Philippine Catholic Church drafts own population bill

Thu Nov 20, 2008 2:25am EST
 
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MANILA (Reuters) - Powerful Roman Catholic bishops in the Philippines are drafting their own version of a bill on maternal health care, rejecting a pending bill that also promotes artificial contraception.

Reverend Father Melvin Castro of the Episcopal Commission on Family and Life said Thursday that the bishops have been working with lawmakers to draft an alternative to the population control bill pending in the lower house of Congress.

"It should not be labeled as a church bill," Castro told foreign correspondents in Manila. "There are so many Catholics there in Congress who are willing to sponsor the bill and the church is only helping draft it."

Castro said the bishops have rejected the current bill in Congress, describing it as unconstitutional and infringing on religious rights of most Filipinos. About 85 percent of nearly 90 million Filipinos are Roman Catholics.

"We would not allow a legislation that would allocate money from a majority of the taxpayers who are Catholics to be allocated to a program which is against their beliefs," he said, referring to provisions that promote artificial contraception.

The Philippines is already the world's 12th most populous country and is projected to have a population of over 140 million by 2040, putting a huge strain on its creaking health system, schools and other services, and its ability to feed itself.

The bill on maternal health care, which requires the government to promote artificial contraception if it becomes law, has become a battleground between the powerful church and activists in the staunchly Roman Catholic nation.

Some bishops have said they will refuse communion and other sacraments to politicians who support the bill.

Jo Imbong, a lawyer working with Catholic bishops, said the church would oppose any attempt through legislation that would violate "parenting rights and the freedom to live one's faith."   Continued...