Thursday, December 27, 2012

Who's afraid of NFP?

Philippine Daily Inqirer/OPINION/by Ma. Ceres P. Doyo

I HAVE issues with both the pros and antis on reproductive health, who have been in fierce debates until recently when the pros in the House of Representatives and the Senate prevailed and married their respective versions now littered with the term “non-abortifacient.” But my issues aren’t anything that cannot be addressed by whichever side prevailed, if only there will be, to borrow a Church official’s words, “attentive listening.”

Alas, there still are more incendiary remarks from some antis that are unbecoming of their statures. A Catholic prelate was reported as saying that the passing of the RH bill and the Aquino administration’s support of it could be likened to the recent massacre of 20 young children and six adults in Connecticut. Or something to that effect. What hole-y hyperbole.

And because tomorrow is Holy Innocents’ Day, it won’t be unlikely for the likes of him to liken the RH bill to Herod’s order to slaughter the innocents.

But I have heard and seen worse. Last Sunday morning, in a church in Quezon City, the new parish priest, for shock effect, complemented his homily with a video clip showing mutilated fetuses, tissues being dissected, an eyeball falling out of a socket, severed limbs, innards spilling out. If you had tocino for breakfast and retched, your vomit might have looked similar to what was on the altar screen.

I have watched some true-to-life gut-churning scenes, among them a couple of autopsies and a convict being exterminated by lethal injection—part of a journalist’s day—and I can say that my guts are steel-hard. But images of mutilated fetuses being shown near the altar at Sunday Mass?

The gospel reading for that last Sunday of Advent was about the pregnant Mary, would-be mother of Jesus, visiting her pregnant cousin Elizabeth, would-be mother of John the Baptist. Indeed, a great biblical event that’s always been a favorite subject for meditation, books, music and visual arts. It was during that visit that Mary burst out with her canticle of praise, the Magnificat, the longest of her spiels recorded in the gospels.

The parish priest’s remark after his distasteful slide show: “Mabuti na lang walang RH bill noong panahong yon.” Good thing there was no RH bill at that time, or something like that. I felt my brain throbbing as I silently prayed, “God, please help me get through this homily.” I wondered whether this bishop also delighted in showing those images in other parishes. And I called to mind the five or six parish priests who had preceded this new one, and their soul-stirring homilies.

An aside: I sympathize with inarticulate priests who have difficulty delivering good homilies. Some priests are gifted thinkers and speakers, others less so. But I have a problem with the fire-and-brimstone types, those who make hole-y hyperbole and ridicule women in their sermons. (At a mass in a Quezon City Church some time ago, a Dominican fraile who was trying to make a point in his sermon loudly intoned, “Here comes the bride, three months inside,” followed by laughter. I thought, But what about the infanticipating groom?)

Anyway, after that unpleasant Advent Sunday Mass I didn’t want to get riled again, so I decided to attend Christmas Eve Mass at the quiet chapel of the ICM Sisters of St. Theresa’s College, not far from where I live, and where I sometimes go on special feasts.

Having said all that, let me go to the subject of natural family planning (NFP), which anti-RH advocates consider as the only morally acceptable form of family planning for married couples that the government should support, all other methods being immoral in their view.

It is not true (a wrong presumption of anti-RH Catholics) that NFP is “morally acceptable to all faiths and cultures.” NFP is “immoral” and unnatural according to Iglesia ni Cristo (INC) teachings because NFP goes against the teachings of the Bible. The INC allows artificial means as long as these are not abortifacient.

Yes, there are those who argue that NFP (sexual abstinence during a woman’s fertile period to prevent pregnancy) is, in fact, most UNnatural. For why forego intimacy when that is the time when intimacy is most pleasurable, especially for the female of the species?

This argument will be shot down by those who argue that sex is primarily for procreation and only secondarily for pleasure. Like, you can’t have your cake and eat it, too. Or that marital pleasure can be attained in many ways other than sexual union. Tell that to couples—married, unmarried—who live in penury and procreate under bridges, couples who copulate in grimy pushcarts while their children, hungry and cold, huddle under hedges.

So why don’t NFP advocates go down there before the government and the “evil” army of pro-RH, pro-artificial birth control campaigners get there first? I do get blue in the face when I stress that those who believe NFP as the only way should then teach what they preach.

My question: So, why, are, you, not, doing, it? Why aren’t you putting up signs that tell people where to go to learn this method? If you think that is the best, why aren’t you offering it fiercely and aggressively? Why compel the government to offer only what is acceptable to you (and not other methods that are more acceptable to others)?

But there are NFP advocates who have quietly and tirelessly put in place what they believe in. Kudos to Archbishop Antonio Ledesma whose diocese of Cagayan de Oro has a no-nonsense “all-NFP” program that should be the envy of his mitered and sceptered brothers.

May your Christmas days be filled with the sweet scent of the Redeemer-Babe and the jolting meaning of his birth. May 2013 stun us with great surprises.