MANILA, Philippines?Catholic politicians who push for abortion should not be allowed to receive Holy Communion because they are ?in a situation of sin,? according to a top leader of the Catholic Church.
Ozamiz Archbishop Jesus Dosado has issued a pastoral letter saying that politicians who consistently campaign for and endorse permissive abortion should be taught about the Church position.
Priests should also tell the politicians that, unless they stop their pro-abortion actions, they should not insist on receiving the Holy Eucharist because they will just be denied, Dosado said in a report posted on the website of the Catholic Bishops? Conference of the Philippines (CBCP).
Bishop Deogracias Ińiguez, CBCP public affairs office chief, said the CBCP as a whole had yet to discuss the stand on refusing communion to pro-abortion politicians.
But it is in the canons of the Church that those who have engaged in abortion and those who have participated in such an act are banned from receiving Holy Communion, Ińiguez said.
They have to be forgiven first by a bishop before the prohibition could be lifted.
Dosado?s pastoral letter came days after the CBCP said it was alarmed by ?anti-life? bills in the House of Representatives.
Bishop Broderick Pabillo said at a press briefing after the two-day CBCP plenary assembly ended last week that the bishops would lobby against the bills.
Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman, principal author of the reproductive health and population management bill in the House, said Dosado was mistaken in issuing a pastoral letter denying Holy Communion to legislators promoting permissive abortion.
To begin with, no one among the members of the 14th Congress is espousing permissive abortion, Lagman said.
?It?s a grave penalty for a phantom act,? he told the Philippine Daily Inquirer, referring to Dosado?s pastoral letter.
Lagman said a careful look at his bill would show that ?no one is endorsing permissive abortion.?
Authored by 48
?They are blinded by their orthodoxy,? Lagman said, referring to Church leaders and pro-life advocates accusing pro-choice lawmakers of promoting abortion.
?We have repeatedly said in the bill that abortion is illegal, punishable, and not part of the menu for responsible parenthood and population management. The bill I proposed has been labeled as anti-life, but it is actually pro-quality of life,? Lagman said.
He said his bill had been approved by the committees on health and population and family relations. It is expected to be calendared for second reading by the rules committee when Congress resumes session on July 28.
The bill?An Act Providing for a National Policy on Reproductive Health, Responsible Parenthood and Population Development?has been coauthored by at least 48 members of the House.
It includes a provision for ?mandatory reproductive health and sexuality education.? Such education should be taught in ?an age-appropriate manner ? by adequately trained teachers starting from Grade 5 up to fourth year high school.?
The bill also sets aside 10 percent of the ?gender and development? budget of all government agencies for the operations of the Commission on Population.
27 abortions per 1,000 women
Data on abortions in the country are hard to come by. But Reuters reported last year that nearly half a million women in the Philippines underwent abortions despite pregnancy terminations being illegal and taboo.
Reuters said that in 2000, women in the country had more than 473,000 induced abortions, translating to a rate of 27 abortions per 1,000 women. The average rate in the United Sates was 20.
Reuters also said that most women who had abortions in the Philippines were married, Roman Catholic and had mothered at least three children. The majority terminate their pregnancy because they cannot afford another child.
The Philippine population, which grows 2.34 percent a year, is projected to hit 90.46 million in 2008.
The CBCP website quoted Dosado as saying that the decision to refuse communion to pro-abortion politicians was not a sanction or penalty.
Nor could it be considered equivalent to judging a person?s subjective guilt, the bishop said.
Rather, it is a reaction to a person?s public unworthiness to receive Holy Communion because of an ?objective situation of sin,? www.cbcpnews.net quoted Dosado as saying.
Bishop Ińiguez explained that a person was in an objective situation of sin if he paved the way for people to commit abortion, or if he provided opportunities for abortion to be done.
Citing the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts Declaration, ?Holy Communion and Divorced, Civilly Remarried Catholics,? Dosado said that when precautions failed to deter pro-abortion people from trying to receive communion, then the minister should refuse to give it to him.
Lagman said both the government and the Church should find a ?common ground? on the population management issue instead of criticizing one another?s position on the matter.
The Philippine Legislators? Committee on Population and Development Foundation agreed, saying ?it is time for the Church and the national government to look beyond the usual debate on population and contraceptives.?
?They should focus on being not just pro-life, but pro-quality of life, by contributing to the immediate passage of a Reproductive Health and Population Management Policy,? the foundation said in a statement.
No room for debate
The Church stand on abortion is clear and leaves no room for debate unlike other issues, according to Dosado. Not all moral issues have the same weight as abortion, he said.
?For example, if a Catholic were to be at odds with the Holy Father on the decision to wage war, he would not for that reason be considered unworthy to present himself to receive Holy Communion. There may be a legitimate diversity of opinion even among Catholics about waging war, but not about abortion,? he was quoted as saying in the report.
Citing the June 2004 General Principles of Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger (now Pope Benedict XVI), titled ?Worthiness to Receive Holy Communion,? the Ozamiz archbishop said receipt of Holy Communion should be a conscious decision, based on a reasoned judgment that a person was worthy to receive it.
The practice of a person indiscriminately presenting himself to receive communion just because he is at Mass is ?an abuse that must be corrected,? Dosado said.
He noted that the minister of Holy Communion could also refuse to give the Holy Eucharist to people who have been excommunicated and those who have been censured and banned by the Church from certain sacraments.
Poverty leading cause
Lyda Canson, Gabriela Women?s Party chair in Davao City, said Dosado?s action was not the solution to the problem of abortion.
?Instead of denying them (Catholic politicians) communion, why doesn?t the Catholic Church look for measures to effectively solve the problem?? Canson asked.
She said Gabriela research had found that poverty was the leading cause of abortion.
?Is it the solution? Why don?t we instead get to the root cause of the problem which is poverty? If we can solve poverty, then no mother would be heartless enough to abort her pregnancy,? she said.
Moralizing will never be the answer to the problem, Canson said.
She said another reason that women were resorting to abortion was because of the lack of correct education on reproductive health.
In countries where abortion is legal, where the process is safe, there is low incidence of abortion-related deaths, Canson noted. ?And we don?t want women to die,? she said.
Fetus in Mass offering
Recently, a priest in the Quiapo Church in Manila, was shocked to find a fetus inside a jar hidden in a basket of fruits offered during the Sunday morning Mass.
?It looked like a 4-month-old fetus. It had hands and feet. There was a rosary inside the bottle, too,? Msgr. Gerry Santos said. With Inquirer Research