Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Ya Gotta Keep 'Em Separated

I was recently touring my barkada around Antipolo when he came by for a visit in my fair city. Of course, one of the must sees here is the historic Church of Our Lady of Peace and Good Voyage. Being both political science graduates and civil servants, we found it a welcome break to just chill out and see the sights, and not think about the messy world politics and governance. But just when we entered the gates of the Church, lo and behold, a gigantic banner stating the Catholic Church's opposition to House Bill 5043, a.k.a. the Reproductive Health Bill, was hanging out there for the world to see. And walking further inside, we could hear the loud shouts of the priest condemning to the depths of hell the said house bill. We could only heave a sigh of disbelief at the situation and I suddenly remembered once more why I haven't attended a sunday mass in over two decades.

Surprise! Once again, the Church is showing how full of holiness it is, by showering the nation with holy pieces of shit and saintly servings of baloney, and passing it off like it was holy water. It used to be that there was a very thin and fragile line separating State and Church. Nowadays, that line has been obliterated.

(Confession: Let me clarify something. I am no longer Catholic. I was born, raised, and educated as one but it is my personal choice to not practice the religion imposed upon me by the circumstances of my birth.)

The Church has always had a say in the politics of the Philippines. From the time of the Spanish friars to today's meddling priests, the Church has always had a voice in political issues, whether asked for or not (often the latter).

The Church suddenly must have had an epiphany and tought it can choose whether a bill in Congress was fit for passing or not. They would have chosen to take the power of "Judicial Review" from the Supreme Court if they could. And they do this in the name of all the Filipinos.

No. 1: They don't have the right to say they speak on behalf of all Filipinos. They often commit the mistake that since close to 90% of Filipinos are Catholic, to speak in behalf of the Church is to speak on behalf of the country. And consequently, "Vox Populi, Vox Dei." It's such a Catch-22 situation that the Church wants to happen. Catholicism is a religious exercise that adheres to the separation of State and Church. “Render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s, and unto God the things that are God’s” Christ's words, not mine.

No. 2: Being a Republic mandates that officials be elected to seats in Congress in order to formulate laws for the people. Whether the ones elected are smart or not, the Church does not decide on it. Legislative powers are vested in the Senate and the House of Representatives, not to Bishops.

The most ghastly political party in the Philippines is the Church. And since the Church feels it's okay for them to interpret what is right and wrong in the country's laws, let me try to meddle in their dogma.

For a country that has an 89 million population (and growing) with not enough resources to provide a decent life for everyone, the Church feels that family planning and contraceptives are evil. They still feel that when God said "Go forth and multiply," He meant for humanity to do it with wild abandon. God created nature to sustain human life, but note that he created Mother Earth as a finite matter. Therefore, God must have meant that population growth should not happen in a manner disproportional to what amount of resources He gave man. I'm not a theologian, but I'm pretty sure God doesn't want a person to live an existence that's always lacking in sustenance for all the parts of his life.

The Church would rather accept that married couples live an estranged and cold manner while possibly affecting the growth of their children negatively, than to simply allow for divorce. Hence, there is only annulment in the Philippines. Why can't they just let couple move on with their lives if they felt they made a mistake in being together. Marrying the wrong person is not a sin, keeping unhappy couple together is an abomination. "What God has joined together let no man put asunder." I'd rather interpret this phrase as a reminder that outside parties should not meddle in the affairs of a couple but not as a prohibition on separation should man and woman feel they no longer want to be together. Forcing couple to stay together, I believe, is the greater sin.

As for abortion, I have to refrain from any argument here as this is too technical a matter. This has to be left entirely to the wisdom of the Judiciary and, yes, the Legislative branches of Government. This is complicated by the issue of when a human being actually starts to exist. But should it be decided by "the lawful authorities" that actual existence does not occur until after the 3rd month of pregnancy or before live birth or whenever they think it does, then there should be a law allowing abortion. I may or may not agree with it, but it was the decision of, again, "the lawful authorities." Let us just voice are opinion during election period through our vote should we disagree.

I'm not going to discuss here the Church's idea of acceptable forms of art, television, music, movies, websites, video games, and publications. They do a good job of preaching their ideas on such matters everywhere. Really, it's too funny and tragic at the same time. And it's useless to argue with the Church on the concept of morals being relative. Morality, in a state of being absolute, precludes any argument against itself.

I also guffaw whenever the Church insists that the Government should crack down on landowners in order to distribute it to the farmers who actually tend the land. The Church is probably the biggest landowner in the country but I don't see them rushing to distribute lands that they merely alloy to lay fallow. Why not just give up? What are you going to do with it? Build more churches? Such utter hypocrisy!

Those lands could be used for housing, for schooling, or for small business establishments. Houses, schools, and businesses are what the country needs, not more sermons from a bully pulpit. Before you ask people to let go of what they have, why not try to let go of what you have.

I believe that religious organizations should be taxed. They can vote. They can criticize government. They're benefited by good laws that Congress from time to time manage to produce. But they don't pay taxes like everybody else in the country does. For that, I can't see how they can actually be part of a Republic.

Why don't I just invent a God, preach about him/ her/ it, and then ask for tax exemption. Preposterous? But isn't that the simple explanation about what a lot churches do. They piss on our leg and then tell us its manna from heaven.

But the future seems brighter now. Abp. Angel Lagdameo (President of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines, CBCP) and Abp. Gaudencio Rosales (the successor of Sin as Archbishop of Manila) have been consistently trying to show that the realm of the secular and the religious are indeed separated. They have been responsible enough in not pulling the trigger on church intervention at every instance. And I commend them. Too bad there are other members of the clergy out there who feel that church is the boss of the state in all matters by the way they act.

To end my rant, let me just say that I don't believe in religion or miracles. But I don't mind if secular and religious people out there say a prayer for the Philippines and hope for a miracle in national development. But development can only occur once there is a clear understanding that separation between State and Church is absolute and inviolable. No ifs, no buts.

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