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Rizal for RH!

The Patron Saint of RH!
Of course, Dr Rizal did not say he was for RH (reproductive health). During the late 19th century, the problem was not overpopulation but people ejected out of their land by the abuses of the friars. The problem was the friar, the over abusive friar!  Rizal's family was a victim  after the Dominicans kicked out the people after they had raised the rents.

But if Rizal were alive in the second decade of the 21st century and practising medicine at a clinic/surgery at traffic choked Calamba City, I dare say he would be for RH! He would come to the conclusion that the bedlam that is Calamba City is due to overpopulation coupled with poor city planning.

Even the most liberal of Catholic theologians would consider Rizal as "shipwrecked in faith" since he by the time he was writing the Noli, he had denied orthodox Roman Catholic dogma.  The late Father Raul J Bonoan SJ published a study on the Rizal-Pastells correspondence and came out with the undeniable conclusion that Rizal fell away from the Catholic faith.

But what made Rizal fall from Catholic grace? Any Pinoy would say it was due to Rizal's politics. Of course it was but there is more to that. Fr Bonoan writes that Rizal's studies in a Spain breathing in the last air of the Enlightenment was the reason. Even Dr Blumentritt noticed that in his letters after Rizal's martyrdom. In Spain, Rizal saw a society where the authority of the State was weak and with Republicans and conservative Carlists at times opposing theocratic absolutism. Rizal was introduced to Krausian rationalism. For Rizal, reason became the norm for knowing the world through experience and in this he caught "the divine spark of Science".

If Rizal were to look at the points for and against RH, I am very sure he would side with RH since he had already accepted that in the judgement of moral issues, one has to look at the "prism of one's private judgement" enlightened not by Church guidance but experience of nature. While Fr Pastells assumed Rizal's putting primacy of his own private judgment over that of the Church stemming from Luther (hence the accusation that Rizal was a Protestant), it is clear that Rizal's idea stems from the Enlightenment's philosophes.

Rizal also writes that if one is small minded then one abdicates their own private judgement. Rizal believed it was an offence against God.

And so we come to the context of the RH debates in the Philippines. The controversy is not rooted in whether there is a need to manage population or not, but whether the Roman Catholic Church in the Philippines will relinquish her de facto established status and be contented as a significant player but one without special privileges in the Filipino body politic.

Rizal would have noted that is a tragedy for this country that the debate on RH never took off from morality, theology and  outdated ideologies.  Rizal would also be prescient enough to note that the anti RH movement would implode.

The implosion is due to the latent anti-clericalism of the Pinoy who while remaining loyal much to the culture and beliefs of Catholicism , has a tendency to ridicule the clergy in issues where they know that the clergy have no expertise or practical experience on. And one of these big issues is raising a family and not necessarily sex (since many Filipinos honestly believe that the Catholic clergy are not fully celibate).  

This ridicule of the Roman clergy is part of the nationalist tradition that this nation is founded upon. While many Filipinos really won't turn Protestant, they would not want to see political clergy favouring sectarian political policies. Historian Teodoro Agoncillo writes that the only living (and continuously existing) result of the Philippine Revolution is the Iglesia Filipina Independiente (more popularly known as the Aglipayan Church after its first Supreme Bishop) who went into schism over this issue. One of the IFI first acts aside from rejecting the Roman obedience and having the mass in the vernacular, is to allow its priests to marry. This is again to state difference from Roman Church discipline. 

The IFI like almost all of the non Catholic churches support the RH bill again to differentiate from the Roman Church position. Almost 70% of Filipinos surveyed are in favour of the RH bill

And so, the pro RH position has appropriated Rizal's image in their advocacy in the bowler hatted Carlos Celdran. Some hierarchs in the Roman Church have irresponsibly threatened excommunication the President of the Republic for his support for the bill. This has fanned anti-clericalism once more. The RH battle will be probably the last  major skirmish of the Philippine State with the Roman Church which really started with Rizal and the Propaganda and continued by the IFI, kept alive throughout the American occupation and on to Recto's sponsorship of the Rizal Bill. It has to be noted that the Roman Church went into similar ballistic mode over Rizal's two novels! After this the Church will remain influential but will have to play just like any secular or minority religious party in forming political consensus in the Philippines. The Church by then will be disestablished but still held in affection by the people.  

The disestablishment of the Roman Church in the Philippines is what Rizal wanted and only a sovereign people can make it happen now at the 150th birth anniversary of the National Hero. There is irony that the trigger for this is a bill on contraceptives and sex! The satirical and sarcastic possibilities wouldn't be lost on Dr Rizal! 

Some in the Catholic clergy used boxing champ Manny Pacquiao as a icon in the anti RH fight, we can almost  certainly be sure that the anti RH lobby is in dire straits and desperate. But this is not surprising and in line with how some Catholics think about believing in what is right means. The whole message would not be lost on Dr Rizal too! Recall that even Rizal and Fr Pastells were in agreement that if you accept a dogma purely by abdicating intelligent reason for authority, God wouldn't be served!


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