MANILA, Philippines – The head of the Catholic Bishop’s Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) has claimed that his statement on having President Benigno Aquino III excommunicated was taken out of context and blown out of proportion.
Bishop Nereo Odchimar of Tandag, Surigao del Sur, said his interview on church-owned Radio Veritas focused on some forms of birth control that could be considered as abortion.
Abortion is a ground for excommunication from the Catholic church, but the move will have to depend on other factors, he added.
He said that he did not specifically call for Aquino to be excommunicated.
"He [Aquino] must consider the position of the Catholic Church because we are approaching these issues from the moral aspect like the unborn. Abortion is a grave crime. Excommunication is attached to it. That is an issue of gravity, that is a violation of God's commandment," the prelate said in the radio interview.
“As a matter of fact, excommunication is attached to those who commit abortion,” he added.
The President is supporting contraceptive use.
He said he has not changed his position to provide couples an informed choice in planning their families despite the excommunication threat.
“We are all guided by our consciences,” Aquino said in a statement. “The state's duty is to educate our families as to their responsibilities and to respect their decisions if they are in conformity to our laws.”
Odchimar, meanwhile, invited the President to hold a dialogue with the Catholic Church.
He said that he has yet to talk to CBCP members regarding the religious body’s official stand on Aquino’s position on family planning.
Bishop Arturo Bastes of Sorsogon said Odchimar’s statement was a personal opinion and did not reflect the CBCP’s official stand.
Bastes said excommunication in the church is a long and complicated process.
He added that the sanction is a serious punishment because it means that the excommunicated person is totally separated from the church.
Any excommunication declaration will come from Manila Archbishop Gaudencio Cardinal Rosales, said Bastes. – Timi Nubla and Pia Gutierrez, ABS-CBN News