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Friday, July 25, 2008

Nograles is right

By Ma. Isabel Ongpin

Nograles is right

Speaker Nograles is right, the debate on population, family planning and reproductive health should end under the polarizing and polemical circumstances that it has been reduced to. To continue it, will only add nuisance which now generates more heat than information, more emotion than reason, more rigidity than new ideas.

It is obvious that everyone has heard enough and made up their minds and will not budge. Therefore, let the legislature take up the vote on the Reproductive Health bill, let the bishops and priests and other religious leaders go to their flock and convince them of their stand and let the individuals make up their minds. In the long run, we all have to answer to our conscience. And everyone on each side of the debate should have a conscience.

Let us all be adults here and look at the facts. There is a runaway population problem in this country. The government has to address it, religious groups have to be aware of it and within their doctrinal elements come to an answer for it.

Women have long cried out that they want to limit the number of children they have. Statistics on infant mortality, abortion incidence, poverty, women’s health are on the side of addressing the population problem.

Under these circumstances, the question is reduced to how to address it. This is the crux of the problem as it goes down to natural family planning as advocated by the Church versus artificial means for family planning as advocated by others.

All things being equal, every side having had their say, people of reproductive age and varying economic means having been consulted and listened to, anyone and everyone allowed to make their own decisions, then let those decisions be permitted to be carried out.

If the answer for some is natural family planning, then those who believe in it must work to implement it. It must be a serious effort not a theoretical answer to what ails us.

The Catholic Church hierarchy here has time and again argued for it but its actions to implement it among its flock pales before their high flown rhetoric that it is the best way of addressing the problem.

If the Church involves itself in the debate, in the presentation of its doctrinal answers then it should equally involve itself in implementing what it believes in. It may solicit government help, private support, individual effort to effect the implementation. But it must do the implementation seriously and make a fundamental, inclusive and radical effort among its adherents and those it has convinced among its flock.

Otherwise, it is running interference, affecting the climate of conviviality in public discourse, and otherwise acting like an obstacle course to a solution for a serious problem. All of these in turn diminish their standing in the eyes of a democratic dispensation where religious freedom is guranteed.

Can the Church tone down its sweeping judgments and condemnations of people who believe otherwise?.

Can it please stop the distortion of people’s stands and the name-calling that it indulges in for those who think otherwise.?

They can say their piece, but please let the parameters of courtesy, respect, freedom of thought, and charity prevail. Enough of calling people who believe otherwise “evil.”

Enough of generalizing that artifical means is “abortion,” enough about threats regarding the withholding of sacraments from those publicly condemned. This is unseemly, counterproductive and uncharitable. It may intimidate but does not convince.

As for government officials, let them be reasonable and factual about the population problem. Let them not give the glib answers like exporting people away from this country, waiting for income disparity to be corrected by itself without government intervention, waiting for the time when everyone will be educated enough to vote responsibly, earn a living, be intelligent parents.

Let them be courageous and not succumb to the threats against their political and personal well-being by those who would bully rather than reason. They have their work cut out for them in all the disparities that our society has, especially the population problem. Please get to work.

We have heard enough, in fact too much. Let everyone use their conscience now to guide them on this issue. Conscience is the highest law and it should be given the freedom it deserves.