Catholic overpopulation, in a non-Catholic rice crisis
By Antonio J. Montalvan II
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 00:42:00 05/12/2008
MANILA, Philippines - Catholic overpopulation is the favorite whipping boy of many pundits. Its centuries of consistency on the natural legal dictum that human life is a gift and for which it deserves an unchanging value no matter the mores of the times, the Catholic Church stands once again on the docket in what is largely a trial by publicity. And it makes for good economics.
The issue is the perceived rice crisis. The basis of the indictment seems to be, as is usual, the monocausal illogic that socio-economic woes are caused by overpopulation-and from the usual manner it is made to sound, by no other factor-and because the Catholic Church is staunchly against artificial contraception, then simplistically it is to blame.
In this latest analysis that borders on the pseudo, the version has changed but the logic has not, that there is not enough rice to feed a population that continues to burgeon because the Church prohibits artificial contraception. That is probably the most na´ve argument of the season.
To start with, is there truly a rice crisis that has doomed this entire land from Jolo to Aparri, or to make it more geographically correct, from Sibutu to Y'ami? Manila media says there is. Life in the province, however, testifies that there is none. At the most, there are few lines that are mostly panic-induced by a false notion that rice is about to be depleted. But it has not. Nonetheless, score one for the pundits there for effectively causing those lines.
In a Manila, however, that is bursting at the seams with migration from the provinces and thus has lost the bucolic quality that we in the provinces still have the pleasure of possessing, the perception of a rice crisis truly registers. Unlike the provinces, Manila is possibly so overpopulated with migrants that it becomes easy to influence (impose?) its thinking on the Filipino majority that there truly are more mouths to feed. Likewise, Manila's punditocracy easily finds convenience in punishing the Catholic Church for it.
Demographic science, however, does not agree. In truth, there is a growing rise of artificial contraceptive use across the Filipino population. What that means is that many Filipino Catholics, practicing or nominally otherwise, are increasingly not following the Church teaching against artificial contraception. Given that real scenario, one can surely expect the Catholic Church to step up its catechesis, even if only one soul is left to care to listen. Have we forgotten our knowledge of scriptural accounts? The Church, in fact, has always had this courageous forbearance in the face of opposition and persecution. As we all know, it may even take martyrdom to do so.
Anti-life advocates must banish all their thoughts that the Church will change one day and allow IUDs and condoms and Depo-Provera for all its faithful, married or otherwise. If it does that, truth and freedom will have to be redefined according to, in the first place, the relative conveniences of the times. We can never guess what arguments for upcoming social mores will be thought of next, for that is what relativism is all about.
So while we are engrossed in the vogue of chastising the Catholic Church for the rice crisis, the rest of the world has passed us by and has already found the answers.
The problem is not so much production as it is of distribution or discernment dictated by the socio-cultural fabric. It is a problem induced by profiteers, by illicit repackaging, by devious hoarders. In Vietnam, it is caused by an unusually cold weather and pest infestation-at least this is the only production problem in the region. But Vietnam being the second largest rice exporter of the world, the reverberation is understandable.
In other countries, it is caused by a shift to biofuels such as corn production to produce ethanol, thus boosting a demand for rice, not to mention the temperatures of global warming.
Rice is a cultural and social staple more than it is agricultural, and often wields a socio-psychological weight on society. The skyrocketing prices of rice in India, for instance, are largely panic-induced. The report of a new cartel governing the rice market by the Mekong River countries leaves us nothing to the imagination that this was a knee-jerk reaction so understandable in rice-consuming countries. It is a reality of the culture of rice that the mere prospect of its shortage, even if it is mostly perceived or induced, can cause mass hysteria.
When the catcalls of those hysterics start dying down, however, we have unnecessarily bruised a Church that we have only made a social scapegoat. Much of our praxis at social analysis needs more sophistication.
There is plenty of rice. The Catholic Church is here to prevail.
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