Writing on Air

Writing on Air by Jim Paredes

Render unto Caesar

Posted on October 10, 2010 by jimparedes

Render unto Caesar.
HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE By Jim Paredes (The Philippine Star) Updated October 10, 2010 12:00 AM

What a weekend it was.?In just a few hours, cyberspace was abuzz with comments on the issue of Reproductive Health. The President’s expressed support for family planning, which he affirmed at a town hall meeting in the US, put the Philippine bishops on DEFCON 3. They were angry, armed and ready for war.

Government’s desire to curb population growth has always been met with outright hostility from the Catholic Church. Each time the issue has been brought up, the entire cabal of Church spokesmen from the CBCP and the clergy are ordered to read pastoral letters spewing threats and imagined dire consequences about the Filipinos’ impending moral decline if any method of birth control, apart from the natural, is encouraged.

P-Noy’s insistence on challenging the stand of the Philippine church and doing the practical thing is the proverbial straw that has broken the camel’s back. And they have attacked him with everything they’ve got.

How dare he support something so unconscionable and despicable? Doesn’t he know it is against the law of God? Why doesn’t government give our people jobs instead of condoms? Besides, do we really have a population problem? They even delved into conspiracy theory. This, they said, clearly has something to do with the CIA and the $400 million Millennium Development Fund he received from the US government, which supports its own pharmaceutical companies that make all these evil birth control devices to control the fertility of third world countries.

In short, they threw everything, including the kitchen sink, at P-Noy. They also threatened mass actions and a civil disobedience campaign against the government. And finally, the head of the CBCP casually dropped what must have been intended to stop the President in his tracks: the grave threat of excommunication.

Almost simultaneously, as the chatter built up in cyberspace, rising like the floods of Ondoy, tour guide and artist Carlos Celdran pulled his stunning “Damaso” caper right before the CBCP hierarchy during an ecumenical service at the Manila Cathedral.

At this point, cyberspace, TV news, and everyone’s conversation became riveted completely on the topic and the conversation reached fever pitch.

The series of events that transpired last weekend was a deadly brew boiling in a piping-hot cauldron with three of the most potently explosive ingredients one can think of — politics, sex and religion thrown in together. What could possibly come out of this toxic mix that would provide nourishment? At best, it produced the most painful and acrimonious discussions among the faithful, many of whom expressed disappointment at the simplistic argumentation of the men of their Church.

People throughout history have gone to war many times over politics, religion and sex. From the Crusades to the World Wars, civilizations have clashed over these issues. Which is not surprising at all since these topics which can be reduced, at their basic essence, to one word: power. It is life’s greatest obsession.

In this case, P-Noy is exercising the power granted him by the people to create measures that will ease aspects of our lives, specifically outcomes relating to our sexual activities, and their relation to poverty and environmental ruin.

The Church, on the other hand, is using its power by flexing its muscles and threatening P-Noy to make sure he toes the Church line so government does not offer the people any choice with regard to their own fertility control, except the natural method that the Church propagates — albeit half-heartedly. For as long as family planning has been debated here, I have yet to see a full campaign by the Church to disseminate information on natural methods in the scale that it is well capable of doing.

The people, whom government and the Church claim to help, protect and nurture, are also exercising their power. At this juncture in our history, they are clearly appreciative of government finally standing up to the Church on the issue of family planning. If you don’t believe me, look up the results of the surveys, both scientific and anecdotal, that have been conducted in the past five years.

In the age of people power, greater democratization, and unbridled, open information, it is patently dictatorial, even fascistic, to deny people the right to judge for themselves what is best for their own individual life situations. It also smacks of a medieval mindset to deny the science and effectiveness of, say, condoms in preventing pregnancies and protecting people from HIV.

I really wonder how the Pope could proclaim that condoms are porous and thus ineffective, in effect using his moral authority to propagate misinformation and thereby condemning the populations of HIV-infected poor countries to the risk of infection. It is not rocket science to see that there is something factually wrong with this statement. It also doesn’t take a psychiatrist to recognize the unbridled exercise of moral power at work here to instill guilt and fear among unthinking and unquestioning people.

While I respect people who follow the Church line on natural family planning, I have a problem when they cannot respect the rights of those who disagree with them, and then seek to deny those people the right to choice.

There is so much breast-beating in the Church about being “pro-life.” But I sometimes wonder if they are really “pro-life” or just “pro-birth”? Aside from the charity work the Church does, there is hardly any talk coming from them about real solutions to national problems relating to hunger, homelessness, malnutrition, lack of educational opportunities, joblessness and environmental degradation that a runaway population has wrought on us and continues to do so.

While it is true that corruption in high places has and continues to ravage our poor, it is intellectual dishonesty, and a militant denial of reality, to be dismissive and say it is all the government’s fault that so many people are poor and live wretched lives, and then condemn government when it explores solutions that will empower people to ease their lives through family planning.

The “Damaso” incident at the Manila Cathedral sheds a lot of light on what has been going on since the time of Rizal to the present. There is something Damasonic about how the bishops are handling this issue of reproductive health. And we, the Filipino people, are caught in a religion which on one hand manifests as oppressive, medieval and superstitious, but also open, and humanly liberating on the other — depending on the issue. Many of my younger priest friends are pained by the pronouncements of the bishops and have quietly expressed this through texts and veiled and cryptic Facebook and Twitter messages. I can only wish that more of them were handling Church policies.

I have often wondered why the Church can be so open and enlightened on many social issues but so irrational when it comes to sex. I do not want to open a can of worms here, but the pitched Internet chatter over the weekend makes one thing clear — that there is great wisdom in the principle of the separation of Church and State. As someone wise and compassionate once said: “Render to Caesar what is Caesar’s and render to God what is God’s.”

* * *

Announcing the following workshops you may want to attend.

1) “Jim Paredes Second Songwriting Workshop.” What makes a good song? I will teach you the basics of songwriting and actually challenge my students to try their hand at it. Students must play an instrument such as guitar or piano. Workshop is on Oct. 9 and 10 from 1 to 6 p.m. Fee is P5,000. Address is 113 B. Gonzales, Loyola Heights, QC.

2) Are your pictures a hit-or-miss experience? Learn everything you need to know about your camera so you don’t just point and shoot. Must have a DSLR Camera. “Basic Photography Workshop” is on Oct. 16 from 1 to 6:30 p.m. Address is 113 B. Gonzales, Loyola Heights, QC. Fee is P3,500.

3) This used to run for six separate sessions. Now it is compressed to two days but still with the same punch and impact you will feel for life. “Creative For Life: The Two-Day Run” is on Oct. 23 (9 a.m. to 5 p.m.) and Oct. 24 (1:30 to 5 p.m.). Fee is P5,000. Visit tappingthecreative-universe.com for FAQ, syllabus and testimonials. Call 426-5375, 0916-8554303 and ask for Ollie. Write me at emailjimp@gmail.com for questions and reservations.

9 to “Render unto Caesar”

  1. Manny says:

    I think you are misinformed about the Pope’s statement on condoms. He did not say they were porous and therefore ineffective. He said they were ineffective in Africa because of the behavior they encourage, and science proves him right on that.

    Dr. Edward C. Green of the Harvard AIDS Preention Project conformed that the Pope was right. He notes that condom usage actually encourages risk-taking behavior and an increase in the number of casual encounters and sex partners. The result is that AIDS infections INCREASE when condoms are promoted in Africa. (You can read about what Green said at http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/03/27/AR2009032702825.html)

    Let me also point out that in Uganda, where abstinence and fidelity were promoted instead of condoms, AIDS infections went down sharply.

    Dr. Green, by the way, is not a Catholic and is not against condoms. He is a self-described liberal, but he had the honesty to admit that the Pope was right. We don’t see that honesty among the pro-RH fanatics here in the Philippines.

    The real problem here is that people attack the Church without even trying to find out what the Church is actually saying!

    Incedentally, separation of Church and state is defined in our Constitution. It means only two things: 1) that the state cannopt establish a state religion, and 2) that the state cannot interfere in the free exercise of religion. There is absolutely nothing in the zconstitution that prohibits any religious organization from parfticipating in poltics. And with good reason: religion has to participate in public life or else it becomes nothing more than pious personal satisfaction. If it cannot fight for justice, religion is next to useless. And that is why the Church — and any thinking person — must fight the RH/Abortion Bill.

    • jimparedes says:

      The main objection the people have against the church is it wont allow people to use the methods suited for them. It Insists that ONLY its methods should be allowed.

      We are NOT a Catholic state. Live in the Vatican if you want a Catholic state. We are a secular state and the church should know its place.

      Threats of civil disobedience show they have no respect for anyone who is not with them. Threats of excommunication are pathetic, infantile, damasonic and symptomatic of an empire losing its grip on its followers who have grown up.

      God save us from the church that has gone astray. It does not howl against GMA’s corruption probably because it gets its share of donations. It never tnreatened her with civil disobedience or excommunication. Yet it goes ballistic when a well-meaning President promotes family planning.

      What is with thie sex obsession. Galit sa family planning, ayaw ng women priests at bakla, pero tahimik sa pedophila within its ranks.

      I am trying to believe in the Church but alas I am questioning whether the Jesus that I know still lives there. Maybe it is time the younger church priests who respect individual discernment instead of wholesale monolithic blind obedience should over.

      • Nitramy says:

        Hence the 11th Commandment: “Your sex life = Our Business; Our sex life = NONE OF YOUR BUSINESS”.

        And it’s basically really silly if you boil it down to fundamentals: Why is the Church throwing around their spiritual jurisdiction to what is basically one of the last vestige of Homo sapiens’ animal nature? It’s like putting a square peg in a round hole.

        Also, this whole Damaso business just shows that you can hate evil so much that you forget to love good.

  2. James says:

    Well, Manny shows himself to be one of those medieval losers who wishes to keep the Philippines in the Dark Ages and suffering. The Catholic Church should worry about how to deal with its population of child-raping priests and bishops and not about population control in a country being overrun by overpopulation. The Catholic Church should worry about its Pope who helped hide various child-rapists while he was a Cardinal.

    Now, regarding the RH bill being an abortion bill … nothing could be more of a lie. Abortions are unconstitutional here in the Philippines. No bill may override that. So, the RH bill cannot be an abortion bill. Manny, like his Church masters, lies.

    Manny, and others like him, remember this: God said “Thou shalt not bear false witness.” This is very clear. Whenever you lie to promote your viewpoint, you sin, you make a terrible example of what a good Catholic or Chris-follower should be.

    In the words of Thomas Jefferson, Manny and the Bishops are “anti-Christians” … they go against what Christ wants. Lying is bad. Stop it.

  3. Philip says:

    Jesus fell short of the Jews’ expectations of a political messiah — one who could save them from the Roman oppression. While it was a more important problem for the Jews than the overpopulation and the RH debate in the Philippines, still it is clear throughout the Bible that Jesus inhibited himself from any political involvement. Did Jesus ever mentioned what’s wrong with Rome’s or Jew’s politics and what should be the ideal setup according to His ideal standpoint?
    In much the same way, the Church’s mission is not to meddle with political issues but to continue Jesus’ mission which is to spread the Gospel and make disciples.
    sorry for the rather simplistic argument, but Jesus Himself clearly drew the line on the ground.

  4. Jef Menguin says:

    The church is mainly pro-birth and not pro-life. Pro-life is only a political slogan.

    The Jesus that you know is no longer there. Jesus will not prostitute the church. He will not accept money from Malacanang and defend a corrupt president. He will not play deaf, mute, and blind.

    Excommunication is just a threat. It works during the medieval age when every one in the community knows whether you to go to church or not. Nowadays, people do not even know who is seated beside them inside the church.

    The Catholic church no longer refers to the community of the faithful. Nowadays, we use it to mean the groups of bishops we call CBCP. Their priests do not necessarily agree with them.

  5. VicSantLic says:

    The catholic church has long been irrelevant as a faith, and trying hard to be relevant all the time… they waived and lost their holiness and righteousness during the inquisition, they thrived and lived on immorality when they coddled dictators throughout history just to continue their deranged existence, and they had written their demised when they whitewashed and covered up for the sinners among their ranks… THE CATHOLIC CHURCH is not different from any inhuman government which existed throughout history… corrupt, oppressive, ignorant if not scientific… and could be worse than that

  6. Sarah says:

    “While I respect people who follow the Church line on natural family planning, I have a problem when they cannot respect the rights of those who disagree with them, and then seek to deny those people the right to choice.”

    I think you nailed it, Sir Jim. While I understand that the Church has its reasons to promote natural methods of contraception, I do think it is not in their place to impose their beliefs on others, especially on non-Catholics. I firmly believe in the primacy of conscience especially in highly personal matters such as these.

  7. Manny says:

    On the contrary, Jim, it is the RH/Abortion Bill that denies free choice and individual discernment.

    HB 96 is unduly coercive and violates freedom of speech, freedom of conscience, and freedom of religion. Take note of the following:

    Section 22 (e) of the proposed bill HB 96, for example, lists the following as a prohibited act: “Any person who maliciously engages in disinformation about the intent or provisions of this Act.” This
    provision is overly broad and “disinformation” could (and most probably will) be construed as prohibiting the expression of objections to the Bill, such as what we are presently doing. This provision is is obviously going to be used to suppress dissent, and is an undue restriction of freedom of speech. It has no place in any of the laws of a democratic nation.

    Section 22, number 3, requires doctors and health workers to provide “health care services,” but since the bill classifies abortifacient contraceptives and other artificial contraceptive devices and methods as essential medicines, these are presumably included. If they refuse to do so on religious grounds, they
    must still refer those who want to use such devices or methods to another person who will dispense them. Conscientious objectors are thereby required to cooperate in such acts, and if they refuse, they are slapped penalties ranging from one to six months imprisonment and a fine of P10,000-P50,000, as specified in Section 23 of the proposed bill. HB 96 eliminates any choice for conscientious objectors and makes no room for their legitimate concerns.

    Section 18, on the other hand, mandates that employers must provide family planning services (or information on where to obtain these), presumably including abortifacient contraceptives, to their employees. Employers, therefore, are not given any choice despite the fact that distribution of these abortifacients and contraceptives may be against their conscience.

    Ultimately, the RH/Abortion Bill is NOT wrong because the Church says so. The bill is objectively damaging to society and is counterproductive. That is why the Church objects to public money being wasted on useless, ineffective, and dangerous population control measures.

    I suggest that all read the bill first before making comments.

    To @Philip: Jesus did speak out against injustice. He did not simply promote personal piety only. But his message was for mankind in general, and not just for the oppressed Jews.

    As for @James: name-calling and baseless accusations only reveal a lack of real arguments — and honesty.

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