MALAYBALAY CITY (17 May) – There is something troubling in the way the officials of the Catholic Church has argued against the controversial Reproductive Health Bill which was started to be deliberated in the House of Representatives as this column was being written. If one tries to read between the lines their underlying message is that Congress should toe their doctrinal imposition as the infallible moral guidance for ALL citizens of this country. Fine but for the fact that we’re not 100-percent Catholics and that even the Catholics themselves are divided on the issue.

Driven by their fetish for moral hegemony, Church leaders have done everything in their power to block the RH Bill, from holding rallies attended by parishioners most of whom haven’t actually read much less understood the core principles of the Bill to demonizing its proponents as a bunch of pro-abortion advocates. They are even accusing the proponents as being mainly motivated by huge “lobby funds” from foreign agencies. Worse, they are also insinuating that journalists who favor the bill have benefited from the alleged lobby money. This column makes me a suspect of the crime.

If only the Church cares to take stock of things as they are, it would find out to its dismay that the world has changed a lot since the Middle Ages, that bishops can no longer order government officials to toe their line or face the risk of excommunication. Wave upon wave of awakening has since permeated human consciousness in the process diluting, if not obliterating, notions of morality protected not by practical validity but by the promise of eternal damnation for deviants.

Just a few years ago most Filipino politicians, presidents included, would shudder at the mere thought of antagonizing the Church. They know the Church would not mind letting God have the kingdom and the glory as long as it has the power. And so they would rather follow the safe path of acquiescing to its position on touchy issues, including the RH Bill. A rather strange tack even from a pragmatic point of view considering that there has never been a Catholic vote in this country in all the elections that had taken place.

But if the snowballing support to the RH Bill in Congress is any indication, the Church is fast losing its hold on politicians. It must be wondering why it has become difficult to impose its will on Congress and on Malacanang. Moreover, it must be wondering how President Benigno S. Aquino III, only son of the late President Corazon C. Aquino, a devout Catholic, can tell the bishops in the face that he couldn’t care less if they excommunicated him for his endorsement of the RH Bill.

Sensing the President’s determination to support the Bill, the bishops resorted to blackmail –threatening civil disobedience through non-payment of taxes. This is a sign of desperation on the part of the bishops. They should not invoke the fact that Aquino’s mother had also called for civil disobedience because it was proposed under entirely different circumstances. She was urging the people to resist a dictatorship. The bishops are telling the people not to pay taxes to a government that’s trying to address lingering problems related to the rights of women.

The bishops want a head-on collision? Why not pass a law taxing the Church? (MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. H. Marcos C. Mordeno can be reached at [email protected])