Monday, September 22, 2008

On Being A Thinking Catholic

It bothers me to even think this, but how do you quit being Catholic? 

I've been proud to be one.  Knowing that you chant the prayers and celebrate the Sacrament of the Eucharist as they were done decades, even centuries ago gave me comfort.  Saying the Rosary always makes me calm.  I carry one during childbirth, difficult periods in my life and even during plane rides.  I even bought a CD recording so I could upload it to my iPod.  In the Visayas, everything stops at noon and 6pm for the Angelus.  I remember the post-war stories of my father growing up in a small town.  He and his brothers had to run home barefoot (which was faster) when the Angelus bells would sound.  It comforts me that we had even this prayers in common. 

I've been devout since junior year in high school when it was a conscious choice.  Although baptized and essentially educated Catholic, I was largely agnostic until Father Caloy Rodriguez, SVD spoke with me at boarding school in Tagaytay.  I may write about the meeting during some other post, but the experience taught me to trust my heart.  It taught me that Catholicism was not all blind obedience but a religion with intelligence.  Later in my life there were times I had trouble reconciling modern sensibility with archaic dogma but it always worked out in the end.  I even bought the book above for additional guidance.

The Religious of the Good Shepherd opened my eyes and taught me social responsibility.  I was already reading Ibon pulications before I went to Diliman.  I learned about the plight of political detainees and the urban poor.  A two-week immersion program with the rural poor further developed my empathy.  It was the ultimate merging of Faith, intellect and emotion. 

I attended Friday night's talk with an open mind, wishing to see the Church' view on the controversial Reproductive Health Bill.  I had hoped that a younger version of a Father Caloy was there again with his intellect, common sense and zeal.  I really wanted it to happen.  Instead, there was a convoluted version of the facts from a lay minister and his wife.  Instead of an academic discussion, there was hot-air rhetoric.  The current version of the Bill was not even available. 

The Catholic Church hierarchy has a structure equal, or even superior to the military.  There is chain of command.  They protect their ranks.  There's no doubt in my mind that the CBCP knows that their "soldiers" engage in mis-information dissemination.  The fact that I live in Pasay and not in an exclusive subdivision is not even worth considering.  I refuse to believe that the Church treats me as an idiot in this part of town.  I can't believe that theses speakers from Makati would speak to their neighbors in some other "manner befitting their status."  I do know that it's happening exactly this way in parishes all over the Philippines.

If that's the case, then I have more cause to champion the Reproductive Health Bill.  At least it will provide me information and options.  It acknowledges my value as a thinking Filipina without bias. 

I have listened to their side and they maltreated my mind and my Faith in one brutal blow.  It's done.  Over.

I recorded the "talk" on my phone if anybody cares to hear.  But the recording is so bad because I did not count on the acoustics of the structure.  If I'm not mistaken, there are three echoes marring the sound.  If anybody knows how I can clean it up, please let me know.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

On Playing Devil’s Advocate

During announcements at Mass, the Program of Activities for Parish Week came up.  Sacraments of Baptism and Matrimony will be held for free, a medical clinic will be held and there will be the usual distribution of goods to our less fortunate neighbors.  “An Instructive Talk by Bro ___ & Sis ___ from Ministry of Family Life speaker of a relevant issues on the church stand against propose congressional bill on Reproductive Health[sic]” is scheduled on Thursday night.  All parishioners are invited, according to the flyers. 

So what will I do Thursday night?  I will participate in the Angelus and Rosary at 6pm then attend the 6.30 Mass.  “The Talk” will begin at 7:30.  What do I expect?  I expect to hear a rational and detached speech outlining the practicality of the Church’ opposition to HB00017.  I am looking forward to seeing the full text of the Reproductive Health Bill and discussing it point by point.  I am writing down my questions and hope that I get straightforward answers.  And although chances are nil that I’d change my mind, I hope that some salient points will be brought up that make me understand the Church.  Finally, I’m excited to have intelligent discussion on something I feel strongly for. 

Will I finally be excommunicated?  I seriously doubt it though it’s a possibility.  Will I be unpopular because of my stand?  For sure.  Will it stop me?  Never!  As “filipina42,” I’ve shown that I’m proud of my citizenship, my gender and my age in that order.  These are the things that define me.  My identity is insignificant.  If I was named Kitty Go, I’d use that nick too.  Unfortunately, it’s not. 

I will do everything in my capacity to do right by Filipina mothers.  Change that:  Catholic Filipina mothers.  I will continue what I do for just one violent reaction.  Please take a stand.

Friday, September 12, 2008

On Being A Published Writer

I'm back after a long hiatus.  I've accepted the fact that while in Manila, I'm stuck with dial-up prepaid cards.  I'm up 12mn to 8am to browse, blog and comment on free off-peak hours.  Globe Telecom is a long way from Pasay, believe me.  I doubt their broadband will ever reach me. DLSU has wi-fi capability and is 3 blocks away but they say I'm out of the reach of their network.  Huh!?

In the meantime, I got a gig as a freelance writer!  To live my dream is the most exciting thing to have happened.  Technically, I have a secondary education but in the real world I have a PhD. It's great to be able to share street smarts on a superior IQ lol!

As a blogger I'm censor, writer, editor, proofreader and publisher all at once.  The Blogger site is my medium and advertiser.  As a freelance writer, I have my editor/publisher/administrator to go over my stuff. It's hard work writing for a publication with even a limited circulation.  In fairness, my blog doesn't get that many readers yet.  I've toned down my rhetoric (which isn't all that) to be politically-, gender-, religiously correct on print.

As to what I enjoy, it's everything all at once.  Freelance writing can pay for those pre-paid cards and my phone bill.  Seeing your words on paper is not a bad thing either.  I can lose the by-line, I love my anonymity.  But I love the freedom of blogging and the release of my rants even more. Let's see what happens next.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

On The Reproductive Health Bill

I maintain a hard-line stance supporting the passage of the Reproductive Health Bill because of two incidents that have happened in my life.

At the age of 19, I had been bleeding for about a month and went to a private obstetrician’s office.  I consulted about my condition as I concluded the worst.  As the MD was taking my history, she learned that I was still single.  I cannot describe the disbelief on her face as she learned of this fact.  She then proceeded to ask me in a voice loud enough to be heard in the waiting room:

-And you’re still single?

Yes Doctor.

-And you’re here because you’ve been bleeding for a month?

Yes, Doctor.

-And you’ve been having sexual relations?

Yes, Doctor.  (Repeat 5 times).

On the sixth round of the conversation, I mumbled something and stepped out of her office into a waiting room full of pregnant women staring.  It was only years later that I realized that my health may have been in serious peril.  Back then it was just an inconvenience.  Those zealots made it impossible for me to gather up the courage to go to another doctor. 

The second incident was when my daughter got pregnant at the age of 15.  It was a scandal in our openly religious city.  She was enrolled in a Catholic school and was, not surprisingly, promptly expelled.  I had wanted her to remain in school but it was impossible to find one willing to accept her in this condition.  Finally, a small Baptist school near the outskirts of the city took her in.  They had exemplified what being Christian truly was.  To this day, I am grateful for their unconditional acceptance.

Then the nuns from her old school made a strange request.  They asked that my daughter’s attendance from their school be stricken from the transcript!  I was supposed to ask the Baptists to LIE for them?

In Manila where these things are more commonly accepted, I know of Catholic schools that retain these single, pregnant girls.  However, they are often required to stay away from the general population.  Mostly these girls are home-schooled, taking their examinations in campus at night or supervised at home.  They're rarely acknowledged in normal conversation and usually spoken of in whispers or as the subject of gossip.

Catholic guilt makes it taboo to even talk about the subject of sexual relations.  It’s a costly mistake I made, not speaking to health-care professionals or discussing these with my daughter or parents.   Now I know that when intelligently and openly discussed, reproductive health care awareness will benefit everyone.  Nobody can second-guess me, what if the atmosphere is finally right and I can openly teach abstinence to my children?  It's the safest alternative, no doubt.  There is a massive outcry on the Bill that most have yet to see.  In other countries, this Bill is deemed anti-life.  Worse yet, some have claimed that a "Two-Child policy" will be imposed, not unlike China's "one-child" policy.  The ignorant are the most vocal about this, yet nowhere in the Bill is abortion or population control is mentioned.  In fact the title of the Bill includes the words "Population Development."

The Church is obstinate regarding extramarital relations, which I totally accept as a Catholic Filipina.  However, to deny the health care and information to all is to deny them their right to choose.  This interference with legislation reeks of a modern-day Inquisition.  Will the Church actually involve our Muslim sisters? How about those without access or unable to obtain quality service?  The proposed Reproductive Health Care Bill is national in scope, providing for each Filipino regardless of age, religious affiliation or economic status.

A post on pinoyexchange says it best:  Instead of meddling in political affairs, the Church should focus on attending to the Church should focus on attending to the spiritual and corporal needs of its flocks. In my opinion, if the Philippine Catholic Church is really intent on overstepping the boundaries, it should focus instead on preaching “Thou shalt not kill” of the extrajudicial killings and “Thou shalt not steal” from the national coffers.  

Rather than following blindly, please make an informed choice by reading the Inquirer article  Reproductive Health Bill: Facts, fallacies penned by the author of House Bill 00017, Rep. Edcel Lagman. The full text of this bill is still unavailable in the Philippine Congress website, but to view its history, please click here.  Read the significance of "Humanae Vitae" on these events.  Read articles for and against the controversial bill.  Finally, read this eye-opening opinion which cites a problem far larger than the issues at hand.

This Online Petition supports the immediate passage of this Bill into law.  Please sign up after reviewing all available opinions/facts.

One of the articles claims that Saint Thomas Aquinas had said "...anyone upon whom the ecclesiastical authority in ignorance of true fact imposes a demand that offends against his clear conscience, should perish in excommunication rather than violate his conscience."

Go ahead, excommunicate me.