Opinion makers, please stop spreading the lie

By Jean Paul L. Zialcita

IN her article, “Condoms in the spotlight” (Philippine Daily Inquirer, 26 November 2010), Rina Jimenez-David asks:

And if the Holy Father, in his compassion, sees fit to abjure the sin of a prostitute (male or female) using a condom, why can’t he find the same compassion in his heart for men and women seeking a balance between responsible parenthood and fulfilled couple-hood? Why can’t he give them a break?

No, Ms. David, the Pope has not abjured anything of the sort. I suggest you read the Pope’s words again in Light of the World (assuming you’ve already read them, of course; we cannot just rely on second-hand data from AP, Reuters, and BBC). You must have misunderstood something somewhere.

All the Pope said is that when an HIV-infected prostitute (male or female—it doesn’t matter) uses a condom so as not to spread the virus, the act of using the condom could be interpreted as a sign that the prostitute’s sense of good and evil isn’t entirely dead. The concern not to spread the virus on the part of the condom-using, HIV-infected prostitute could, therefore, be construed as a first step in the direction of taking responsibility for immoral acts committed.

So, no, Ms. David, this is not about the Pope showing compassion for prostitutes and withholding it from married couples. He is compassionate towards everyone, especially towards those who need to realize their dignity but whose weaknesses impede such a realization.

Mr. Zialcita is an Assistant Professor at the Political Science Department of the College of Social Sciences and Philosophy of the University of the Philippines – Diliman.


The Inquirer’s agenda?

Some letters to the editor never get published — either because they lack meritorious content, decency, relevance, editors’ time, and/or timeliness.

The letter I sent to the Inquirer last December 1 is (probably) among those. Here’s how it was (with minor revisions):

I DOUBT the Inquirer’s sincerity in its reply to Minnie Gabutina’s letter to the editor last November 26: “On [the] matter of the Pope’s remarks [regarding condoms], the Inquirer does not promote any agenda.”

Really now. Go to the editorial of that same Inquirer issue (“Becoming human”), and you’ll see that the newspaper’s editors seemingly lied to Gabutina and the rest of their readers. Among the minor noteworthy things in the editorial is its scorn against pro-life advocate Eric Manalang and his followers (whom the editorial takes as the entire pro-life block). Another is the editorial’s “one-sided sourcing” of opinion quotes (all were from churchmen whom the editorial frames as ‘liberalist’ dissidents in the Church). But most noteworthy is the editorial’s insistence that Pope Benedict XVI has a “titanic shift in his thinking” and that the Church is “tweaking…rigid doctrine.”

Indeed, here we see the Inquirer’s agenda to discredit the Catholic Church and its leader. I mean, it only takes a little bit of investigative journalism skills (and some common sense) to find out the consistency of the Pope’s remarks with the Catechism of the Catholic Church and other church documents; you’ll find no “titanic shift” or “[doctrinal] tweaking” at all.

Thus, I think it’s high time the Inquirer take an ‘examination of conscience’ and be honest to itself and its readers. First of all, it has to recognize what communication scholars have long ago discovered: that the media necessarily sets an agenda, telling its readers what issues to think about; and, through tactics called ‘framing’ and ‘priming,’ how to think about those issues.

Second, the Inquirer should challenge itself to be vigilant amidst biased reportage by some “international news organizations with solid reputation.” It should be intelligent enough not to fall into the rash and unfair judgments by their Western secularist ‘big brothers.’ Instead, the Inquirer should live up to its name: it should inquire disinterestedly and rigorously until it arrives at the truth, with the least dependence on (not-so-reputable) foreign media as possible.

And third, the Inquirer should tell the truth to all its readers – from those who have the capability to buy and thoroughly read a copy of its newspaper, to those who could not afford and could only glance at the newspaper’s banner headlines at the newsstand. None of the Inquirer’s sometimes-sensationalized headlines should mislead or misinform – sowing confusion and even scandalizing some – as did its report on the Pope’s remarks on condoms.