MANILA, Philippines - A Philippine archbishop said on Saturday that the description of Catholic bishops and priests as "Padre Damasos" was no longer correct.
"Carlos Celdran is barking at the wrong tree. Wala nang Padre Damaso ngayon. (There are no more Padre Damasos today)," said San Fernando Archbishop Paciano Aniceto.
Performing artist-tour guide Carlos Celdran disrupted a Mass in Manila on Thursday to protest the Catholic Church's interference in the State's pro-contraceptive policy.
Wearing a dark suit and top hat, Celdran started shouting and held up the placard with the word "Damaso" in the the middle of a homily. The name "Damaso" is a reference to Father Damaso, an abusive friar in Jose Rizal's novel, Noli Me Tangere.
Celdran was arrested and spent a night in jail, but was freed on Friday after posting a P6,000 bail.
Aniceto said Celdran should instead go after pharmaceutical companies, which are allegedly behind the push for the passage of the Reproductive Health (RH) bill in Congress.
Aniceto said these companies, which sell pills and other contraceptives, are promoting big business interests.
He said it was time for all Catholics to unite against the "sleeping giant" by opposing the RH bill.
Catholic priests had earlier prayed that Celdran would be englightned about the issue.
Devotees and pro-life advocates held a protest against the RH bill at the Quiapo church on Saturday afternoon. They said the measure goes against the Catholic faith.
Archbishop Aniceto, who officiated a Mass, said the Catholic Church will continue to pray for the enlightenment of legislators and others pushing for the RH bill.
Celdran on Saturday claimed to have received death threats, but said these will not stop his advocacy. His protest drew mixed reactions in social networking sites. (Click here for related story.)
Long overdue RH bill
Meanwhile, Rep. Edcel Lagman, one of the proponents of the measure in the lower House said the enactment of the RH bill is long overdue, especially since the country's population has ballooned to more than 90 million.
Speaking at a press forum on Saturday, Lagman said the main agenda of the bill is to promote informed choice on family planning, especially among women.
He said the bill is not about sex or religion but about health, women's rights, and sustainable development.
Lagman denied the bill is about pills and condoms; rather, he said it covers health concerns such as breastfeeding and preventing sexually-transmitted diseases, including HIV-AIDS.
He said the Catholic Church can continue its mission to save the souls of people, but it should let the State be with its policy on saving the lives of people, especially women and infants.
Lagman said the Philippines is now the 12th most populous country in the world, but is 105th in terms human development. One of the major causes of poverty, he said, is its huge population.
PMA supports dialogue call
Meanwhile, the Philippine Medical Association (PMA) on Saturday expressed willingness to provide medical and scientific expertise on reproductive health "if this can help resolve the existing differences" between the government and the Catholic Church.
The PMA also welcomed the statement of Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) President Nereo P. Odchimar, that the initial approach they would like to take regarding the controversial reproductive health bill would be in the spirit of dialogue and not of confrontation.
According to PMA President Dr. Oscar Tinio "continous dialogue, indeed, is the right approach in resolving the differences between the Catholic Church and government on the reproductive health issue."
Tinio, however, warned that "talks on civil disobedience or insinuations about many groups who dislike the stand of the President in certain issues is counter-productive"
"The reproductive health issue impacts various sectors of our society including medical doctors who are members the PMA," Tinio said in a statement. "As a stakeholder in the delivery of health services in the country, the PMA is appealing that an immediate dialogue be initiated between the church and government for the greater interest of the nation." -- with a report from Pia Gutierrez, ABS-CBN News
source abs cbn