MANILA, Nov. 23, 2010—Roman Catholic Church leaders called on Malacañang to stop “opportunistic misuse” of Pope Benedict XVI’s statement on condom use.
Retired Archbishop Oscar Cruz said the pope did not endorse the use of condoms as a means to controlling population and not even as a moral and ideal solution to stopping the spread of AIDS.
It’s sad, he said, that there are some groups and even government officials who are distorting the pope’s statement to advance their selfish and political interests.
“When we argue let’s not take half-truths because we will lose that way. I’m sorry to disappoint people who are hoping otherwise,” Cruz said Tuesday at a weekly church-organized forum in Manila.
An Associated Press article on Sunday quoted Benedict XVI as saying that condoms use was specific to fighting against the spread of HIV for male prostitutes and homosexuals where procreation does not take place.
But the pope also reiterated the Catholic teachings that AIDS must be fought through marital fidelity and sexual abstinence.
The pontiff’s comment was contained in Peter Seewald’s forthcoming book “Light of the World: the Pope, the Church and the Signs of the Times”.
The reproductive health (RH) bill which seeks to promote the use of contraceptives such as condoms is a hotly debated issue in the Philippines.
Malacañang yesterday said Benedict XVI’s statement could “absolutely” boost support for the RH bill which seeks to control the country’s population by promoting the use of contraceptives.
Presidential Communications Development Secretary Ricky Carandang said the Palace is hoping that the local Catholic hierarchy would follow the Vatican because “they cannot be popish than the pope.”
“That’s a good step. I think our own clergy should be informed by the views of the Vatican because they’ve always referred to the Vatican when they stated their position, now that the Vatican’s position is such then I think that should result in a corresponding flexibility on the part of our Church,” Carandang said.
President Benigno Aquino III has said he is pro-choice, including providing couples assistance with contraceptives such as condoms and birth control pills.
Out of context
House Minority Leader Edcel Lagman, author of the RH bill, said the papal statement has promptly weakened the Church opposition to the controversial RH measure.
Supporters of the measure also took a cue from the Pope’s statement saying this should prompt the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines to finally concede on their anti-RH stance.
But Fr. Joel Jason, head of the Commission on Family and Life of the Archdiocese of Manila, said the pope remains firm on the Church’s injunctions against contraceptives.
Benedict XVI, he said, only opined that the use by male prostitutes can be considered as a possible sign that they at least are starting to realize that is not right to irresponsibly sleep around with no regard for consequences.
According to him, the pontiff clearly said that the only complete solution to AIDS is to humanize sexuality.
He added the pope also stressed that sex cannot be treated as a self-administered drug intended to just give pleasure when it’s desired regardless of whatever consequences.
“They (pro-RH) respect the pope but our concern is that they are acting upon a misconception. We are hoping that they listen to corrections,” Jason said.
“We tend to take things out of context… before they make a conclusion they should first get the whole context of what the Holy Father really said,” he added.
Jason is the Dean of Studies at San Carlos Seminary in Guadalupe in Makati City and teaches Fundamental Moral Theology, Sexuality and Integrity and Bioethics.
He also said the church is still firm in its position that AIDS must be fought through moral fidelity and sexual abstinence.
“Risk reduction is not even an option. Let’s not take the minimal option but the maximum option. Let’s not take condom as a solution,” Jason added.
“Through fidelity and abstinence, there’s no way you can get AIDS if you practice these…,” he said.
Cruz said he was not surprised that the pope’s statement on the condom issue will be used as a “bullet” by those pushing for RH bill.
According to him, the issue on reproductive health is hotly debated issue in the country.
“I understand the RH proponents that they would even throw a kitchen sink just to push what they want,” he said. “Our only appeal is that for them to just stick with the truth… please!”
Reacting to those who have been asking Catholic hierarchy to go easy on contraception, Cruz said the Church cannot stay silent on the issue because it has a mission to uphold morality whether people like it or not. (CBCPNews)