.- Catholic leaders in the Philippines vowed to continue fighting for life, marriage and family as a controversial “reproductive health” bill passed both houses of Congress in the country.
“If the President will sign this into law, he will give us a moral time bomb wrapped as a gift to celebrate Christmas,” warned Archbishop Socrates B. Villegas of Lingayen Dagupan.
In a Dec. 18 statement, the archbishop cautioned that although the bill won the support of majorities in the legislature, this “does not mean that they are right.”
“It is only a matter of time and then we will see more violations of ‘Thou shall not kill’ and ‘Thou shall not commit adultery’ among our families, our youth and children,” he said.
Archbishop Villegas called for efforts to strengthen families and marriages, to educate couples about Church teaching on natural family planning and to educate the young “so that they can stand strong against the threats to their moral fiber.”
“Let us conduct our own sex education of our children insuring that sex is always understood as a gift of God,” he said. “Sex must never be taught separate from God and isolated from marriage.”
On Dec. 17, both Filipino houses of Congress voted to pass the controversial “reproductive health” bill on its third and final reading. The House of Representatives approved the legislation by a vote of 133-79 with seven abstentions, while the Senate passed it by a 13-8 vote with two abstentions.
A bicameral committee will now reconcile the House and Senate versions of the bill before it goes to President Benigno Aquino to be signed into law.
The lengthy process surrounding the debate over the bill has been highly controversial and included accusations of corruption, bribery and threats to obtain the necessary votes.
The legislation would require government-sanctioned sex education for adults, middle school and high school children, as well as a population control program that includes fully subsidized contraceptives under government health insurance.
Catholic clergy in the country have vocally opposed the bill and helped temporarily stall its progress, informing voters about the stances of different politicians on the issue.
Opponents of the bill warned that it would contribute to a breakdown of the family and an increase in a contraceptive mentality and sexual immorality. They also voiced concerns over the health risks posed by artificial birth control and the potential of some contraceptives to cause early abortions.
Currently, abortion is illegal in the country, while contraception is available but not funded by the government.
Officials from the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines said they would support efforts by a group of Catholic lawyers to challenge the bill before the nation’s Supreme Court.
They observed that the nation’s constitution charges the government to protect marriage and family, adding that the bill’s coercive nature amounts to a violation of religious freedom.
In addition, Catholic leaders renewed their commitment to spreading Church teaching on marriage and family, as well as the dangers posed by contraception.
“The battle is not over,” said Father Shenan J. Boquet, president of Human Life International.
In a Dec. 17 statement, he decried the passage of the “destructive bill” as “terrible news for the Philippines and for the world.”
He warned that wealthy Westerners are using their money “to exploit the famously corrupt political environment of the last pro-life and pro-family nation in Asia.”
Fr. Boquet noted that widespread adoption of contraception within the United States quickly led to calls for fully legalized abortion, increased attacks on the faith and “the confusion and departure of many of the faithful.”
The Church cannot accept “false compromises,” he stressed, explaining that the Church in the Philippines must “redouble her efforts” to continue the fight in the courts and the public square.
“Prayer and fasting remain the greatest weapons in our arsenal,” he added, emphasizing the importance of both as “the battle enters this new stage.”