Monday, March 1, 2010

Good doctor, Bad Priests

Note: This was published in the Yellow Pad column of today's Business World.

Today, I received this text message: "They are crucifying Dr. Esperanza Cabral because of her decision to take HIV prevention seriously. Please write for Ma’am Espie." "They" are the extremists of the CBCP and their allies among the laity.

I send my apologies in advance to Dr. Cabral who taught me more things than just doctoring. I am unable to obey your lessons in graciousness. I am just too disgusted with the lies.

I will not engage in sophistry. I will give the public specifics that can be validated by the public themselves. I will trust in ordinary folk by telling it like it is: condoms protect against HIV infection.

Check out the literature of the World Health Organization (WHO). Check out the literature of the purveyors of death-by-AIDS. Here is one significant thing: the latter’s literature cites the few scientific studies that say condoms don’t work. The WHO will cite both types of studies and explain why they conclude that condoms protect against HIV. For one thing the studies that prove this are in the majority and are better constructed.

While you are at it, please remember what was taught you in grade school: there will almost always be contrary studies. I leave you to decide on the truthfulness of those who won’t tell you that they are citing the oddball findings.

I should end this piece here so that the reader can establish for himself or herself the truth of my specific claim. But I will beg your indulgence and request that you let me add a few more things.

The opposition to the condom is based more on the belief that people should not have sex unless they leave the women open to pregnancy. The propagandists will say "open to life," but anyone who understands basic biology knows the more accurate term is "open to pregnancy." Those of you who are shocked by my lack of respect may be comforted: in matters of religious belief I can be more respectful. I can say that I disagree with them and leave it at that. I only ask that they respect my views as well.

I think it is moral to use condoms to prevent HIV infection. Using condoms saves lives. I do not engage in their word play. Proper and large-scale condom use prevents the spread of HIV and other reproductive tract infections that cause death and disability. This is a pro-life stance in the real sense, not a pro-pregnancy stance that has been dressed up to look pro-life.

I also do not see anything moral about such fanaticism. Fanatics prefer hard and fast rules and acquiescence to authority figures. The authority figures seek power, not in respectful persuasion, but by encouraging compliance. Both leaders and followers are unable to accept the immense diversity of human beings and embrace the tolerance this diversity demands. This is why they misbehave in secular space and do not respect our country’s allegiance to secularism.

When these fanatics wander into secular space by making bogus scientific claims that threaten our people’s well-being, they must not hide behind the customary respect we accord each other for our moral beliefs and disagreements. And so I feel I am not being ill-mannered when I say: they lie and they lie repeatedly.

I will also state the obvious. I am not saying all Catholics are extremists. Many Catholics do not agree with extremists on their interpretations. Many who agree to their sexual morality are nonetheless disgusted by their methods.

We are often told we should choose both our doctors and spiritual guides wisely. Beware of the priests that lie. On the other hand, choosing Dr. Cabral as our nation’s doctor is wise. I know her, I was her student. She taught me in medical school that scientific rigor is necessary to compassion and moral rectitude.

Sylvia Estrada Claudio is a doctor of medicine and a doctor of philosophy in psychology. She is a fellow of Action for Economic Reforms. She heads the project Watch Out When Women Vote (WOWWVOTE) that hopes to encourage women to vote for candidates that uphold women’s rights.


skysenshi said...

Wow. I didn't know you blog, ma'am. My student (in video game development) found your blog and I went, "OMG! She's my professor in Gender and Sexuality!" As always, you give insightful reading material. Just recently did a study on information networks in the Catholic Church and while one parish actually amazed me (because of how they try to actively educate their constituents on various social matters), I'm still bothered that some of their priests...well, I don't think they outrightly lie, but they really do sound like they believe what they're saying about reproductive health programs being evil. It's sad to see people with good intentions lead other people to dangerous roads.

Sylvia Estrada Claudio said...

Video game development---now there's a field that sounds like something I will do when I grow up. :-) Sorry about the irrelevant response. Glad to hear from you--and thanks. I am ambivalent what to think. It is either, as you say, people with good intentions doing evil things. In other words, they are being incompetent, or they are deliberately lying. Both interpretations are not very flattering.

abc said...

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kava said...

Professor Claudio, these are the same people both priest and in the academe who teach the sinfulness of masturbation. They even resort to the allegory of the Experience Machine (in Robert Nozick's book, but from the time of Descartes or earlier) in their frantic search for support of their absurd teaching. I just confirmed that in Janet E. Smith, ed. Why Humanae Vitae Was Right (

Yes, let's not engage in their word play. It's a fascinating language game, i gotta tell you.

Sylvia Estrada Claudio said...

Hey Kava,

We just have to relate your comments to the current sexual abuse sandals.