Bishops in our Bedroom: The Roman Catholic Church and the Reproductive Health Bill in the Philippines
| PLCPD POLICY BRIEF
Church Influence onContraception
The Roman Catholic church (RCC) is the world’slargest Christian church and says it has over abillion members. Its claim to authority rests onthe doctrine o the apostolic succession, throughwhich the Church claims to be the true successoro the original Christian community ounded by Jesus in his selection o Saint Peter, and throughwhich its bishops and priests claim spiritual andsacramental authority.The total prohibition o articial birth controlmethods by the RCC, declared by Pope Pius XI inhis 1930 encyclical,
, was maintainedby the 1968 Humanae Vitae
(Latin or “o humanlie”). The RCC sanctions only abstinence and thenatural amily planning (NFP) method as suitabletechniques or birth control.Casti Connubii was written in response tothe Anglican Communion’s Seventh LambethConerence, which approved contraceptive use inlimited circumstances. For much o its existence,the RCC heavily emphasized procreation asthe primary purpose o sex. Some Catholicseven believed that intercourse at times wherepregnancy was not a possible result (such ascurrent pregnancy and menopause) was sinul.
acknowledged or the rsttime a secondary, unitive, purpose o intercourse.
Because o this secondary purpose, marriedcouples have a right to engage in intercourse evenwhen pregnancy is not a possible result. SomeCatholics interpreted the statement as not onlypermitting sex between married couples duringpregnancy and menopause, but also during theinertile times o the menstrual cycle.
Vatican and birth control
The birth control story begins with the SecondVatican Council in the early l960s and the decisiono two popes to re-examine the RCC’s positionon birth control. Pope John XXIll had intendedto begin the re-examination, but he died beorehe could begin the process. His successor, PopePaul VI, issued the encyclical Humanae Vitae in1968, which constitutes the present day policy o the RCC. In truth, the
Humanae Vitae was indirect opposition to the fndings made by thePontifcal Commission on Population, Familyand Birth
(1964-66), which was tasked to look into the continued validity o the Church stance onbirth control.The Commission was two-tiered: 1) a group o 15cardinals and bishops; 2) a group o 64 lay expertsrepresenting a variety o disciplines: theologians,sociologists, medical doctors and social scientists,including a Filipina, Dr. Mercedes Concepcion o the University o the Philippines.
Ater two years o study, the lay commission voted60 to 4, and the clergy voted 9 to 6, to change theposition on birth control, even though it wouldmean a loss o papal authority.
The Commissionbelieved it was the right thing to do. TheCommission would state in its fnal reportthat the Church’s teaching on artifcialcontraception was in a state o doubt andthat birth control, as long as this did notinvolve abortion, was not intrinsically evil.
They recommended that the procreative aspecto sex should not be tied to every sexual act,