Fr. Bernas: Contraceptive devices are not 'anti-life'

Fr. Bernas: Contraceptive devices are not 'anti-life'
09/26/2011 | 01:50 PM

Influential Jesuit priest and constitutional lawyer Fr. Joaquin Bernas, SJ said that family planning as proposed in the controversial Reproductive Health (RH) bill is not necessarily "anti-life", putting him at odds with conservative Catholics who oppose the bill.

In a column published in the Philippine Daily Inquirer on Monday, Bernas sought to clarify what being "anti-life" precisely means, for the term has been used "in the most pejorative way" in current RH bill debates.

"It is used in the sense of being against existing life. Murder, in other words," he said.

However, he said that in the currently toxic debate on contraceptives, "anti-life" could be construed to include people who do not want to add more human life to an already crowded population. He cited for example a married couple who decide to abstain from acts that bring about life, and a man who chooses a celibate life because he feels he can accomplish things without the burden of raising children.

"I would not categorize such a person as being anti-life," Bernas said. "People like him love life so much that they take it upon themselves to contribute in some other ways to the improvement of the quality of life of those who are already born."

His column was shared widely on social media, and was met mostly with approval by supporters of the RH bill.

Bernas, known for his liberal stance on the RH bill, has called the Catholic Church hierarchy "irresponsible" in the past for saying that those who support the RH bill are committing a sin. "I have never held that the RH bill is perfect. But if we have to have an RH law, I intend to contribute to its improvement as much as I can," he has said.

Both the Senate and the House of Representatives are separately deliberating on the RH bill.

'Before fertilization, there is no life'

He also said it is important to know where life actually begins, as it will finally put to rest the debate on whether artificial contraceptives are abortifacients or not. "Before life begins is beyond the reach of anti-life action," he said.

Bernas, a member of the 1986 Constitutional Commission, said the 1987 Constitution recognizes that life begins "from conception," that is, upon fertilization.

"Before fertilization, there is no life," he said. "This is also the view of the Philippine Medical Society, and this is the view of John Paul II."

"What this means is... the use of contraceptive devices that only prevent fertilization is not anti-life in the sense of being an act of murder," he added. "Abortion, in the sense of expulsion of the fertilized ovum at any time after fertilization is anti-life, and is an act of murder."

He also said that calling contraception devices as abortive devices is "loose talk," as these devices were not scientifically identified by the government's Food and Drug Administration as abortifacient drugs.

CBCP: Contraceptive devices destroy already existing life

However, Fr. Melvin Castro, executive secretary of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) Episcopal Commission on Family and Life, maintains that the RH bill is "anti-life" and artificial contraceptives are abortifacients.

In a text message to GMA News Online, Castro said most pills and contraceptive devices prevent the implantation of the fertilized ovum, which in effect destroys an already existing life.

The disagreement between Bernas and the CBCP shows that even among priests there is much room for argument on one of the great social debates of our time. Bernas' stature challenges the moral ground of conservatives who oppose the RH bill using church doctrine.

Among those who posted a link to Bernas' column on Facebook was Fr. Eliseo Mercado, a respected Catholic priest in Cotabato City, who commented, "I share the same view as Fr. Bernas..."

Fr. Castro of the CBCP argued that the CBCP's stand on the RH bill does not alienate other religions' views on the controversial measure.

"On the contrary, because the RH bill, when it becomes a law, imposes artificial contraception and the contraceptive mentality on all - Catholics and non-Catholics alike - we are against its legislation," he said. "No need to legislate, contraceptives are already available and legal in the country. Why legislate?"

Meanwhile, Bernas said in his column that as a priest of the Catholic Church, he is not approving of artificial contraception, and he accepts the teachings of the Catholic Church, which only promotes natural forms of contraception.

However, he stressed that not all citizens of the Philippines are Catholics, and many do not consider artificial contraception anti-life or immoral.

"The teaching of my Church is that I must respect the belief of other religions even if I do not agree with them. That is how Catholics and non-Catholics can live together in harmony," he said. — RSJ/HS, GMA News

'I'm not using Ladlad'

DIRECT LINE By Boy Abunda (The Philippine Star) Updated September 02, 2011 12:00 AM

A certain Mr. Pedroche wrote a letter to another broadsheet some months ago rebuking me on two major points. That I should not be talking on behalf, but to the LGBT Community that if one works hard he can be successful. And that my active participation in Ladlad is just in preparation for abundant politics suggesting that I am preparing for a political career using the fledgling partylist. Here is my answer to Mr. Pedroche en toto.
Dear Mr. Pedroche,
To say that where I am working (ABS-CBN) and where I went to school (Ateneo) are the very proofs that I was not discriminated is an uninformed statement. And to conclude that since I was accepted by the two institutions disqualifies me from talking on behalf of the LGBT Community is a lousy assessment.
Please indulge me on the following.
• I can do both — talk to and on behalf of Ladlad and the LGBT community because I have a voice and a life story that most of them are able to relate to.
• I wasn’t raped but I was bullied.
• I wasn’t physically harmed but I was maligned, insulted because I was gay.
• Thank you for acknowledging the hard work that brought me to this little space I stand on today. But it was hell to get to where I am.
• Early on in my life, I fought discrimination even against relatives and friends who said that I would be better off as a club dancer than a lawyer. (God, I would have been a ferocious club dancer!)
• Mr. Pedroche, I don’t take offense at your letter because admittedly your voice represents a sector of society that shares your opinion. This is an opportunity for us to beg you to look at our fight for equal rights beyond Boy Abunda because I am not the face of the LGBT Community. But does that disqualify me from taking the cudgels and speaking on its behalf?
Would anyone have cared if I did this 30 years ago when I was poor, voiceless, weak and negligible?
OK, let’s call a spade a spade. Make it a pink spade if you may.
• I am not and will not be a nominee of Ladlad partylist in 2013.
I said that if and when I would be interested to get into politics, I will do it in 2016 without using Ladlad and run perhaps for governor in Eastern Samar where I can serve my province which is the fourth poorest in the country.
But your tacit imputation that ultimately it is abundant politics that is my end goal is a political bias of your cynical mind.
But you know what Mr. Pedroche, abundant politics can mean politics of empowerment. If I can tweak it to mean a style of politics that inspires and empowers, then you would have contributed an important phrase to our fight for equal rights.
• Do I have to be stabbed 72 times? Do I have to be deprived of employment?
• Do I have to be bullied in a public transport? Do I have to be stoned to death to raise my voice in protest against violence and discrimination?
• Will I just sit back and watch LGBT people die or being abused, discriminated and violated, anyway I work for the biggest network and at some point I went to the Ateneo?
• No. Mr. Pedroche, I choose to get involved. Also because after the landmark decision of the Supreme Court to accredit Ladlad as a party list, we cannot afford to lose in 2013 otherwise we go back to zero.
• Yes, I will continue to talk to the LGBT community and share with them my story.
Mr. Pedroche, thank you for not being homophobic; your letter is valid, respectful even. I hear you out and here’s hoping that you too hear me out.
And since you say that we need love and not congressional seats, I say that we need both and for us to do this is to keep on engaging people in dialogues and debates about LGBT rights and human rights, despite the odds.
Life sometimes is funny Mr. Pedroche. You may just find it in your heart to love us and vote for Ladlad in 2013.

The 9/11 attacks as a literary watershed

The 9/11 attacks as a literary watershed
04-Sep-11, 10:00 AM | Myriam Chaplain-Riou, Agence France-Presse

PARIS - Ten years on, the dust from the twin towers hasn't finished settling on the literary world and continues to feed a growing body of fiction exploring the moral and physical loss the attacks left behind.

Initially, few writers dared get too close to the horror that the entire world was able to imagine after watching the World Trade Center go down live on television.

The first one to choose hyperrealism and attempt a description of the fateful moment itself -- the planes crashing, the fire, the panic, people jumping off the towers -- was Frederic Beigbeder.

In "Windows on the World" (2003), the French author said he wanted to "tell what could not be told".

"The only way to know what happened in that restaurant on the 107th floor of the World Trade Center's North tower on 11 September 2001 between 8:30 and 10:29 am... was to invent it," he explained at the time.

Many of the world's greatest living authors have since tackled the post 9/11 trauma and written in an effort to comprehend the scope of the tragedy and its place in history.

"September 11 entrained a moral crash, planetwide... let's not suggest that our experience of that event, that development, has been frictionlessly absorbed and filed away. It has not," Britain's Martin Amis wrote in 2007.

"September 11 continues, it goes on, with all its mystery, its instability, and its terrible dynamism," said Amis, who wrote "The Second Plane", a collection of essays and short stories on the attacks.

Don DeLillo, who made his mark on literature with epic, panoramic novels on American society, was no less influenced by the 9/11 watershed.

As early as November 2001, he reflected on how writers would deal with the horror of the attacks in an essay for Harper's, "In the Ruins of the Future."

"There is something empty in the sky," he wrote. "The writer tries to give memory, tenderness and meaning to all that howling space."

"People running for their lives are part of the story that is left to us," DeLillo said. Eventually, he wrote Falling Man (2008), about a survivor's daily life, his relations with his estranged wife, his new love interest.

A recurring character in the novel is a performance artist who suspends himself in business attire from high buildings in the pose of the man falling headfirst from the flaming North Tower in a famous photograph by Richard Drew.

The same year, John Updike wrote "Terrorist", a book which was to be his penultimate and explores Islamic fundamentalists' motivations in a first-person account by an American-born Muslim teenager who embraces jihad.

Another US literary giant, Philip Roth, wrote "Exit Ghost" in 2007, in which his alter ego narrator Nathan Zuckerman is revived one last time and moves back to New York after agreeing to a house swap with a couple who "don't wish to be snuffed out in the name of Allah".

In 2006, Jay McInerney published "The Good Life", in which a group of friends who had dinner together on 10 September 2011 are plunged into the horror of the attacks the next day.

Many writers gradually moved away from the contention that the scale of the attacks, the depth of the trauma and the scope of the consequences were too big for any fiction to be relevant.

Paul Auster, who saw the World Trade Centre collapse in an avalanche of dust and smoke from his balcony, made his contribution to the literary monument growing in place of the fallen towers in 2008 with "Man in the Dark".

In Auster's scenario, the attacks never happened but civil war rages.

US author Jonathan Franzen, who incidentally published "Corrections" -- his immensely successful protrayal of America -- on the week of the attacks, delivered a somber fresco of the following decade with "Freedom" last year.

The best-selling saga of the Berglund family doesn't deal with 9/11 directly but the attacks and their fallout are the backdrop for a society where family, relations, morality are all collapsing.