Filipino bishops deny Aquino excommunication, but promise battle on abortion law
Manila (AsiaNews) - The struggle between Church and government over the possible application of a law on birth control continues. Today, in a statement, the Filipino bishops denied the threat of excommunicating the president, which emerged during a Radio Veritas interview yesterday with Mgr. Nereo Odchimar, president of the Filipino bishops' conference.
On the program, the prelate criticized the president's position - a practicing Catholic - who recently supported the distribution of contraceptives and free abortion pills to the poor, using public money. According to the Archbishop, this attitude is contrary to Catholic morality and is therefore liable to excommunication, as required by canon law. But he made no explicit reference to the desire to excommunicate Aquino and accused the media of having misrepresented the true meaning of statements. In the statement, published today on the Bishops Conference website, Mgr. Odchimar, said: "While the prevailing sentiment of a number of bishops was that of dismay and frustration over the reported stance of the President regarding artificial contraceptives, imposition of the canonical sanction has not been contemplated". The prelate stresses that the bishops have always been open to dialogue with the institutions and against confrontation.
"The traditional position of the Church - he adds - is that human life starts at conception and not at implantation. Some contraceptive pills and devices are abortifacient. Any completed act to expel or kill the fertilized ovum is considered to be an act of abortion.. " "The Church – he concludes - intervenes in this issue because this is a moral question. Among other things this concerns the right to life particularly of the unborn child in the mother’s womb." The prelate also confirmed the support of the bishops for initiatives of the laity against the approval of the Law on reproductive health, but does not comment on a possible entrance into the debate by members of the Bishops Conference. The Reproductive Health has been ongoing for four years. The law rejects clinical abortion, but promotes a family planning program, which prevents couples from having more than two children or they must pay a penalty and in some cases face prison. Supporters of the law sponsor a program to distribute birth control pills, still prohibited by law, condoms and promote voluntary sterilization in schools and public places. The Church and Catholic pro - life groups instead promote the Natural Family Programme (NFP), which aims at providing the population with a culture of responsibility and love based on Christian values.
Despite U.S. pressure for a quick fix to the "problem" of overpopulation, the law has not met a quorum in parliament of 120 votes needed for approval. The result is due to the opposition of Catholic lawmakers and the personal support of former President Gloria Arroyo, who during her tenure has always been opposed to abortion and family planning policies.