Listen to him denounce Health Secretary Esperanza Cabral over Radio Veritas for having distributed condoms to the public last Valentine's Day to raise awareness about HIV-AIDS.
“Sana po magbago na siya (Cabral) dahil ang isang paa niya ay nasa impyerno na. Baka marami pa ang madamay.”
ANG ISANG PAA NIYA AY NASA IMPIYERNO NA.
I didn't think the Church could go lower after the patently idiotic call last week--by the same bishop--to include a mandatory warning on condom packs saying that “'Condoms May Fail to Protect From AIDS.” His explanation: “Since condoms at times fail to protect against pregnancy... they could also fail to stop the transmission of the human immunodeficiency virus or HIV, which causes AIDS.”
Yesterday, he repeated that assertion more vociferously. “Napaka-imoral para sa nanunungkulan sa gobyerno na paigtingin ang pamamahagi ng condom na alam naman natin na hindi totoong mababawasan o mapipigilan nito ang pagdami ng HIV-AIDS.” [Boldface mine.]
What is Arguelles' basis for his claim? He offers none. He believes that, by sheer reckless assertion, something that's been proven by study after study can somehow be overturned, rendered untrue, and that we the Church's docile subjects would accept his fact-free pronouncement without a peep.
Here, for instance, is the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the world's leading authority on the subject:
“Latex condoms, when used consistently and correctly, are highly effective in preventing the sexual transmission of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. In addition, consistent and correct use of latex condoms reduces the risk of other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs)...”
There's more here. The CDC is honest enough to include the qualifier that consistent and correct condom use “can reduce (though not eliminate) the risk of STD transmission.” But note how Arguelles, with no qualifying nuance, asserts the opposite by force of self-willed ignorance alone--and he even presumes to speak for the rest of us: “Alam naman natin na hindi totoong mababawasan o mapipigilan nito ang pagdami ng HIV-AIDS.”
Excuse me po, iba ang alam namin. After all, when it comes to the science of health and disease, whom would you believe--the CDC or the Archbishop of Lipa?
And since Arguelles has suddenly found it convenient to insist on a non-negotiable 100-percent efficacy rate for preventive measures like condom use--anything less doesn't count for a perfectionist like him--let's stretch the argument further. I'm all for adopting Arguelles' suggestion, IF it applies across the board.
No medicine ever claims to be 100-percent effective. Why not slap a mandatory government warning, too, on every manner of tablet, capsule or syrup, to tell sick people they shouldn't put much faith on them because of the probability--small, but there it is--that these drugs won't really make them well?
A popular metaphor for this debate: What about helmets for motorcycle riders? They're not 100-percent effective, either. Quite a number die from road accidents even with helmets on. Hey, Arguelles has a brilliant solution: Slap a “Failure” warning on every helmet sold in the market!
Now, last week's report also said the bishops told the DOH “[it] could help stem the spread of the disease by boosting the Church's campaign to get the youth to practice abstinence.”
Ah, those abstinence-only programs the Church enshrines as the answer to runaway hormones in the young. From the Washington Post--kung nagbabasa lamang ang mga obispo:
“A long-awaited national study [1997-2007] has concluded that abstinence-only sex education, a cornerstone of the Bush administration's social agenda, does not keep teenagers from having sex. Neither does it increase or decrease the likelihood that if they do have sex, they will use a condom.” (Boldface mine. More here.)
Going by Arguelles' logic, any abstinence-only program must also carry the warning: “May Fail to Protect From Pregnancy and AIDS.” Fair is fair, right?
And while we're at this, how about the rhythm method, the only family-planning method sanctioned by the Church? From the Gale Encyclopedia of Medicine: The rhythm method is “The oldest method of contraception with a very high failure rate, in which partners periodically refrain from having sex during ovulation. Ovulation is predicted on the basis of a woman's previous menstrual cycle.” [Boldface mine.]
And from the McGraw-Hill Concise Dictionary of Modern Medicine: “A form of natural family planning, and the contraceptive method sanctioned by the Catholic Church, in which unprotected intercourse is allowed shortly after a menstrual period or before the onset of the next period; the RM is the least effective form of contraception...” [Boldface mine.]
So, Your Excellency, where is the obligatory “May Fail” warning on this epic-fail contraception method you so favor? Or, let me guess--You've never done a study on its efficacy, because the results--the truth--may just be too scary for you.
The grossly uncharitable way Arguelles and his ilk are demonizing Esperanza Cabral for distributing condoms-- How's that again? “Ang isang paa niya ay nasa impiyerno na!”--would make you think she's guilty of the most heinous crime ever committed in this country. But think about it: The highest official of the land is caught--on tape--stealing the elections, the most sacred public exercise in a democracy. Did we hear Arguelles and the CBCP damn GMA to hell? And I mean with the same intensity of crude hatred and fire-breathing contempt he's now smearing Cabral with.
The lack of proportionality and perspective is striking. We've endured wave after wave of shocking scandal and controversy these past years, ranging from plunder to kidnapping, from mind-boggling thievery to a massacre the rest of the world recoiled in horror from. What have we heard from our all-knowing pastors except pathetic bleating about how the rancor in public life has become so “personal,” along with hectoring, deranged finger-wagging such as “When you tell the truth, see to it that there is no damage done on the person told to or about?”
But trust our cowed and co-opted bishops to find their easily offended gander all of a sudden when the issue turns to... rubber. The blood rushes forth, the cheeks reacquire color, vigor returns. This, it seems, is their Viagra. Seriously, what is it about condoms, contraceptives and sex that render these charity-spouting men of God unhinged and frothing in the mouth?
If I were in the business of composing warnings myself, I'd say: Treat sex as unclean and unhealthy, deprive yourself of it but then pontificate as if you're the expert, and you'd end up like these cold, embittered, obscurantist clerics.
Let their medieval ideas run our public health policy, and we don't need to wait for the afterlife to experience hell. Can anything be more mala-impiyerno than having latter-day Torquemadas in our midst, turning a blind eye to--accommodating, in fact--much greater evil and perfidy in the world while condemning anyone as the spawn of the Devil for using... condoms?