Bishop urges faithful to heed the voice of conscience
MANILA, Philippines—A Catholic bishop close to President Benigno Aquino III’s family on Monday urged officials not to look at the Catholic Church as an obstacle to progress but a “mother” protecting her children from the moral traps of the controversial reproductive health (RH) bill.
In his first pastoral letter on the family planning measure, Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas appealed to the Catholic faithful “to return to the voice of conscience” to explain their stand and rebut their opponents with charity.
“On this highly divisive issue, the Church is still a mother protecting her children from greater dangers and moral traps which until now her beloved children are still unable to foresee,” said Villegas, who is also chair of the Commission on Catechesis and Catholic Education.
“The Catholic Church throughout its 2,000-year history in the world and almost 500 years in the Philippines has proven itself as a potent agent for holistic authentic human progress and not an obstacle for development.”
The Palace on Monday reacted sharply to Sunday’s blast by retired Archbishop Oscar Cruz. The prelate criticized the President’s failure to address poverty in supporting population control and said that a “sagacious” leadership was needed, not a laid-back “guns- and girls-occupied Malacañang.”
Just one bishop
“One bishop does not a flock make,” said Mr. Aquino’s spokesperson, Edwin Lacierda. “The reality is that the sharp tongue of the retired prelate indicates a closed attitude remarkably free of either Christian charity or basic prudence.”
In a statement, Lacierda said the bachelor President’s support for the RH bill was “part of his comprehensive, holistic approach to achieving growth without sacrificing human dignity.”
Villegas, a key figure in the 1986 Edsa People Power Revolution with then Manila Archbishop Jaime Cardinal Sin, was close to the late democracy icon Corazon Aquino, mother of current President.
Mr. Aquino has said he was prepared to face Church excommunication for supporting the RH bill, but he warned that the measure’s opponents threatening to mount a civil disobedience campaign, including a tax boycott, faced sedition charges.
The President believes that families must be given the freedom to choose from a wide array of birth control methods, including natural and artificial, to plan families and children be given sex education as early as Grade 5.
Citing a lesson from Pope Paul VI, Villegas stressed that the cause of poverty was corruption of the soul and of society. “Contraception adds to the moral corruption of our society and family,” he said.
Also Monday, a retired Vatican official, Jose Cardinal Sanchez, urged Filipino families to pray that Mr. Aquino would find moral light and spiritual wisdom.
Sanchez, prefect emeritus of the Congregation for the Clergy in Vatican, said that if Mr. Aquino’s mother were alive, she would have been first to enlighten his son. “I only hope that the family who is very Catholic will do something.” With a report from Christine O. Avendaño
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