MANILA, Philippines—They may have lost the battle over the reproductive health law, but Catholic priests are glad that more and more young Catholics now know that using artificial contraceptives is a sin and are confessing it, a church official said Saturday.
Fr. Melvin Castro, executive secretary of the Episcopal Commission on Family and Life of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, said that he and other priests, talking about what they hear in confessions, have noticed a “general trend” of young Catholics seeking forgiveness through confession for using artificial contraceptives.
“There are now many who do. They don’t use the word [condom]. They say contraceptive device or contraceptive pill but there is now an awareness, thank God. If only for that, thank you to Lagman,” Castro said, referring to Representative Edcel Lagman, the main advocate of the reproductive health law in Congress.
“Our priests see this in the confessionary. People now are more aware that using artificial contraceptives, going into ‘live-in’ relationships, or having pre-marital sex is a sin. Deep inside, people yearn to do what is right,” he said.
The RH law “is a tragedy, humanly speaking, but thank God that it has become a means for people to go back to God. It is more important that individual souls get closer to God,” he added.
Castro attributed this “reawakening” to the Church’s campaign during the height of the debates on the reproductive health law to inform its flock that using artificial contraceptives is wrong.
“We noticed this last year, and there were those who were saying that because this was being discussed and they saw it (on TV), they now know the doctrine of the Church. So, that’s good,” he said.
“I noticed this in my province in Tarlac and when I talked with other priests. It’s a general trend, a reawakening. They go to confession. It’s a good sign among the young and I’m glad about it,” he said, adding that they take care not to violate the “seal of confession” when they discuss these matters.
Castro said many of those who sought absolution through confession for using contraceptives were young women.
“Women are very religious. You can see that in the proportion of those who go to Church (to attend Mass). There are more women in church,” he said.
Castro urged his fellow priests to preach more often against artificial contraception. Some pro-life advocates complained during the congressional debates over the RH bill that the Filipino clergy were not speaking out enough against the bill.
“We need more teachers who will bear witness to the faith and live it. This has to be preached despite our personal feelings,” he said.
Castro also said that there were women who sought forgiveness for having an abortion.
“They thought that since it was just a few months old, it would only be blood. They were not aware that it involved a baby,” Castro said.
However, he said, not all priests have the authority to grant absolution for those responsible for an abortion because it is considered a very “grave sin,” similar to physically attacking the Pope, or desecrating the consecrated host and wine, which Catholics believe are the body and blood of Jesus Christ.
“Because of the gravity of the sin of abortion, only bishops can give absolution. What the bishops do is they choose priests and give them the faculty to absolve this sin. It is very limited,” Castro said.
“For example, I can only absolve up to 10 cases. After 10 cases of abortion, I have to inform my bishop. In that way, the diocese can also monitor the extent of abortion,” he said.
Castro said priests should be very sensitive when hearing the confession of women who had abortions.
“It is not only the guilty feeling. There is a phenomenon that they go to confession again and again. It is a worldwide phenomenon. In the case of abortion, they feel the gravity and they feel the need to make reparation,” Castro said.
“It is good because this becomes a healing process when they admit it and then they are blessed,” he added.