Monday, March 16, 2015

BBC Hardtalk interview: Cardinal Tagle upholds Church's traditional teachings on contraception, abortion, and divorce

A. INTRODUCTION

Last 11 March 2015, Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle was interviewed in BBC Hardtalk by Stephen Sackur. The main question Sackur wishes to ask Tagle is this: "Is the Catholic Church helping or hindering the development of the Philippines?" The word "development" is interesting, because this is the same word used to describe the rich developed nations of the West as compared to the poor developing countries like the Philippines.  Sackur used the definition of "development" as adoption of Western ideas, such as contraception, abortion, and divorce, so that the "development" of the Philippines would result from the adoption of these ideas. But Cardinal Tagle reaffirmed Catholic Church's teaching on these matters, particularly echoing Humanae Vitae in the use of Natural Family Planning, in the condemnation of contraception and abortion, and the dangers posed by civil authorities in intruding on the decisions on family size which are already the purview of the husband and wife. Cardinal Tagle said that there are canonical processes instituted by the Philippine Church to curb priestly sexual abuse, that her material wealth should be judged on how the money is spent such as on charities, and that his name being floated around as the next papabile is just a joke.

Though Cardinal Tagle says he resists being categorized according to labels, his shift to the conservative tone regarding pro-life issues  and his critical assessment of the reproductive health law is a surprising breath of fresh air.  He affirmed that "the Church....cannot reinvent a teaching." This is surprising because Cardinal Tagle did not directly lead the fight against the RH Law while it was being debated in Congress, Senate, and the Supreme Court.  Perhaps, this is the effect of Pope Francis's visit, because the Cardinal was always seen beside the Pope.  The Pope said in his visit in Leyte:
I think of Blessed Paul VI...In a moment of that challenge of the growth of populations, he had the strength to defend openness to life....He knew the difficulties that families experience, and that’s why in his encyclical, he expressed compassion for particular cases. And he taught professors to be particularly compassionate with particular cases...But he went further. He looked to the peoples beyond. He saw the lack and the problem that it could cause families in the future. Paul VI was courageous. He was a good pastor, and he warned his sheep about the wolves that were approaching, and from the heavens he blesses us today.
Below is Cardinal Tagle's interview with Stephen Sackur. I tried to transcribe the text by listening to the video several times, but I think my transcription is only 90% accurate.  You may need to listen to the actual video: BBC Hardtalk by Stephen Sackur. But perhaps the transcription would suffice to give you a glimpse of the personalities and worldviews of the the two persons.  The high point of the interview I think is after 20:33 when both interviewer and interviewee tried to cut each other a few times after Cardinal Tagle said "The biggest charitable institution--". In the end, Sackur gave way and Cardinal Tagle tells how the Church remains the biggest charitable institution in the country especially during disasters.  Please read the interview below. Sackur's questions are in bold font, while Cardinal Tagle's responses are in ordinary font.  I'll put my comments in Part C.

B. BBC HARDTALK INTERVIEW OF CARDINAL TAGLE

1:34
1. Welcome to Hardtalk.

Thank you. Thank you for having me.

2. Well it is a pleasure to be here. I want to begin by talking about contraception and family planning. Do you regret the very strong stand that you and the Catholic Church here took against the government's reproductive health legislation

1:54
I think the Church not only in this issue but in other issues as well, cannot reinvent a teaching[1]. And so I think we are duty bound to proclaim again and again the teaching that we have received. However, the church is also mindful, because it is part of the teaching, that while this is the norm, we have also be sensitive pastorally to the difficulties that persons and families face.  That is where the personal care--[2]

3. And that is why you have to strike a balance about the tone of your … debate. Do you think it was helpful when the bishops here in the Philippines declare. This was their statement: “Contraception is corruption”. Was that helpful? [3]

2:50
That was not the statement of the whole conference. It was the statement of a single bishop. And as far as I can remember, the conference has some sort of common stand. But each individual bishop addressed the concerns. And they used their own language, their own way of speaking.

4. But in a sense you are the most senior cleric in the country, do you think that using that kind of language and the implication that Filipinos who use contraception are in some sense corrupt. Do you think that was a mistake?

3:34
I understand the mindset of the person who said that. And he was actually picking up from a line used by the President of the Philippines when he was campaigning[4]. There will be no poor people if there is no corrupt person. So at the that time, this issue of corruption was very alive and it was used for different issues. But as me, I would probably have used a different language.

4:03
5. You say we can't rewrite the teachings of the Catholic Faith. And I understand that. But you also I am sure very aware where the public now sits on the issue. There have been a lot of opinion polls in the country. It seems roughly 70 percent of Filipinos now believe that using artificial forms of contraception including the condom and the contraceptive pill is acceptable. Now, I wonder if you are uneasy about your church, which of course is the Faith of more than 80 million Filipinos, being so out of tune with the views, the feelings of the bulk of ordinary people in this country?

4:48
Well in  a sense this is not the first time that we have people whose opinions and positions on some issues don't always coincide with the official teaching.  This is just one.[5]

4:59
6. But this is a very big deal. Here we sit in a country where 2 million people have been added to the population every year. And you know much better than me that we can walk just a mile or two from this lovely Archbishop's house and we can find the most desperate slums and poverty, and children living on the streets, and families unable to cope and still having yet more babies. So this is an issue that matters.

5:29
Yes it is, but the question is how--how do we teach people how to be responsible parents. And there is always also a caution that if you legislate, what is the role of the government in the decision-making of families regarding their size. Are we not also giving the government leeway for some sort of a dictatorship even on matters that really are the purview of couples. This is something that we also have....[6]

6:02
7. But Cardinal this is not about dictatorship. This is simply about allowing the poorest of the people in this country access to free condoms, free contraceptive pill, and if they wanted,  sterilization.  That is what this is really about.

6:20
This is something you also have to be careful about. People have a choice if they want to be sterilized or not. But what we are afraid of is, with this legislation, some people might not even be asked whether they like it or not. [7]

6:36
8. What about the Pope's visit. He addressed this issue. He took a conservative line. He also said this--he said: “Good Catholics do not have to breed like rabbits.” [8]

6:42
Yes, precisely. This is a misconception that some people think that because the Church teaches that natural family planning and responsible parenthood, that the church does not appreciate this rationale well-thought plan, especially the spacing of children.[9]

7:04
9. But is it rational? Look, you don't have to breed like rabbits. And then to instruct the faithful the only acceptable forms of birth control are the so-called natural methods of calendar planning, abstinence, and I have looked the host of different studies and demographics which showed these methods simply do not work. Is that rational?

7:36
I think so. It is type of rationality, you know. Those communities and persons who have used the different forms of natural family planning can attest that they can be scientific, they can be considered scientific. And also Mr. Sukkar, the trend now is go natural. Food--organic food. Everything, but how comes when it comes to the size of the family, the children, we are going artificial. I mean the world must decide. Let's go natural, okay. Organic, okay. [10]

8:10
10. Natural, according to all the studies, does not work.

I know for example, some dioceses, churches here, where the people after being educated, they have a very high success rate.

8:25
11. In this country, obviously for a long time and I think without much question, abortion has been completely illegal. And a woman who has an abortion faces up to 6 years in jail. According to the Guttmacher Institute which has done a study of this that they reckon perhaps five to six hundred thousand induced abortions are happening in this country. [11]

8:46
Unfortunately, yes.

12. And maybe a thousand women roughly are dying, as a result of the fact that it is happening in back streets, in the dark shadowy places. What do think is the Church's responsibility to address the issues of so many women who feel forced to have illegal abortions in this country?

9:11
So we have to look at the reasons why those pregnancies have become unwanted, you know. This is a very complex issue.

13. Did you see it connected to the debate we just had about contraception? [12]

 9:36
Yes and no. Some of the pregnancies, we have, for example, the issue of human trafficking. You have prostitution on the streets. You have even child labor, and part of the labor is their vulnerability to things. And so when those women, those victims become pregnant, the issue is not just abortion. When you look at the roots, maybe we should spend also time addressing those roots that lead them to some of these unwanted pregnancies and then leading to illegal abortion.

10:06
14. Divorce. I think I am right in saying that the Philippines is the only country beyond the Vatican State itself, where the divorce is actually illegal. It is impossible.

10:18
It is not provided for.

15. So when it comes to reality, for tens of millions of Filipinos there is simply no possibility of ending a marriage, however abusive it might be, however difficult and damaging it might be for the partners, but also for the children.

The government has legal separation especially to protect the aggrieved party, but it is not divorce. [13]

10:48
16. Would you accept the fundamental change in this situation here to make divorce part of the legal framework.

10:55
No, I don't think so.  I don't think so.

17. Why not?

11:00
I see also the consequences on the children. It is not just the roots. But we have to deal with a lot of wounds also of children, of separated families.[14]

11:17
18. When we go through these issues, it strikes me that your message is pretty unyielding. And the Philippines, it has to be said, has one of the most conservative social structures of any country. And that perhaps is emblematic of what is a real divide within the Catholic world--between attitudes that seems to be developing in the rich Northern Western Catholic Churches and communities and the much more conservative stance we see taken in the Catholic communities of the global south or the developing nations. Do you see that gulf?

12:06
I would not operate on labels, of conservative and progressive, because when you look at some realities of the Church here in the Philippines, some westerners will say: you are leftist, you are extremely progressive, you know. When it comes, for example, to social involvement, the formation of Christian communities, the development of socially developed communities in terms of organization, of defense of human rights, and all of those.

12:40
19. We are talking of everything from family planning to divorce, to many people these are issues of human rights and gender rights. If you run through some of the recent surveys.. big surveys, in Europe, just 30 percent of Catholic Church in the Church's stand in opposition to women priests, for example.  Here in the Philppines, I think it is 70 percent of the population supports the Church's opposition to women priests. You can go through contraception, divorce, gay rights--all of these issues. The feelings of ordinary Catholics in the rich West are becoming very far removed from.

13:28
I know, I know.  And the reason is quite historical and cultural, you know. Even in this age of globalization and there is a fast exchange of ideas, but I tell you that the influence is already coming in. And also, the influence of the Church of the South is also reaching other countries, especially through migration. When you go for example to Europe, I am amazed to see how some of the religious practices of the Church in the Philippines, in China, and Vietnam are being exported there.  And so you have also a shift in some of the religious sensibilities there. That is why I said a while ago, I would not want to operate on strict categorization, because the borders now, the boundaries, thanks to migration and social media, have been quite fluid.

14:29
20. How does the church respond to allegations, some of them historic allegations, of sexual abuse by priests. More than a dozen years ago, Archbishop Orlando Quevedo came out in this country. He said: we do have reason to apologize. He said there have been 200 cases by sex abuse committed by the clergy in this country. As far as I am aware, these clergy have not been put on trial. They have not faced the civil court. They have been hidden away. The Church has not accounted for these crimes. [15]

15:10
You know since the time of Pope John Paul II when this issue started surfacing, especially in the United States and in Europe, the bishops of the Philippines already started meeting on that. I was not yet a bishop, but I was asked to help in the preliminary studies. So I can say that the bishops were attentive at that time.

15:33
21. But my point is for accountability to be in the public domain, the people of this country needs to see those priests responsible being punished for their crimes, and that has not been seen.

15:50
Well, you know many of those priests were already taken out of their public ministry. And some of them have already been I think waiting in the process of being dismissed from the clerical state.

22. Well, the critics, including Fr. ....., who is an Irish priest—I suspect you might know him.  He has done years and years of work, particularly with street children at the poorest parts. He says, he believes there is evidence of rampant sexual abuse of children by clergy, which the bishops, he says, have covered up. He says the church's credibility is now on the line. The bishops needs to bring those involved to justice.  Will that happen?

16:36
Well, you know, again, I am not defending. But his is something cultural. What is the concept of accountability.  Here, for example, many people would say let us trust in the internal process, the canonical process of the church, in investigating this case. [16]

17:02
23. What if there is not longer trust. What if actually the only way to be held to account is to allow the civil courts to actually mete out justice.

They are free to go.

17:12
24.  But the church is not actually handing out the documentary evidence, is not helping the civil authorities to do that.

If the civil authorities ask for it, then we are duty-bound to hand them over. Yes, in fact, some of the victims are told it is within their rights to go to the civil courts.

17:38
25. You say internal dealing with this problem is satisfactory.

To some.

26. Do you think that the Filipino population right now believes this to be true?

17:46
I think in general, yes. Culturally, there is a big premium put on shame.  Shame. And there is--

27. But some of these people we respect should not just be shamed. They should be locked up by being danger to society and committed heinous crimes.

18:15
But remember that the victims, once exposed to the public, might also be shamed. So this is something cultural. I see you.

28. But I was wondering even the shame of victims, though of course many of them can remain anonymous if the court procedures were organized, I was wondering if whether that is reason to allow some of your priests, the priesthood, to remain free to remain in society.

18:36
Definitely not. It is not a reason. But I am talking about the perspective of those people who say: “Okay, we would go to the courts if we do not see the action of the ecclessiastical courts.” But if they see the procedure happening swiftly and their needs are met, then generally they respect that.

19:03
29. We discussed accountability. And maybe the other word is transparency. I thought about the material standing of the Church in this country. Pope Francis was recently here. And he was known throughout the world for his advocacy of humility and material lack of extravagance. Yet this church, particularly the Archdiocese of Manila is regarded as one of the richest in the entire world, as I understand it. This diocese owns ten percent of one of the country's biggest banks, is worth hundreds of millions of dollars, it has seat in the board of the bank, It owns other vast stock investments in mining companies in other things. It has foreign currency holdings. It has bonds. Why on earth do you need this vast resource? 

19:55
Well, first of all.  This has been an archdiocese for more than 400 years. And this is not the only place where the Church's owns property. It has been accumulation

30. How much is the archdiocese worth?

Well, I don't know the actual figure.

20:13
31. But transparency and accountability would suggest that you and indeed your flock should know how many hundreds of millions of dollars this archdiocese is worth.

I think it can be accessed through Securities and Exchange and Commission. These public documents--- [17]

20:33
32. For Church which is supposed to be committed to humility and to be reaching out to the very poorest in this country, do you think it is a little bit of problem that the church is actually one of the wealthiest institutions in the land.

But the church has also has things it has to spend on.  The biggest charitable institution--

33.  This money is not being spent--

20:58
The biggest charitable institution in the Philippines is still the church. When you look at response to disasters, it is still the church that still remains to be the single institution of charity. And if ever dioceses and religious orders have property and investment, we also have to look at how that is spent, and the number of employees, the number of needs, the orphanages, the hospitals--all of those are sustained also by Church funds. [18]

21:26
27. A final thought: there has never been an Asian pope. Your name has been mentioned as someone who-- looking forward and you are only 57, you are young—someone who could be a very serious contender in a future conclave. You could be the first Asian Pope. Has that thought crossed your mind? [19]

21:53
No, it is a joke. In fact--

28. A lot of people didn't raise the possibility as a joke. In fact they think it is very important to show that in the future the pope himself could come from the global south.

22:09
It has happened. The holy father comes from Argentina. But me thinking of myself in that position. No, no. I laugh at it. I have heard it.  But in my mind it is a speculation and the creation of some people who with very good imagination. But I make very clear. I make a public confession here. I cannot even manage my life. How can I manage a worldwide community.

22:50    
29. Well, you  do a good line at self-deprecation. It is a good place to end our interview. Thank you very much Luis Antonio Tagle.

Thank you very much. Thank you.

C. NOTES

[1] "The Church cannot reinvent teaching." This echoes the words of the Catechism:

76 In keeping with the Lord's command, the Gospel was handed on in two ways:
  • orally "by the apostles who handed on, by the spoken word of their preaching, by the example they gave, by the institutions they established, what they themselves had received - whether from the lips of Christ, from his way of life and his works, or whether they had learned it at the prompting of the Holy Spirit";33
  • in writing "by those apostles and other men associated with the apostles who, under the inspiration of the same Holy Spirit, committed the message of salvation to writing".34"
[2] "Personal care" or "Cura Personalis".  This phrase is in the Jesuit educational tradition. This is probably due to the training of Cardinal Tagle in San Jose Seminary in Ateneo de Manila University, which is run by the Jesuits.

[3] "Contraception is corruption". Cardinal Tagle claims this is not a statement of the whole Bishops Conference but only of one bishop. He may be referring to Archbishop Socrates B. Villegas, Vice President of CBCP, who signed the CBCP Pastoral Letter on the latest decision on the Reproductive Health Bill entitled, "Contraception is Corruption". This pastoral letter appears to have the mandate of whole CBCP.

[4] The 2010 presidential campaign tagline of Noynoy Aquino was "Kung walang kurap, walang mahirap."  If there is no corrupt person, there will be no poor people.

[5] The most glaring example would be the signing of 192 professors of Ateneo de Manila University in support of the Reproductive Health Law which is a national contraception program. Cardinal Tagle has not issued a rebuke addressed to these professors.

[6] This echoes the statement in Pope Paul VI's Humanae Vitae
17...Finally, careful consideration should be given to the danger of this power passing into the hands of those public authorities who care little for the precepts of the moral law. Who will blame a government which in its attempt to resolve the problems affecting an entire country resorts to the same measures as are regarded as lawful by married people in the solution of a particular family difficulty? Who will prevent public authorities from favoring those contraceptive methods which they consider more effective? Should they regard this as necessary, they may even impose their use on everyone. It could well happen, therefore, that when people, either individually or in family or social life, experience the inherent difficulties of the divine law and are determined to avoid them, they may give into the hands of public authorities the power to intervene in the most personal and intimate responsibility of husband and wife.
[7] Forced sterilization is already happening in China. One woman was documented to die in the process.

[8] According to the Guardian:
Catholics do not have to breed “like rabbits” and should instead practise responsible parenting, Pope Francis said on Monday. Speaking to reporters en route home from the Philippines, Francis said there were plenty of church-approved ways to regulate births. But he firmly upheld church teaching banning contraception and said no outside institution should impose its views on regulating family size, blasting what he called the “ideological colonisation” of the developing world.
[9] One of the state-of-the art Natural Family Planning methods right now is the Naprotechnology which uses the Creighton Model Fertility Care.

[10] Go natural.  Contraceptive pills taken by women end up in waterways that alter the sex of wildlife, such as fishes. And these may affect humans, too, making males impotent. How accurate did the Isaiah say:
The earth is polluted because of its inhabitants, for they have transgressed laws, violated statutes, broken the ancient covenant.* d 6 Therefore a curse devours the earth, and its inhabitants pay for their guilt; Therefore they who dwell on earth have dwindled, and only a few are left. (Is 24:5-6)
[11] The Guttmacher Institute article referred here is Unintended Pregnancy and Unsafe Abortion in the Philippines. Note that the institute is the research arm of Planned Parenthood, the largest abortion provider in the US and perhaps the world.

[12] Abortion proponents claim that contraception is a solution to abortion, but they failed to take into account a feedback mechanism called risk compensation: if condoms makes pregnancy more unlikely, then people will have intercourse more often, so that the number of pregnancies and abortions would still remain the same as before.

[13] The Philippine Family Code states that legal separation is not divorce, because the husband and wife are still married:
Art. 63. The decree of legal separation shall have the following effects:
(1) The spouses shall be entitled to live separately from each other, but the marriage bonds shall not be severed;
(2) The absolute community or the conjugal partnership shall be dissolved and liquidated but the offending spouse shall have no right to any share of the net profits earned by the absolute community or the conjugal partnership, which shall be forfeited in accordance with the provisions of Article 43(2);
(3) The custody of the minor children shall be awarded to the innocent spouse, subject to the provisions of Article 213 of this Code; and
(4) The offending spouse shall be disqualified from inheriting from the innocent spouse by intestate succession. Moreover, provisions in favor of the offending spouse made in the will of the innocent spouse shall be revoked by operation of law. (106a)
[14] According to Psychology Today, divorce has the following effects on children:
Divorce introduces a massive change into the life of a boy or girl no matter what the age. Witnessing loss of love between parents, having parents break their marriage commitment, adjusting to going back and forth between two different households, and the daily absence of one parent while living with the other, all create a challenging new family circumstance in which to live. In the personal history of the boy or girl, parental divorce is a watershed event. Life that follows is significantly changed from how life was before.
[15] According to bishop-accountability.org:
Manila, Philippines -- The Philippines' largest association of Catholic bishops apologized Monday for what it called "cases of grave sexual misconduct" by hundreds of Filipino priests during the past two decades, including child abuse, homosexuality and romantic affairs. The 120-strong Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines said it was drafting guidelines on how to deal with offenses committed by clergy in one of Asia's two predominantly Roman Catholic nations. They will include encouraging victims of assaults to file criminal charges said the group's president, Archbishop Orlando Quevedo.  He estimated about 200 of 7,000 priests nationwide may have committed various types of sexual misconduct and abuses over the past 20 years. He declined to provide details of the cases and the actions taken by the church.
[16]  In 2001, the Congregation for Doctrine and Faith published the Guide to Understanding Basic CDF Procedures concerning Sexual Abuse Allegations. For example, here are the preliminary procedures:
The local diocese investigates every allegation of sexual abuse of a minor by a cleric.
If the allegation has a semblance of truth the case is referred to the CDF.  The local bishop transmits all the necessary information to the CDF and expresses his opinion on the procedures to be followed and the measures to be adopted in the short and long term.
Civil law concerning reporting of crimes to the appropriate authorities should always be followed. During the preliminary stage and until the case is concluded, the bishop may impose precautionary measures to safeguard the community, including the victims. Indeed, the local bishop always retains power to protect children by restricting the activities of any priest in his diocese.  This is part of his ordinary authority, which he is encouraged to exercise to whatever extent is necessary to assure that children do not come to harm, and this power can be exercised at the bishop's discretion before, during and after any canonical proceeding. 
[17]  Rappler made an article on the wealth of the Archdiocese of Manila: Can we know how rich the Catholic Church is.  Rappler alleged that the Archdiocese's last submission of documents to the Securities and Exchange Commission was done in 1985.

[18] In Typhoon Haiyan, the Catholic Relief Services (CRS) provided USD 31,000,000 as of Dec 31, 2014.

[19] Crux.com wrote an article: Manila Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle: The Asian Pope Francis. Here, Cardinal Tagle mentions about the sending of priests from the Philippines to US and Europe, which he mentioned earlier in the interview:
The risk of a creeping movement of clergy from south to north is that wealthy Catholic communities are fueling a “brain drain” at the expense of poorer churches, in a way that’s harmful to global Catholic interests. At the moment, two-thirds of the world’s Catholic population lives in the southern hemisphere, but two-thirds of its priests are in the north, an imbalance that seems destined to grow. Tagle said he’s aware of the danger, and it’s one reason why he never takes money in exchange for sending a priest abroad — because, he said, he doesn’t want to get “hooked.” Tagle was referring to the fact that bishops in Europe and North America sometimes give financial support to dioceses or religious orders in the developing world when they release a priest. Those priests also sometimes send a portion of their earnings back home, and they’re sometimes able to solicit donations for their home church during annual missionary appeals. As a result, sending a priest overseas can be an important revenue stream, and Tagle acknowledged that it’s easy for bishops in poor countries to become dependent on it.
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