Catholic priests have taken to violating the seal of the confessional just to demonize the reproductive health (RH) law, according to one of its principal authors, Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman, who deplored the “malevolent propaganda” against the law.
Lagman on Sunday twitted Fr. Melvin Castro, head of the Episcopal Commission on Family and Life, for saying that based on the observation of priests, many young people were aware of the sin of using artificial contraception because of the RH law, and were driven to confession because of it.
Lagman said a majority of Catholics in the country were supportive of the RH law, as repeatedly shown by surveys.
Castro said prelates had reason to thank Lagman for this surge of awareness.
Castro said some women had confessed to having an abortion, but added that he and other priests made sure not to violate the seal of the confessional, which made it mandatory for priests to maintain strict confidentiality when it came to the sins confessed to them.
But Castro’s statements did not sit well with Lagman, who contended that such claims betrayed the penitents who gave their confidence to men of the cloth.
“Some Catholic priests would even venture into violating the sacramental seal of confession to revive a lost campaign against the reproductive health law,” he said.
The lawmaker added that the “revelation of penitents’ confessions is a blatant violation of the centuries-old Church injunction for confessors not to betray or disclose both the subject of the confession and the identity of the penitents.”
Violating such a seal could be penalized with excommunication, Lagman said.
He noted that even the Philippine Rules of Court considered confessions absolute privilege communication.
Catholics for RH law
Based on “repeated national surveys,” many Catholics were in favor of the RH law that the Church staunchly opposes, Lagman said.
One feature of the law is contraception by choice, he noted.
Academics from Jesuit-run Ateneo de Manila University have said that supporting the RH measure is not inconsistent with being Catholic, since it adheres to the core principles of Catholic social teaching, Lagman pointed out.
These include the sanctity of human life, the dignity of the human person, the preferential option for the poor and vulnerable, integral human development, human rights and the primacy of conscience.
Lagman cited a study by the UP Population Institute, which showed that 90 percent of Filipino youth believed the government should provide them with relevant family planning services, including contraceptives.
He also said that the United Nations Development Program, United Nations Population Fund and the World Health Organization’s Department of Reproductive Health and Research had unanimously declared that “it is universally recognized that contraception is the most effective intervention to prevent unintended pregnancy, abortion, child and maternal mortality and morbidity.”
“Empirical studies also show that the correct and regular use of contraceptives could reduce abortion rates by as much as 85 percent,” he added.
Church officials are against the RH law for requiring the government to provide contraceptives for free to those who may want it.
The Church believes that some of the artificial means of contraception induce abortion. Some opponents also contend that the RH law would promote promiscuity.
The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) had been at the forefront of the bitter battle to defeat the RH bill in Congress. The bishops and anti-RH members of the House of Representatives and the Senate lost the battle.
President Aquino signed the RH measure into law last December. On March 15, the Department of Health approved the implementing rules and regulations of the RH law.
After its defeat, the CBCP is continuing the fight this election season by enticing voters not to support those who voted for the bill’s passage into law. Thus, the rise of “Team Patay (Death)” posters on church premises.