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, ETCETERA… ad 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?