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Church pays lip service to natural family planning

By ARIES RUFO

Belatedly, Manila starts door-to-door campaign MANILA, Philippines – Somewhere in the slums of Manila, a woman knocks from house to house, imploring for some time to ask a few personal questions. Most often, she gets rejected, mistaken for the Bible-toting evangelicals who warn of impending fire and brimstone. But instead of preachy materials, this woman is armed with pamphlets about equivalent doses of cialis and viagra a woman’s reproductive health cycle. At a given period, there are five to six of these women penetrating poor enclaves, telling mothers how to properly space children without resorting to artificial birth control methods. These women have been given the imprimatur by the Archdiocese of Manila to spread the good news of natural family planning (NFP). They target married couples in impoverished areas, revisiting them from time to time to check if they comply with the natural family planning method of their choice. From the pulpit, the Archdiocese of Manila is bringing its campaign against artificial birth control methods right inside one’s home. The house-to-house campaign began in June this year, as the debates on the Reproductive Health Bill started rolling off in Congress. But the archdiocese is only one of the few in the Church to launch a campaign to promote the NFP method. Truth is, it is only now that the Church has begun an earnest effort to promote NFP in communities. For so long, NFP has been considered one of the Church’s best-kept secret programs, rivaling the revelations in Fatima. Consider this: while the Church keeps pushing for NFP, dioceses have not allocated funds for any information drive. Simply, they refuse to put their money where their mouth is, adopting only a token promotion of the NFP. It has relied on the government for the promotion of NFP, to the point of personality attacks if its wishes were not obeyed. During President Corazon Aquino’s time, the devout Catholic posed no headache for the Church on the issue of population growth. However, during President Fidel Ramos’s time, the Church reared its head when the flamboyant and popular health secretary Juan Flavier launched an aggressive population control program hinged on the prevention of the HIV disease. In a huge rally led by Manila Cardinal Jaime Sin, Flavier was described as a devil who deserved to drown in the sea. The Church also actively campaigned against Flavier’s first senatorial bid in 1995. He was among the top 3 choices of respondents in pre-election surveys. In the final tally, cialis alternative over the counter he slid to number 6. During Arroyo’s nine-year term, the population policy was set aside, and her obedience endeared her to a number of bishops. The prelates returned the favor when they rushed to her rescue when she was almost ousted from office because of the “Hello Garci” scandal, when she supposedly tried to rig the elections in 2004. Bishops’ discretion To be sure, the call to promote NFP as the only sanctioned family planning method has long been recognized by the Church. In 1991, the Church held its Second Plenary Council where the Church leaders and laity reflected on the path that they should take to make the Church more relevant to the times. Bishop Broderick Pabillo, chair of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines’ social arm National Secretariat for Social Action, Justice and Peace or NASSA, said that the mission statement they adopted included promotion of the NFP by the laity. But beyond the talk, not much has been achieved as no concrete plan was prepared and implemented. “We saw it was important to promote NFP, but there was no manpower. You have to train people for this,” Pabillo said. He admitted that the Church hierarchy failed to appreciate the importance of funding and training people to teach NFP. This glaring omission by the Church is shown by San Fernando Archbishop Paciano Aniceto, who, as chair of the CBCP Commission on Family Life, has not launched an honest-to-goodness campaign to promote NFP. Aniceto said the promotion of NFP “is limited to the discretion of the bishops.” In his diocese, the only time that NFP is taught by the Church is during seminars for couples genericviagra-toprxstore who wish to get married. Former CBCP president Oscar Cruz said that bishops decide which social program or issues to prioritize in their dioceses. In areas where mining is an issue, for instance, concerns related to this top the agenda of the prelate. As for NFP, it has never really taken off due to lack of funds. Most social programs are geared to alleviate poverty and sometimes, for disaster relief. Ledesma out Sex is a taboo subject for the Church and this may partly explain its lukewarm approach to NFP. In the first place, priests and bishops are considered to be less knowledgeable on the subject, since they are not supposed to engage in it. They also cannot decide on how best to approach the population issue. Those with liberal views are ostracized. The case of Cagayan de Oro Archbishop Antonio Ledesma is one example. A former CBCP vice president, Ledesma was next in line to become the next CBCP president. Tradition has dictated that the vice president succeeds the president after two terms. Ledesma was elected in 2005 as vice president and was supposed to succeed then CBCP president Archbishop Angel Lagdameo. But during the election in 2007 which was supposed to have been only procedural for Ledesma to continue in office—first-term officials usually are elected for a second term—he was replaced by Tandag Bishop Nereo Odchimar as vice president. Following tradition, Odchimar succeeded Lagdameo when his term ended in 2009. Speculations were raised that Ledesma’s political views cost him the post. He was considered a vocal critic of Arroyo, who has cultivated the friendship and loyalty of some bishops. But this turned out to be a peripheral issue. Informed sources said Ledesma was ousted because many bishops opposed his move to collaborate with the government in promoting NFP. The diocese of Cagayan de Oro has a history of strong partnership with the Population Commission regional office there in promoting NFP. Cagayan de Oro PopCom administrative officer Edna Ramos said that in collaboration with Ledesma’s diocese, a task force was created with one Church representative as member. In barangays and sometimes in churches, NFP classes are taught as a birth control method, Ramos said. “We have a good working relationship with the diocese.” Among the NFP methods being taught is the Standard Days Method (SDM), which is based on a woman’s fertility cycle. The SDM method is not approved by some of the bishops, which added to the conflict with Ledesma. Aniceto said there are five birth spacing methods sanctioned by the Church: 1. cialis price walgreens the Billings ovulation; 2. the basal body temperature; 3. the

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lactational amenorrhea method; 4. the symptothermal method; and 5. the SDM. Aniceto said these 5 methods bank on the fertility cycle of women and respect women’s health since nothing artificial tadalafil citrate is introduced to the woman’s body. But Fr. Joel Jason, director of the Archdiocese of Manila’s Family Life Ministry, said that in a Vatican conference last year, the SDM was not among the approved NFP methods. Jason said there had been questions as to the reliability of the SDM method, compared with the other NFP methods “which had been proven to be more scientific and accurate.” Thus in Manila, NFP ‘coordinators’ do not teach SDM. No to partnering with government Apart from its alleged questionable reliability, the purists, which constitute majority of the bishops, said government is teaching a back-up plan for SDM which is condom use. Pabillo explained that bishops are not comfortable working with the government on any family planning program since it is being taught as a means to prevent procreation and not as a way of life. As far as government is concerned, Fr. Jason said NFP “is a means to stop pregnancy, and not to postpone it.” Thus, he said, “it is best not to engage with the government on any programs on family planning.” In reply to his critics, Ledesma presented three options that the Church could take: 1. criticize government and remain suspicious of it; 2. viagraonline-toptrusted work separately from government on NFP promotion; and 3. critically collaborate with government “We have actually tried the first two approaches—with minimal results. Trying out the third approach may incur some risk of failure and misuse, but perhaps the greater risk is not to try at all,” he said. As expected, Ledesma’s line of tadalafil online reasoning fell on deaf ears, with the Church princes choosing to take the first two approaches. And it has since been losing the war on the population issue. A survey conducted by the Social Weather Station released in August this year showed that 68 percent of Filipinos want government to provide funds for all methods of family planning, while a separate survey by Pulse Asia released December last year showed that 69 percent of those surveyed agree with the Reproductive Health Bill, which seeks to promote both natural and modern methods of family planning. Last June, Bishop Pabillo had an epiphany: why doesn’t the Church tap regular volunteers to promote the NFP from house to house? For so long, it has relied on unpaid volunteers to promote the NFP with limited results. This time, the volunteers will get daily allowances in lieu of regular salaries. It is a small consolation, but at least the volunteers don’t go home with empty pockets. – Newsbreak   Editor’s note: This story is part of our series on issues on reproductive health, in partnership with sexandsensibilities.com.

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