Friday, April 11, 2008

How Catholic Hierarchy Loves the Poor and Makes More of Them

ON MY WAY BACK TO MANILA'S MIASMA, I listened to a great AM Radio interview (DZMM with Joel Reyes Zobel: "Gising na Bayan!") of Dr. Ernie Pernia, UP Economics Professor with the Philippine Center for Population Development (PCPD), an NGO that promotes modern and traditional birth control methods. He makes some points that really hurt:

1. In 1970 both Thailand and the Philippines each had about equal populations of 37 million people.
2. Today Thailand has 66 million population while the Filipinos are a teeming 90 millions with only two thirds of Thai land area.
3. Thailand is growing at an average 0.9% per annum while the Philippines is at 2.1% population gtrowth rate, even though in 1971 the Thais merely copied a 1969 family planning program started by Ferdinand Marcos. If the rate stays constant, there will be 180 million Filipinos in 2040!

He places the blame squarely on the Catholic Church and its inexplicable stranglehold on the brain cells of Philippine Presidents (save that of Fidel V. Ramos, a Protestant), resulting in completely ineffective programs. Both Marcos and Cory Aquino succumbed to the clerical ministrations of Jaime Cardinal Sin, who truly loved the poor as much as his current successor, Gaudencio Rosales. So much that they are principally responsible for the vast expansion of poverty in this country.

But Dr. Pernia reserves his severest criticism for the current promoter of Poverty Through Reproductive Fecundity, Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, who, thanks to the Catholic sisters of the Assumption Convent seems to have assured the Men in Skirts of the CBCP that under her watch, the Filipinos will continue to multiply like rats in a rice granary.

Not really a good analogy on my part because of course, as Dr. Pernia points out there is another painful irony in the comparison with Thailand, which exports fully one half of its annual 26 billion metric ton rice production. The Philippines, meanwhile is the WORLD'S LARGEST IMPORTER OF RICE, in spite of the fact that she hosts the International Rice Research Institute in Los Banos, the world's foremost rice R&D center which launched the Green Revolution in the fifties and sixties, thus preventing a likely global war and famine.

The population explosion has destroyed government's ability to cope with such problems as food production, housing, infrastructure, education, social services, energy--everything! Just think this coming school year the education system has to deal with 2 million more students. They'll run out of shifts in the day to double and triple up on classrooms. There won't even be enough mango trees to teach under before too long!

This circumstance he blames on the inconstancy of the government's agriculture, infrastructure, education and population management programs. Under GMA for example, he says that this year the Philippines is spending a BIG FAT ONE MILLION PESOS on "population management materials" (condoms, pills and other modern birth control implements) because of insane Catholic Church propaganda that anything other than Vatican roulette (natural rhythm method) amounts to being "abortifacient"--clearly a scare and smear tactic.

Dr. Pernia points out that in many Catholic countries like Italy, France and even South American outposts of the Catholic Taliban, birth control (or "population management" as Pernia prefers) has become a nonissue. Catholic Bishops abroad have taken a more liberal and enlightened stance, which may also be why as a group they don't father as many children as their Filipino confreres, who I suppose may be credited for a weird kind of consistency.

The final painful cut has to do with an inexplicable thing: SWS and Pulse Asia surveys all show overwhelming majorities of Filipinos (80% or more) who approve of family planning and wish they could have more access (afford) to modern birth control methods.

Susmaryosep! The one million pesos GMA budgeted this year will hardly pay for the Bishops next big feed at the trough of Pagcor. Well no wonder they like "Vatican Roulette"! Now they will even have a hand in the rice crisis. Pharisaic fascists!


The Nashman said...

This article ruined my Friday!

blackshama said...


Malthus and Darwin should ruin your the rest of your days. The Catholic faith can not be faulted for promoting poverty, but the unscientific arguments of same Catholics in support of their faith have promoted poverty.

Population is a natural phenomenon and its understanding is within the competence of science. A Science literate society will look at the issue with science first before any kind of religious propaganda.

Science is the first step our society has to take if religion has to be disestablished and put in its proper sphere of competence.

Joe Padre said...

Isn't that why the government loves the OFW to partially relieve the Catholic-induced overpopulation, cementing our Gloriasque position as atsays of the world?

Amadeo said...

Pharisaic fascists! - Did you just affirm my earlier analogy about the Pharisees and the Church heirarchy?

Anyway, regarding rice production and population growth, the most telling and ominously disastrous for the old homeland is the revelation that the two are inversely proportional. And we have the history and IRRI to supposedly lead in both.

But beyond the Church, let us not also forget to lay the blame on the people themselves - who refuse to know better, Church strictures notwithstanding. I see no guns being held against their heads.

marvin said...

Somebody ought to study how much of the 90 million people in this country were born outside a monogamous and valid marriage. We all know a huge chunk of that number is composed of children of unmarried teenage mothers and paramours of married men.

But the Catholic Church doesn't get credited for fighting adulterous relationships, concubinage, and premarital sex.

blackshama said...


Research in monogamy in the animal kingdom suggests that at least half of purported offspring from a monogamous partnership didn't come from monogamy at all.

Among birds, it is the female who "fools" around!

Well the Church will have to be positive about "fighting" adultery, concubinage and pre marital sex.

It can start by truly living to what the Gospel demands and not what the Vatican legalistially requires!

Unless the hierarchy lives to the Gospel, then they are really Pharasaic.

domingoarong said...

Excluding the effects of migration, human population growth is generally defined as the net difference between births and deaths over a given time period.

In other words, there are actually TWO determinants to consider in reducing population growth: the birth rate and the death rate.

As it is now, the generally accepted “practical” (even “moral”) solution to control population growth is the reduction or “management” of the one determinant, the birth rate.

What if the population growth in one country expands rapidly to such an extent that it becomes uncontrollable?

Can the same “practical,” even “moral,” justification--say hunger or the high cost of age-related medical care, among many others--that is now relied on to justify the reduction of the one determinant, the birth rate, be similarly invoked to justify increasing instead the other determinant--the death rate--to reduce, in turn, population growth?

Now 65, just thinking of the possible consequences. For one morbid, yet still justifiable, approach to increase the death rate (and reduce population growth of so many hungry humans around) would be a government program of eliminating those, say, the overstaying “retired,” or the already “unproductive,” aged 60 or over, who were so irresponsible in their youth as to sire more than two children (I fathered four).

Equalizer said...

90 million people.Same land size as before.

"No gloves,No Love or We Perish"

marvin said...


ha ha ha, unless you're saying humans have the same brains as birds, I say it's a false analogy.

DJB Rizalist said...

I'll be doing the Explainer for Manolo Quezon this Tuesday on ANC. The topic will cover overpopulation and the food and energy crisis.

Don't Miss It! Migz Zubiri will be the guest.

blackshama said...


Unfortunately yes. When it comes to sexual behaviour, there are few differences between birds and us.

Darwinian theory shoots down the idea that humans are superior and much different doesn't it?

Remember Darwin's famous last line in the "Descent of Man"?

Man bears the stamp of his lowly origin!

The Nashman said...

Well, on the good side, given that the Catholic Mafia in our beloved country are so opposed to condoms, we will achieve a population cull by the transmission on non-curable STD's.

Wait, I think the Catholic Mafia will just diversify their business and expand their Health Care portfolio...still, they make money. Wohoo!

@blackshama: I love Darwin more than I love Pope Benedict.

Dominique said...

It's too simplistic to link population with food production, without looking at the other underlying policies of both countries.

Something else to think about: Thailand, which advocates safe sex, had 580,000 HIV positive people (or 0.8% of the population) in 2005. In contrast, we have had 12,000 HIV positive Filipinos (or 0.013%) in the same year. Either the figures are underreported or there's something else going on. Source:

DJB Rizalist said...

No one here is advocating abortions, only the prevention of conception. In regards to the death rate, such prevention is impossible because obviously conception has already occurred. No one is advocating accelerating the death rate by any means.

DJB Rizalist said...

it could be even more simplistic to relate the HIV rates to family planning. It may have more to do with tourism success, an unfortunate side effect of economic growth.

BTW we have two thirds the land area of Thailand while they have two thirds the population of the Philippines, and no typhoons. Also their agri policies have certainly been more effective and better supported. So yes, population is only ONE, but an impt one, factor.

Dave said...

At one time I too thought that overpopulation caused poverty. Today, I am convinced that poverty causes overpopulation.

Remember that in 1973-74 Thailand had a rather violent revolution. After that they went to a lot less economic intervention. Result was economic growth and looks like lower fecundity rtes as well.

DJB Rizalist said...

It is true that population, poverty and economic growth are dependent upon each other in complex and nonlinear ways. Indeed, there is a very deep econometric discussion of these matters at the Philippine Center for Population Development website that highly recommend to everyone.

I don't mean to sound like there is a simple interpretation.

marvin said...


There's the rub. You're saying man's sexual behavior is spurred by his animal instincts and not restrained by his religion. So why are we blaming the Catholic Church again for the population growth?

DJB Rizalist said...

Sexual behavior is not necessarily correlated with high population growth. Look at Thailand, where sex is anecdotally engaged in more freely than in the Philippines. Yet their population growth rate is less than half of ours. The big difference is that they are Buddhist and we are Catholic.
BTW it isn't the religious differences in the general populations that are decisive since Muslims, Catholics and Buddhists in both countries favor smaller families and wish they had more access to pills and condoms according to public opinion surveys.

The real difference is made by the Catholic Church's hierarchy and their domination of Philippine Presidents, who inexplicably ignore the popular will because they know that the Bishops can hurt them politically even without any reference to the population issue.

So it would seem to me that the Catholic Bishops are directly to blame for the 24 million more people we reproduced than the Thais since 1970.

Amadeo said...

All these generalizations make my head spin.

First we are told that in the early periods, the rich were fat and the poor and working class was generally thin and gaunt. Then because of collective social guilt and in order to equalize, now we are told (in the US, anyway) that the rich are typically thin and the poor mostly obese.

Similarly, we are told that the rich have smaller families, while the poor have larger. And this for a variety of reasons – Children as an economic asset, or because having sex and babies is essentially the only “libangan” that the poor have access to, etc.

The problem for me is not the reality but the correlation.

How does one assess it in the Philippine context on poverty, over-population, and the Church?

The rich in the Philippines have smaller families because they turn a blind eye to Church hierarchy admonitions? And the poor so religious and pious, they will not dare miss out on obeying the Church’s strictures?

marvin said...


"So it would seem to me that the Catholic Bishops are directly to blame for the 24 million more people we reproduced than the Thais since 1970."

I don't know how that is possible unless you're saying the Bishops fathered them.

I'll check you out tomorrow on Manolo's show. :-)

domingoarong said...


My earlier post, of course, was not about abortion.

It was actually more about compulsion, and the end justifying the means thing that I was tying to convey.

For the justifications now being advocated to reduce population growth by reducing, in turn, the one determinant, the birth rate--even if these programs go against some teachings of the Church--are bound to be relied on later, faced with no choice as the problem escalates geometrically, to increase the other determinant by whatever means, the death rate--even if the programs pursued are against a commandment of the Church--to achieve the end sought.

Just thinking…

Dominique said...

DJB: I bring up the link between HIV and population growth because they share a common growth vector, and that any campaign involving artificial mechanisms does not always have the desired effect. You mention economics, but I would also bring up culture. Largely it's how we view sex and family; I think the impact of the Church isn't nearly as extensive as you think it is.

Dominique said...

Dave wrote: At one time I too thought that overpopulation caused poverty. Today, I am convinced that poverty causes overpopulation.

I posted something similar on my blog.

And from The Economist in 2002 (subscription only, but if you email me, I can send you the entire article):

Family-planning policy is essential in lowering fertility rates, but without appropriate efforts to improve health services and the status of women, the decline is likely to be limited. If mothers expect that some of their children are likely to die before the age of five, most will keep on having them. In poor countries, extra children is the only assurance most parents have that they will not starve in old age.

Dominique said...

Oh, and one last thing I wanted to point out: evolutionary psychology, which offers theories on why our choices may not always be the most rational, economic ones. This covers reproductive strategies. Excerpt:

The first is that the assumption is not that individuals seek reproductive success—if we were doing that, the population of developed countries would be increasing much faster than it is—but only that we have those psychological characteristics that produced reproductive success in the environment we evolved in. The second is that reproductive success is an objective for the individual, not the group or species. Most scholars in evolutionary biology accept the view that traits which benefit group or species at the cost of the individual who carries them will be selected out.[3]
The third point is that we are adapted not to the world we now live in but to the environment in which our species spent most of its history. Agriculture is a recent development. We would expect most of our characteristics to be designed to produce reproductive success in the environment in which our species spent most of its evolutionary history—believed to be an environment of small hunter-gatherer bands.

Jego said...

The Church is the Church. It will not go outside its charter and by-laws. The State is different. It's supposed to be more flexible. It's supposed to be independent from the Church. This 'blame the Church' thing is misguided. It is the State that we ought to be blaming.

(Anyway, enlighten me on something: I think the Church does not have a doctrine on birth control. Is this true? Im inclined to think so because Ive read that Pope JPI -- the one who died after 33 days -- was studying the possibility of the Church's relaxing its stand on it. Alas, he departed too early.)

mesiamd said...

To blame the Catholic Church seems to be the easiest thing to do. But how about our responsibility as Filipinos?

hank_F_M said...

AIDS victims in 1987: Philippines 135 / Thailand 112
1999: Philippines 1,005 / Thailand 755,000 AIDS victims


May I suggest the Philippines has it right, even ignoring the human cost what is the economic cost of treating an AID patient.



Amadeo said it well: "But beyond the Church, let us not also forget to lay the blame on the people themselves - who refuse to know better, Church strictures notwithstanding. I see no guns being held against their heads."

You say, "The big difference is that they are Buddhist and we are Catholic."

Blame the Church? Utterly stupid. As you said yourself, France, Spain, Italy, and let's not forget Ireland, Portugal, Belgium, and other Catholic-predominated countries do not suffer from overpopulation despite or in spite of Church admonitions against the use of contraception. (And by gum, these nations can afford to populate if they want to -- they are stable and prosperous!!!!) Why? Simple: their governments are strong, they are level-headed, they do not have wishy-washy leaders, they do not have a liliputian whore at the helm with gargantuan lust for power, they do not allow themselves to be bamboozled by Mediaval-age superstitions, they believe in the Social Contract, they believe that they owe their jobs to the people and not to any religious, pontificating men and women of any religious denominations but most of all, because they take their responsibilities seriously, i.e., welfare, well-being, prosperity of their people.

You cited the example of Ferdinand Marcos' family planning that was copied by Thailand; shows you that at the end of the day, public policies are drafted, implemented and enforced for the good of a nation's citizens by governments and not by the Church.

As Marvin said quite rightly, "So why are we blaming the Catholic Church again for the population growth?

The blame for the sorry mess that the Philippines faces should be laid squarely at the doorstep of Malacanang and not that of Quiapo Church. Political will is only good if it's crafted and enforced or there's been no clear policy with respect to family planning or birth control in the Philippines; a policy should be accompanied by resources and by tangible means so that the public may be guided accordingly.

This government has failed the people at all levels; it is inept, corrupt and criminal.

Stupid, idiotic, senseless drivel to blame the Church (How many divisions does the Church in the Philippines have anyway?)