Subscribe to Secularism is a Womens Issue

Secularism is a Women’s Issue

Home > fundamentalism / shrinking secular space > Understanding Catholic Fundamentalism in the Philippines

Understanding Catholic Fundamentalism in the Philippines

Saturday 30 September 2017, by siawi3


Understanding Catholic Fundamentalism in the Philippines: How conservative religious teachings on women, family and contraception are wielded to impede the Reproductive Health Law and other reproductive health policies

Likhaan Center for Women’s Health
Asian-Pacific Resource and Research Centre for Women (ARROW)

Published by:
Likhaan Center for Women’s Health
27 Ofelia St., Ofelia Subdivision, Barangay Bahay Toro, Quezon City 1106, Philippines
Telephone: +63 2 926-6230 and +63 2 454-3854
Fax: +63 2 926-6230
Email: office Website:
Asian-Pacific Resource and Research Centre for Women (ARROW)
1 & 2 Jalan Scott, Brickfields, 50470 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia Telephone: (603) 2273 9913/9914
Fax: (603) 2273 9916
Email: arrow
Facebook: The Asian-Pacific Resource and Research Centre for Women (ARROW)
Twitter: @ARROW_Women

Production Team:
Writers: Junice L.D. Melgar (MD) and Jocelyn Carrera-Pacete Reviewers: Esperanza Cabral (MD), Elizabeth Aguiling- Pangalangan(LLM), Rina Jimenez-David and Mary Racelis (PhD)
Copy Editor: Sharni Jayawardena
Layout Design: Pathum Ranaweera, Lionsbay Holdings (Pvt.) Ltd., Sri Lanka
Layout: Joshua Lotho
Cover Photo Credit: Likhaan Photobank

Acknowledgements ii
List of Acronyms iii
Executive Summary iv
1. Introduction p1
2. Profiling the Philippines: SRHR and Catholic Fundamentalism p4
3. Understanding the Interlinkages p8
4. Conclusions p27
5. Recommendations p28
6. List of References p30
7. Appendices p38

The Catholic Church has established and sustained significant power over Philippine politics and society in the past—through Spanish rule from the 16th century towards the end of the 19th century, and in 1986 and 2001 during the ouster of two Presidents—until the present as manifested
in the country’s moral values, way of life and behavior in social and public activities. Conservative Catholic teachings instilled into state policies and governance deprive the enjoyment of basic human rights. The Philippines, in effect, remains a Catholic state in practice despite being a secular state by proclamation.
This report focuses on both Catholic Fundamentalism and its opposition to sexual and reproductive health (SRH) policies, especially the Reproductive Health (RH) Law,
and the alternative and more liberal views of Catholic Progressives, including their strongest purveyors. Catholic Fundamentalism is defined as the use of the Catholic Church’s political power to impose on and inject Catholic doctrines into state policies and governance. This report
is the result of a research on the Catholic Church’s official teachings related to RH and rights and its personages/ blocs; assessments of their impact on RH policies, especially the RH Bill and Law, the Supreme Court decision on the Law and its implications; and interviews with various pro-RH expert practitioners in their respective sector, including a Muslim academic who provided a counterpoint to the Catholic views.
Fundamentalist Catholic teachings, believed to be immutable and universal, limit a woman’s role to motherhood and family; confine sexual intimacy only to marriage and to result only in procreation; and subject young people to their parents’ decisions. Progressive Catholic views, marked as more flexible and liberal, challenge these beliefs and even cite equally authoritative teachings as references. While fundamentalist Catholics assert that teachings on RH are evil, more than a hundred respected Catholic university faculty members, among others, affirmed that Catholics could support RH in good conscience. Similar statements of support to the Bill came out from groups in other Catholic schools. Contrary to Fundamentalist Catholics ensuring obedience to the “natural law” as a Catholic duty, Progressive Catholics are exercising dissent, which is included in the Catechism (doctrinal manuals) of the Catholic Church and is deemed allowed on non-infallible papal teachings, such as contraception and homosexuality. Catholic moral theology advises that in a disputed moral issue, a Catholic may, in good conscience, follow a position, even though it is espoused only by
a minority of reputable moral theologians (concept of probabilism).
Public health policies are affected by fundamentalist Catholic teachings, such as the 1987 Constitution which enshrines the protection of the unborn from the moment
of conception and also declares the separation of Church and State; the Natural Family Planning Only policy and banning of the emergency pill, Postinor, by the Department of Health under President Arroyo’s administration; the banning of artificial contraceptives and condoms from
2000 to 2011 by local government officials in the executive and legislative branches based on “Pro-Life” values and teachings; and the Supreme Court’s 2014 ruling on the “Pro- Life” challenge to the RH Law which altered the Law further to restrict contraceptive services to adolescents, allow the requirement of spousal consent and expand the meaning of “abortifacient” and “conscientious objection.”
Catholic fundamentalist teachings negatively affected women and their families through the denial of RH information, commodities, and services—particularly family planning, condoms, post-abortion care, and safe abortion.
These teachings on women stunt their growth and value them only as mothers. The Catholic hierarchy’s power dampens self-expression in some RH advocates, and intimidates others. Some of these Catholic RH advocates maintain their critical thinking and some have stopped going to church. Some use Family Planning as a matter of conscience. For these Catholic Progressives, the Church of the Faithful is non-hierarchical and inclusive, open-minded and not authoritarian. They believe in the importance of critical thinking among Catholics and that the Catholic Church should revisit its views on women, family and marriage, including Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) and Violence Against Women. For Muslims, the perceived challenges in the implementation of the RH Law in their areas would be the lack of support for it, given that the Philippines is a Christian-dominated country with non-recognition of Muslim cultural practices, leading to more deaths among mothers.
The remaining challenges posed by Catholic Fundamentalism are the effects of Supreme Court amendments to the RH Law that affect access to contraceptive supplies and services, the continuing prohibition against legal and safe abortion, and issues stemming from actions by “pro-life” groups. Given these issues, this report recommends specific actions to policymakers to ensure that SRHR are “respected, protected and fulfilled,” and to RH advocates to push for SRHR policies and programs in different areas and levels of governance, to counter moves by “pro-life” groups and at the same
time promote the progressive approach to understanding Catholic teachings.