The Church vs the President

12

ANTONIO P. CONTRERAS

IT is not only now that the Church has become a political institution.

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It has always been political ever since its birth. In fact, all forms of institutionalized religion are by nature political institutions. In theocracies, the church is even the backbone of the state.

The rise of the secular states and the entrenchment of the dictum of the separation of Church and the State are reactions to the enormous power of the Church in shaping the political trajectories of modern nations.

The Roman Catholic Church rose from the persecution of the early Christians, as marginalized forms of religion born from the caves and hidden alleys of Rome, but soon became a dominant and powerful institution that served and was served by kings and queens. From being persecuted, the Church became the persecutor. Torquemada inflicted the bloody horrors of the Inquisition from the privilege of being a Dominican drawing power not only from the institutionalized divine powers of the Roman Catholic Church but also from the civil powers of the Spanish crown.

People who were considered as threats to the power of the Church were considered as heretics and were tortured, crucified or burned at the stake.

The story of the Roman Catholic Church is written in blood and horror. It is a tale of corruption and greed.

The Roman Catholic Church of today is no less mired in controversies, many of which are of its own doing. Corruption allegedly exists even in the inner sanctums of the Vatican. The Church hierarchy has been accused of protecting pedophiles among its ranks.

In the Philippines, it has been revealed that the Church is in fact a capitalist institution, with billions of pesos worth of investments in real estate and business enterprises, the most notable of which is in mining.

And thus, the struggle for many Filipino Catholics would be how to maintain and nurture their faith in God in the context of a Church that has been, and continues to be, politicized and mired in its own narratives of hypocrisy.

And here, one has to take comfort in the fact that the Church, because of its political nature, is also a site for political contestations, for it is no longer just a monolithic hierarchy of men in robes like Padre Damaso ruling over an obedient and silenced people. Instead, it has become a living, breathing community of pragmatic believers, some of whom are as politicized in asserting their spaces within the Church.

There are Catholics who oppose the views of the bishops and priests on reproductive health.

There are also Catholics who support President Duterte.

No one should begrudge the Roman Catholic Church taking an active role in politics. In fact, it should allow itself to be a site for politics to exist, in the sense that it should allow debates to exist within its ranks, among its members.

What should be opposed is for the Church leaders to act once again like modern-day inquisitors who label those who disagree with them as supporters of evil. We do not want a Church that will once again have a dividing wall between the “true believers” and the heretics, effectively appropriating religion not as an instrument to enlighten, but as a weapon for political partisanship.

The Church that we need is one that would not invest itself in divisive discourse, but one that would enable a dialogue between all political voices. While difficult, the Church hierarchy must listen to all sides, and must be a vehicle not to celebrate Christian virtues selectively and privilege only those that are safe for the interest of one political group.

This is the problem of the Roman Catholic Church in the country. To many, it has become a partisan institution that has its own sins against the Filipino people. It is an institution that has to work hard to convince the people that it doesn’t have a particular political color, and that its vocal leaders are not serving certain partisan political interests.

When the Church came out with a pastoral message on extra-judicial killings, it was well within its right to express its continuing role as an institution that shapes our moral fiber as a nation. But this is not what is at issue here. What is at issue is that the Church did not come out with a pastoral letter earlier to address the issue of drugs, and of those lives it wasted and killed.

It is obvious that Filipino Catholics have evolved from a pliable, devout, obedient flock to a more assertive, divided and independent community of pragmatic believers struggling to keep their faith. Most of us have become too engaged in our own diverse moral and ethical groundings that given a choice between a Church that would like to confine, label and even demonize us, and a President that promises us hope and change, many will choose the curses of the latter over the condemnation of the former.

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12 Comments

  1. From the Bible John 8.7 where Jesus tells the accusers of a woman of adultery, He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her. – The Roman Catholic Church in this country better be squeaky clean before it looks on other’s faults.

  2. The greatest impact that Catholicism has had on the Phil is the preaching of corruption.

    In the old testament god issued laws and demanded compliance. Rule of Law. God exiled, killed with fire/brimstone, and floods; turned into salt pillars law breakers. Destroyed Jericho for the Jews.

    In the new testament, from which catholicism is derived, we learn that if we follow certain principles, we will be “rewarded” with eternal life in heaven – the “Ultimate Bribe”. Jesus preaches that we should tolerate law breakers – forgive them, and we will receive the pay-off in heaven. This is corruption in it’s most basic form!!!
    The control of the Phil was achieved with religion, not with armies of Spanish soldiers.
    The Spaniards did not teach the old testament. Neither does the mass said daily in the Vatican.

    Corruption is taught to our children using religion, by encouraging them to believe that IF they do the right thing they will be rewarded. The correct thing to teach is that they do the right thing precisely because it is the right thing to do and it is expected of them, they are responsible for the outcomes, and they will be held accountable for those actions (Rule of Law).

    The reality of the Phil is Rule of Corruption. Rule of law is still a dream in the Phil.

  3. The Catholic Church is in the politics of Devide since Cardinal Sin and now Villegas! These hypocrites serves only two masters, the Elite and the Yellows! Never did they thought of the interest and relevance of the POOR, drug addicts and other soceity menace! They love and complete with big businesses without paying the right taxes due the governement!

  4. The title uses “versus” as if the Church is against someone. True, we see people who are members of the Church and are seen as sinners. Sinners on this earth are all invited to embrace the Church. As long as we are on this earthly city, all we can see as Church are sinners. No two ways about it. The sinners who appreciate the invitation embark on a journey of faith. Through faith they know that everyone else is on the same journey of faith. By faith they know that their journey is a common undertaking. Corporal and spiritual works of mercy are vital in this endeavor. “Polis” is Greek for city. From it we have “politics” which is a common endeavor in building and sustaining the city. In our overly pragmatic politics, we divide the city instead of building it and making our temporary stay as pleasant as possible through corporal and spiritual works of mercy. We are made to forget that the final destination of this journey is to arrive at the “City of God”. Jesus is the new Moses who leads us in this journey. Where the Head goes the body follows. Jesus the Head has the Church as His body. Members of the Body who are still journeying are prone to the human frailties we all know first hand. No wonder then that famous Bicolanos are at odds. Not only for Bicolanos, but all pinoys: to be famous is a curse it seems.

  5. Venus Diomampo on

    I choose faith in God over any religion. The Roman Catholic Church Phil hierarchy are, like during election time, painting Duterte as evil and they, the bastion of holiness and propriety. They make us, members, believe that their words or following their homilies will bring us to heaven. Well, God is the my only Judge.

  6. How I would like to hear a pastoral letter from the RC church, or concerted homilies, on the evils of taking drugs and pushing drugs. that these are sins against the 4th commandment: You shall not kill. isn’t it that the mere thought of of lust is already a sin? then how about taking and pushing drugs, isn’t that in the same manner, also murder, although killing someone slowly? what did Jesus say? that we have to be better than the hypocrisy of the Pharisees.

    • I agree with you Capricorn, The Catholic Church has failed to see its own failures in nurturing the faith in God of its flocks and in reminding the catholics of the morals of society. Kung hindi sila nagkulang dapat walang mga magnanakaw, mangungutong, mandarambong at sakim at mga mamamatay tao. The two great commandments that Jesus has taught us, is to Love GOD first and to love our fellowmen second. That is the essence of the 10 Commandments.

  7. Too bad we werent covered by the Laws of Burgos(1512) and the New Laws(1542), huh? Then we wouldnt even have these problems.

  8. the problem with the church is the priests who are more concern in politicking rather than preaching for church purpose. just like in our government some of them looks like the disentes but most of them are also corrupt. today the church is now a business.

  9. Exactly my thoughts Mr. Contreras. Faith should be nurtured as it is eternal more than political ideologies which are fleeting. God is the ultimate judge of people, of presidents, of history.