Last week, Manny Pacquiao came out to boldly support the Catholic Church’s denouncement a new bill that would mandate the Filipino government to offer contraceptives and parenthood advice programs to its citizens.
Pacquiao is a devout Catholic like most of his native country. Close to 80 percent of Filipinos are Catholic, giving the church a considerable amount of power in the region. The church has been largely responsible for keeping both divorce and abortion, two actions reviled as abominations in Catholicism, illegal in the Philippines despite opposition from progressives over the last 25 years. Nonetheless, the contraception issue has ignited another fierce debate in a country where overpopulation and poverty are glaring problems. Pacquiao, a beloved figure for his boxing prowess over his still developing political career as a congressman, threw his support behind the Catholic opposition in an interview last week and on the congressional floor.
“God said, ‘Go out and multiply.’ He did not say, just have two or three kids,” Pacquiao declared. “It is sinful to use condoms and commit abortion… my parents were poor… they had four children, it was very difficult but we persevered.”
On the surface, Pacquiao’s devout Catholicism appears genuine. In boxing, he always cites the power of God in his life at press conferences. He can be seen praying before , during and after fights. But a deeper analysis gives rise to the conclusion that Pacquiao’s recent comments are motivated by aligning with the political power of the Catholic Church over any deep religious conviction.
When this writer spoke with Pacquiao preceding his November fight with Antonio Margarito, we talked extensively about whether the Catholic faith had become a hinderance to the progress of his people. His answer just six months ago painted the church as a “necessary evil.”
“Our country relies heavily on the advice of the church. We’re a very Catholic nation, and a lot of our ideas come from the values of the church,” Pacquiao explained. “We’re not as developed as the United States or England. So, the people need to have that structure for now. When we get more developed, then we can have the more progressive thinking where we can separate everything.”
That “progressive thinking” has long been a part of Pacquiao’s personal life. He admits that his own wife Jinkee has made use of birth control pills. An avid partygoer, Pacquiao’s gambling habits, another Catholic no-no, are well documented. While the latter can be brushed aside as simple human frailty, the use of birth control pills in his own household, while deriding its benefits to fellow countrymen, is a glaring sign of Pacquiao championing a cause for political power over his own personal beliefs.
Manny Pacquiao is not the first nor will he be the last politician to make these types of decisions. You can argue it makes perfect political sense for Pacquiao to align himself with the stances of arguably the most powerful institution in the Philippines. But when you look at the human element, the millions of Filipino people who may be pushed further into the cycle of poverty, it makes Manny Pacquiao’s reaction to the first big political debate of his career a disappointing one. As he gains more experience, one can only hope he’s willing to become the vanguard for progressive thinking he expects to eventually come.