Manila archbishop alarmed over fetuses left in churches

    After her first three children, Gina Judilla tried to induce an abortion, but failed. Birth control is largely unavailable in the mostly Roman Catholic country.

    Source: GMANewsTV, 17 September 2010.

    The abandonment of at least three fetuses in Metro Manila, two of them inside churches, in the past few days has alarmed a senior Catholic Church official.

    Manila Archbishop Gaudencio Cardinal Rosales said the fetuses indicated that abortion remains rampant in the country.

    “If the expositions of discarded human fetuses are not done with evil intent, then the practice alone of rampant abortion is symptomatic of a grave moral decadence and irresponsible behavior that now seriously threaten the country,” he said in an article posted Friday on the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) news site.

    A report on dzBB radio said Rosales has issued a pastoral letter, to be read at Masses in the archdiocese on Sunday, that will remind Catholics about the evils of abortion and the penalties that await those who kill innocents.

    However, a representative of the Reproductive Health Advocacy Network indicated that the Catholic Church hierarchy, which has strongly opposed the reproductive health (RH) bill in the Philippine congress, is partly to blame for the problem.

    “The root cause [of abortions] is that these women were not prepared for pregnancy and giving birth,” said Beth Angsioco. “The best way to really address the problem is to prevent unwanted and unplanned pregnancies.”

    She added: “The RH Bill will help women, especially poor women, to plan their families and time pregnancies – pregnancies that they want and are well prepared for.”

    Pregnant women at a community health center in Manila. A pending bill would require local governments to provide reproductive health services.

    Angsioco said the RH bill will provide information that will debunk widely-held but false assumptions. She cited a youth sexuality survey that showed young people actually thought a woman cannot get pregnant if she only has sex once.

    “Some married women also think that to prevent pregnancy, they must jump up and down after having sex. These are things that can be corrected by the RH bill,” she said.

    “A grave sin”

    Rosales reminded Filipino Catholics that the Church attaches the canonical penalty of excommunication on those who procure and help obtain abortion.

    “Abortion is a grave sin against a defenseless life; and for this the severe canonical penalty to perpetuator/s is excommunication,” he said.

    He added that unwanted pregnancies could be avoided if only people are “less selfish, and more disciplined and capable of self control, exercising a strong will, and capable of making sacrifices.”

    But Angsioco said the situation of Filipino women is not that simple.

    “The reality is a lot of women who are very poor and are in unequal or abusive relationships just follow their husbands. It’s very hard to say that women can control because they themselves are not in control of their own lives,” she said.

    “I hope the church can also say that to the men, not only to the women,” she added.

    In a maternal health conference that ended Friday, women’s rights advocates said the Church is the biggest hindrance to the passing of the RH bill, and called on Filipinos to “ignore” the Church’s stand on the issue.

    Fetuses left outside churches

    “The placing and exhibiting of aborted human fetuses in public places are not favored in other cultures, and decent people refuse to do the same,” Rosales said.

    On Tuesday, a five- to seven-month-old fetus, wrapped in a green plastic bag, was found inside the Manila Cathedral in Intramuros, Manila at around 5:00 p.m.

    An hour later, the devotees were shocked when another fetus was found at the doorstep of the Church of the Black Nazarene in Quiapo.

    Authorities said the fetus, described as about seven to nine months old, was placed inside a red shoe box when found by a churchgoer.

    The following day, a seven-month old fetus, wrapped in plastic and then stuffed into a sack, was found in Catmon district in Malabon City.

    At the Adoration Chapel of Manila churches, special prayers and acts of reparation will be made for the sins of the perpetrators, the archdiocese announced.