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True spirit of dialogue necessary if RH talks to resume – Tagle

MANILA, Feb. 15, 2012—As long as a true spirit of dialogue will guide discussions between Church and government representatives, Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio G. Tagle D.D. looks forward to opportunities to do his part in such dialogues concerning the reproductive health (RH) bill.

Emphasizing that he was expressing personal views and not the position of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), the prelate, who was part of the Church panel that participated in previous discussions with Malacanang said his role is to explain to [the government side] the whole position of the Church.

In a press conference Monday, Tagle said that he would welcome the chance to “continue playing that role because it is always good for people of different persuasions and different perspectives on a particular issue to listen to one another.”

“Ako naman, ito personal [opinion] ko na ito, not CBCP. Kung may opportunities pa for study and dialogue, sana nga matuloy pa,” he clarified.

Tagle recalled that discussions between CBCP and Malacanang representatives were already underway until an unfortunate incident brought them to a halt.

Why the talks came to a halt

After last year’s March 25 prayer rally which was held to demonstrate opposition to the RH bill, President Benigno S. Aquino III invited then Manila Archbishop Gaudencio Cardinal Rosales, former Cebu Archbishop Ricardo Cardinal Vidal, and then CBCP President Bishop Nereo Odchimar to a meeting concerning the controversial legislative measure.

“In that meeting they agreed that the dialogue that had already been started will continue,” Tagle recalled. “And it will not only be a dialogue but even a study-dialogue where different areas will be pursued, where the Church side could share its social teachings and the government side could also express its concerns.”

However, remarks made by Aquino during a public graduation ceremony less than a month later, in which he expressed his unequivocal support for the RH bill, cast a doubt on the sincerity of the government side as participant in the dialogue.

“My conviction is firm to have the responsible parenthood bill passed… I am committed to pursue the enactment of the Responsible Parenthood principle. I am aware that there are some who are against it. But I have an obligation as a leader to reach out to every sector, speak and calmly explain to them…” Aquino declared in his speech.

It sounded like “it [didn’t] matter what the position of the Church is. That’s when this group that met with the [President] said ‘Teka, open ba talaga sa dialogue or hindi?’” Tagle said.

Hence, the incident led to the Church representatives’ decision to pull out from the talks due to the lack of an authentic spirit of dialogue, according to the prelate.

“I cannot be speaking for any other group but for the Church, and I want to tell people how beautiful the Good News is,” he stressed when asked about his possible role in future dialogues with government representatives, should there be any.

“That’s why it’s called gospel – it’s Good News. And if it’s good, it must be rational, too. It could be reasonable. For example, ‘honor your father and mother’ – isn’t that reasonable? ‘Do not kill’ – isn’t that reasonable? How can [one] deny the reasonability of that?” the prelate explained, alluding to issues included in the bill that concerned citizens have raised.

“We will keep on repeating the word of God – with joy,” Tagle continued. “And we know that the word of God will always be rejected by those who do not find joy in it. But this does not remove the joy in expressing it.”

‘Business as usual’ for Church’s evangelizing

The prelate pointed out that the evangelization being carried out by the Church will continue, with or without anti-life legislation pending in Congress.

There are Catholic schools and the family life apostolate, he specified, that are always in “catechetical evangelizing mode.”

“Hindi naman nagtuturo ang Simbahan… dahil lang may [pending] bill. Let me make it clear – whether there is a bill that is being passed or not, the Church continues to teach on matters regarding Christian understanding of the human person, sanctity of marriage, human sexuality, etc.,” Tagle pointed out. (CBCP for Life)