Recently I spent two weeks in Manila, the capital of the Philippines, and I am happy to report that the faith of the people is still strong in that majority Catholic country. Yet there are rumblings against the faith on the horizon. In the United States, we have the HHS mandate threatening religious liberty. In the Philippines, they are fighting the RH (Reproductive Health) Bill.
The same strategies that have played out over the years in our country are being implemented in the Philippines, with the backing of international agencies that seek to limit population, ostensibly to enhance economic growth and social progress. The late Cardinal O’Connor of New York, the great pro-life leader, used to say that before human life and morals can be attacked there must first be an attack on language. You must get people to think in different terms before leading them to act in different ways. In the United States, the old Birth Control League became Planned Parenthood, pro-abortion became “pro-choice,” unborn babies became “fetuses” or “products of conception,” and so on.
In the Philippines, a bill designed to limit family size, push contraceptives and abortifacients, and expose fourth graders to sexual education is cast in terms of women’s “health.” Who can be against health for women, especially young mothers? As is true with every assault against decency and morals, the Catholic Church is cast as the main enemy of “science” and “progress.” It is amazing how the playbook of pro-abortion progressives remains the same wherever they go. Attack the Church as backward and oppressive, hold up anti-life technology as the source of Western prosperity, and infiltrate the media and the schools. The strategy which has brought Europe to the brink of demographic disaster, and threatens the future of a somewhat healthier United States, has had some success in the Philippines. It is “cool” there to be Western and secular, to be single and childless, and almost every national celebrity is for the RH Bill, even though their public statements indicate that they have not read much of the actual text.
Lea Salonga, the Filipina who has starred on Broadway in “Miss Saigon” and “Les Miserables,” and voiced some popular Disney cartoons, used to be my favorite female performer until I read that she volunteered to be an ambassador for the RH Bill. The only prominent name that has spoken against the bill is world champion boxer Manny Pacquiao, who is also an elected representative. The media loves to cover his victorious matches and extol him as a national hero, but when it comes to the RH Bill, they treat him as a know-nothing boxer.
The good news is that the RH Bill has been blocked in both the Philippine House and Senate year after year, due to the efforts of some brave legislators who are not afraid to buck the celebrity tide and withstand media ridicule. The Philippine bishops are also very vocal and clear in their opposition, and a large number of faithful Catholics take heed, including young people who are using modern means of communication and social media to spread the word that the mainstream media will not let get out.
I was in the Philippines (where my wife was born and grew up) for the Knights of Columbus National Convention, which was attended by Supreme Knight Carl Anderson. He said that defeat of the RH Bill must be a high priority for Filipino Knights because the Philippines is a great country, with a great people and a great culture of life that is worth preserving. Let’s pray that the culture of death embodied in the RH Bill will continue to fail when faced with the faith, hope and charity – and values – of the Filipino people.
* Catholic News Agency columns are opinion and do not necessarily express the perspective of the agency.