Bringing the RH battle to the homes
By ARIES RUFO
MANILA, Philippines – In 2004, the Archdiocese of Manila established the Pope John Paul II Family Planning Center with its base in San Carlos Seminary. Its purpose is to train people on the Natural Family Planning (NFP) methods and they, in return, would spread the goods news of NFP.
But for five years, the office failed to live up to its promise. Barely functioning, it holds NFP seminars occasionally to couples interested in learning about spacing the number of children.
It has only about 2-3 permanent staff, as it relies only on volunteers to teach NFP.
It was only last June that the center decided an honest-to-goodness approach in NFP education to Catholic couples as the debates on the Reproductive Health Bill started to heat up.
It was Manila Auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo who suggested that the Archdiocese tap volunteers who would knock from house to house and preach the NFP gospel.
The plan was to hire 13 volunteers, who will cover the 13 vicariates in the Archdiocese.
Only four however are committed to working full-time at the moment, visiting depressed areas to teach interested couples.
Fr. Jose Jason, director of the NFP center, said it is about time that the Church reach out to the people.
“People do not go to the Church to learn NFP. So the Church has to go to them,” he said.
Fr. Jason said “the Church is at a natural disadvantage in terms of propagating spirituality, since we do not have the resources of the pharmaceutical companies,” referring to the favorable view of most Filipinos that all family planning methods should be made available.
Refusing to say how much funding the Archdiocese allocates for the promotion of NFP, Fr. Jason said he is quite “satisfied with the budget.”
Still, the Church could not afford to hire additional full-time staff for manpower. The NFP instructors are to receive only a daily allowance equivalent to the minimum wage.
Housewife and mother of four Irene Gaudiel says it is her love for the Church that made her volunteer to be an NFP instructor.
On any given day, she seeks out 20 couples and makes follow-up calls to determine if they successfully learned and applied their preferred NFP method.
If she’s lucky, she gets five potential NFP acceptors who listen to her lecture. “Rejection is part of the challenge,” she said.
In one parish she’s covering, Gaudiel said she has converted 34 NFP ‘acceptors ‘ to space the number of their children.
‘Pills can cause diseases’
The NFP education however is not for everyone. It “is not for unmarried couples,” Lily Perez, an NFP trainor for the Church, said. The NFP, she said, “can be used for the wrong reason.” In the eyes of the Church, “it is only legitimate in the context of married life.”
This is the reason why the Church refuses to collaborate with the government even in the promotion of NFP. “It cannot be taught just to everyone.”
For others, the NFP is taught as a means to control the population, an alternative for those who are against the artificial birth control methods.
Perez said the NFP should be observed only in the context of responsible parenthood. By this, it means spacing children, not preventing pregnancy, she said.
Perez conducts seminars for married couples and those who are about to get married. She begins her lecture with the male and female reproductive system followed by value formation. Then she proceeds to introduce the NFP. One of her former students is Gaudiel, who is now an NFP teacher.
At the St. John Don Bosco Church in Makati one afternoon, about 50 people attended her day-long lecture. Some brought their children, while others their soon-to-be husbands and wives.
Predictably, she rebuts claims that artificial birth control methods, like condoms, prevent pregnancy and offer protection against sexuality transmitted diseases.
She teaches that the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), which attacks the immune system and which results to AIDS or the Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome, can pass through the latex condom.
She also teaches that pills can cause premature aging, and other forms of diseases like cancer.
Perez said such information should be taught to make the public understand the evils of artificial birth control methods and to better appreciate the NFP method.
Given the budgetary constraints and priorities of the Church, it remains to be seen how long the Church can sustain this. – Newsbreak
Editor’s note: This story is part of our series on issues on reproductive health, in partnership with sexandsensibilities.com.