Buencamino is a fellow of Action for Economic Reforms. This article was published in the Business Mirror’s July 23,2008 edition, page A6.

Sensing that the debate on the reproductive health bill was taking a turn for the worse, Speaker Prospero Nograles announced the formation of a panel of Representatives to dialogue with the bishops “to obviate misinformation and acrimonious confrontation on the pending consolidated bill on family planning.”

I share the Speaker’s concern about misinformation so I will shoot down a comment made by a pro- contraceptives Protestant bishop—married, with children and a great grandchild—who insinuated that he was a better authority on the subject of reproduction than Catholic bishops who have taken a vow of celibacy.

The “lack of experience” argument can be exposed as specious with a simple question:

Are you not aware that Pope Benedict has been going around the world apologizing for the less-than-celibate behavior of many of his priests and bishops?

Of course most of what Pope Benedict apologized for involved acts that would not add a single baby to the world’s population. However, there are enough illegitimate children on this planet who can say they are “of the Church” to prove that many of the priests and bishops opposed to the family planning bill are authorities on reproduction.

The controversy over family planning is not only about addressing poverty and hunger through population control. It is, more important, also about recognizing every woman’s right over her own body and every couples’ right to decide when and how many children they want to raise.

The Catholic Church has always denied women and couples the right to self-determination in matters that are “sinfully delightful”, to use Gov. Joey Salceda’s zinger du jour.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC 2370) teaches, “[E]very action which, whether in anticipation of the conjugal act, or in its accomplishment, or in the development of its natural consequences, proposes, whether as an end or as a means, to render procreation impossible is intrinsically evil.”

It adds (CCC 2399), “Legitimate intentions on the part of the spouses do not justify recourse to morally unacceptable means . . . for example, direct sterilization or contraception.”

The Church also refuses to see the connection between overpopulation and poverty. It maintains that greed and corruption are the root causes of poverty.

But even if it were to accept the link, the Church is still incorrigibly opposed to the idea of contraception.

“The Church has always taught the intrinsic evil of contraception, that is, of every marital act intentionally rendered unfruitful. This teaching is to be held as definitive and irreformable. Contraception is gravely opposed to marital chastity, it is contrary to the good of the transmission of life (the procreative aspect of matrimony), and to the reciprocal self-giving of the spouses (the unitive aspect of matrimony); it harms true love and denies the sovereign role of God in the transmission of human life” (Vademecum for Confessors 2:4, February 12, 1997).

You can go as far back as AD 307 to Lactantius, an early Christian theologian, who wrote, “[Some] complain of the scantiness of their means, and allege that they have not enough for bringing up more children, as though, in truth, their means were in [their] power . . . or God did not daily make the rich poor and the poor rich. Wherefore, if any one on any account of poverty shall be unable to bring up children, it is better to abstain from relations with his wife (Divine Institutes 6:20).”

Inasmuch as I would like to see it happen, I doubt if Speaker Nograles’ diplomatic offensive would be able to tone down the “acrimonious confrontation” between realists and doctrinaires. A soft approach will not work. A hard line is better.

Nograles should warn the bishops: “If you don’t drop your opposition to this family planning bill, Congress will be forced to consider alternate legislation to address the population problem. We will legalize same-sex marriage and include masturbation education in school curricula starting from the third grade.”