The national media reported the other day that the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) has come out with a 20-page guidelines for voters for the coming 2010 elections. It would appear that the CBCP is urging Catholic voters to reject candidates who are supporting the Reproductive Hill bill. According to the guideline:
“…it would not be morally permissible to vote candidates who support anti-family policies, including reproductive health, or any other moral evil such as abortion, divorce, assisted suicide and euthanasia.. otherwise one becomes an accomplice to the moral evil in question.”
According to the news item in CBCP news, if strictly followed, Catholics can only vote for three presidential candidates who are not supporting the RH bill: JC delos Reyes, Eddie Villanueva and Manny Villar. This means that Catholics should not vote for Noynoy Aquino, Gilbert Teodoro and Joseph Estrada - or they would become "accomplice to the moral evil in question."
This would not only apply to presidential candidates but also to candidates for senators, representatives, governors, mayors, etc.
The first question is, has the CBCP already formally adopted and approved this guideline? The second question is: is this guideline adequate and appropriate to help Catholic voters?
This guideline came out of the national gathering of the directors and lay coordinators of the CBCP episcopal commission on Family and Life which was held last November 30 in Antipolo City. It was only formally released a few days ago after "it went through Bishop Odchimar for final approval."
What is clear is that this guideline is the product of a national gathering of an episcopal commission (Family and Life) - not the CBCP plenary assembly itself, which still has to meet soon. It would be misleading to regard it as the official guideline of the CBCP. It reflects the perspective of that commission which should be taken into account. If a guideline is to be finally approved and released, it will be broader than what this commission proposes. Other perspectives need to be considered - justice and peace, environment, good governance, peace, etc.
Any guideline should take into account the pro-life stance of candidates. But it would be myopic to simply look at the candidates' support or non-support of the RH bill as the sole basis for voting for and against them. The anti-life issues and culture of death embraces abortion, capital punishment, extra-judicial killings, armed conflict, destruction of the environment, poverty and even corruption (which perpetuates the culture of death). Being pro-life means respect for life inside the womb and outside the womb, and opposing anything and anyone that threatens, destroys and devalue life. This consistent ethic of life is what John Paul II wrote about in his encyclical "Evangelium Vitae."
A guideline based on a single issue (such as support or non-support of RH bill) is not adequate and will just be ignored by the people.
It would be one-sided if the CBCP warn voters to reject only those who support the RH bill. What about those who are corrupt? What about violators of human rights ? What about those who support policies that destroy the environment, perpetuate poverty & injustice, continue the armed conflict, etc.
The problems of our country are complex. While we oppose the RH bill and reject the premise that overpopulation is the cause of poverty (and block to development) which can be solved by contraceptives and sex education, it is not enough to elect candidates who reject the RH bill. We need leaders who are not corrupt, who will respect life, and who are capable of bringing about social transformation, justice, peace, and development, and address the environmental crisis.