CBCP head: Aquino might be excommunicated for contraceptive stance
Bishop Nereo Odchimar of Tandag, speaking as president of the influential Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), said in a radio interview that the Catholic Church can “possibly" subject Aquino to religious censure if the President insists on his stance that Filipino couples should be given the choice to use artificial contraceptives.
“It can be a possibility. But I do not say that, right now, it is a proximate possibility," Odchimar said in an interview over Church-run Radio Veritas on Thursday, adding that the bishops are "open for dialogue."
Portions of the Radio Veritas interview with Odchimar were quoted in the report of GMA News' Claire Delfin aired over "24-Oras" on Thursday evening.
Despite the possibility of excommunication, President Aquino said hours after Odchimar’s statement that he is not changing his position on contraceptive use.
"We are all guided by our consciences. My position has not changed. The state's duty is to educate our families as to their responsibilities and to respect their decisions if they are in conformity to our laws," Aquino said in a statement on Thursday.
The President likewise maintained his stance on “responsible parenthood," saying that the state should respect the choices couples make on the kind of birth control method they want to utilize. (See: Aquino opposes Church on birth control issue)
During a meeting with a Filipino community in San Francisco last week, the president said the government "is obligated to inform everybody of their responsibility and their choices, at the end of the day government might provide assistance to those who are without means if they want to employ a particular method."
Consider Church’s position
Odchimar however advised Aquino to “consider the position of the Catholic Church" before making his stance on reproductive health issues.
“Abortion is a grave crime. As a matter of fact, excommunication is attached to those who commit abortion… This is a violation of God’s commandment," he said in the radio interview.
The bishop from Surigao del Sur likewise reiterated that the Catholic Church is “consistent with its position" against artificial means of birth control.
Another CBCP official, Fr. Melvin Castro, also earlier threatened to stage protest actions over the government’s plan to distribute condoms and pills to Filipino couples. (See: Church threatens to launch protests over Aquino’s contraceptive policy)
The Catholic Church promotes only natural family planning and is opposed to the use of artificial birth control methods such as condoms and birth-control pills, saying these could lead to promiscuity and a rise in abortion cases.
Despite these, House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. said on Thursday that he will ask the President to certify as “urgent" House Bill No. 96, or the controversial Reproductive Health bill. (See: Belmonte to ask PNoy to certify RH bill as 'urgent')
Open to dialogue
Although the President is not keen on changing his position on contraceptive use, he is still open to dialogue with bishops over the controversial reproductive health issue, his spokesperson said.
Presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said Aquino is willing to talk with Church officials to discuss his stand on reproductive health.
Lacierda, however, did not indicate that the government will be making a formal invitation to hold a dialogue, pointing out that the CBCP still has the letter Aquino sent during the campaign period wherein he asked to discuss the issues with them.
Lacierda reiterated that Aquino's stand on family planning does not mean he automatically supports the controversial reproductive health bill in Congress. He said Aquino has yet to study the proposal.—JV, GMANews.TV