How fervent are the Catholic bishops against the reproductive health (RH) bill?
Lipa Archbishop Ramon Arguelles on Tuesday said that he appealed to 62 of his fellow bishops and archbishops through text messages for them to converge Wednesday in the House of Representatives as it votes on the controversial measure.
But only two of his brother bishops replied.
“Only two…. I want to resign,” a downcast Arguelles said after a Church forum in Intramuros, Manila. “It’s like, as someone said, ‘I deserve my enemies but I do not deserve my friends.’”
He said one of the two bishops who assured him of their presence Wednesday was Kidapawan Bishop Romulo de la Cruz, who would be flying from Mindanao.
The vote in the House is expected to be close and anti-RH lawmakers, led by Zambales Rep. Milagros “Mitos” Magsaysay, had asked the bishops to be present in the gallery to strengthen the resolve of wavering anti-RH congressmen.
“You see that what you are fighting for is true and about God (but) then you feel isolated,” Arguelles said.
“Somebody answered that ‘Jesus Christ was also isolated.’ but I’m not Jesus Christ. It’s like I’m the one who is wrong… the odd man (out),” added the fervent anti-RH prelate.
Arguelles said he had been texting his fellow members of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) “for some time,” including CBCP president Jose Palma and Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle.
“If we do not go, we are losing by default. We are failing God. If we don’t support the (anti-RH) congressmen, we will answer to God because of our omission. So, I appealed to them to let their voices be heard and their presence be felt,” he said.
‘Procession’ to Congress
The CBCP-Episcopal Commission on Family and Life is organizing a noontime Mass at St. Peter’s Church on Commonwealth Avenue in Quezon City, after which the bishops in attendance would join a “procession” to Congress.
Tagle will be celebrating another noontime Mass against the bill at the National Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Makati City after an overnight vigil.
Archbishop Palma is reportedly in Vietnam for a meeting of the Federation of Asian Bishops Conferences (FABC).
Peachy Yamsuan, the communications chief of the Archdiocese of Manila, said the cardinal was not expected to join the procession to Congress.
“He will be very busy (Wednesday) because it is also the anniversary of his ordination and installation as Archbishop of Manila but he will be celebrating Mass (against the RH bill). He will also be leaving (on Thursday) for the FABC in Vietnam,” Yamsuan said.
Arguelles said the stance of some bishops was to “leave it to the lay people” to lead the charge against the RH bill.
“They say leave it to the lay people but it is the lay people who are the ones asking…. They want our presence. Many are asking how many (bishops) will come…. Maybe they’ve changed their (cell phone) numbers (but) I’m sure only of one or two,” Arguelles said.
It turned out that at least seven bishops went to the House Tuesday.