The issue of wild population growth and its control have always been a controversial one in the Philippines. Any attempt to institute a real government program to curb this growth using artificial means always meets stiff opposition from the highly conservative Catholic Church. Efforts to stem the spread of sexually transmitted disease by the use of the same means to control population growth will get the same reception from the church.
As reported in the news last month, with recent reports that HIV cases are on the rise in the country, the Philippine Department of Health (DoH) stepped in to distribute condoms for free — and got serious flak for doing so. The timing of the DoH’s condom distribution may have been controversial- Valentine’s Day – but sent enough shockwaves to merit a look from media & the Catholic Church. As a true testament to naive thinking, the Catholic Church insists that condoms are immoral since it promotes abortion. Abortion and the spread of disease are two different things but the Catholic Church wants to treat it as a singular issue –a rather myopic approach. It is sad that even if the World Health Organization sees that condoms provide protection against the risk of sexually transmitted diseases, the Catholic Church sees it as immoral to protect its flock. To the church, it is MORAL to risk disease for the sake of a belief.
I will simplify things and sum up what has been happening as how I see it:
1. DoH – “Just use a condom as a form of protection.” It worked for Thailand, it could work for us. At least give it a shot.
2. Pro-life group/ Catholic Church groups – “Stop sleeping around. It’s safer that way.” And now we have 90-plus million Filipinos with the threat of sexually transmitted diseases looming in the horizon.
3. People – “Hey, HIV cases are on the rise. Is there any form of protection other than abstinence? You can’t expect us not to have sex. Anyway, what do we need protection from?”
I am not certain how powerful the Catholic Church really is in swaying the members of its flock not to use any form of protection. In my opinion, the Church reminds me of a “bully” since it always threatens to do yank support from someone that does not agree with its ideals. In fact, the Church even wants the Secretary of Health out of the job. I understand that the church stands to guard the well-being of its members, but it is also irrational why they keep their members in the dark on matters that may ultimately harm them. Is it out of fear of becoming irrelevant in this day and age?
Sure, the church can talk about the dangers of choosing the wrong leaders, but they cannot talk of a more imminent physical danger. It’s more convenient to keep people in the dark, just issue a position – just don’t use condoms and practice abstinence…like, that has worked. Frankly, I believe that we have significantly better chances of avoiding sexually transmitted diseases (STD) through the use of condoms compared to the church’s advocacy of avoiding the mistake of choosing the wrong president.
Why can’t a middle ground be reached between government and the Catholic Church? Ultimately, it will be the citizens of the Philippines who will suffer from the deadlock.
In my opinion, there can be no “perfect” solution that can satisfy everyone in society. So in the meantime, use what is available. If you don’t have the right tools, then follow the Church’s advice — stop sleeping around. Done.