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Bernas on the RH Bill Debates

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Someone called my attention to a Philippine Daily Inquirer article written by Fr. Joaquin Bernas, SJ on the RH Bill Debates. The article is found here. In the article, the Jesuit lawmaker tried to clarify certain words being used in the current debate. The first is "Family Planning" and the second is "anti-life". The hub of the argument is about the phrase "anti-life" which he writes is more applicable to abortion and not to contraception nor the abstention from sex. The article can be outlined thus:


I don’t know why some readers and commenters seem to think that Fr. Bernas is favoring the RH Bill when he categorically writes that he isn’t favoring contraception and that as Catholic, he abides by the Church’s teaching to respect the belief of others.

1. Note the disclaimer of Fr. Bernas:

Yet one might say that through this article I am in fact approving artificial contraception. I am not doing such a thing. Aside from being a Catholic priest in good standing,…

2. He uses the case of a celibate young man:

This would be the stance of a married couple who decide to abstain from the acts that bring about life. To a certain extent this is also the stance of a young man who chooses a celibate life not because he hates children, but out of a conviction that he can accomplish better what he feels he is called to do without the burden of raising children. Definitely I would not categorize such a person as being anti-life.

In other words, this young celibate man has no need of anything contraceptive since he is celibate.

3. Note his insistence on abstention:

What this means is that one who practices abstention is not anti-life. The celibate who gives up procreation for a higher calling is not anti-life.

In other words, Fr. Bernas is thinking of the case of people who abstain from sex.

4. Then he clarifies the meaning of contraception: is it anti-life in the sense of murder?

The use of contraceptive devices that only prevent fertilization is not anti-life in the sense of being an act of murder. Abortion, in the sense of expulsion of the fertilized ovum at any time after fertilization is anti-life, and is an act of murder. If life of the unborn is terminated at a stage of viability the crime is infanticide. For that reason the Penal Code and also the proposed RH bill prohibit and penalize abortion and infanticide.

His answer: NO. And distinguishes contraception from abortion.

5. Is there anything in what Bernas says that contraception is not immoral? No. In fact, he is underlining abstention, giving up procreation for a “higher calling”. He did however distinguish between contraception and abortion thereby showing that contraception is not murder, just as abortion is. The point of Bernas is clear and should not be misunderstood: he is simply clarifying the issue of what is anti-life. It is clear that abortion is. It is also clear that abstaining from procreation is not anti-life. Does he say anything about contraceptives being admissible in family planning? He does not.

Update, February 5, 2012
I was not aware that Joaquin Bernas, SJ wrote another article where he says that the Church’s opposition to the RH Bill is against religious freedom. Now, I think that the RH Bill itself is against the religious freedom of Catholics, that is 85% of the Philippine population. But Bishop Gabriel Reyes, DD, Chairman of the Commission on Family and Life has a response that is posted at SplendorOfTheChurch

Originally posted 2011-09-27 21:58:00. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

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