Thank you, Edcel Lagman.
They may have lost the battle over the reproductive health (RH) law, but Catholic prelates say they have reason to thank the principal author of the law, as more and more young Catholics have become aware of the sin of artificial contraception and they are being driven to confession by their guilt.
Fr. Melvin Castro, executive secretary of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines-Episcopal Commission on Family and Life, said many priests had noticed a “general trend” among young Catholics to seek forgiveness through confession for using artificial contraceptives.
“There is now an awareness, thank God. If only for that, thank you to Lagman,” Castro said.
“They now know the doctrine of the Church. So, that’s good,” he said.
According to Castro, many priests have been seeing this trend in the confessional. He said people now seemed to be more aware that using artificial contraceptives, going into “live-in” relationships and engaging in premarital sex are sins.
“They go to confession. It’s a good sign among the young, and I’m glad about it,” he said.
Castro attributes this “reawakening” to the Church’s campaign at the height of the debates on the RH bill to inform the faithful that using artificial contraceptives is wrong.
“[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 said.
“Deep inside, people yearn to do what is right,” Castro said.
He said many of those who have 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 said there were also 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,” he said.
Castro stressed he and his fellow priests took care not to violate the “seal of confession” (or of the confessional) when they discuss these matters. Priests have the absolute duty not to disclose to anyone anything that they learn from penitents during confession, even under threat of their own death or that of others.
Castro urged the Catholic priests to preach more often against artificial contraception. He said some prolife advocates had complained during the congressional debates over the RH bill that the Filipino clergy was 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.
However, he said not all priests had the authority to grant absolution to 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 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 [cases],” he said.
Castro said priests should be very sensitive when hearing the confession of women who have had an abortion.
“It is not only the guilty feeling. There is a phenomenon that they go to confession again and again. It’s a worldwide phenomenon. In the case of abortion, they feel the gravity and they feel the need to make reparation,” he said.
“It is good because this becomes a healing process when they admit it, and then they are blessed,” he said.