Saturday, October 25, 2008

On the 14 Ateneo professors, Conscience, Reality, and the Truth

I once had an argument with my previous boss over a computerized system that we planned on developing. I needed funding for the planned system that will be designed for on-line monitoring of parts shortages. My proposed system will quickly highlight what components are delaying the production lines.

He asked: ”Why do we want to spend our money and energies tracking those shortages? Why not prevent them in the first place?”

He had a very good point there. Be proactive, strike at the root cause, and not at symptoms of problems. My boss had this effective method of asking a succession of “whys” until we got to the root of the problem.

I suddenly remembered this encounter with my old boss as I read the statements of the 14 Ateneo professors who came out with a position paper supporting HB5043. Among other things, they said that giving women access to other “medically safe, legal, affordable and quality” family planning methods would prevent “unwanted, unplanned and mistimed pregnancies, which are the root cause of induced abortions.”

So according to the professors, “unwanted, unplanned and mistimed pregnancies” are the root cause of induced abortions. But what is the root cause of “unwanted, unplanned and mistimed pregnancies”?

“We are thinking of women who find it impossible to predict their infertile periods,..”.

Ah, if there is one word that my old boss hates, it is the word “impossible”. Obviously, the professors are referring to NFP and I wonder what are their presumptions by claiming that women find it impossible. I take it that these professors are more steeped than us ordinary mortals in scientific, facts-based analysis that substantiates their statements empirically. Does their studies/references (assuming they cited an NFP study) conclude that it is impossible to predict infertile periods? Is a system designed into nature itself, impossible? A study of NFP in China (check out this link), says otherwise, and in fact concludes: “The BOM (NFP) is simple and easy to comprehend; almost all the women, including the illiterate, can successfully learn the method and identify their own mucus symptoms.”.

“We are thinking... of couples who see each other on an irregular basis, or women who are trapped in abusive relationships with men who demand sex anytime they want it,” .

Please professors, think harder. You are implying that these couples have an irresistible urge to copulate on sight. You said you were speaking for yourselves :-), so please do not make an unfair assumption on all these couples. Furthermore, if women are trapped in abusive relationships, then these women should be counseled and assisted, as no woman deserves to endure those “abusive relationships”, where men “demand sex anytime they want it”. Do you mean we turn a blind eye to the abuse as long as those women are “protected” by contraceptives? You give them contraceptives and the abuse goes on. Is that your idea of women “protection”? Think of the larger abuses of social inequity, of corruption, disrespect for the poor, and general apathy and tolerance of abuses committed at large to society.

“Catholic social teachings recognize the primacy of the well-formed conscience over wooden compliance to directives from political and religious authorities.”

The professors seem to imply that their well-formed conscience, probably developed over the last few months, trumps more than 2,000 years of Church history and teaching tradition. Primacy of conscience does not guarantee rightness and the objective TRUTH in ones subsequent actions. As is usually the case, when one finds himself in conflict with the Church’s teachings, the problem is with the person and not with the teaching, a direct consequence, naturally, of a selective reading(?) of Catholic (social ?) teachings.

While the professors continue to think more along the lines of “well-formed consciences”, they might consider not dragging the Ateneo name the next time they feel an irresistible urge to voice out their personal opinions. It would also do them well to read the Compendium of the Social Doctrines of the Church (all 361 pages, with NOT A SINGLE PAGE of it expounding on the PRIMACY of CONSCIENCE); study NFP first DILIGENTLY, without making “impossible” conclusions; rethink their concept of ROOT CAUSES; ask a succession of “WHYS” on the problems of women at hand; and investigate more deeply the real meaning of “WELL-FORMED CONSCIENCES”.

And if they want a professor to teach them through it all, I will gladly refer my old boss.
He also says that some solutions are worse than the problem.
Fr Nebres' response here.
Additional comments here.


John-D Borra said...


Great post. I would love to meet your old boss! ;-)

I hope you don't mind if I reference your entry in my latest post on the RH Bill. We need to educate people about alternatives towards reproductive health.

WillyJ said...

Go ahead John. You're right about the need for education, and may I add, I a truly informed position. Thanks for dropping by.

Anonymous said...

Hi WillyJ,
I followed your link and found myself in this cave of treasures. Thanks for setting up this blog.

I think you should send your post on the 14 professors to the Inquirer for publication.

In any issue people are always split into 3 groups - the pros, the cons and the neutrals. On the RH bill issue, I think overwhelming majority of the people are neutral. This is probably partly due to the system of government. The reality, after all, is that for a bill to become law, all it needs is a majority vote of the lawmakers, not a majority vote of the people governed. Neutrals may think, "why expend energy on something you can't influence?" The neutrals need two things to oppose this bill - they need to know why and how. Your post answers part of the why. We need to clearly show people why the Church's stand is the right one. We also need to know what defying the Church really means to each of us personally.

As to the how...Well, if we, the governed, want to convince the lawmakers to vote a certain way, we have to have a good answer to the question "what's in it for the congressman?" The senator or congressman who votes his conscience is a reare breed. Such statesmen are usually motivated by a higher moral code. Like the Rotary's 4-way test. Most lawmakers are unfortunately motivated by power and position. These will vote for whatever keeps him in power and in position. This may sound cynical but I don't think the majority of our legislators care whether they defy the Church or not. If they do, and they are practicing catholics, this bill won't even have been conceived. They probably think that they can always find a priest to give them absolution in case passing the bill was a mistake. There's always confession and forgiveness, right? And what does the senator who opposes the bill get? Not even a "thank you".

However, I do think that these legislators will kill this bill if they are convinced that passing it would greatly place their position of power in peril. This, fortunately, is in the hands of the voting public. So I think you ought to send your post to the Inquirer for publication. The public needs to know and the majority of them do not surf blogs. CFC and other catholic organizations should host a series of breakfast meetings and banquets honoring those lawmakers who are opposing the bill. Give them airtime and positive publicity and a reason to think that following the Church is not only right and moral but that it can help keep them in power as well.


WillyJ said...

Your insights, as always, are spot-on.

You're right, we must somehow get the truth out in the open for everyone to understand, discern, and act accordingly. (Ah, that reminds me of our efforts in IDOTRCFC). I am now thinking of requesting its publication in the Young Blood section of the Inquirer. Failing that, I may request it be published instead in the High Blood section :-). But maybe a better idea is to send it it Billy Esposo or to Kit Tatad. They know better and have the resources to get the message out.
Good idea. Thanks bro. Please drop by more often.

God bless.
- WillyJ