An appeal for collaboration in the fight against the onslaughts on life

A talk of delivered at the closing session of the 129th Supreme Convention of the Knights of Columbus in Denver, Colorado on August 5, 2011

Bishop Odchimar

Bishop Odchimar

THANK YOU worthy Supreme Knight Carl Anderson. Worthy members of the Supreme Council, Your Excellencies, Reverend Fathers, and Fellow Knights.

I bring to you the greetings and prayers of the Catholic Bishops of the Philippines for a successful 129th Supreme Convention here in Denver, Colorado. We are very much appreciative for the gesture of partnership the Knights of Columbus in the Philippines has extended to the hierarchy in its various apostolates, in education, in social action and in its advocacies.

The Church in the Philippines is at a crossroads. Perhaps never before in the history of our faith in our country that we have been confronted with a greater challenge than today when the Reproductive Bill and Divorce Bill are vigorously pushed in the halls of Congress and the Senate to be enacted into laws. We stand as the last bastion that still holds on to the respect for the culture of life and the unity and indissolubility of marriage in our national legislation. Lately, reportedly the Catholic nation of Malta sadly was to sign into law the introduction of divorce to its people. That leaves therefore the Philippines as the only nation outside the Vatican that has been steadfast in its position against divorce.

The Reproductive Health Bill (HB 4244) is the most contentious issue now in the Philippines. It has placed the Catholic Church and the government leadership at loggerheads. Of late, the government has been perceived to have maneuvered a Public Relations attack at some bishops with the end in view of discrediting them and, consequently, pulling down their moral prominence in their crusade against the legislation of the RH Bill. But seemingly it backfired on the government.

It is now 15 years or so that this particular bill has been persistently pushed in Congress. It has never succeeded, so far, for, among others, lack of political and popular support. But this time, analysts say that this bill will finally pass. For one, the president of the Philippines, unlike his mother Corazon Aquino or other previous presidents, maybe said to be overtly a patron of the bill. Social surveys indicate that about 60% of the population supports the bill. But the Catholic Church was quick to answer that the lack of information on the bill and a biased media make people unaware of the real issue.

In the past the Catholic Church was never so active in its advocacy against the legislation of the Reproductive Health bill-except the Episcopal Commission on Family and Life and a couple of church-based organizations. But this time, at the present congress, the Church has been proactive in working against this anti-life legislation.

The Knights of Columbus is a big deal to the Church in the Philippines. Present in all dioceses of the country, they are now over 260,000 or so active members—and growing. They are active in pastoral programs in parishes and, noticeably enough, in their strong pro-life advocacy. In several parishes throughout the country, prominent places are accented with monuments for the unborn and pro-life billboards.

The Knight of Columbus in the Philippines, through KCFAPI and its two foundations, namely, the KC Philippines and Fr. Willmann Charities, are making a big difference in the local Church. They are into works of charity, relief distribution in times of disaster, housing for the poor (Gawad Kalinga), and scholarships for priests, seminarians and lay students.

They have also been helping the Episcopal Conference through financial assistance. They have established a P10 million CBCP [Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines] Seed of Hope Fund where the fund interests are used to finance the priority projects of the CBCP. This year, they have also partnered with the CBCP in the project of evaluating the implementation of the Second Plenary Council of the Philippines.

Aside from the three States of Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao, the Catholic Bishops` Conference of the Philippines has always been very grateful for the assistance of the Supreme Council of the Knights of Columbus. For many years in the past, the Episcopal Conference has been supported by the Supreme Council in its Women Advocacy program. Lately, our local news service that we call CBCPNews has been in operation through the financial assistance of the Supreme Council.

There has been no time in the Philippines Church history when the Catholic Church has been so much challenged, attacked and even maligned than today. It is because for 15 years now the Church has been working against the passage of the Reproductive Health Bill and similar anti-life legislations. We are told that the anti-life groups are being financially supported by the pharmaceutical companies (that stand to benefit if such legislations are approved) and other foreign institution (including the United Nations) in order to lobby for the approval of anti-life bills. On the other hand, to fight against their passage, the CBCP is only getting its financial support from one and only international institution: the Supreme Council of the Knights of Columbus. Last February we received a One Hundred Thousand Dollar grant from the supreme office. This significant amount has helped us in our aggressive fight against the legislations of the Reproductive Health Bill.

We have strategically spread our battle into four fronts: a) Education, b) Lobby, c) mobilizations (e.g rallies, etc.), and d) the media. It is into these areas of work that the financial assistance of the Supreme Council is applied.

Please continue to help us fight against onslaught of life. Thank you very much.

NEREO P. ODCHIMAR. DD
Bishop of Tandag
President, Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines
August 5, 2011