As soon as I published my prior blog, a friend who occasionally reads my blogs sent me a note. “Uh, Joe, can you please explain that Creed paragraph? I don’t get it.”
Friends are good to have.
Here is the essence of what I meant, and an application.
A secular state is a more religious state than a state that limits itself to the doctrine of a single religion. It is freer, it is healthier, it is more vibrant. God is mysterious and any single religion falls short of explaining His mystery. If any one religion could explain God without question, we would have but one faith and one set of rules about how to live. The State could then be subservient to the Church.
But there are many faiths and even more interpretations of what God and his prior and present representatives on earth think that faith should mean.
It is the State’s responsibility to protect us from dogmatism and preserve our freedom to worship.
The Catholic Church in the Philippines has overstepped the normal bounds of restraint and engaged in a direct confrontation with secular leaders over the Reproductive Health Bill. By doing so, it abandons any pretence that it holds a high moral ground above the Manly business of passing laws. By dipping its prodigious pen into the ink of public debate, it must accept that it is open to the kind of ruthless criticism that inhabits the public arena. It can no longer claim a position of reflection and guidance above the tough, secular job of figuring out how to govern well.
In my opinion, the Catholic Church is intent upon holding the Philippines back from advancing as a modern nation of the 21st century. It is bound by rigid, antiquated doctrine that forces it to do so. Citizens of the state are not bound by that doctrine and are free to be modern. The Catholic doctrine is no longer responsive to Man’s growth as a thinking, advancing species made in God’s image, or to a planet that is populating itself to the limits of its ability to support life. The Catholic Church would – because of inflexible doctrine - hold the Philippines and its citizens to the poverty and suffering imposed by its over-birthing masses. It would hold that even non-believers are bound by Church doctrine, as if the priests, mere men beset with many sins, have some Godlike power to pronounce how the rest of us should behave.
I think enough is enough.
Enough of preferential social standing granted the Catholic Church, enough of preferential tax standing, enough of deference to men of the cloth out of respect for the goodness of their hearts.
The Catholic cloth is tattered with the agonies of the poor. It is soiled with the dirt of the uneducated. It is stained with the blood and pain of women. Now it is tainted by an abrasive and arrogant entry into public debate about an important secular issue.
The Catholic Church is behaving as if it were above the State. It is not. God is above the state, but its human representatives on earth are not.
Indeed, the Catholic Church undermines the State with each political utterance. It undermines the notion that God is available to all, and it presumes to be the sole moral authority for all Mankind.
As long as God is mysterious, Man’s highest respect for Him is found in secular governance.