By Dr. Romulo G. Bautista
Social Ethics Society
Pro-Life is always Pro-Choice, but not Vice-Versa
Sex with intent to procreate is pro-life; sex without intent to procreate is pro-choice. A married couple where the husband has a surgical vasectomy illustrates pro-choice. Underneath pro-life and pro-choice is the reality that every man is a moral being by nature, and as such he is free to choose between alternative options. A person lies when he says “I have no choice”, because such statement suggests a negative choice, but a choice nonetheless!
Constitutionality and Morality of the RH Law
The pending opposition from religious groups against the implementation of the RH law before the Supreme Court will be decided on the basis of its legality and constitutionality. It is my layman understands that legality is central to any law; but constitutionality is central to legality; but morality is central to constitutionality. Religion is not central to the legality and constitutionality of the RH law. The RH law has a binding force if it is legal, constitutional, and moral, without discrimination or preference to any particular religion.
Morality is not monolithic
There is no single body of established and unquestioned work of morality. Which sort, then, of morality be the moral reference of the RH law?
The Filipino morality is basically Western morality which is categorized into (1) Religious Morality which is directly dependent upon religious beliefs or upon a set of values given by religion, which may be grounded in Judaism, or in Christianity, or in Islam. (2) Secular Morality which is based upon the autonomy of reason (reason alone) without any reference to religious ideas. If its values are the same as a particular religion, such is merely coincidental; and (3) Quasi-Religious/Quasi-Secular Morality (partly religious /partly secular) which emerged from the merger of the religious morality with secular morality, and is prevalent among the younger Generations toward the end of the 20th century and in the 21st century.
My out of the box philosophizing about the provisions of the Constitution mandating the separation of Church and State, and its attendant secularization of religion, and de-secularization of new form of spirituality, have uncovered the growing reality of “partly religious/partly secular morality” in the Philippines, and which I call “golden mean morality”.
Secularization of Religion and De-Secularization of Spirituality in the Secular State
The Filipino people ratified Article II, Section 6 in our Constitution which mandates that “the separation of Church and State shall be inviolable”. By virtue of this mandate, the secularization of religion is institutionalized in our country and the Philippines is now a secular state.
The Philippines is a secular state wherein the worldly affairs should not and must not be under the control of religious body and religious influence should be restricted, and in particular that education, morality, the state, etc. should be independent of religion. This is the secular context of the pro-life and the pro-choice advocacy of the RH Law.
By “Church’ I refer historically to the Catholic Church, but today it includes the Protestant Churches, and the other Western and home-grown Churches of Christianity. By virtue of inviolable separation of Church and State, none of these Churches can claim supremacy over the State.
Secularization of religion follows naturally the separation of Church and State. Secularization refers to the process whereby the significance of religion declines in the personal life and/or society. The growth of secularization in the country is more evident at the social rather than personal level. At the national level, many important social functions by the Church diminished gradually as the Philippines became more and more a modern secular state and secular agencies have taken over Church’s responsibility over politics, education, welfare, and so forth. The more religion is secularized, the more the influence and authority of the Church, particularly the Catholic Church, decline at the national level. Nation-wide, many Christians actually buy contraceptive pills and condoms over-the-counter in many retail outlets, as well as avail of medical vasectomy and legation in hospitals, despite the strong opposition of the CBCP against the RH Law. At the local level, the status and importance of the Catholic Church and its Clergy also diminished. In cultural terms, Catholic Christianity has ceased to be a dominant force, being forced to compete not only with other Western Christian Churches, but also with home-grown Christian Churches, such as but not limited to, Iglesia ni Cristo founded by Felix Manalo and Kingdom of Jesus founded by Pastor Quiboloy, as well as compete with home-grown sources and systems of meanings, such as such, e.g. El Shaddai of Mike Velarde. The recruits of the non-Catholic Churches and alternatives sources and systems of meanings come mostly from the Catholic Church.
Independent surveys conducted by SWS revealed the continuing decline of Catholic Church’s members in church-attendance and active participation in other congregational activities. But, of course, the CBCP disputed the surveys of the SWS
De-Secularization of Spirituality in the Philippines
There is a distinction between “belief in the existence of God” and “belief about the essence of God”. The latter differentiates Judaism, Christianity, and Islam from each other. Thus, Judaism and Islam believe in the Unity of God (One Person in One God) but Christianity believes in the Trinity of God (Three Persons in One God).
The conflicting beliefs about the essence of God are the basis of Article III, Section 4 that “no law shall be made respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof. The free exercise and enjoyment of religious profession and worship, without discrimination or preference, shall forever be allowed”. Stated differently, the essence of religion is the “inner feeling” called “faith”. The “inner faith” is primary, and the religious rituals, rules and regulations are secondary to many religious believers today.
“I am not religious, but I am spiritual” is now a common expression referring to the essence of religion - the “inner feeling” called “faith”.
Religion and religious belief are matters of free choice of the individual person. At the personal level, religion retains its widespread allegiance due to de-secularization of new form of spirituality which refers to the process whereby “spiritual religion”, in contrast to “ritualistic religion” increases its significance at the personal level.
When personal “Christian belief” is interrogated, it is often found to be “nominal” – without accompanying commitment to church-attendance or any other form of active Christian involvement. Instead there is a noticeable shift from a commitment to religion toward a commitment to spirituality, and away from a belief in a theistic God ‘out there’ toward belief in a more immanent Spirit (God). In other words, as well as witnessing a decline in traditional religion, the 21st century-Philippines appears to witness the rise of new, more immanent and ‘holistic’ form of spirituality which have more to do with the cultivation of unique subjective life than conformity to God-given norms. In this sense, both the secularization of traditional religion and de-secularization of new spirituality are taking place simultaneously in the Philippines. The more traditional religions is secularized at the social level,, the more the new form of spirituality is de-secularized at the personal level. One indication of this phenomenon is the grave concern of the CBCP over the continuing decline of church marriage and the continuing rise of ‘spiritual marriage’ among live-in couples in the Philippines. I view the phenomenon of ‘spiritual marriage’ and other forms of spirituality from the standpoint of ‘golden mean morality”.
The Golden Mean Morality in the Secular State
The “golden mean morality” emerged naturally and logically from Article II, Section 6 and Article III, Section 4 taken together.
The ‘golden mean morality” combines the claim of religious
morality that moral values are universally applicable to all humankind with the claim of secular morality that moral values are related to human nature..
The golden mean morality is the middle ground between the religious morality of the Church and the secular morality of the State. But the middle ground is not exactly equidistant; rather it is more inclined toward the secular morality in accord with the mandates of Article II, Section 6 and Article III, Section 4 taken together. Pursuant to these Articles, the ‘golden mean’ morality allows every Filipino the freedom to choose and to decide and to enjoy or suffer accordingly the consequences of his free choice and decision. Without human freedom, there is no morality. Whether a person follows religious morality or secular morality, in the final analysis, it is a person’s free choice and decision that makes him moral or immoral. It is neither God nor religion that makes him moral. God and religion are simply deterrent to immorality. Thus belief in God or adherence to religion and/or religious beliefs is immaterial to the morality of the person. Responsible moral choice depends on freedom and the ability to choose rationally. Since there is no clear guidance in order to choose between conflicting moral views, a person has to use his or her reason as the ultimate factor – which is autonomy that is independent of religion or religious ideas and beliefs. This is the combined consequence of secularization of religion and de-secularization of spirituality.
The Moral Aspect of RH Law
I understand that the moral ground of opposition to the RH law before the Supreme Court is based on Article II, Section 12 which mandates that “the State shall . . . protect the life of the mother and the life of the unborn from conception”..
Let us view “the life of the unborn from conception” from the standpoint of the “golden mean morality.” I think the controversy revolves around the phrase, “the life of the unborn from conception”. In my understanding, the moral intent of RH Law is the prevention of life of one that is not yet conceived, not the abortion of life of already conceived being.
Apply Golden Mean Morality to RH Law
The government aims to distribute contraceptive pills and condoms for free to the poor, but this is objected to by some legislators who approve in principle the RH law but oppose it in practice. Any one can observe that there are more children in the depressed and slum areas than in mid-scale and up-scale subdivisions. Would they encourage the prevention of pregnancy by means of withdrawal at the moment of orgasm, anal sex, oral sex, and masturbation which costs nothing to the government?
In relation to the intent of RH Law, I raise the following some moral questions/issues - Is there human life before conception? If there is none, when does human life begin? If human life begins upon conception, when is the precise moment of conception? Does conception begin at the moment of fertilization of the egg? When is the precise moment of fertilization? Is the fertilized egg already human? When there is a miscarriage of fertilized egg, is there death of a human being? These are speculative moral questions which elicit conflicting speculative moral answers. The speculations are entry points of golden mean morality. In the actual reality, the questions call for one’s exercise of free choice, either according to the doctrine of his religion or according to the dictate of his autonomous reason; either along the line of pro-life or along the line of pro-choice.