Bernardo M. Villegas
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Catholic Vote

          Although I understand and respect the contrary opinion, I am not in favor of pushing for a "Catholic vote" in the next elections or ever.  Catholics who feel strongly about such absolute truths as the sacredness of life from conception to natural death, the indissolubility of marriage, and the intrinsic evil of artificial contraception can more effectively spend their time and effort in explaining the reasonableness of their stand, based on natural reason, to others who do not share their views, whether Catholic or non-Catholic.  Making religion a basis for party politics in a pluralistic society can easily backfire. 

          As the Second Vatican Council repeatedly insisted in several documents, the Catholic laity have the primary responsibility of sanctifying secular realities by being totally immersed in every honest occupation, profession, or trade.  Politics is one of those honest secular activities.  Because politics is the "art of the possible", the vast majority of issues on which lay people have to take partisan views are open to legitimate debate.  People can be good Catholics and still take opposing views on the need to nationalize certain industries; or to allow foreigners to own land; or to increase taxes on cigarettes and liquor; or appreciate or depreciate the peso; or to ban the use of guns; or even to re-introduce the death penalty; etc. etc.   It would be impractical to focus on only one issue in making decisions on whom to elect to a public position.

          Needless to say, a very important consideration in choosing to vote for a person aspiring for a public position is moral integrity. It is possible, however, that a politician may be morally upright but because of an erroneous conscience may be in favor of artificial contraception.  Asking for a Catholic vote on the single issue of the RH Bill would automatically disqualify that honest person from the affirmative vote of Catholics who constitute the majority of Filipino voters.  The opposite may be also be true.  There could be a candidate who is not living an exemplary moral life but either because of conviction or convenience voted against the RH Bill.  Catholics cannot be expected to vote for him just because of one single issue in which he made the right decision.

          That is why it should be explained that when the CBCP commended the 104 members of the House of Representatives who voted against the RH bill in its second reading, the praise was for their courageous action, that one act of not succumbing to the naked use of political power by the President and his cohorts, despite previous announcements that the lawmakers could vote according to their consciences.  I have no doubts that the Bishops were not condoning every immoral act---whether in their private lives or as public officials--that some of them might have committed.  In these instances, it is very important to distinguish between the act and the person acting.  Praising the act is not equivalent to praising everything that the person stands for.  The Bishops had all the right to single out the courageous act of the 104 Congress people of defying the "pork barrel" pressure of the Administration.  It is up to individual voters to weigh that single act of courage together with all the other public actuations of those among the Congress people running for public office in the next elections.

          For the above reasons, I would rather have Catholic lay leaders become thoroughly familiar with the Social Doctrine of the Church (now gathered in a very handy Compendium) and explain the main doctrines on the family, the State, the business sector, education and other social issues in which everyone has to take a stand.  This is especially the task that Pope Benedict XVI and the Filipino Bishops would want the lay leaders to do during the ongoing Year of the Faith.  I welcome very much the controversy that will be generated by the signing of the RH Bill and the predictable challenge about its constitutionality in the Supreme Court.  The controversy will motivate those of us who are convinced about the teachings of the Catholic Church concerning the Theology of the Body and sexual morality in general to spare no effort in educating the masses about the immorality of abortion, artificial contraception, same-sex marriage, divorce and other evils that threaten the Filipino family.  Here, I can cite the intelligent comment of the former First Lady Imelda Marcos when she explained her No vote in the second reading.  She rightly said that Filipino families, especially the poor, can be made to practice responsible parenthood not through legislation but through education.  Those of us who still find some objectionable provisions in the RH Bill that has been signed into law should be very busy instructing our fellow leaders and the masses on the Theology of the Body and the Social Doctrine of the Church.   For comments, my email address is bernardo.villegas@uap.asia