Good doctor, bad priests

Sylvia Estrada Claudio is a doctor of medicine and a doctor of philosophy in psychology. She is a fellow of Action for Economic Reforms. She heads the project, Watch Out When Women Vote (WOWWVOTE) that hopes to encourage women to vote for candidates that uphold women’s rights.This piece was published in the March 1, 2010 edition of the BusinessWorld, pages S1/4 to S1/5.

Today, I received this text message: “They are crucifying Dr. Esperanza Cabral because of her decision to take HIV prevention seriously. Please write for Ma’am Espie.”

“They”, are the extremists of the CBCP and their allies among the laity. I send my apologies in advance to Dr. Cabral who taught me more things than just doctoring. I am unable to obey your lessons in graciousness. I am just too disgusted with the lies.

I will not engage in sophistry. I will give the public specifics that can be validated by the public themselves.  I will trust in ordinary folk by telling it like it is: condoms protect against HIV infection.

Check out the literature of the World Health Organization (WHO). Check out the literature of the purveyors of death-by-AIDS. Here is one significant thing: their literature cites the few scientific studies that say condoms don’t work. The WHO will cite both types of studies and explain why they conclude that condoms protect against HIV. For one thing the studies that prove this are in the majority and are better constructed.

While you are at it, please remember what was taught you in grade school: there will almost always be contrary studies. I leave you to decide on the truthfulness of those who won’t tell you that they are citing the oddball findings.

I should end this piece here so that the reader can establish for himself or herself the truth of my specific claim. But I will beg your indulgence and request that you let me add a few more things.

The opposition to the condom is based more on the belief that people should not have sex unless they leave the women open to pregnancy. The propagandists will say “open to life” but anyone who understands basic biology knows the more accurate term is “open to pregnancy.” Those of you who are shocked by my lack of respect may be comforted: in matters of religious belief I can be more respectful. I can say that I disagree with them and leave it at that. I only ask that they respect my views as well.

I think it is moral to use condoms to prevent HIV infection. Using condoms saves lives. I do not engage in their word play. Proper and large-scale condom use prevents the spread of HIV and other reproductive tract infections that cause death and disability. This is a pro-life stance in the real sense, not a pro-pregnancy stance that has been dressed up to look pro-life.

I also do not see anything moral about such fanaticism. Fanatics prefer hard and fast rules and acquiescence to authority figures. The authority figures seek power, not in respectful persuasion, but by encouraging compliance. Both leaders and followers are unable to accept the immense diversity of human beings and embrace the tolerance this diversity demands. This is why they misbehave in secular space and do not respect our country’s allegiance to secularism.

When these fanatics wander into secular space by making bogus scientific claims that threaten our people’s well being, they must not hide behind the customary respect we accord each other for our moral beliefs and disagreements. And so I feel I am not being ill-mannered when I say: they lie and they lie repeatedly.

I will also state the obvious. I am not saying all Catholics are extremists. Many Catholics do not agree with extremists on their interpretations. Many who agree to their sexual morality are nonetheless disgusted by their methods.

We are often told we should choose both our doctors and spiritual guides wisely. Beware of the priests that lie. On the other hand, choosing Dr. Cabral as our nation’s doctor is wise.  I know her, I was her student. She taught me in medical school that scientific rigor is necessary to compassion and moral rectitude.

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