The Catholic Church influence in the Philippines
Catholic Church Control, and other myths
I won’t be trying to convert anyone to Catholicism today, trust me. And I’d really really appreciate if everyone reading this can look at this from a cultural perspective and not from a Catholics Versus Protestants (or versus atheists or agnostics either) perspective.
I write this because someone made a comment from my last post here about single mums, thinking that it was probably a Catholic anti-contraception dogma that led to so many single mums, and thought I would clear up a few things.
The Philippines is definitely 85% Catholic. It’s considered one of the most Catholic countries in the world, and it’s exceptional in that it’s slap bang in the middle of South East Asia. It has Muslim countries to the south, and Buddhist countries to the west and whatever the Chinese, Japanese and Koreans are to the north. This is what a few hundred years of Spanish rule can lead to. Catholicism became part of the culture, and remains so.
However, is this a country full of hyper-religious zealots who carry Rosaries at all times? No, not at all. Definitely not these days anyway. Most are what you would call “cradle catholics”, ie. they were born into it. They didn’t become Catholic because of a profound epiphany and conversion. I can remember one of my earlier visits here seeing Mass being held in a small chapel during the Barangay Fiesta. And most of the crowd around the chapel were eating icecreams and gossiping. Not overly devout at all!
Contraception in the Philippines
There was a bit of hype around the Reproductive Health Bill that was eventually passed here, and the objection to it gave the impression that (a) the Government was trying to allow contraception and education and (b) the Catholic Church was trying to prevent the availability of contraception and education. The Bill passed, and nothing much has changed.
Contraception is legal and freely available. Doctors prescribe birth control pills freely and pharmacies sell them. Condoms are available in pharmacies, 7-11’s, service stations and probably umpteen other places. Those who wish to marry need to do a Government seminar on birth control!
The issue is that the average Filipino male doesn’t want to use them, and simply doesn’t think the whole matter through. And neither do the girls! It has nothing to do with either of them thinking “Father Dominic said that God would strike me down if I use these!” If they were truly following Catholic teaching, would they be having pre-marital sex in the first place? They simply don’t use them, and girls don’t take pills. Plenty of married women take pills, get those long-term injections and implants or get tubal ligations. It’s the single girls and the younger girls and their boyfriends who give little thought to consequences.
Unwanted children in the Philippines
When I first came here in the 90’s I had heard all of the stories of “unwanted children”. The nasty ol’ Pope wouldn’t let them take the pill, so the country was overrun by kids that no one wanted. I was in for a bit of an eye-opener.
I suppose I shouldn’t have been too surprised. I grew up in Australia where those of us non-Catholics came from the 2.4 children per family practice and the “children should be seen and not heard” thinking. We would visit our (Catholic) Italian schoolmates homes where they had 4 – 6 kids and where the parents smothered them with affection. I worked for Italians in Leichhardt in Sydney many years ago, and saw how the bosses would bring their much-adored kids into work on Saturdays and let them run wild through the shop. Aussies didn’t do that! My father would have kept me locked in the car!
Well, Philippines is much the same, like most Catholic countries. Children are a blessing and are loved by all. They are seen as the family treasure. Yes, there are kids on the street due to dire poverty, and they generally have their parents right beside them. That’s a different matter. Yes, married couples are less likely to have 8 – 10 kids these days, however they still tend to have plenty and they don’t see them as burdens or as nuisances. Is this because the priests are forcing parishioners to go and breed more? No, they just love kids. Far more an issue of Catholic culture than of Catholic belief or of pulpit or Vatican control, as are most of these matters in the Philippines.
Yes, good chance your Filipina lady is going to be Catholic. But fanatically Catholic, and having to ring up the Vatican to get permission about bedroom matters? Not all that likely!