Page last updated at 12:35 Asia/Manila, Wednesday, 23 January 2013 PH
Those who voted for the RH Bill and their supporters may not be necessarily questioning the teaching of the Catholic Church that artificial contraceptives, like condoms and pills, are inherently evil. They may be motivated by their belief that the RH Bill is important to help the poor rise from their dehumanizing conditions and to decrease maternal mortality, both very noble objectives. I may disagree with them because I do not believe that reducing the fertility of the poor is an effective solution to poverty. Neither do I think that preventing women from becoming mothers is the solution to reducing maternal mortality. That is why I will continue to engage in friendly dialogues with them about these issues.
If there are Catholics, however, among those who support the RH Bill who question the teaching of the Catholic Church that artificial contraceptives are inherently evil, I have to point out to them that they are not acting as faithful Catholics. I would like to remind them of the case of Father Charles Curran who was a professor of moral theology at the Catholic University of America, a church chartered institution. In his lectures and writings during the 1970s and 1980s, he publicly dissented from Pope Paul VI's 1968 teaching in the encyclical Humane Vitae on the morally appropriate means of family planning. This case is described in detail by George Weigel, a biographer of Blessed John Paul II and of Pope Benedict XVI. In his book God's Choice (Pope Benedict XVI and the Future of the Catholic Church), Weigel described how Father Curran refused to acknowledge his error after being admonished by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, headed then by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the present Pope. Father Curran ended up being dismissed from his professorial chair at the university, losing his case when he sued CUA for breach of contract, and finally accepting a chair at Southern Methodist University in Dallas.
As Weigel wrote: "Father Curran had made two things abundantly clear: that he didn't believe to be true what the Catholic Church taught was true, and that he didn't intend to teach what the Catholic Church taught on tangled issues of sexual morality. The Vatican had no choice but to declare that he should not hold the position of professor of Catholic theology at a pontifically chartered school like the CUA or any other institution publicly identified as "Catholic." Summarizing the Curran case, Weigel elaborated on the issue of infallibility of the teachings of the ordinary magisterium of the Church on any matter touching on morals: "Curran frequently said that his was 'responsible' dissent, because it did not contradict Catholic teaching that had been infallibly defined. That was not the Second Vatican Council's understanding of what constituted authoritative teaching, however. As the Instruction on the Ecclesial Vocation of the Theologian would remind theologians a few years later, the Council had clearly taught that the Church doesn't live by infallible definitions alone. Articulated by the ordinary, universal magisterium of the Church's pastors, the authoritative tradition of the Church was binding on both the man and woman in the pews and on theologians; theologians did not constitute a parallel magisterium. It simply is not the case that Catholic teaching is either infallibly defined or, for all intents and purposes, non-existent. What the Curran case helped clarify was that Vatican II, John Paul II, and Cardinal Ratzinger all had a much more richly textured understanding of 'Catholic teaching' than Father Curran and others of his cast of mind."
I hope this specific case can teach a lesson to both Catholic priests and lay people in the Philippines about an aspect of the RH Bill to which they should object, i.e the distribution to the poor of artificial contraceptives, which are considered inherently evil by the infallible and authoritative teaching of the ordinary magisterium of the Church. For comments, my email address is email@example.com.