smoke

I write better when I smoke. Don’t ask me to reduce it to a science.

This isn’t bridge building

One of the Latin titles borne by the Roman Catholic Pope is Pontifex Maximus. Today, that title is translated as Supreme Pontiff, or even High Priest. Pretty accurate, right?

But Pontifex is of much older vintage than that. The word actually comes from the ancient Roman  religion – the one where they worship Jupiter, Neptune, etc – and literally means “bridge-builder.” This was important on two levels. First, in the physical sense as it related to the worship practices of those times, it was only the priest – the pontifex – who was able to address the river god to “get his permission” for the erection of bridges. And bridges were critical to the financial and political well being of the Roman empire.

Second, on the symbolic level, it was the pontifex who was expected to “bridge” the gap between the gods and men. This is the sense of the word that prevails now and makes “Pontifex Maximus” such an apt title for the Roman Pope. He – Pope Francis today – is the one who bridges the divide between the earthly kingdom and the heavenly kingdom; he is the one who brings billions of Catholics in communion with the one God.

Breathtaking responsibility, isn’t it?

Over the last few years, however, more and more Catholics have been feeling more and more alienated from that one God who is supposed to welcome them with open arms. And the fault is often laid at the feet of the Catholic Church and its Pope – particularly the unpopular Benedict XVI – due to its policies on reproductive health, homosexuality, and child abuse by priests.

The Church’s hardline positions on these issues have been driving a deep wedge between itself and the faithful, causing the latter to drift away. Now if you were to take the hardline stance, that isn’t such a bad thing. After all, there have been bishops who have shrugged of the dwindling congregations by saying that those who remain are the true Catholics. There is a certain amount of sense in that. Religions are, by their very nature, meant to be exclusive clubs open only to those who believe in the core faith. It follows therefore that if you don’t believe, you’re welcome to leave.

But the inescapable fact is that these issues – RH, homosexuality, and child abuse – cut across religious boundaries because of the Church’s preeminence. Let me explain.

Today, the largest non-government healthcare provider in the world is the Catholic church. Considering the state of government run health facilities in many countries outside of the developed world, this means that even non-Catholics basically have no choice but to go to Catholic institutions for health services.

Now imagine going to a Catholic clinic and asking for condoms because you already have more children than you can feed? Or asking for a morning-after pill coz you’ve been raped and don’t  want to get pregnant? Nope and Nope. Condoms are prohibited, and contraception and abortion are strictly verboten. Abortion actually results in automatic excommunication.

But beyond health services, consider also the effect of 1.1 billion Catholics on public policies regarding non-discrimination against homosexuals, and the treatment of priests found to have molested minors.

These are real-world situations that, by rights, should have nothing to do with religious beliefs, and yet the very pervasiveness of the Roman Catholic Church practically define how they are professionally and officially addressed.

As a result, many people – finding their religion being used to deprive them of service and solace – end up losing their religion. Remember how I said that isn’t such a bad thing for purists? Yes, well, the Roman Catholic Church is also pragmatic and the fact is, the Church pulls down at least 4 billion US dollars a year in donations, from the American churches alone! If the number of faithful diminish, so too will the collections. It really is as simple as that.

Now this isn’t to say that it’s just a money-grubbing industry. While the Church has its share of embezzlers, much of that money still goes to funding the thousands of hospitals and missions maintained by the Church in developing countries.

Nevertheless, that’s the quandary the Church is in right now. It’s hemorrhaging believers and losing dollars. Downstream, this will mean less money for charities, hospitals, and missions. Everybody loses.

The proximate cause of this exodus of believers, everyone agrees, is the Church’s stance on reproductive health, homosexuality, and the treatment of child abuse cases. Ironically, these are the very same issues that the Church refuses to  give ground on. Again, understandable from a strictly purist point of view, but murder on the pragmatic side of the Church. In a very real sense then, the bridges of the Church to its flock are crumbling and, as a bridge builder between men and God, the Church is failing miserably.

Which is why many Catholics – and Church observers – are over the moon with Pope Francis now. This affable, selfie-taking, Argentinian has taken the world by storm with his humility and no-nonsense attitude. Many hail him as a breath of fresh air, and people are just quivering with excitement at his decidedly forward-looking statements.

In 2013, his statement “If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?”  had everyone and his gay uncle jumping for joy. Here in the Philippines, formerly implacable critics of Benedict XVI were suddenly more inclined to give the Church the benefit of the doubt.

And certainly, doubt we should.

Here are the other things Pope Francis says, compiled by Salon.com

Here, a collection of his very worst quotes on the issue.

1. A Senate vote on gay marriage is a destructive pretension against the plan of God

From a letter to the Carmelite Sisters of Buenos Aires on the perils of marriage equality:

“Let’s not be naïve, we’re not talking about a simple political battle; it is a destructive pretension against the plan of God. We are not talking about a mere bill, but rather a machination of the Father of Lies that seeks to confuse and deceive the children of God.”

2. Gay marriage will destroy the family

More from the same letter to the four monasteries of Argentina:

“The Argentine people will face a situation whose outcome can seriously harm the family… At stake is the identity and survival of the family: father, mother and children.

3. Gay parenting is a rejection of God’s law engraved in our hearts

Again:

“At stake are the lives of many children who will be discriminated against in advance, and deprived of their human development given by a father and a mother and willed by God. At stake is the total rejection of God’s law engraved in our hearts.”

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4. The political struggle against marriage equality is war

And finally:

“The bill will be discussed in the Senate after July 13. Look at San Jose, Maria, Child and ask them [to] fervently defend Argentina’s family at this time. [Be reminded] what God told his people in a time of great anguish: ‘This war is not yours but God’s.’ May they succor, defend and join God in this war.”

5. Gay adoption is discrimination against children

According to the National Catholic Reporter, Francis called gay adoption a form of “discrimination against children.” A comment that resulted in a public rebuke from Argentine President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, who said that Francis’ remarks suggested “medieval times and the Inquisition.”

This isn’t bridge-building. Not in the least. And the worst part is that this dark core of anti-gay thought is now being clothed in the purest white and being sold to an adoring public, and for the most cynical of reasons – money.

 

Filed under: church and state, international, sex, sheepage, , , ,

Redundant

With the wedding over, things are starting to slow down around here. The bride and her man have flown off to their honeymoon, one set of parents have started the long trip home, and the neighbor’s dog no longer barks quite as incessantly as it did when stranger scents filled the air. And me? I can feel the itch to write coming back.

And Nick has thankfully given me a way back into the conversation.

In his post about the supposed redundancy of the RH Bill, Nick uses the word redundant at least 10 times, not counting the various forms of the same word. Now if that isn’t … that word … I don’t know what is. LOL!

Seriously, though, I have to disagree with him.

The RH Bill is tantamount to a non-binding resolution, simply because it creates more bureaucracy without the need to actually strengthen existing ones … and does not do anything much than sound off on existing responsibilities that should be handled by existing agencies and departments of government.

In either case, the debate is misconstrued, pushed towards ideological extremes, and misses the most important of all debates, how and why should any part of this bill be implemented, when in fact, current laws and agencies can already do what is being proposed.

From his words, it should be obvious that Nick’s thesis rests on the belief that the RH Bill simply calls for what other agencies and departments should already be doing, in effect a duplication of functions. The key word there is SHOULD, and its use is what makes Nick’s sweeping generalization false.

Everyone can agree that many of the things mandated by the RH Bill  are things – or acts – that should be performed by the Department of Health, or by hospitals and medical practitioners in general. But then again, implicit in that agreement is the acknowledgment that even though these things should be performed, the fact remains that they are NOT being performed.

Nick frames this acknowledgment by saying that

… our focus should be efficiency, of which government implementation is severely lacking.

Methinks Nick is thinking of a different law altogether.

The RH Bill – in providing as it does – serves the laudable purpose distilling RH-related provisions of existing laws, regulations, and government programs, thereby making those provisions more urgent and enforceable with the addition of punitive measures.

Taking Nick’s example – so what if the provision of ‘family planning services’ is part of the Family Health Office’s program? Supposing the FHO didn’t actually provide significant ‘family planning services.’ All the FHO has to say – and it would be correct too! – is that there are several gazillion other good and important programs that compete with ‘family planning services’ for funding and manpower.

Under those circumstances, would it be better then to whine about the inefficiency of implementation or to enact legislation that would separate ‘family planning services’ from the mass of other programs and thereby ensure that it gets its own funding and administrative support?

As for this one:

Take for example, in the bill, the stipulation that medical care must be extended to those who are requiring emergency treatment in cases of pregnancy and those of maternity cases, or even those that need post-abortion attention. Redundant. Inasmuch as this seems like a responsible statement to make, the most responsible and legal act is to extend medical care to all medical emergencies, period. Already, such statements flies against the face of the fact that emergency care must be provided to everyone, in all cases, irrespective of the background of that case.

This statement ignores the fact that real life rarely plays out the best case scenario or the ideal. Sure, people should be provided emergency care for any and all reasons, but in reality, there are many ways the hospitals – which are businesses after all – can totally ignore this moral imperative without any accountability. By making a law out of this, you attach the element of coercion, in effect punishing violators for not doing the right thing (which they would have gotten away with if the law didn’t exist).

So, does the RH Bill repeat what existing laws, regulations, government programs provide for? I would have to say yes. But is it redundant? Is the repetition needless as Nick repeats over and over again? No, it is not, because the repetition serves the purpose of emphasizing certain things, and penalizes certain acts and ommissions that normally would not have been violative of the law. Because the repetition is for a good purpose, the RH Bill is therefore not redundant.

Filed under: politics, society,

We have the numbers

Rep. Janette Garin sez they have the numbers to pass the Reproductive Health Bill. Whupty-doo. I’ll believe it when the Bill passes. Y’see, it isn’t important how many Representatives support the thing in private. What matters is how they vote. Remember Imee Marcos and her last minute impeachment vote? Haha. She was one of those talking up a storm during the weeks prior to the voting, but when it came down to the wire, all she had was a mumble about how she did it for dear old mum. 

Interestingly enough, she wasn’t sent to the ethics committee for that, was she? She ought because, after all, people in her legislative district were the ones who voted her into office, not her mom. It was them she was supposed to be the voice for, not her mom.

And now, I’m afraid that all these pledges Garin seems to be counting on will come to naught. I imagine that when it comes time to man up, these Representatives will end up speaking for the interests of another mum – the Holy Mother Church – rather than for the interests of the constituents who voted for them.

Filed under: church and state, health, law and order, religion, science, sex, , ,

RH is not equivalent to abortion

DJB, over at FV wants to start a debate on whether abortion should be decriminalized. Great respect to the Dean and all that, but I think this forced debate takes away from the main focus of the bill being considered – which is reproductive health. Or in less lofty terms, do we allow contraception or not?

By stirring up this question of abortion, might we not give the impression that abortion is at issue? If people get around to believing that the RHB espouses abortion (and never mind the hundred shades of gray because the under-informed public ever sees only in black and white), then that bill is dead in the water as far as public perception goes. And because we have a strictly populist Congress, if the people – however blindly – condemn the RHB, then Congress will kill the RHB for real. When that happens we lose this great chance to educate people on this very critical topic.

Filed under: law and order, sex, society, ,

Paguia’s cross-ex

 

From Ducky Paredes: Alan Paguia’s cross-ex of HB 5043 proponents. 

Seriously. There was a time when I thought that Paguia might be the shit, but after reading this cross-ex, I don’t quite know anymore. I don’t even know why he would bother to put this sort of thing out unless it were to position himself as some sort of HB 5043 killer – yeah *snort*! A killer who can’t make his point without using loaded yes-or-no questions. Sheesh. When did this guy become a barangay-league un-lawyer?

Anyway, just for the exercise, let me try to be cross-examined by the redoubtable Alan Paguia.

 

On the Preamble of the Constitution

Do you believe in the sovereignty of the Filipino people?

Yes.

Do you know that under the preamble in the constitution, the Filipino people believe in almighty God?

The preamble does say that the Filipino people invoke the name of the almighty God. It is therefore safe to presume that their is a degree of belief present. Whether that belief is of a degree sufficient to actually constitute a major factor in the average FIlipino’s decision making is a different question altogether.

Do you believe in almighty God?

No. I believe in a Higher Power, but I doubt that we have the same mental image.

Do you believe in the rule of law?

Absolutely.

Do you believe the government must operate under a regime of love among the people, including the unborn?

What does that mean, a ‘regime of love’? Sounds like flower-power, old dude! What is the legal weight of a ‘regime of love?’ How do you quantify a ‘regime of love’ such that it can have true legal weight?

 

On Article II Section 12 of the constitution

Do you believe in the sanctity of family life?

Defining ‘sanctity’ as the quality of deserving respect or dedication, yes. 

Do you believe sanctity means “holiness”?

Not in this context, no. (And I resent your trying to drag religion into this issue.)

Do you believe the state must protect and strengthen the sanctity of family life?

No. While the family unit is deserving of respect and dedication, the state has no business enforcing it’s interpretation of what that ‘respect and dedication’ should manifest as, at the expense of the rights of the individuals within that family unit. 

Do you believe the family, as a basic social institution, is autonomous?

Yes.

Do you believe that autonomy of the family must be respected by the state?

Yes.

Do you believe the state must protect the life of the unborn?

Yes.

Do you believe the unborn has the right to be born?

Yes, but that there are situations when the right of the mother gains primacy.

As a general rule, would you agree the unborn is considered born if it is alive at the time it is completely delivered from the mother’s womb?

Yes.

Do you believe the state must protect the life of the unborn from its beginning until it is born?

Yes.

Do you believe almighty God’s creation of man is replicated by man’s procreation of children?

No. God didn’t fuck Eve, did He?

Would you agree the birth of a human being is preceded by a biological process?

Duh … yeah.

Would you agree that process has a beginning and an end?

Yes. Seriously. This laying-the-groundwork shit is getting mighty tedious.

Would you agree that process is either natural or artificial?

Yes already.

Would you agree the natural process is the general rule and the artificial is the exception?

Yes.

Would you agree that process, whether natural or artificial, may be generally divided into two stages, namely: (1) the unborn stage; and (2) the born stage?

Yes.

Would you agree the unborn stage has a beginning?

Yes.

Would you agree “conception” takes place within the unborn stage?

Not within. Conception is the beginning of the unborn stage (as you call it).

Would you agree “conception” cannot take place without the sperm of a male fertilizing the egg of a female?

Oh lord, Yes. But I find it strange that you seem to, considering that Jesus was conceived without anyone’s sperm. Incidentally, can the sperm of a female fertilize the egg of a male?

Would you agree conception is, generally speaking, a natural effect of a prior sexual act between a male and a female?

No. Generally speaking, conception is only one of two possible outcomes of sexual congress.

Do you believe in responsible parenthood?

Yes.

Do you believe the state should encourage sex outside the context of the “sanctity of family life”?

The state has no business encouraging or discouraging sex, except where certain reasonable strictures apply, such as the rules on rape and adultery.

Do you believe the state should discourage sex outside the context of the “sanctity of family life”?

The state has no business encouraging or discouraging sex, except where certain reasonable strictures apply, such as the rules on rape and adultery.

Do you believe in the natural and primary right and duty of parents to develop the moral character of their children?

Yes.

Do you believe the government must help develop the moral character of children?

Yes.

Do you believe the government will strengthen the moral character of the youth by promoting the use of contraceptives?

Yes. Because by emphasizing the importance of contraception, the government will teach the youth discipline. It is requires far more self-control to refrain from sex because there is no condom available than to forget that God is watching you trying to get into some girl’s pants.

 

On Article XV of the constitution

Do you believe the government will promote responsible parenthood by promoting the use of contraceptives among the youth or unmarried couples?

Yes. Abstinence is not the only form of responsible parenthood.

Do you believe the family is the foundation of the nation?

No. The individual is.

Do you believe marriage is the foundation of the family?

Not necessarily.

Do you believe the government will strengthen the nation by strengthening the family?

Not necessarily.

Do you believe the government will strengthen the family by strengthening marriage as a social institution?

Not necessarily. 

Do you believe marriage, as a social institution, is inviolable?

No. The inviolability of marriage should remain a strictly religious concept. In law, a marriage should be a contract, and a contract should be revocable with the consent of both parties.

Do you believe the government will strengthen the inviolability of marriage by promoting the use of contraceptives among the youth or unmarried couples?

First of all, a marriage – as a legal contract – should not be considered inviolable. The question, therefore, is false.

Do you believe the government will strengthen the family by promoting the use of contraceptives among the youth or unmarried couples?

Promoting the use of contraceptives will neither strengthen nor weaken the family.

Would you agree a major substance of the bill refers to the criminalization of certain acts related to reproductive health care?

Yes.

Do you believe the title of the bill, stating in part the catch-all phrase “and for other purposes”, is a fair description of the criminal acts enumerated therein?

The Bill speaks of a National Policy, and as ‘Policy’ necessarily implies that some acts will be considered considered contrary to policy and therefore subject to penalties, then yes, it is a fair description.

Filed under: church and state, law and order, religion, sex, , ,

Sex is Speech

From DJB, via Filipino Voices:

Five Points on Reproductive Health Bill
by Atty. Alan F. Paguia

1. Under the Preamble of the Constitution, the general objective of the Philippine legal system is “to build a just and HUMANE SOCIETY”. Such humaneness includes both the born and the unborn. Therefore, it would not be humane for Congress to promote the use of contraceptives since it is directed against the life of the unborn.

2. The life of the unborn constitutes the process of PROCREATION. It has its alpha and omega.

3. Procreation begins with the SEXUAL ACT. It ends when the unborn is born. Under Article 41 of the Civil Code, the unborn is considered BORN if it is alive at the time it is completely delivered from the mother’s womb. Why is the sexual act the alpha of procreation? Because without it, generally speaking, NO sperm would enter the female body. If no sperm enters the female body, conception becomes a physical impossibility. Therefore, procreation or reproduction begins with the sexual act and ends with the complete separation of the unborn from the mother’s womb. It follows that any discussion on procreation or reproduction – to be complete – must include the sexual act.

4. Under the Constitution, the FAMILY is the foundation of the nation, and MARRIAGE is the foundation of the family. These are the foundations of responsible parenthood. Clearly, marriage LEGITIMIZES the sexual act between the husband and the wife (Art. XV). In other words, under the Constitution, any sexual act outside marriage is ILLEGITIMATE or IMMORAL.

5. May Congress properly pass a law that would make the life of the unborn a physical impossibility? NO. It would be unconstitutional as it would violate the “guidelines for legislation” set out in Article II of the Constitution (Oposa v. Factoran, 224 SCRA 792; Kilosbayan v. Morato, 246 SCRA 540; Tañada v. Angara, 272 SCRA 18).

 

First, the Preamble has limited legal authority, serving only to outline the vision of the sovereign people. It’s contents, therefore, are in the nature of generalities and normally cannot be construed to limit the plenary power of Congress to enact laws that, in its wisdom, it deems necessary. 

What Paguia has set out to do with these points, is to try to establish the unconstitutionality of the Reproductive Health Bill, long before it becomes a law, let alone for any constitutional issue to arise. Worse, he is trying to do it by laying down a definition of humaneness that apparently includes even non-existent life.

Second, while it is true that procreation begins with the sexual act, it does not necessarily follow that all sexual intercourse is an act of procreation. Paguia’s entire argument hinges on sexual congress to be a condition sine qua non for procreation. Needless to say, it no longer is. His conclusion therefore, that “procreation or reproduction begins with the sexual act and ends with the complete separation of the unborn from the mother’s womb,” is flawed. But that is just a side note.

If we were to adhere strictly to Paguia’s tortured logic, then merely abstaining from sex would be unconstitutional as it prevents the possibility of conception – an act clearly “directed against the life of the unborn.” In fact, withdrawal – one of the more common alternatives to artificial contraception – would be felonious as well.

As this is patently absurd, it must be conceded that intent is at issue and that, as Paguia would have it, the intent not to make babies is excusable when you choose abstention, but unconstitutional when you choose protection. 

While there is still a great deal of controversy about when the ball of cells in the woman’s womb becomes vested with legal personality – and therefore entitled to the protection of laws – there can hardly be any debate that until that zygote comes into existence there is nothing to protect. 

Third, the freshman syllogism about family and marriage Paguia employs is a canard. It presupposes that the only purpose of sex is procreation, and that therefore, any sex engaged in for any other reason would be illegal. With one fell swoop, Paguia has turned every unmarried sexually active person – not to mention persons of alternative sexual orientations – into a criminal.

Sex is speech, and the right to have sex with anyone – hetero or homo -you desire should be protected as vigorously as we defend the right to speak our mind, subject of course to such reasonable limitations as the rules on rape – statutory and otherwise.

Worse, it adopts a definition of family that is archaic and – totally not in keeping with the changing standards of the community it seeks to govern. Of course, this should be the subject of an entirely separate discussion. 

And fourth, the question “May Congress properly pass a law that would make the life of the unborn a physical impossibility?” is a shameless misrepresentation; an act of pandering to the holier-than-thou crowd. As he formulates the question, Paguia is speaking of ABORTION, not the prevention of unplanned pregnancies which is, to my mind, the intent of the Bill.

Incidentally, the citation of Oposa is misplaced. In that case, the Supreme Court ruled that the locus standi of the petitioners to represent unborn generations heir could be sustained “based on the concept of intergenerational responsibility insofar as the right to a balanced and healthful ecology is concerned.” The underlying idea there is that existing generations aren’t the only ones who will be using the fruits of nature, and therefore there is the responsibility to preserve nature so that those who come after will be able to use those fruits as well. 

The decision did not establish unborn souls as legal personalities deserving of protection beyond the right to a balanced and healthful ecology. It merely took judicial notice of the fact that there will be more generations yet to come, and that they need to be guaranteed a chance to utilize nature and her fruits. It does not guarantee these unborn generations the right to live, just that when they do begin to live, it shouldn’t be in a barren wasteland.

Filed under: musings, , ,