CHILE’S MASONIC LEADER OPINES ON PILL DEBATE AND MORE
(September 18, 2006) An Interview With Masonic Head Juan José Oyarzún
(Ed. Note: The Masonic order has a long and distinguished history in Chile. In this interview the current leader of Chile’s Masonic order, Juan José Oyarzún, gives a strong voice of support to President Michelle Bachelet’s decision to provide the day after pill to adolescent women.)
QUESTION: How do you view the debate stimulated by the decision to provide the morning-after pill to women 14 years of age or older?
JUAN JOSE OYARZUN: I think that the government is living up to its principles and values. It is not imposing the pill on anyone, but providing resources to enable women with unwanted pregnancies to make their own decisions, free of economic restrictions. Freedom of choice resides within the conscience of each woman. I don’t understand why the Church, which claims to concern itself with the afterlife - that is to say life beyond death - is so intent on intervening in this area … In layman’s terms, give to God that which is God’s, and to Caesar that which is Caesar’s. Still, it is important to concern ourselves with improving education. We are bombarded daily with a media campaign saying that education in Chile is a disgrace.
Q: Do you think there is a campaign against sex education efforts at school?
JJO: I am concerned about the very real prejudice we have here: with the tendency to view everything that the government does in a negative light. This is a very well-orchestrated campaign, led by those who aim to impede advances in Chilean society in freedom of expression, of ideas and the exercise of free will.
Q: Do you believe increased distribution of the morning-after pill is an advance for society?
JJO: Not the distribution itself, but the option which it provides for women to make this decision. I want to emphasize that it is not obligatory – it is a decision made by each woman. It’s like accusing rope-sellers of inducing suicide.
Q: Has tolerance been lacking in this debate?
JJO: Yes, because tolerance is not simply the art of co-existing in disagreement. It involves accepting others’ opinions, and trying to understand them and absorb their contributions to the discussion. In this debate it seems like each party sees itself to be in exclusive possession of the absolute truth. Institutions like the Church should not try to impose their beliefs upon people, even those who may have less information. They open their doors to everyone who wants to join them; we (the Masons) are more selective. The Church is built on dogma, we challenge dogma: this is a key difference between our respective institutions.
Q: This resistance is essentially centered on birth control policies in recent years.
JJO: Birth control is as old as the earth itself. The discussion has been reduced to the question of when a person becomes a person, and even science doesn’t have the last word on this one. If science can’t make the call, it doesn’t follow that other institutions, which specialize in other activities, should settle the issue. The best possible outcome with regards to unwanted pregnancy is that it be avoided. And the only way to achieve this is through sex education. Lately we have been bombarded with images on television of parents, students and teachers who have made it perfectly clear that good quality sex education is lacking.
Q: Do you think that the Church is trying to position itself as the moral conscience of our country?
JJO: Yes, although they are not the only ones to do so. With regards to whether the Church should rise above all others in this respect, by merit of its age as an institution, I want to be very clear: age does not equal merit. This is not the army. As a Spanish philosopher once said, “The lieutenant knows more than the captain, because he studied more recently.”
Q: Has the euthanasia debate showed another face of this debate?
JJO: There has been a great deal of talk about this issue, with little knowledge dispersed. The key question is: who owns the life of a human being? If one is religious, his or her particular God owns it. If not, it belongs to the person. But is this person subject to a commitment to the society in which he or she lives and coexists? I believe we all have a debt with society. It’s difficult to draw the line…. I think that the only person who can decide is the person himself.
Q: Independent of this debt to society?
JJO: Independent of this debt, because everyone knows in their conscience whether or not they are in debt. That is my personal view. These days, the Masonic order respects the personal beliefs of each of its members. We have devotees from a wide range of belief systems.
Q: Is the freezing of human embryos immoral, as claimed by assistant bishop of Santiago Fernando Chomali?
JJO: No - it is a scientific procedure, with pure intentions. As long as it does not become a business, of course. It does not degrade the embryo being manipulated. Not at all.
Q: Is there a deeper moral issue here than pills, condoms and frozen embryos?
JJO: Social inequality, which sociologists now term inequity, is social injustice, and it is also a moral issue. It’s the dance of those who are left out, who grow up without participating, with resentment, and there’s where we find the roots of delinquency.
Q: Do you think, then, that increasing punishment and increasing the number of prisons is the best way to combat delinquency?
JJO: No. This is bowing one’s knee to the idea of zero tolerance, to a New York mayor, and I don’t believe in imported recipes. I believe that what is important is equality of opportunities, but with fair rules of play.
Q: For the Masons, education is a permanent concern. What is your opinion on the so-called “Penguin Revolution”? JJO: Healthy. It is a warning. José de Castro, in his book “Geography of Hunger,” says that there are two types of people: a great many that don’t eat, but sleep and dream; and a few who eat but don’t sleep, for fear of waking the hungry.
SOURCE: LA NACION
Translated By Monica Evans (firstname.lastname@example.org)