Excommunication for Philippines president ‘a possibility,’ bishop states

President Benigno Aquino III / Bishop Nereo Odchimar
President Benigno Aquino III / Bishop Nereo Odchimar

.- The president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) has said there is “a possibility” of excommunication for the Philippines president if he insists that the government distribute contraceptives.

Bishop Nereo Odchimar, in an interview with the Church-run Radio Veritas, responded to President Benigno Aquino III’s comment that Filipino couples who decide to use artificial contraceptives should be allowed to do so. The comment came amid a push for “reproductive health” legislation as part of a population control program.

“Well, being the President of all, you must consider the position of the Catholic Church because we are approaching these issues from the moral aspect like the unborn,” the bishop told Radio Veritas, the Philippine Daily Inquirer reports.

The prelate noted that abortion is a grave crime which carries the penalty of excommunication.

Asked if the president might be excommunicated if he insists that government should distribute artificial contraceptives, Bishop Odchimar replied: "That is a possibility.... Right now, it is a proximate possibility.”

Some artificial contraceptives are believed to have abortifacient effects, the bishop noted, but the Philippines Daily Enquirer does not report whether he connected this to excommunication.

Bishop Odchimar said the bishops are “open for dialogue” with President Aquino but there has been no response from the country’s president.

“The CBCP issued an open letter stating our position that there should be a dialogue," he explained. "We do not have any feelers. We don’t want to be confrontational. We want a dialogue. We are just waiting.”

The bishop reported that he has spoken with bishops in other areas and they supported lay Catholic groups’ calls for protests against the plan to distribute artificial contraceptives.

He also repeated the Church’s opposition to the reproductive health bill, saying that population increase is not a problem in his view. Rather, he blamed the migration of people and suggested that the agriculture industry should be enhanced to provide jobs.

Bishop Odchimar reported that the bishops are aware there is “much money” to lobby for the passage of the disputed bill.

"It's an open secret that the pharmaceuticals and laboratories will be the ones who will benefit, because they are the ones supplying the pills and other contraceptive devices," he commented, according to the Enquirer. "We will be planning our next move ... We do not have police power, we don’t discount the possibility of mobilizing the lay organizations.”

Update, October 6, 2010

After the publication of the original story, Radio Veritas issued an apology which said that an error was made in the transcription of the interview with Bishop Odchimar. The bishop actually said, "It can be a possibility. I don’t see right now na (that) it is a proximate possibility.”

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