Joaquin G. Bernas, S.J. and RH Bill No. 5043
Many of us Catholics, particularly those opposed to RH Bill No. 5043 and who have read the most recent Sounding Board columns of Jesuit priest and lawyer-constitutional law specialist Joaquin G. Bernas in the Philippine Daily Inquirer, must be extremely puzzled - - to say the least.
His latest column yesterday, November 3, 2008 initially seemed to be an evenhanded commentary centering on “what more deeply divides us is how the relationship between religion (in general) and government should be structured”. He started off by saying that religion has “provided many of the values which guide government policy about the human person”.
But in the next paragraph Jesuit Bernas showed his obvious unevenhandedness by sarcastically ALLEGING that: “But there are also those who seek to persuade government to adopt values not commonly held and to impose them on others. In a sense they seek to promote an evangelical (fundamentalist?) government. In the current controversy, the evangelizing Catholics among them, for instance, would favor legislating Humanae Vitae”. (emphasis added)
I will try to tackle those sarcastic Bernas ALLEGATIONS, because such are even more patently and demonstrably FALSE.
Jesuit priest Joaquin Bernas the lawyer, is obviously referring to the conscientious Catholic oppositors of the Bill, albeit with veiled sarcasm, by labeling them as “evangelicals” and “evangelizing Catholics”. Indeed, to many liberal “modernist” and perhaps now ex-Catholics, the “good news” of the Gospel when interpreted by the Catholic Magisterium united with the Popes, is considered “hardline” or even erroneous.
But certainly those conscientious Catholics loyal to their Magisterium, are validly witnessing to and defending their Catholic faith, by virtue of the solemn pledges made during their Sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation, and more so if priests or bishops, by virtue of their most solemn vows upon their Ordination Sacrament.
Thus we who are OPPOSING THE NATIONWIDE VALUE IMPOSITIONS proposed by the authors/supporters of RH 5043, do so because we believe in CONSCIENCE that the Bill violates our deep-seated Catholic beliefs regardless of how many or how few we may be. For indeed TRUTH is NEVER dependent on numbers!
Contrary to what Joaquin Bernas alleges therefore, it is NOT us Catholics opposed to the Bill who “seek to persuade government to adopt (our) values…. (in order) to impose them on others”, BUT it is in fact the RH Bill authors and sponsors who have filed the Bill who wish to impose by a new LAW even if unconstitutional, their contrary values on us the so-called evangelizing Catholics.
Furthermore, Joaquin Bernas the lawyer is perhaps wittingly or unwittingly making such so-called “evangelizing Catholics” look like morons from his legal profession’s point of view, because of his claim that such Catholics “would favor legislating Humanae Vitae”.
Certainly, our well-known and competent RH Bill oppositors such as the CBCP’s Legal Officer Atty. Jo M. Imbong and Philippine Star columnist Atty. Jose C. Sison, Opus Dei/Economist Bernardo Villegas, Sister Pilar Verzosa of the Good Shepherd congregation as well as former Senator Francisco Tatad among others, are NOT legal morons by any stretch of one’s imagination. In fact, ALL of them already know that our Constitution itself agrees with Humanae Vitae to the extent that the Charter mandates that the State shall “protect the life of the mother and the life of the unborn from conception”.
Furthermore but intriguingly unexplainable, Joaquin Bernas himself has publicly though recently stated for the record (in his Sounding Board column of 13 Oct. 2008) that “Although the (above) constitutional provision does not assert with certainty when life precisely begins, it reflects the view that, in dealing with the protection of life, it is necessary to take the safer approach. For this reason the Constitution commands that protection be given from conception, that is, from the fertilization of the zygote….”
“From this (official record of the debate in the Constitutional Assembly on the same issue and where Bernas was a prominent member-participant) it can be seen that the intention is to protect the life even before implantation in the uterus, that is, from the moment biological life begins”. Thus wrote Bernas a fortnight ago.
And so one of the many fundamental objections of Catholic oppositors to RH Bill 5043, is that it legitimizes, even mandates that not only contraceptives but ABORTIFACIENTS as well will be available upon demand as “essential” medicines. But these so called medicines such as Depoprovera are not only contraceptives, but more of abortifacients explicitly designed to destroy, thus KILL, nay MURDER, the human foetus even before being able to cling safely to the mother’s uterine wall!
And yet such a provision of the Bill (i.e. Sections 8 and 9 thereof), will be considered as “legitimate” by Jesuit Catholic priest Joaquin Bernas. Thus Constitutional specialist Bernas inexplicably contradicted himself by concluding in his last column, without any apparent objection to any specific provision of the Bill, as follows: “The challenge to those who oppose the proposed law is to show that even without the law they are already satisfying the legitimate interest of the state in the welfare of children (i.e. for so-called safe and satisfying sex?). Alternatively, they can look for ways of cooperating with the state in the implementation of the law”.
In short, this supposedly Catholic priest’s extremely puzzling legal advice to us Catholics is similar to that given by cynics to potential rape victims…. “Relax and cooperate!” or else “convince the rapist that you do not deserve such a fate!” Reductio ad absurdum…
There is however one Bernas statement I fully agree with: that it would be “interesting to see what the result would be if all members of the (local Catholic) hierarchy were to be polled about the (RH Bill) subject.”
Eduardo B. Olaguer
c/o Catholic Xybrspace
Apostolate of the Philippines
November 4, 2008