Thomas Jefferson had the wisdom to see the animosities that arise if religion and politics are mixed. His writings (Constitution and various letters) defined a wall of separation between Church and State.
The Philippines has a tattered drape of cloth instead. It is made of a strange material, for it allows robed Church men through to meddle in State affairs, but it blocks the State's people from meddling in church affairs.
Let me make two points clear from the getgo:
- I think the Catholic Church is a fine institution when it sticks to the business of caring for the spiritual lives, foundational values, and emotional well-being of its flock. I have never met a priest or nun whom I did not respect for their good heart and dedication to the work of God, as they understand His calling.
- I believe in God. My personal belief is best expressed in an article I wrote a few blogs ago: Joe Am's "Philippine Church of Man". It is not a need-based Church. It is a confidence-based Church.
The CBCP (Catholic Bishop's Conference of the Philippines), on the other hand, is a corporate organization that extends beyond the bounds of caring for people's souls. It raises money. It engages in politics, which by definition is a dirty business. It takes its direction from Rome. And it has become desperate for defeat of the RH Bill. Its criticism of the secular Philippine government's acts has risen to angry attacks on good people, insults to government officials and loud efforts to impose Church values on people who do not belong to the Church. This shrill attack is beyond decency, the latest blast being directed at the House of Representatives for "railroading" passage of the RH Bill to the amendment stage.
|Archbishops to the left . . .|
The intensity of the Church complaint has little to do with the RH Bill itself. It has to do with survival of an institution that seems insistent on moving headlong into irrelevance because its frozen Doctrine can't keep pace with human knowledge, ethical values such as gender equality, and the demands of modern lifestyles.
Now here are some fundamentals.
The CBCP is an institution parented in Rome. It is a foreign organization with allegiances that may or MAY NOT have the best interest of the Philippines at heart. Indeed, the current RH Bill deliberations are considered a threat to Rome, for the Philippines is one of the Church's last bastions of 15th Century morality. The HR Bill is a huge crack in the Church foundations. It is a big threat.
The CBCP is desperate to stop it. Thus the outrageous attacks on Philippine government process.
The guiding document for the Catholic Church is the "Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church" prepared by the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace for His Holiness Pope John Paul II in June of 2004. It is an extraordinarily rich and thoughtful document, reflecting the heart of a good Pope and the brainpower of Church intellectuals.
Here are some excerpts pertinent to sorting out State and Church responsibilities.
Exerpts from CHAPTER EIGHT
THE POLITICAL COMMUNITY
385. The political community finds its authentic dimension in its reference to people:
396. Authority must be guided by the moral law. All of its dignity derives from its being exercised within the context of the moral order, “which in turn has God for its first source and final end”
398. Authority must enact just laws, that is, laws that correspond to the dignity of the human person and to what is required by right reason.
424. Although the Church and the political community both manifest themselves in visible organizational structures, they are by nature different because of their configuration and because of the ends they pursue. The Second Vatican Council solemnly reaffirmed that, “in their proper spheres, the political community and the Church are mutually independent and self-governing”. The Church is organized in ways that are suitable to meet the spiritual needs of the faithful, while the different political communities give rise to relationships and institutions that are at the service of everything that is part of the temporal common good. The autonomy and independence of these two realities is particularly evident with regards to their ends.
|Archbishops to the right . . .|
The duty to respect religious freedom requires that the political community guarantee the Church the space needed to carry out her mission. For her part, the Church has no particular area of competence concerning the structures of the political community: “The Church respects thelegitimate autonomy of the democratic order and is not entitled to express preferences for this or that institutional or constitutional solution”, nor does it belong to her to enter into questions of the merit of political programmes, except as concerns their religious or moral implications.
427. In order to prevent or attenuate possible conflicts between the Church and the political community, the juridical experience of the Church and the State have variously defined stable forms of contact and suitable instruments for guaranteeing harmonious relations.
JoeAm's short-form interpretation of these sections:
385: Government is of, for and by the people.
396: Ultimately, God is the source of dignity for government and the people, through moral order. So it can be argued the State must abide by God's moral values. Atheistic values are not moral, I guess. They are just rational. When rational conflicts with moral, go with moral, eh?
398: Laws must be just and correspond to the dignity of the human person. The human person includes women. I'm not sure the Catholic Church grasps how gender biased her thinking is, or perhaps the old men who lead her understand but don't care because Doctrine does not allow them to care.
424: The State should stay out of the Church business and the Church should respect the State's work. However, the Church would be expected to engage the state as it concerns "religious or moral implications." I wonder if there is any subject that does NOT have religious or moral implications!
427: Harmony can be achieved only if the Church and State agree on stable forms of contact and instruments that promote harmony. The CBCP appears to have ignored this section. Maybe an official complaint to the Pope is in order.
The CBCP is a Foreign Institution Occupying a Prominent Place in the Philippines by Gracious Permission of the State
If we check our Humpty Dumpty History Notes, we see that the Catholic Church for 300 years held direct operating authority over the Philippines working with a long list of nitwit Spanish governors who enriched themselves as they zipped in and out of the Philippines, largely disinterested in the well-being of the nation. Jose Rizal died to break the grip of the Church on the Philippines. Thousands of Filipinos died fighting against the Spaniard and Church racist occupation of the Philippines.
The Church is not much different than was America during her colonial stewardship of the Philippines. Arrogant. Thuggish. Discriminatory.
America eventually conceded sovereign rights to the Philippine people, represented by their government. And left.
|Archbishops in Manila.|
The Catholic Church refuses to grant the Philippine people this right. The right to be free of the Lordship of the Church with its agenda defined in Rome. The Church insists on trying to be the boss of us all.
- Would we permit the Chinese Ambassador to stand before a press conference and condemn legal and official steps taken by the Philippine legislature?
- Would we permit Secretary of State Hillary Clinton of the U.S. to condemn the legislature for its judgments of process as to what is best for the Philippines?
No way. What an affront. What an outrage for a foreign institution to stick its nose into the sovereign affairs of the Philippine State.
Indeed, the Chinese Ambassador and the American Secretary of State, as professionals of diplomacy, recognize that it is their duty to respect the sovereign rights of other nations.
But Rome, through the CBCP, does not grant this respect to the Philippine government. Rome's Ambassadors to the Philippines arrogantly insist on telling the Philippines how to run its secular business.
Would we permit the Mormon Church, anchored in Salt Lake City, Utah, U.S.A. the same right? The right to stand up loudly and condemn the way the Philippines chooses to run its government? To threaten the President with excommunication?
No. No. That would be arrogant and obnoxious in the extreme.
So sorry. I don't buy into this foreign Church's presumptive right to interfere in government, and certainly don't accept her right to speak for me. This is not a warm and fuzzy institution, protected by Hail Mary's and nun's skirts and some idolized belief that, like our fathers and mothers, it does not make mistakes. It is of men occupying a form of royal throne in Rome. The CBCP presumes a favored place among religious institutions in the Philippines, calling it a "Catholic country". Perhaps a Muslim or two disagrees.
The CBCP is an organization of man, chartered to represent an interpretation of God's intent on earth. It has a written document that allows it to communicate its understandings and goals to other men. It is a giant corporate institution with an organization chart and accounting department and minions running left and right doing the bosses' biddings. These are not angel wings, these robes, these uniforms designed to impress. They are growths of animal, cotton or silk, or manmade material. They are not spun from a golden wheel lodged somewhere north of the clouds. These men do not drift down from the heaven as if on some ecclesiastical parasail.
Why do we have them on a pedestal when they do not earn the right to stay there?
When they climb down from the pulpit to mix in the mud that makes up Caesar's realm, why must we treat them with kid gloves?
Why is it possible for an old woman to spit in our face, but we can't shove her away from us?
Perhaps it is proper for this particularly ancient old woman, this frozen relic of moral authority that has been instrumental in making the Philippines what it is today -- dirty, corrupt, un-inspired, and dirt poor -- to STAND BACK.
To GET OUT OF THE WAY of progress and education and good treatment of women. To get out of the way of care and kindness.
Rome, through the CBCP, needs to respect the government of the country which so graciously allows it the freedom to operate in the Philippines.
Perhaps it is finally time for the Catholic Church to become humble, to STAND BACK from political engagements and get to work on the spiritual enlightenment of its flock, providing good values and good acts, solace and guidance to its flock, teaching wisdom and . . . indeed . . . respect.