Reacting to the US Supreme Court legalization of “same-sex marriage” throughout the United States, Archbishop Socrates Villegas, president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, said the Filipino bishops and clergy will continue to teach what the Church has always taught about marriage. Namely, that it is the permanent and exclusive union of one man and one woman for the propagation of the species.
The natural institution of marriage, blessed by God, cannot be reduced by deconstructionists like Jacques Derrida and his heirs into a sexual union or partnership between two or three persons of the same sex. Not only Catholic Christians have a right and duty to defend this truth.
Coming from the highest court of the world’s lone superpower, the ruling in Obergefell vs. Hodges has certainly disturbed all the cultural, moral and legal fault-lines around the world. It is the dictatorship of relativism’s most audacious and intrusive edict, and all morally indifferent lifestyles seem to approve it. But the Church has an eternal vocation to the truth, and cannot possibly capitulate. Were the Pope himself to declare “same-sex marriage” as the new orthodoxy, he would be reviled and opposed by the whole Church; the doctrine itself would remain false, and the bishops, priests, religious and the laity would have no right or duty to alter their knowledge, understanding and profession of the indelible and immutable truth.
We thank and commend Archbishop “Soc” for assuring everyone that the Church will continue to teach what she has always taught about marriage. It’s another way of saying the Church draws the line between her Magisterium and the political emanations from the global powers, despite the sorry behavior of the Aquino administration, in the case of “reproductive health.”
But the CBCP president could probably have said a little bit more, notably about the fundamental issue of morality, for the sake of educating those who see a false boon to humanity in “same-sex marriage.” Although Church teaching on marriage as on everything else has been constant, this did not prevent some of the Catholic justices on the Court from attacking the integrity and dignity of marriage.
Did these “Catholics” intend, by their action, to force a seismic change in Church teaching on marriage? Most likely not. For they were the first to know, what even the non-Catholic justices presumably knew, that no court ruling could ever compel the Church to alter her teaching on anything simply by attacking it.
Therefore, while the CBCP president’s statement tried to reassure, it did not say enough. It merely tried to close an already closed door, when it could have opened a large window as well to let in the sunlight on the rights of man and the rights of God, which the justices had chosen to discard or usurp. The justices did not have to hear from Archbishop Soc that their ruling would not affect Church teaching on marriage, which is a universal public good, one bit. But they needed to be told that they did not have the right or the competence to redefine marriage.
No matter how words are perverted, they retain their original meaning, says Camus. This is what they should have been told. With the zeal of our Lord driving the moneychangers out of the Temple, Archbishop Soc could have come out swinging against the ruling. For even though it had no direct impact on the Filipino faithful, it has put marriage and the defenders of marriage at great risk.
There are times when the good shepherd, sensing danger to his flock, must summon all his courage and strength to confront and drive away the big bad wolf. This is one such time. To leave the wolf near the fold would be bad for the sheep. I hope that the entire CBCP would take up this challenge when it meets for its next semi-annual plenary meeting later this month, before the puppet Aquino tries to lick Barack Obama’s boots, again, by paying off the political mercenaries in Congress to pass an abominable law on “same-sex marriage.”
Reacting to my previous columns, one prominent politician told me the other day that if ever PNoy or any senator or congressman tries to push any same-sex proposal in Congress, we should be ready to defeat it to a national referendum or plebiscite. The suggestion was well-intentioned, but it showed that the road to hell is indeed paved with good intentions.
There are self-evident truths, which do not depend on a majority vote. The truth is never subject to ascertainment or confirmation by a majority vote. Even if every voter knew what is morally right and what is morally wrong, and our voting system were as honest and transparent as the voting that takes place during a conclave to elect a new Pope, we do not need a referendum to establish the truth.
We do not need a majority vote to affirm the fact that no human being ever creates himself, that every person is born either male or female, and that only the sexual union of the two is capable of naturally generating a new life. We need to recognize God-given truth for what it is.
Majorities, no matter how powerful, do not guarantee that truth and justice would be served. This is evident in both the legislative and the judicial processes. It was a Supreme Court majority under Chief Justice Roger Taney that declared in Dred Scott v. Sandford in 1857, that Negro slaves were commodities rather than human beings to be traded, that even free blacks were non-citizens, and that Congress could not restrict slavery in the federal territories.
In 1896, in Plessy v. Ferguson, as referenced in a US Family Research Council paper, the US Supreme Court majority upheld racial segregation through its infamous “separate but equal” doctrine, which provided “unequal” facilities for the Whites and the Blacks, those for the latter being significantly inferior to those for the former. Justice John Harlan, dissenting, said segregation should have been declared unconstitutional because the US Constitution is colorblind.
In 1954, in Brown v. Board of Education, the Supreme Court corrected its error in Plessy. But not before committing another error in Lochner v. New York, where it struck down as unconstitutional a New York state law limiting to 60 the number of hours per week that the owner of a bakery could require or permit his employees to work.
The law was meant to protect workers from the high risk of lung disease “from breathing in the flour dust and severe burns from the ovens,” but the Supreme Court said no. Like Dred Scott, Lochner was finally repudiated under the immensely popular Franklin Delano Roosevelt fighting a great Depression.
These are but some of the instances where error and injustice were committed because of a misguided majority vote. In our jurisdiction, we could cite the impeachment and removal of Chief Justice Renato Corona; the forced enactment of the Reproductive Health Law; the systematic lying in the Mamasapano massacre inquiries to shield PNoy from any criminal accountability; the ongoing efforts to ensure a thoroughly manipulated electoral process in 2016 through Smartmatic and the Comelec — all by majority action of the collective groups involved.
A clear ethical mind is needed to avoid these follies. But this requires a fair understanding of objective ethical principles, without which one may be tempted to repeat what an old senator of the realm said a few years ago during a public debate, “what is ethical to you is not ethical to me.” In this case, the strength of the law, which springs from the truth and justice, yields to the power of the strong.
We all could use a good guide. For me, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI is one such guide. He remains (for me) the world’s foremost living theologian and intellectual. In discussing the moral foundations of a free state, he examines the ethical foundations of the law, and poses this question: Are there not some things that can never be legalized, things that always remain wrong? And are there not some things that always remain absolutely legally binding, things that precede every majority decision, things that majority decision must respect?
From the essence of what it is to be human, there follow, in Benedict’s view, unconditional values that cannot be altered by shifts in parliamentary (or judicial) majorities. Of course, the numbers count in reckoning majorities, but truth and justice, not numbers, always decide what is right and what is wrong.
A bought Congress could impeach and remove a non-erring Chief Justice, enact an immoral RH law, and prevent the impeachment and removal of an impeachable and obviously guilty president. A bought High Court on the other hand, (may it never come to pass), could declare a former American and naturalized Filipino citizen as a “natural-born citizen,” in order to allow her to run for an office for which she is not constitutionally or morally qualified.
None of these could alter the truth, but we could lose the truth, if we do not watch out. We have to work extra hard to make sure this does not happen. We must not lose our grip on our moral lives. This is the key. From the derangement and idiotization of our morality flows the derangement and idiotization of our politics, not vice versa. Let us never forget that.