen minutes or so I’d be spending reading the good Reverend’s article not much more enlightened on what this top legal mind really thinks of this important issue started to crystallise after just having gone past the title of his piece.

Some issues about the RH bills

Quite simply, the title of Fr Bernas’s article already had fencesitter written all over it. Not realising it yet at the time, my hopes that the white hot filament that is Bernas’s brilliant mind would shine through the darkly-tinted glass bulb that is his Catholic indoctrination surrounding it already sustained its first dent. But what did shine through was my infinite capacity for giving people the benefit of the doubt, so further on I soldiered into the venerable Jesuit’s piece. By this time I only had one question in mind that I was hoping Fr Bernas would answer in his article:

Is the Roman Catholic Church wrong or right in opposing a person’s freedom to choose to apply artificial contraception measures such as condoms, spermicides, surgical procedures such as vasectomies and tubular ligation, and other measures beyond the “natural methods” to determine the reproductive outcomes of his/her routine sexual activities?

Not even halfway through his almost 1,000 word piece, Fr Bernas already side-steps the above question with a trite old to-each-his-own-belief cop-out…

Briefly, I would say that President Aquino should not prevent people from practicing responsible parenthood according to their religious belief nor may churchmen compel President Aquino, by whatever means, to prevent people from acting according to their religious belief.

Poor Father Bernas. I could almost feel the anguish of a modern and formidable intellect imprisoned by a quaint Medieval belief system crying out to be liberated.

Quite ironic how that skillful teflonic maneuver comes from an officer of a religion that implicates the famous hand-washer Pontius Pilate as complicit to the events that led to the hideous death of Jesus Christ himself. It paved the way for the insult-to-readers’-intelligence that is the rest of his article.

On the matter of how his position on our embattled President’s being under threat of excommunication as a result of his stand on these RH Bills…

Of course, I am against eternal damnation for anybody. But I believe that we must be resigned to a long drawn-out debate.

Long drawn out debate??? As Han Solo sarcastically told off C3P0 when the helpdful droid told him the survival odds of piloting a starship through an asteroid field: “I’m glad you’re here to tell us these things!”

From there, Fr Bernas lists a handful of elements of what he refers to as the “long drawn-out debate”: the definition of where human life begins (When does “abortion” take place?), the ultimate ethical authority on the matter (“Who is to settle this debate-Congress? The Courts? Science? the Church? The ralliers?”), the final dispenser of sexual “morality” (“The Constitution recognizes the primary right of parents in the rearing of the youth.”), etcetera, etcetera, ETCETERAad infinitum espiritu santo

All questions, but no answers — considering this is a “debate” where we all need to take a personal position. Said position need not be right or wrong at this point. What sets apart the men from the boys is the courage to take a position and then refine it along the way as he/she learns new things.

C’mon, Father Joaquin G. Bernas Society of Jesus, what does Joaquin Bernas, the man, really think?


About benign0

benign0 is the Web master of GetRealPhilippines.com
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16 Responses to What does Joaquin Bernas REALLY think about the RH Bills?

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention What does Joaquin Bernas REALLY think about the RH Bills? -- Topsy.com

  2. ChinoF says:

    As I suspected, some priests may know better… but doctrinal hurdles block them from saying what they really feel… or think.

  3. UP nn grad says:

    Bert, Manuel and a few deep-thinker Pinoys in Pinas will read Bernas’ article and exclaim — “I knew it! The 😯 constitutionalist Bernas agrees :mrgreen: with me!”

  4. concerned_citizen says:

    As delicate as the RH bill issue is, the time to settle it is ripe. With the recent Celdran maneuver, the foundations of the RCC in this country were shaken to the core. It’s time for us to look at reality and stop living in the past. We are overpopulated now more than ever and the natural family planning methods are not so favored by our countrymen. I have never seen seminars on natural family planning methods being inducted by the church.

  5. Homer says:

    This speaks for itself. I couldn’t have said it better…

    The “Go forth and multiply” credo of the Catholic Church served it well in centuries past when the earth’s population was small and all manner of resources were in abundance. Today, the entire planet is in peril, and the Philippines in particular is rapidly slipping into the status of a third-world state. Most of its urban poor live in shanties that have no running water or toilets. Unless drastic population control measures are put in place, the Philippines as we know it will soon cease to exist.

    In the final analysis, the hierarchy that runs the Catholic Church in the Philippines takes its marching orders only from the Vatican and does not seem to have the welfare of the country at heart. As they did during the time of the Inquisition, they are again rattling their sabers and threatening eternal damnation to anyone who questions their authority; but those Dark Ages are long gone. The Catholic Church must now be called out and put in its place. The country’s exploding population is too serious a matter to be left to the superstitious ramblings of a reality-challenged Catholic Church.

    (taken from Philnews.com)

  6. Hyden Toro says:

    I have a good friend; devout Catholics; who are infertile. They had not have a child, after 5 years of marriage . So, I recommended to them, to consult an In-Vitro Fertlility MD Specialist. They refused, because they believe that children born out of In-Vitro Petri Dish; and implanted into the woman’s reproductive system; will have No Soul. It is the Debate, where the Conception of Life begins. Some radical defenders of pro-life said: when the husband and wife are starting to get hot; and having sexual intercourse. For me; I don’t even have an idea: so I don’t know. However, I believe; It is more a crime to bring children in this world, that we cannot provide. We cannot educate, and give a good future… 😐

    • mel says:

      I agree that it is a crime against children when they are deprived of good food, education and healthy surroundings. I am involved in giving scholarship grants to some needy children since 2002, and am getting tired and helpless seeing that once puberty comes, the cycle of poverty begins from the very beginning when uneducated, unskilled and unemployed young women and men become a child/children of their own.

  7. benign0 says:

    What I really wanted to highlight in this article is the question on whether Fr Bernas can really be seen to be a CREDIBLE commentator on national reproductive health issues when he is bound to OBEDIENCE to the Catholic Church which is but ONE of the MANY parties involved in what he himself implies is a complicated “debate”.

  8. Twin-Skies says:

    Regarding this line:

    [Briefly, I would say that President Aquino should not prevent people from practicing responsible parenthood according to their religious belief nor may churchmen compel President Aquino, by whatever means, to prevent people from acting according to their religious belief.]

    Seems to me that Bernas was trying to say that President Aquino’s job is to educate the people regarding reproductive health – as to whether they should use contraceptives is best left up to their personal judgement, and should not be coerced.

    On that same not, Bernas is cautioning the church (RCC) not to pressure a president to bend exclusively to their will, since he is the leader of a country, and not just one religious denomination.

    But that aside, I do wonder if Fr. Bernas’ religious obligations are stiffling his real opinion on matters. At the very least, I find that he provides a relatively non-biased interpretation of the constitution.

  9. jemon says:

    ah ok mr. benign, so you are an atenista.. jejeje..

    and you are short of saying the intelligent person must be a hypocrite.. jejeje..

    really, people here cannot believe that thinking persons can also contradict them. and that is the ultimate stupidity. jejeje..

    • Jay says:

      really, people here cannot believe that thinking persons can also contradict them. and that is the ultimate stupidity.

      I don’t know what is more stupid, your realization that someone got contradicted or you coming up with that pointless statement of yours. Sadly, neither you or the good father can pick a point, extrapolate, erase doubts and create a solid conclusion. Especially when your source is one that immediately kills all forms of discussion and turns it into one, long, useless debate.

  10. JUANDELACRUZ says:


  11. benign0 says:

    These are five otherwise beautiful words that have been imprisoned within the clutches of belief systems that presume to prescribe narrow definitions around how these words may be applied to one’s daily life. It’s high time that we use the better part of our minds to gain perspective of the sort that will finally set free these great words from the cage they’ve been kept within by the robes-clad officers of organised religion.

    * * *

    One can pray, but not necessarily to a god and certainly not necessarily to the god of any man who wears some sort of robe.

    One can go to church, but not necessarily to a church built for a god nor a church where one is obliged to listen to a man wearing some sort of robe.

    One can sin no more after gaining enlightening knowledge of what is right and wrong, and not necessarily out of fear of a fearsome place told of by a man wearing some sort of robe.

    One can be blessed by the fruit of real personal achievement and not necessarily by edict, gesture, nor absolution “given” by a man wearing some sort of robe.

    One can have hope, so long as said hope is substantiated by some form of aspiration and a concrete plan to achieve it, and not by some empty words delivered from a pulpit by a man wearing some sort of robe.

    * * *

    It is time we think and understand enough to distinguish the truly spiritual from the merely religious.

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