Inquirer Current: The secular ideal

(Above: video of “Anti DEATHS” rally mounted by Catholic Church in Cebu City last July: DEATHS is the acronym thought up by the wife of Kit Tatad and represents the Church’s advocacy against Divorce, Euthanasia, Abortion, Total Family Planning, Homosexual Unions and Sex Education)

So long as Marcos was at the height of his powers, and there was a Julio Cardinal Rosales to counterbalance Jaime Cardinal Sin, the ploy worked. But as time wore on, and Marcos’ legalism gave way to cruder methods to stay in power, the manner in which he concentrated all power in his hands meant that as his own physical and mental condition decayed, no one beneath him could really do anything except scheme against fellow subordinates. The result was a power vacuum that only the Communists or the Catholic Church could fill -with the hierarchy worried that its clergy were drifting in to the clutches of the Communists.

As I wrote twelve years ago, the Catholic hierarchy exorcised the demons of the Philippine Revolution of 1896 by taking a lead in the People Power Revolution of 1986. Just how thoroughly Church has ended up appropriating the functions of the State is best seen in the opposition, with its reliance on mass mobilizations for masses, and how opposition and administration alike fuss over the hierarchy and whether they will order the Catholic studentry into the streets.

Both Marcos and Estrada, traditionally contemptuous of and hostile to the hierarchy, paid the political price, not realize how thoroughly eroded the traditional secular reverence for their office had become. Ramos was more clever; Arroyo, cleverer still, in appreciating that the hierarchy can be upwardly mobile, too, in their aspirations, and if flattered and courted and plied with cash, can become pliable, too, and a source of strength and not subversion to the incumbent.

And yet, the cozy relationship’s being challenged, and the challenge is in the form of a bill.

It is 2008, and in comparison to say, 1938, it seems unclear whether secularism is once more resurgent, or whether the Church Militant is poised to be triumphant and retain the privileged position it secured in our national life in 1986.

I like viewing things in cycles so let me explain my approach to the problem.

In 1938, Filipino leaders, most of them with memories of the Spanish era still fresh in their minds and themselves heirs to the anticlericalism of both the Propaganda Movement and the Revolution (a shrewd exploration of this can be found in Frederick Marquardt’s 1954 article, Quezon and the Church), debated and ended up defeating the proposal to teach Catholic catechism in the public schools. See The Church, July 2, 1938. Efforts by Catholics to have catechism taught during class hours in public schools, passed by an obliging National Assembly, ended up vetoed; a line was drawn demarcating the separation of Church and State (a line first established by statute in 1898, thoug even the Malolos Republic seemed more inclined to pursue establishing a national church more along the lines of the England of Henry VIII).

This line would hold so long as there were Filipinos alive who remembered the Spanish era and bore the anticlerical attitudes of Filipinos of that time. The apogee of that generation and its attitude towards Catholicism was the passage of the Rizal Law: see The Church Under Attack, May 5, 1956. Yet victory in Congress -the law was passed, against the impassioned opposition of the Catholic hierarchy and a new generation of bold Catholic apologists in politics- turned out a pyrrhic victory.

You could say the height of the anticlerical era was from 1896 to 1956; and in turn, the Catholic era began in 1956, and peaked in 1986 -with the Edsa Revolution taking on the characteristics of a Marian Deliverance- and, just as the anticlerical era began to wane in 1938 when the National Assembly, indicating how local-minded politicians were willing to take their cues from local prelates, approved religious instruction in the public schools and so showed the sign of political submission to the Catholic hierarchy to come, so did the influence of Catholicism -its naked triumphalism in the wake of Edsa, and its lingering assertion of religious supremacy over the secular, as demonstrated every day by the insistence of Catholic schools in having invocations and prayers come ahead of the national anthem, an act that would have caused a riot fseventy, sixty, even forty or thirty years ago- begin to wane at its point of maximum influence, when patently Catholic principles concerning the family and sexuality were enshrined in the 1987 Constitution.

The debate over the Reproductive Health Bill, then, has characteristics both modern and ancient: and aspects that echo the 1890s, the 1930s, the 1950s, 1970s and 1980s, too. But what too many overlook, I think, is how the Catholic Church is now fighting from a position of strength: not just in terms of organization and the enfeebled notions of citizenship and political identity of the electorate, but also, from a position of statutory advantage.

From the preamble of the Constitution, which dispensed with invocation of a Deist “Sovereign Legislator of the Universe” of 1899, or of the studiously non-denomenational “Divine Providence” in 1935 and 1973, our present Charter invoked “Almighty God,” and despite retaining the official separation of Church and State in Art. II, Sec. 6 (while providing, in the Bill of Rights, Article III, Sec. 5, from any specific Church being favored over the others, while forbidding any limits on the exercise of religion, as much a limit on the State as it is an encouragement to members of any particular faith), the Constitution moves on to providing for Catholic Doctrine as the core principles of the State:

Article II, Section 12. The State recognizes the sanctity of family life and shall protect and strengthen the family as a basic autonomous social institution. It shall equally protect the life of the mother and the life of the unborn from conception. The natural and primary right and duty of parents in the rearing of the youth for civic efficiency and the development of moral character shall receive the support of the Government.

And while Sections 13, 14, and 15 may nominally ordain concern for the youth, gender equality, modern health policies, etc., there follows a provision that subordinates all these, quite clearly, to Section 12:

Section 16. The State shall protect and advance the right of the people to a balanced and healthful ecology in accord with the rhythm and harmony of nature.

Here lies what is arguable a Constitutional exhortation to limit anything related to health, including reproduction, to the Church-sanctioned Rhythm Method, or “natural” family planning.

For this reason, I believe that the debates raging in and out of the blogosphere, in the public sphere and wherever people take either their citizenship or religion seriously, when the debate focuses on the duties versus the rights of individual Catholics as pertains to their conscience, is a waste of time. I say this as a non-practicing Catholic who is entirely uninterested in whether or how people reconcile the tenets of their faith with their political and social conscience. It is a question only of interest to practicing Catholics but no one else (and even for the practicing Catholic, I think it’s futile: either have faith, which is beyond science and reason, or exalt science and reason and become an apostate; there can be no compromise between the two if one actually takes seriously the fate of one’s immortal soul).

So if the question of whether one can salve one’s conscience and not imperil one’s soul is immaterial and irrelevant for non-Catholics and non-practicing Catholics, how then, should the question of the Reproductive Health Bill be approached?

First, the actual provisions of the bill are no longer relevant or material. I say this, because the bill itself has been turned into a litmus test.

On the part of the Catholic hierarchy, the only choice is whether the bill can be defeated outright in Congress, or so thoroughly amended as to turn it into a law more fully supportive of Church aims.

On the part of supporters of the bill, the provisions are less interesting for what they contain -it is, after all, only a law, liable to be enforced more with talk and less with any real action- than for what they represent: an assertion of a non-Catholic, ideally non-sectarian, morality for the state.

The battle lines having been drawn, the battle has been joined and it would be dangerous to prematurely gloat that indications of broad public support for the bill is some sort of death knell for the influence of the Catholic hierarchy in the political sphere.

For an entire generation, Filipinos have been allowed to subordinate the state to God, daily seeing sectarian prayers given priority over the national anthem; this underscores, day in, and day out, the subordination of the state to the Church.

While this period -the generation since Edsa- only represents a third of the lifetime of our modern-day political institutions, it encompasses the living memory of fully two-thirds of the population.

In other words, in the generation since Edsa, where God has day in and day out been demonstrated as superior to flag, anthem, and republic, at least half of present-day Filipinos were born and their attitudes towards Church and State, molded; Filipinos reared in the strict subordination of religion to the State, a subordination demanded by historical experience, are the minority.

During this period, when our sense of the proper distinction between God and Country has been literally turned on its head, our civic sense, our political consciousness as a people, has been enfeebled. The weakening of our political institutions and the political culture upon which the proper functioning of those institutions is premised, also means that in the absence of a vibrant civil society, the best-organized, best-motivated, and best-funded sectors can hold state policy, including the formulation of laws, hostage.

Those wasting their time sneering at Catholic dogma, who want to debate the superiority of Reason over Faith, and so forth, are wasting their time either preaching to the converted, or egging on the religious to new heights of missionary zeal and fantasies of martyrdom.

Public opinion, in this era of apathy and how legalism and naked force trumps all public sentiment, is worthless. As both leaders and the led become increasingly local in their mentality and dismissive of anything that smacks of the romanticism and impracticality of the national, then the political strength of the Catholic hierarchy exponentially increases.

The clergy have never elected a president, a senator, even a congresssmen; this is a truism of our politics. But the other truism is what matters: a politician, whether local or national, is asking for trouble if he incurs the displeasure of the bishop. The hierarchy may not be able to get people elected; but they can seriously harm the prospects of a candidate for election.

And the hierarchy has brought two presidents to their knees; and they helped make the difference between being down and out, or living to fight another day, for the present chief executive.

So let me disagree with Blackshama and others in terms of how they’re framing the debate on this bill. There is no reason to frame the issue in terms of what’s going on in the United States; the proper frame is our anticlerical heritage from the Propagandists and Revolutionaries of the 19th Century and the Catholic Countereformation since the 1950s which achieved its aims in 1987. That heritage has been swept aside by demographics and the rot in the educational system and the sapping of the strength of the body politic.

When Stalin sneeringly asked, “how many divisions has the Pope got?” it was a classic case of the pragmatist being unable to recognize the motivational power of faith; he could sneer at Pius XII, yet it was that same Pope who ordered even cloistered nuns to go out and vote and keep Italy from having a Communist government; and it would be one of Pius XII’s successors who was given great credit (exaggeratedly or not) for bringing the Soviet era to a close in Eastern Europe.

In a society that has taken to accepting, at face value, the administration argument that all politics is a “numbers game,” then the Catholic Church has the numbers; the supporters of the bill, on the other hand, may have public opinion on their side but it is an opinion that cannot find a practical expression -or one practical enough to negate the negative influence prelates can have on the countless political contests officialdom’s already gearing up for in 2010.

As Blackshama tellingly points out -Galileo may have provided inspiration for generations of scientists and freethinkers, but his daughters became saintly nuns. The students who will be mobilized to show their numbers should the debate over the bill reach the point of requiring mobilization, may be attending their chemistry classes today, but they and their parents are already being primed with the incontestible battle cry, “what does it profit a man to gain the world, but lose his immortal soul?”

I have been advocating an effort to reeducate people when it comes to their rights and obligations as citizens. Secularism is far from dead, but at no time since the Revolution has it been so feebly understood and unappreciated by the public as now. We are not alone in this, and not just in terms of Catholicism. See an appeal for the secular ideal, in terms of Muslims, for example, on British subjects -not God’s by Ed Husein.

If I were a betting man, I’d say the odds are in favor of the bill being defeated, and that the odds are getting better for the Church every day. At the very least, they can water down the law so it becomes meaningless.

But even if they fail to derail the bill, let’s not forget what the Catholic Church has done, and continues to do, ever since it lost the showdown over the Rizal Law: it interpreted it as it pleased, and flouted it more than it obeyed it. And the secular schools have not been able to compensate and have even added to the general uselessness and essentially counterproductive results of the passage of that law.

Manuel L. Quezon III.

66 thoughts on “Inquirer Current: The secular ideal

  1. So Manolo, let’s be heirs to my lolo who served under yours and support secularism in education. They both did. My lolo couldn’t take that his sons study in Catholic schools!

    My family has a tradition of anticlericalism and Catholic faithfulness!

    BTW Galileo’s daughters became nuns because they were products of wedlock. Galileo couldn’t find suitable husbands willing to pay a respectable dowry for them! But even the his daughter had a rebel streak too!

    As for the numbers game on RH bill, the op eds haven’t factored in the strengths of the Iglesia ni Cristo and the Evangelical Protestants, who support the bill. We are not a Catholic country anymore like we were in the 1950s The INC may deem it has the right reasons and strength to pull the rug on the Catholic lobby.

    It is good politics for the Church is compromise not defeat the bill!

  2. In short, mlq3, popular stupidity trumps small-voice-in-the-forest sensibility.

    Tough luck for the poor who are imprisoned in a belief-system that promises reward with the condition that one has to be six feet under first.

    So here’s a wealth strategy to them:

    Just go lay down and die and leave the earthly treasures to those who prefer to reap them while alive. 😀

  3. “i>small-voice-in-the-forest sensibility is like a pearl inside an oyster. Work is needed before the value is realized.

  4. I say this as a non-practicing Catholic who is entirely uninterested in whether or how people reconcile the tenets of their faith with their political and social conscience

    I typically encounter such statement as the above when pundits start discussing controversial religious matters, and I am sorry to say, many say it almost like a badge of honor or accomplishment. Especially because of the condescending disdain many in media and secular academia regard the Catholic Church, or its hierarchy.

    But I am curious to know what exactly does the term, non-practicing Catholic connote? Interpreting as literally as one can get, does it mean somebody who was baptized and instructed in the Faith, but now stays away from its practice? Believing in its unique articles of Faith, but not practicing the rites and rituals associated with them, like the Mass or the Sacraments? Or simply one who though baptized as Catholic as an infant or toddler does not know or believe in its articles of Faith? And thus practices no particular religion? Or are they the cafeteria Catholics?

  5. Amadeo: If you sit down and think about your question, you’d quickly realize thatt answers will personalized (religiosity is very personal) so the details will be on a case-by-case basis.

    I know a number of now non-practicing Catholics who walked away from the Roman Catholic Church because of predator-priests. I also know of practicing Catholics (“practicing” made evident by them going to Sunday and taking communion) who are not only divorced (marriages not annulled, divorced) but have re-married. I know of high school Catholic female students — again, go to mass, take communion — on the pill. And then the classic — thieves.

    Now, what is a cafeteria Catholic? Pick-and-choose from the menu… based on the season?

    Predator-priests…. and then, there was the institutional response.

  6. Now in a secular setting, that the bishops all the way to the POPE first wanted to sweep under the rug the phenomenon of predator priests becomes more understandable. You know… the blame-the-victim inclination along with just plain-vanilla racketeering 😳 tendencies of all organizations doing acts of self-preservation protecting their turfs.

    But when you add “… infallibility… direct line communication to the heavens”, then Roman Catholics walking away in disgust from the faith of the Roman Catholic Church made sense.

    See, Amadeo…. secularism 😐 can protect religiosity, too.

  7. Catholicism basically promises NOTHING in life and EVERYTHING in death.

    So it’s hardly surprising that those who are wholly imprisoned by what a bunch of Bishops have to say have NOTHING.

  8. “Catholicism basically promises NOTHING in life and EVERYTHING in death.”

    “So it’s hardly surprising that those who are wholly imprisoned by what a bunch of Bishops have to say have NOTHING.”

    I wonder what religion this one is talking about. While on earth Jesus loved to party and loved wine. He loved being massaged by women.

    Where did this clueless one get his Catholic schooling?

    The traditions of the Catholic Church most especially in the Philippines have not moved beyond the Copernican age simply because the people in power have used the Church itself to mis-educate the people.

    Majority of the Princes of the Church here are disciples of Satan more than of their own founder.

    The Church after all is not a human association.

  9. Felipe Medalla’s religion is the religion of self interest above all.

    That is the foundational belief that man left to his own self interest will lead to a social good.

    “A flaw in the model that I perceived is the critical functioning structure that defines how the world works.”
    Greenspan says Wow Mali.

    That model is how humans behave! Apparently he has just realized that humans have a flaw.

    Wow the man whose religion has just been challenged now admits humans like him are infallible.

    So what now?

  10. Amadeo, a cafeteria Catholic is no different from the Catholic who believes in Liberation Theology -firmly believing they’re practicing Catholics but who insist they are not in agreement with certain dogmas or the hierarchy.

    My definition of a non-practicing Catholic is someone born into, and formerly active in the, faith, but who has stopped fulfilling the minimum requirements of the faith (Sunday and holy day of obligation masses), and generally lives a life outside the faith, but who has not taken the step of formally renouncing the faith or adopting another religion; essentially, areligious in contrast to irreligious life. But not actively hostile to the Church, either.

  11. Steve Mosher, the president of the Population Research Institute, argues in his newly released book that the movement that advances this worldview is demographically ignorant and the “Number One violator of human rights.”

    According to Mosher, “Overpopulation is a myth. In fact, evidence is plentiful that POLICYMAKERS and population controllers, with billions at their disposal, have ignored their own multiple FAILURES.”

  12. “Those wasting their time sneering at Catholic dogma, who want to debate the superiority of Reason over Faith, and so forth, are wasting their time either preaching to the converted, or egging on the religious to new heights of missionary zeal and fantasies of martyrdom.”

    Not really. It’s not an “either/or” thing. There are still those who are on the fence: non-practicing and cafeteria Catholics who are still forming their own moral code. The arguments help influence their decisions, I think. Even if this doesn’t help the RH Bill, it will still help in the long run by encouraging rationality and critical thinking.

  13. mlq3, is it really “shallow and patently false statement of the utmost stupidity”?

    Or does it merely offend your culturally-ingrained sensibilities? 😉

    You will have to decide at some point which one of your sensibilities is doing the talking, dude.

  14. The other side of the story: Overpopulation will threaten economic security with the first impact being felt in health and welfare systems.

    The UN , IMF and World Bank have adopted such population control program as prerequisites to their giving of Aids.

    In 2002: “The World Bank and unidentified “foreign donors” have launched a $20 million (USD) campaign to push population control on the Philippines. Dubbed the “Maternal Health and Population Management Program,” the venture is set for implementation starting in 2004 or 2005. However, the Philippine government under President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has resisted the population control push, with good reason. “

  15. The State has no business in personal decisions if a woman is going to bring a child into her world.

    Smaller families and slower population growth are decisions by choice and OPPORTUNITIES, not coercion and controls.
    Women should make their own decisions.

  16. It seems some people take pleasure in either spreading cynicism, infecting others with their cynicism, shooting down other people who choose to keep trying to be true to their promises as children of God, then condescendingly regard such people as unthinking.

    When one lets the errors of others or a lack of understanding adversely affect his own faith, it’s easy to lose that faith and be hostile toward the entire Church, blaming it for everything that goes wrong in society. Essentially, it just shows ignorance for what a person THINK he understands about the Church, and a lack of courage and staying power to plod on when the going gets tough.

  17. “The State has no business in personal decisions if a woman is going to bring a child into her world.”

    Exactly. Who said anything about forcing anyone? It’s the Church who wants to meddle in personal decisions.

  18. i think that the only politicians afraid of the church are those carrying the baggage of corruption, wrongdoing or impropirety.

    it seems odd that the church does not speak out or take action against these kinds polticians, so long as they submit to the will of the church, toe the church line on issues, fatten the coffers and pockets of the church and do them some favors here and there.

    a straight and honest politician is useless to the church. there wouldn’t be any horns sticking out for the church to hold on to and control which direction to go. =)

    ironically, corrupt politicians need the church for their survival. the church shields them from being prosecuted by the flock and provides them with a “moral” precipice on which to hold on to.

    the more corrupt a politician is, the more SHE needs the church! and for the church, the longer the horns, the better and easier for them to control her.

  19. Sunnyday,

    The issue has nothing to do about faith.

    It is about a Church endangered of losing its significance or trying to assert its (remaining) significance on an entirely secular matter.

  20. Religion is a childish, dangerous non-sense.

    Look at where it led bin-Laden…

    or George Bush justifying action in Iraq in the name of his religion.

  21. Richard,

    You are right about one thing, in a way.

    When discussing issues pertaining to reproductive health, I dwell on practical points that don’t even have anything to do with religion. But I realize that those who bring religion into the discussion and somehow manage to end up lambasting people in the Church or making sweeping statements such as “religion is a childish, dangerous non-sense” are the ones who want to make it an issue of faith or non-faith. Too bad, for it hampers fruitful discussion.

  22. But Sunnyday, do you also realize that the biggest blocking force on this entirely secular matter is the religious bigots in the Roman Catholic church?

    You want the secular to leave the religious alone?

    Oh so very fine.

    I also want the religious to leave the secular alone.

  23. i think that the only politicians afraid of the church are those carrying the baggage of corruption, wrongdoing or impropirety.

    it seems odd that the church does not speak out or take action against these kinds polticians, so long as they submit to the will of the church, toe the church line on issues, fatten the coffers and pockets of the church and do them some favors here and there.

    a straight and honest politician is useless to the church. there wouldn’t be any horns sticking out for the church to hold on to and control which direction to go. =)

    ironically, corrupt politicians need the church for their survival. the church shields them from being prosecuted by the flock and provides them with a “moral” precipice on which to hold on to.

    the more corrupt a politician is, the more SHE needs the church! and for the church, the longer the horns, the better and easier for them to control her.

  24. “Who said anything about forcing anyone? It’s the Church who wants to meddle in personal decisions.”

    Like I said, it’s lack of understanding and a cynicism that may be behind such perceptions. I’ll leave you to your bias. However, let’s hope you work harder to keep thinking and not allow your bias to cloud your judgment and see things in a more objective way. Such as how this bill is giving too much power to the State, right under our nose. One example is the “ideal family size” provision, which to me should not be there.

    The “ideal family size” that is “not being imposed” through the bill — sure it’s not being imposed EXPLICITLY. But think about it—imposing an ideal family size (whether it’s 2, 1, 5… whatever the number) on the people would have generated numerous protests from the public. The State has no right to impose something like that on the people. So start by “encouraging” it, and probably in a few years, Filipinos will have gotten used to the idea of 2-child families so that finally establishing a formal policy such as a 2-child policy would hardly create a ripple (of course, except for those among the more vigilant citizens who know better). That’s because the stage has been set years prior to that, and people’s minds have been conditioned for it starting with being “encouraged” to have an “ideal family size” of 2 kids.

    If you fail to see the connection with the meddling that the State is doing, maybe you could read up more.

    As for other manifestations of the State’s meddling, employers are not exempted from this. Imagine requiring them to provide contraceptive drugs and services to their employees, with corresponding penalties imposed on employers who choose not to sponsor their employees’ sexual activities. Freedom to choose huh?

  25. …or making sweeping statements such as “religion is a childish, dangerous non-sense” …

    That is not a sweeping statement.

    That is a STATEMENT!

  26. Richard,

    It’s probably due to your dissatisfaction with the Church or with Catholic people that you fail to get past “Catholic – nonCatholic” categories. If you let such things hamper your evaluation of the issues and are unable to go beyond labels and stereotypes, you’re letting even yourself down because you refuse to inform yourself about the issues.

    I liken it to wanting to be non-conformist for the sake of not conforming, even when in a particular situation, making a choice that just happens to be the choice of the status quo, is the better thing to do for any thinking individual.

  27. Btw, Manolo, thanks for your post. And I appreciate that you tackle issues in a detached manner. I started reading your blog only a few days ago, and I find it to be worthwhile reading. Thanks.

  28. And Sunnyday, please don’t tell me whether i am right or wrong.

    Just let the soundness of our arguments speak for itself, no need to pass judgement on its rightness or wrongness because then you will certainly be not objective in your judgement of rightness or wrongness.

  29. Manolo, i think you bring up excellent points, particularly the clear eyed view of what the proponents of the RH Bill are up against. However, i believe as well that the Ateneo faculty should be commended for putting a stake on the ground (and for Blackshama for bringing this to our attention). I believe that in the larger scheme of things, whether it be the B&Wm (against Garci) or the Ateneo faculty (for the RH Bill), these sorts of advocacies (and resulting debates) are never a ‘waste of time’.

  30. cjv, well progress is achieved in large part through dissent. but what we can debate politically is a no-contest in terms of religion.

  31. Yes it is a no-contest in terms of religion because religion starts from a unilateral assertion of “truth” and treats all who beg to differ as “sinners”.

    It’s kinda like calling someone’s assertion “dumb” without actually having the wherewithal to articulate in specific terms why such a description is deemed appropriate. 😉

  32. The debates where Religion is in the middle, can usually be settled by the courts, itself. Politicians, in my opinion will cater to their constituents and if in some cases will be allowed Free to act on their own and Vote with their Own Conscience, is just like any individual and that decision will not be based on practicability, but in individual belief and views and in most instances may not be in concert with the constitution and common law.

    Liberalization of Reproductive Laws in some countries, arises not by Legislation but by Decisions of the Courts on Challenges and Appeals brought before them against the Law prevailing on those time. Once declared unconstitutional, those laws are null and void and have no Force and what ever original wrongdoings the appellants and challengers were charged that brought them before the courts are now deemed Legal. I believe legal minds would call it common Law. which is parts and parcels of the fundamental laws of the land. And the Catholic Church can also submit its org. as intervenor if they so desire during the courts hearings and put out their arguments. let democracy works as it is intended to.

  33. As earnestly discerning Catholics, or any earnest religion practitioner for that matter, one should learn to distinguish between the Faith and its practices or its visible earthbound hierarchy. Priests and/or Popes, however predisposed they are, are foremost still a part of the practices of Faith, and are apart from the mystical Faith itself.

    The inability to make this distinction leads one to make reckless statements such as the one about Bin Laden and Bush.

    And dissent within the practice of any religion does not necessarily lead to non-membership or non-practice of one’s religion. And in the practice of the Catholic religion as archaic and old-fashioned as many may describe its tenets and beliefs, dissent to a large extent is still an integral part of it. For example, the immediately prior Pope ruled negatively against the current war in Iraq and he clearly was espousing a view quite opposed to many US Catholics who favored the war. Did these particular Catholics immediately become non-practicing Catholics because of their dissent?

    The issue of abortion rights in the US continues to play a big part in elections. Still Church hierarchy continues to tread lightly, or not harshly enough, in dismissing those Catholic politicians who publicly espouse even extreme abortion rights. It is expected that many law-abiding practicing Catholics will be voting for candidates who are in the forefront of abortion rights.

    All these confound my interpretation of what a non-practicing Catholic is.

    As to minimum requirements in the practice of the Catholic Faith, indeed the “precepts” of the Church enumerate them for its devotees – confession and communion at least once a year, Mass on Sunday and holydays, days of fasting and abstinence, etc. But is practice anchored on those rather mundane observances?

    So keeping away from its rites and rituals, apart from the initial and most elemental requirement which is Baptism, qualifies one as non-practicing, regardless how one regards the Church’s core doctrines?

  34. It’s really about being able to distinguish between being TRULY spiritual and being MERELY religious.

    There’s a difference between the religious and the spiritual that escapes most ordinary Pinoys’ sensibilities.

  35. RH bill requires consultation among women’s group. Why is it , there’s too many men discussing what a woman should do for her body and her well being. Yes, I agree … it’s my secular ideals.

    The role of government is to provide choices and opportunities for a woman to become independent in an economic sense.

    This type of issue should clearly be publicized. The debate itself is an education to the people. On going discussions on TV and media should provide two sides of the stories. A good strategy can lean towards health issues on women, well being of the children and human rights.

  36. leytenian: the answer to you “why is it… ” question is because, as the norm in practically all religions, the woman is expected to obey the dictates of the man. Which explains why it is priest that preyed on boys (not priests preying on girls) that caused all the troubles for the Roman Catholic Church.

  37. Secular democracy is a legacy worth fighting for, because it alone provides safe pubic space for both believers and unbelievers, orthodox as well as dissenting views. The neutrality of the state on religious matters and its guarantee of freedom of belief as well as unbelief provide safeguards for a genuine dialogue between sectors on issues that have a bearing on public policy. Without secularism, public debate on policy matters cannot proceed on a rational basis and cannot generate the necessary information for making sound public policies as well as mobilizing resources for these policies. It wouldn’t do for any one party to invoke its franchise from God; parties-in-conflict would have to engage in an intelligent and civilized public debate, observing common (secular) protocols for disputation and adjudication.

    An intelligent debate on public issues cannot be conducted on the premise of the now fashionable (post-modern) notion of democracy as an institutional setup that entitles every ethnic community and religious group to special privileges against external criticism on issues of broad societal concern such as denial of women’s reproductive rights, arranged marriages for minors, and so forth. Examples of these special privileges include speech codes and anti-blasphemy laws that are based on the confusion of respect for persons with respect for their ideas. Such distortion of democracy only leads to any or all of the following evils:

    1. tyranny of dominant religious groups by virtue of state-guaranteed special privileges to meddle in the affairs of government;
    2. ghettoization of cultural minorities and strengthening of their traditional leaders without commensurate accountability for respecting the constitutional rights of their individual members as citizens of the republic;
    3. elite cooptation of leaders of minority communities and their very agenda for sector-amelioration as quid pro quo for special privileges; and
    4. self-censorship and concealment of deep-seated prejudices that manifest themselves in insidious and antagonistic forms.

    Secularism, however, is a necessary but insufficient condition for the development of the country as a whole. The flaw in nominally democratic secular states such as ours lies not in the alleged “stupidity of the majority” but in the limited and inconsistent observance of democracy with regard to ownership of productive assets, distribution of incomes and benefits, as well as control over the policy-making process. The ideals of liberty, equality, and fellowship do not prevail in nominal democracies not because of their lack of validity, but because of their being stunted by stratification of these societies along class, ethnic, gender and/or geopolitical lines (imperial states-client states divide). These modes of stratification generate impoverishment and social exclusion of underprivileged sectors that in turn fuel identity-formation and violent contention along ethnic and religious lines. The studies of Indian social scientist Amartya Sen on human rights and multiple identities are instructive in this regard, for they demonstrate the integral links between democracy, equality and human development against (a) those who prescribe authoritarian regimes as agents of nation-building and economic modernization and (b) those who preach the establishment of either a full-fledged theocracy or at least a religion-friendly state that extends privileges to religious sects and other faith-based institutions in areas such as public education, health and other social services.

  38. amadeo, since we can never know what truly goes on in another person’s head or heart, then catholicism (or any other religion) requires tangible signs of a commitment to the community of the faithful. the minimum requirements would be sunday mass and communion at easter, the sacraments as called for and appropriate and other observances. whether the person engages in all these with a proper disposition or to go through the motions is another thing entirely.

    the member of the faith who declines to engage in the community aspect of the faith separates himself from the community of the faithful, though we may not know if this also means a turning of one’s back on God -but certainly keeping away from the community is a sign of something, and usually it is a rejection of the community. there can be many reasons, feelings of unworthiness or a sense of grievance or defiance. in the same manner certain acts by their very nature incur immediate and automatic excommunication, non-attendance at mass and declining the sacraments is already a separation from the church.

    but this is different from an outright renunciation of the church and an outright repudiation of one’s membership in that church. certainly it can be argued that is merely a matter of degree or even of terminology but the reality is the same. at the very least refraining from an outright and definitive rejection of the church leaves open the chance of reconciliation between the individual and the community of the faithful.

    there’s a book i’ve been listening to ( whose author declares himself an agnostic, because he considers the fervor with which atheists proclaim their disbelief a kind of faith itself and arrogant besides; in this sense i am hostile to those who declare an irreconcilable and total hostility to religion and its tenents because it seems to me a fatally flawed attitude, ignoring the many consolations and benefits religion offers society, not least of which is something remarkably lacking in the secular inquisitors of the heirs of yesterday’s religious inquisitors: which is, compassion, and add to that, mercy. both are characteristics many more religious people seem to have in spades compared to the kind of smug nonbelievers who get all savaranolaesque with reason and spit on religion as a world view.

    a healthy respect for religion as something that can address things beyond the ken of science and human institutions, and which can exalt the human spirit, and move people -individually and collectively- to great acts of bravery, compassion, mercy, and so forth, besides the evils religion can foster but which irreligion and anti-religion can foster just as thoroughly and beyond the wildest imaginations of even the most zealous religious inquisitor, is the minimum attitude we should have.

    at the same time that healthy respect needs to include a healthy dose of fear on the part of those who are, by choice or due to some other reason, living lives or adhering to principles and attitudes fundamentally incompatible with the teachings and dogma of specific religions. that fear must be eradicated; and it is in the secular realm that the elimination of that fear, without the excesses of auto da fes on one part, or the massacring of the clergy in past revolution on the other (a society that murders priests and nuns will murder writers, imprison artists, torture dissenters, liquidate minorities it doesn’t like or believes subhuman or counterrevolutionaries, etc.).

    a person who sneers at religion -and who proclaims it empty or void of meaning- is a person absolutely identical, in terms of narrowness and poverty of thought and imagination, not to mention charity and compassion, as a crazed inquisitor or a bolshevik or nazi thug.

  39. Wow. Are we gonna see a Christian Talibanisation of the Philippines? 🙂

    My 6 Catholic cents:

    Divorce – is not a good solution but a reasonable safety net. Nobody likes to get divorced. It’s messy. But it could be necessary.

    Euthanasia – is less cruel than forcing someone to endure prolonged pain and suffering from a terminal illness.

    Abortion – should be up to a well-informed pregnant woman to decide. No woman likes to have an abortion, what with all the risks involved. But in some cases, like rape, it’s only humane to let women decide for themselves.

    Total Family Planning – what’s wrong with that??? Only idiots don’t want to plan their family’s future.

    Homosexual Marriage – is not really a good idea if you’re worried about the survival of human species. But that’s just me. It could also be argued that we are overpopulated and homosexuality is nature’s evolutionary response.

    Sex Education – only idiots or people who don’t get laid often enough will oppose this. I’m sure 90 percent of the adults who oppose sex education are HYPOCRITES.

  40. What the CBCP do not make clear is that divorce is NOT the objective (in other words, everyone buy everyone wishes that when he and she gets married, that they treat each other with respect and well enough that the marriage lasts until one or the other dies. Divorce just says if there is savagery in the marriage, then killing the other is not the only way to obtain freedom. One can just apply for divorce via the courts (and where the courts are required to protect the interests of the children).

    Repro-Health, likewise. There is no requirement that the male has to put on the condom when there is intercourse, nor is the woman required to buy pills or to insert an IUD. No requirement at all. BUT if husband and wife want to space their children, then the condom or the IUD becomes available without difficulty.

    Euthanasia is NOT part of the Repro-Health Bill.

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