Of course, I am one of the signatories to this open letter. And I have signified my intention to join public discussions on this bill. Let the debates begin! — Danton Remoto, Department of English, Ateneo de Manila University
Manila Standard Today
A heavy-handed attempt by the bishops to silence dissent on the reproductive health bill among thinking Catholics is backfiring.
Yesterday, 55 more faculty members of the Jesuit-run Ateneo de Manila University joined 14 of their colleagues who last week urged the passage of House Bill 5043, which the Church has condemned as “anti-life.”
This was probably the exact opposite effect that the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines hoped to achieve when its president, Archbishop Angel Lagdameo, wrote Ateneo president Fr. Bienvenido Nebres to lay down the law on the bill.
In his letter, Lagdameo asked Nebres to explain why the 14 original faculty members, including some from the Department of Theology, had publicly declared their support for the bill.
The pressure from the bishops prompted Nebres to issue a memo to the Ateneo community, reminding them that the university, as a Catholic institution, must toe the Church line and oppose the reproductive health bill.
But the 55 professors who joined their colleagues this week would have none of that, and urged the bishops instead to reconsider their position and support the bill.
The professors said they are alarmed that an estimated 473,400 Filipino women had abortions in 2000, simply because they did not have access to birth control.
“We consider it our guilt and our shame that so many of our women should be driven to such dire straits as to make abortion a family planning method, for want of information on and access to an effective means to prevent an unplanned pregnancy,” their declaration of support said.
They also resisted pressure to toe the Church line in their classes. As Catholic educators, they said it was incumbent upon them to teach their students that the bill was not immoral, as the Church claims.
Instead, they said, the bill is pro-life and pro-women. It also categorically rejects abortion and seeks to prevent it by offering couples an array of medically safe, legal, affordable and quality family planning methods, from which they can choose the one that will work best for them.
This is certainly not what the bishops wanted to hear, but the fact that they are getting this kind of a reaction should tell them something about how out of touch they are with their flock. It also reminds us that clerics, like all humans, are fallible. But then we already knew that—when they opposed HB 5043.