By Raïssa Robles
I thought I had heard the last of Jesuit priest-lawyer Joaquin Bernas after his retreat-cum-vacation at Santiago de Compostela. I thought he had been silenced by the Church for good.
This morning, at breakfast, I nearly choked on my coffee when my hubby Alan read out to me the following lines from his column today.
Bernas, one of the framers of the 1987 Constitution, wrote in his column entitled “When is family planning anti-life?”:
When does life begin? For me, the starting point in dealing with this very specific question is what the Constitution says. It says that the state “shall protect the life of the unborn from conception.” What this means, in the understanding of the men and women who wrote that Constitution, is that life begins at conception, that is, upon fertilization. Before fertilization there is no life.
Say that again?
…life begins at conception, that is, upon fertilization. Before fertilization there is no life.
He goes on to say:
This is also the view of the Philippine Medical Society, and this is the view of John Paul II. John Paul II said that life is so important that we should not do anything that will endanger it. We would be taking at least a very serious risk against life if we terminate development after fertilization.
Wait a minute. Didn’t certain congressmen vehemently tell us that life does not begin at conception? That life begins with the egg and the sperm? That the Catholic Church totally forbids any birth control that would even remotely prevent the egg and sperm from meeting?
And that the most popular device that prevents the egg and sperm from meeting is the CONDOM?
But there’s more that Fr. Bernas says. He wrote that:
The use of contraceptive devices that only prevent fertilization is not anti-life in the sense of being an act of murder.
For Fr. Bernas, this is not abortion.
He defines abortion this way:
Abortion, in the sense of expulsion of the fertilized ovum at any time after fertilization is anti-life, and is an act of murder. If life of the unborn is terminated at a stage of viability the crime is infanticide. For that reason the Penal Code and also the proposed RH bill prohibit and penalize abortion and infanticide.
As to what are the abortifacients, Fr. Bernas prefers to leave that to the wisdom of scientists, not to doctors of the Church.
I have heard it loosely said that what are being marketed as contraception devices are in fact abortive devices. This is loose talk. If there are such abortive devices being marketed, they should be identified scientifically, not by gossip, and withdrawn from the market. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has the responsibility of ensuring that no abortifacient drugs be marketed. I know of one drug which was withdrawn from the market after being proved before the FDA to be abortifacient. This was the subject of a thesis of a student of mine which she defended, as required for graduation from the Ateneo Law School, before a panel of professors.
Then Fr. Bernas says a most controversial thing at the end. He says he is a Catholic priest but at the same time also a lawyer. You can see the struggle in his mind here when he says:
Having said all this I must also put on my hat as a priest of the Catholic Church. I accept the teaching of the Catholic Church which prohibits not only abortion but also artificial contraception. Yet one might say that through this article I am in fact approving artificial contraception. I am not doing such a thing. Aside from being a Catholic priest in good standing, I am also a lawyer and teacher and student of Constitutional Law. What I am doing is to place all this in the context of our constitutionally mandated pluralistic society. Not all citizens of the Philippines are Catholics. Many of them therefore do not consider artificial contraception immoral or anti-life. The teaching of my Church is that I must respect the belief of other religions even if I do not agree with them. That is how Catholics and non-Catholics can live together in harmony. The alternative which, God forbid, is the restoration of the Inquisition.
I believe Fr. Bernas has not only given Catholics some wiggle room but an entire house to romp in! :)
You can read Fr. Bernas’ entire column by clicking here.
Father Bernas gives Catholics wiggle room to support controversial RH bill
Jesuit priest-lawyer Bernas strikes again on side of the Reproductive Health bill
Will Father Bernas be cowed by higher authority & fall silent on the RH bill?
off topic po.
Si jorge bernas na isa sa masugid mong tagasubaybay at si Fr. Joaquin Bernas ay iisa at isang tao lamang? di ba ang jorge(george) in Filipino is Joaquin?
Excerpted from http://www.gotquestions.org/birth-control.html
The closest that Scripture comes to condemning birth control is Genesis chapter 38, the account of Judah’s sons Er and Onan. Er married a woman named Tamar, but he was wicked and the Lord put him to death, leaving Tamar with no husband or children. Tamar was given in marriage to Er’s brother, Onan, in accordance with the law of levirate marriage in Deuteronomy 25:5-6. Onan did not want to split his inheritance with any child that he might produce on his brother’s behalf, so he practiced the oldest form of birth control, withdrawal. Genesis 38:10 says, “What he did was wicked in the LORD’s sight; so He put him to death also.” Onan’s motivation was selfish; he used Tamar for his own pleasure, but refused to perform his legal duty of creating an heir for his deceased brother. This passage is often used as evidence that God does not approve of birth control. However, it was not the act of contraception that caused the Lord to put Onan to death; it was Onan’s selfish motives behind the action. Therefore, we can find no biblical admonition against the use of birth control in and of itself.
Contraception, by definition, is merely the opposite of conception. It is not the use of contraception that is wrong or right. As we learned from Onan, it is the motivation behind the contraception that determines if it is right or wrong.
If you google you will certainly see Genesis 38:8-10 often being quoted but out of perspective to support their view that the bible condemns contraceptives.
In the article below, which is not on contraceptives, you will see that God slew Onan because he refused to fulfill his obligations under ancient law on levirate marriage
Why Did God Slay Onan (Genesis 38:3-10)?
“God slew Onan because the man contemptuously refused to fulfill his familial responsibility under the Old Covenant. This particular practice is called levirate marriage, in which a dead man’s closest unmarried male relation (usually a younger brother, as in this case) married the widow to produce an heir for the dead man. This duty is spelled out in Deuteronomy 25:5-10 to preserve tribal inheritance rights (verse 6).”
And Genesis(NIV) 38:9 is quite explicit:
“But Onan knew that the child would not be his; so whenever he slept with his brother’s wife, he spilled his semen on the ground to keep from providing offspring for his brother.”
Notice “…to keep from providing offspring for his brother” which is the reason and not the spilling of semen.
Christians around the world hold different views but according to http://www.christianethicstoday.com/cetart/index.cfm?fuseaction=Articles.main&ArtID=1087 a MAJORITY of Christians in the modern world believe (or are supposed to believe) that human life begins at the moment that sperm and egg unite.
If that article is correct. then most Christians believe that life begins during fertilization and not as some religious personalities believed – that the sperm and egg already has a soul(pre-existentianism. and Traducianism views) and preventing them from meeting is abortion.
That article also mentioned that “we find that in Jewish law a fetus is not considered to be a full-fledged human being until its head emerges from the womb. Before that moment, “the fetus is the thigh of its mother” (ubar yerekh imo), meaning that it may not be considered an independent entity but instead a “partial life.””
I am just wondering if people who hold the view that “abstaining from sexual acts and ‘rhythm’ are the only acceptable methods of contraception” is a minority trying to impose their views on the majority.. While admittedly that I’ve only looked into this discussion a little more deeply, it bothers me to think that Condom preventing fertilization is abortion. For me, following their line of thought, when a boy with a sperm meets a girl with an ova, wouldn’t anything less than an immediate sexual intercourse be abortion? Or should we act like dogs doing it in the streets?
Sorry, “conception” yata ang naririnig ko na pinadedebatehan.
Aries Pogi says
Fr. Bernas should put in his lawyer mind that artificial contraception is considered by Church teaching as inherently evil. That’s the straight truth about it. He should not twist it and give Catholics a “wiggle” room.
Anything that prevents conception unnaturally and is evil, that’s how the Church views it.
There is no way that John Paul II and him share the same view.
“The use of contraceptive devices that only prevent fertilization is not anti-life in the sense of being an act of murder.” – Bernas
In 1997, the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for the Family stated:
“The Church has always taught the intrinsic evil of contraception, that is, of every marital act intentionally rendered unfruitful. This teaching is to be held as definitive and irreformable. Contraception is gravely opposed to marital chastity; it is contrary to the good of the transmission of life (the procreative aspect of matrimony), and to the reciprocal self-giving of the spouses (the unitive aspect of matrimony); it harms true love and denies the sovereign role of God in the transmission of human life.”
Take note: EVERY MARITAL ACT INTENTIONALLY RENDERED UNFRUITFUL.
“Anything that prevents conception unnaturally and is evil, that’s how the Church views it.”
Ok, that’s the POV of the church “people”, not mine and not of those Filipinos that supports HR bill.. I think the catholic church should not and doesn’t have the rigth to dictate how I will build my family according to my capability. the Government is offering the options, let the people choose.
Morality? ask Vatican how many cases of child abuse they have settled. and how many Pedo cases they have covered up and how much money they spent trying to clean the dirty deeds of some clergy. Oh, don’t forget, those money came from catholic people.
Now, who are they to lecture about morality?
They’re priests. They have a different set of morality
“The U.S. Cardinals said they are going to develop a code of ethics to help them deal with the sexual scandal. Wait a minute, I thought their already was a code of ethics, it’s called the Bible.” —Jay Leno
More here http://politicalhumor.about.com/library/blpedophilepriests.htm and many of them are not just “jokes” but truth.
This 2003 This American Life story, recently re-aired, profiles a priest who was a “fixer”, sent in by the Catholic Church to places rocked by sex scandals, in order to restore order via deception — he eventually flipped and worked for lawyers prosecuting abuse cases! (It’s Act 1, so you won’t have to weed through the entire episode.)
Lest you be swayed by the Pope’s crocodile tears this past weekend, let Jon Stewart remind you how just a few weeks ago he called coverage of the sex scandal petty gossip. (Best joke: Domino’s showed more contrition over a shitty pizza sauce than the Church has over the fact of years of covered-up abuse!)
bernas was just trying to find a reasonable and defensible stand…
but wait till his boss in vatican hears about this…
his orders are clear…abstaining from sexual acts and ‘rhythm’ are the only acceptable methods of contraception…i thought his boss was infallible.
after overturning roe v. wade which declares a stand within the “1st trimester”(and which still stands as of this writing) he now tends to contradict the pope!
one thing about these typical jesuits…they never fail to show their ‘superiority complex’.
Rallie F. Cruz says
I know that this may have been quite moot and academic already to make added comments on the issue of RA5034 (RH Bill) yet I hope it is not still too late.
Yet, by taking a second look and reading of the Old Testament in Genesis 1:27-28, It says . “Be fruitful and increase and number; fill the earth and subdue it….”
The two words “Subdue it” would it not mean also that we have to control it?
In the Book of Ecclesiastes 6:3 (NIV) “A man may have a hundred children and live many years, yet no matter how long he lives, if he cannot enjoy his prosperity and does not receive proper burial, I say that a stillborn child is better off than he.” does it not give enough to support RH Bill?
bernas is terribly wrong.he is confused and does not how to distinguished the moral teachings of the church.another jesuit dissenter.beware of the poison of this man.
in fairness..he’s not a snake..rather a ‘sorcerer’!
Cryptic Kris says
As long as misinformation about RH was cleared, we believe that it will pass. Let me share this information you got for them to realize.
Rallie F. Cruz says
Fr. Bernas is not the only Jesuit priest I heard taking that position.
But the best that I heard about having control over unwanted children is from Father Gerry Tapiador who advocates men and women to be more engaged in their education, work and career while still young and get married in their late twenties for women and early thirties for men. Of course, he might just be talking to a small sector of the society that can afford to follow it.
Talking about the word “life” however and claiming that there is no life yet while the sperm has not yet met the egg. Is something we need to discuss further. If sperm has no life of its own then it may not even be able to join the race in finding the living egg that will make a new human life form to begin.
Since we are talking about “Human Life” the use of condom may help “Prevent” contraception which will never fall under the word “Abortion”. for abortion happens only when human life is already formed and one tries to abort its full development.
I just hope Fr. Bernas will stand on his ground and make sure RH Bill will pass.