Friday, 13 January 2017

Catholic Influence Waning in The Philippines

Manilla Slum
Duterte orders full implementation of modern family planning by 2018 - CNN Philippines

Good news last Wednesday from the normally devoutly Catholic Philippines, where, as in the rest of the civilised world, secularisation and rejection of papal authority seems to be gaining ground.

According to CNN, President Rodrigo Duterte signed an executive order providing funds and support for modern family planning, in a bid to make it fully available to the poor by 2018. This comes at the end of a titanic 16 year battle with the Catholic Church which had seemed to have ended in victory for secularists and those campaigning for an end to poverty in 2012.

It was in December of that year that President Noynoy Aquino enacted the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Law, only to have it suspended by the Supreme Court on the spurious grounds that an implanted contraceptive device induced abortions. This new Executive Order appears to circumvent the Supreme Court's Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) which only applies to government agencies. The work will now be carried out by non-governmental organisations pending a review of the TRO by the Supreme Court..

The order signed by President Duterte states:

This Order aims to intensify and accelerate the implementation of critical actions necessary to attain and sustain 'zero unmet need for modern family planning' for all poor households by 2018.

The implementation plan includes local government-organised house-to-house visits to identify those in need of family planning services and to work with other agencies to ensure those needs are met. The overall economic plan is a reduction in poverty to 13% by the end of Duterte's term of office. There are currently an estimated six million Philippine women with unmet family planning needs and who are unable to fully exercise their reproductive rights. Two million of these women are classified as living in extreme poverty.

Two years ago Pope Francis, apparently in confusion over the Catholic Church's policy on contraception, and with little understanding of either sex or rabbits, insulted the women of the Philippines, who had been observing Church teaching, by telling them they did not need to "breed like rabbits". Having then apparently had his memory refreshed on what his church's official teaching was, he later told them they were being selfish if they chose not to have children.

Whatever confusion there might be in Pope Francis' mind, his officials in the Philippines have never been in any doubt. Women have no reproductive rights and should have as many children as possible. Any efforts to reduce poverty must be resisted if it involved women being able to limit and plan their family size and take responsibility for their own bodies.

The Catholic Church, like other churches and religions, has a vested interest in maintaining poverty, it long being recognised that generally improved living standards and less social insecurity tend to lead to a reduction in religious observance and dependence on church charities. This of course leads to a reduction in job opportunities for clerics and hits churches' income streams, so must be opposed by all available means.

This was highlighted by a speculative Pew Research forecast in May 2015 that world religion is likely to increase in the longer term, rather than maintaining the current and seeming inexorable decline. This was simply because poverty was likely to increase due continuing population growth with no increase in wealth generation. The Catholic Church understands this close link between poverty and dependence on religion better than most because, in just about all predominantly Christian countries, the poorer ones tend to be Catholic and the Catholic ones tend to be poorer. Amongst those who celebrated this forecast were Catholics to whom maintaining membership numbers is more important than the quality of life of those members. Poverty is to be welcomed if it leads to more Catholics.

A Church which tries to argue that contraception and especially abortion are sins against the sanctity of human life, but which resists doing anything to reduce poverty and thus reduce the likelihood of children dying of disease and malnutrition or being orphaned by the death of their mother in childbirth, is a nauseating, organised hypocrisy. It deserves to be rejected and sidelined by humanitarian secularism.

The fact that this is happening in the Philippines of all places is a very welcome development and another sign of the world-wide decline of the authority of the Catholic Church.

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