Pope’s stance OK, but we’ll still fight RH law–bishops
MANILA, Philippines—Filipino prelates have welcomed Pope Francis’ challenge to shift the Church’s focus from strict dogma to love and understanding of everyone and serving the poor, but they will continue to fight any law that contradicts the faith, a Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) official said on Monday.
“For us, [the Pope’s statements] are a renewed invitation for reflection (on) what dimension of the Catholic Church’s journey we should focus on. While we believe that doctrines are important, Pope Francis reminds us that loving and serving the poor is important as well,” CBCP president and Cebu Archbishop Jose Palma told reporters on Monday.
In an interview with the Italian Jesuit journal La Civiltà Cattolica, Pope Francis criticized the Catholic Church’s “harsh obsession” with teachings on abortion, contraception and homosexuality, saying that its priests should be more welcoming instead of being “cold, dogmatic bureaucrats.”
But Palma said the Filipino faithful should not expect the Philippine Catholic Church to be quiet on issues affecting their moral values, such as the reproductive health (RH) law, among others.
“The teachings of the Church about reproductive health will remain the same. I also believe that this will not change in the time of Pope Francis… no, do not expect that to happen,” Palma said.
Incoming CBCP president and Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas said Pope Francis did not rebut the Church’s strong opposition to abortion and same-sex marriage in his interview. “He just set (the Church position) on proper grounding,” he said.
“The Pope observed that [issues such as the RH law, gay marriage and abortion) may be distracting us from loving the poor. We pay heed to that (but will) continue our fight against the RH. He does not forbid us to fight against these issues,” said Caloocan Bishop Emeritus Deogracias Iñiguez.
“The RH fight continues… We have to make a stand because we are dealing with a law of the land that for us would be against our moral conviction,” said Malolos Bishop Jose Oliveros.
But RH law author and former Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman said that Pope Francis’ statements should be taken as a “reprimand” to opponents of the reproductive health law in the Catholic Church.
“The recent liberal pronouncements of Pope Francis are a virtual reprimand of the Philippine Catholic hierarchy, which has adopted an intransigent position espousing the Church’s dogma prohibiting contraceptive use,” Lagman said in a statement.
He said that surveys had repeatedly shown that the majority of Filipinos, many of whom are Catholic, support the enactment of the RH law.
The RH law requires the government to provide contraceptives to those who may want but cannot afford them, as well as age-appropriate sex education in school and prenatal care to pregnant women. The Supreme Court has temporarily halted the law’s implementation while petitions questioning its constitutionality are pending.—With a report from Leila B. Salaverria
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