Cardinal Ricardo Vidal of Cebu, who retired on October 15 at the age of 79, said on the eve of his retirement that he was willing to go to prison rather than accept the provisions in proposed Philippine legislation that provide for widespread distribution of contraceptives, including abortifacients such as the IUD.
A man of his word, then.
“God forbid, but if they succeed I would be the first to go to jail because I will break the law,” Vidal is quoted as saying. “We’re not supposed to talk against it once it becomes a law, but I am wiling to go to jail because I will continue to talk about and go against it.”
He says the law does sanction those who speak out against it. I can’t say whether he’s technically right or wrong; but, of course, the law shouldn’t so sanction. He should be allowed his free speech, and the best way to counter it is by debate and, if necessary, ridicule, satire, lampoon. These are, or should be, the rights of a free society – but so, too, should this chap’s opinion on contraceptives, nutty though it is.
What he shouldn’t be allowed to do is somehow prevent a lawful act in an unlawful way. Mind you, what is unlawful there is anybody’s guess, if citizens really aren’t allowed even to speak about contraception.
If he seeks to dissuade people from using contraceptives merely by expressing an opinion, then he ought to be within his legal rights, and I say that as a supporter of contraception for anyone who needs it.
But we’ll always meet fuzzy lines. What if he spoke from the vantage point of a very powerful pulpit (I’m using that word in the widest metaphorical sense) and succeeded in stopping people from using contraceptives, possibly even putting their lives at risk? His church is powerful in some places, because it captures the minds of the faithful and threatens them with excommunication and tells them they’ll probably go to hell.
So maybe talking about it in his case would amount to more than the same act by some bloke in a café.
But, then, where do you draw the line?
So I’m vacillating. Hmm.
Oh, OK, then, send him to jail!
On second thoughts . . .