CBCP to meet to discuss RH strategy in schools

The Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines will meet next week on "academic concerns" on how Catholic universities should discuss the Reproductive Health bill with their communities.

"We will talk about good approaches, solutions and the task of Catholic universities to seek the truth and of course to continue studying and working out hoping to come out possible solutions to many concerns from the academic and also related points of view," Cebu Archbishop Jose Palma, CBCP president, said on the influential group's website.

"In the search, we should be guided by the light of truth or by the light of faith. That is the mission of the Church," Palma added.

The discussion, scheduled during the CBCP's regular permanent council meeting on September 4, comes after 192 faculty members of Ateneo de Manila University signed a statement of support for the RH bill.

"More than just the freedom to believe, freedom of religion encompasses the freedom to act or not to act according to one’s religious beliefs. Neither political leaders nor religious officials should prevent people from practicing legal family planning methods according to their religious and personal beliefs.

The country needs a reproductive health law precisely to ensure budgetary support for the comprehensive, integrated, and sustainable delivery of reproductive health initiatives across local government units, regardless of the religious and personal convictions of national and local leaders," the Ateneo statement read.

This comes although Ateneo president Jose Ramon Villarin SJ released a statement saying the university does not support passage of the RH bill. He said "the present form of the proposed bill contains provisions that could be construed to threaten constitutional rights as well as to weaken commonly shared human and spiritual values."

He also reminded faculty members involved in Christian formation classes to make sure the Catholic position on the RH bill is taught in class. He did not say, however, that no other views can be discussed. He added he appreciated the pro-RH faculty members for their "social compassion and intellectual efforts."

Palma said Ateneo and the Philippine Province of the Society of Jesus "are both sincere in saying that they are with us together with the Catholic Church (on the RH bill)."

Palma had earlier said CBCP is willing to sit down for a dialogue with the Pro-RH Ateneo professors. "I think [they] must be motivated by their desire to discover what is good," the CBCP president said.

Palma was firm on where the Ateneo faculty should stand, though: "They are part of the Catholic university and they should obey the mission and vision and not contradict the teachings (of the Church.)"

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