Church leaders in the Philippines are leading the outcry against the the country's proposed and highly controversial Reproductive Health Bill which would attempt to control population growth through widespread distribution of contraceptives and compulsory sex education in schools.
Local leaders Archbishop Ramon Arguelles of Lipa and Bishop Arturo Bastes of Sorsogon even encouraged “civil disobedience” among Catholics in response to the legislation, which is currently under congressional consideration.
Although Bishop Arguelles clarified in remarks to the Radio Veritas on Feb. 3 that the intent is not to be “subversive” or anti-government, he underscored the importance of Catholics publicly rejecting the bill. He also defended the bishops' right to “proclaim” Church teaching as the bill makes its way through the country's legislature.
The bishops' comments came shortly after the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines issued a pastoral letter strongly condemning the legislation and calling for local Catholics to fight against it.
“Far from being simply a Catholic issue, the RH bill is a major attack on authentic human values and on Filipino cultural values regarding human life that all of us have cherished since time immemorial,” the Jan. 30 pastoral letter read.
The House of Representatives' Committee on Population and Family Relations approved a consolidated version of several measures on the country's Reproductive Health Bill on Jan. 30, according to the Philippine Star.
The bishops' conference argued against the claims of the legislation in their statement, saying that the ideas and methods associated with “reproductive health” fail to protect the health “of the sacred human life that is being formed or born.”
“Placing artificial obstacles to prevent human life from being formed and being born most certainly contradicts this fundamental truth of human life,” they said.
The Church leaders also asserted that spreading contraceptives and teaching sex education in schools to stave off population growth will not effectively address problems related to poverty in the country.
Instead, the bishops called on legislators to allocate resources to building more hospitals and clinics in rural areas, increasing access to health care services, constructing more schools, increasing aid to education for the poor and improving infrastructure.