RGS Articles

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Sex, Bishops, and Garci Tapes

By Carolina S. Ruiz Austria, Senior Lecturer, UP College of Law

On matters sexual, a dirty mind is deadlier than a well-informed one.

Ignorance about sex may be the Catholic Bishops' preferred strategy
for protecting Catholic teen-agers but both history and evidence-based
research has consistently shown us that such a strategy has never
worked to actually protect young people.

The World Health Organization (WHO) recently published a review of
1,050 scientific articles on sex education programs. Researchers found
"no support for the contention that sex education encourages sexual
experimentation or increased activity. If any effect is observed,
almost without exception, it is in the direction of postponed
initiation of sexual intercourse and/or effective use of
contraception." Failure to provide appropriate and timely information
"misses the opportunity of reducing the unwanted outcomes of
unintended pregnancy and transmission of STDs, and is, therefore, in
the disservice of our youth," according to the report.(Grunseit A,
Kippax S. Effects of Sex Education on Young People's Sexual Behavior.
Report commissioned by the Youth and General Public Unit, Office of
Intervention and Development and Support, Global Program on AIDS, WHO.
North Ryde: National Centre for HIV Social Research, Macquarie

In a 1997 UNAIDS impact study, 14 of the 15 studies did not indicate
that sexual health education leads to earlier initiation or greater
sexual activity.

Likewise, the same study cites that all five of the comparison studies
across international or national contexts indicated that when and
where there was open and liberal policy as well as the provision of
sexual health education and related services (e.g. family planning)
there were lower pregnancy, birth, abortion, and STD rates.(Impact of
HIV and sexual health education on sexual behavior of young people: a
review update, United Nations program on HIV/AIDS-1997. Update by Anne
Grunseit of the review by Grunseit & Kippax, WHO/GPA, Geneva, 1993.)

Respecting Difference

Yet even if we were to respect religious difference and grant that the
Catholic Bishops have every right to totally shun (whether feigned or
otherwise) all forms and manner of sexuality and sexual expression,
what gives them the right to dictate their religious views above all
others in state policy?

In a recent case, the Supreme Court interestingly took what could be
considered a courageous step towards protecting the true goal of the
Constitutional clauses on religious freedom: that is respecting
difference, and protecting the rights of "religious minorities."

A court employee who faced administrative charges of "immorality" for
living-in with a man (for over 20 years, that is longer than most
marriages, civil or otherwise) when both of them had previous
subsisting marriages raised the issue of religious freedom. It turned
out that as far as the Jehova's Witness was concerned, the couple
fulfilled the requirements of the religion for a valid marriage and
thus were considered married in the eyes of the same religion.

In 2003, the Court remanded the case back to the Deputy Court
Administrator but on June 22, 2006 , the court decided to uphold
Soledad Escritor's defense and finally dismissed the administrative
complaint against her.

In this case, the court had occasion to consider the secular character
of "public morality," noting that the clauses on religion in the
Constitution "prohibit the state from establishing a religion
including the morality it sanctions."[Estrada vs Escritor, AM No.
P-02-1651, 22 June 2006]

Moving Morality out of the Box
Unfortunately, all its posturing on morality has tended to always
focus on its version of "sexual morality," standards of abstinence
and celibacy which even its own priests have often violated.

How else can a group of Bishops hold so much power and influence over
state policy if it didn't have this unity with no less than the
President herself who has often spoken against reproductive health

This is why despite the unfolding controversy over purported
differences between the CBCP and Malacanang over mining law and the
scandal over monetary bribes, what still stands out is the complicity
between GMA and the CBCP in railroading all manner of reproductive
health programs and policy.

Between its opposition to giving young people information along with
helping them acquire life skills in making safe, healthful and most
certainly moral choices in life, and its indecision on the issue of
rigging an election and using public funds to orchestrate it all, the
CBCP is clearly experiencing no less than a crisis of morality.
(Excerpt from upcoming article "The Dangerous tendency of a Dirty
Sex and the Catholic Bishops," on "Heresy, " at


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