Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity,religion and morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim the tributeof patriotism who should labor to subvert these great pillars of human happiness, thesefirmest props of the duties of men and citizens. — George Washington
[W]hile I am a stickler for the principle of separation between Church and State, I believe quite strongly that there should never be a separation between God and State. — Rodrigo Duterte
THE founding father of the United States of America and the leading political thinker of the Renaissance believed it was indispensable for nationhood. So does the current Chief Executive of the Philippines, as he said in his State of the Nation Address last July.
In the history of nations, religion not only shapes a people’s identity and culture. Its moral discipline, enforced by belief in divine justice in this life or the next, helps immensely in keeping citizens obedient to law and respectful of authority.
So why is President Rodrigo Duterte lambasting Catholic bishops and priests, whose stern admonitions on four-fifths of Filipinos under their sway do much to fight lawlessness and the lure of wanton living, including narcotics, on which he wages war?
Whatever the reason, it’s really not good for law enforcement if people lose respect for the Church and faith in its preachings.
What if Filipinos discard their faith?
As this column argued in our May 30 article last year, speaking of then-President-elect Duterte: “He can’t deliver on his winning pledge to eradicate crime and corruption if the Catholic Church ever lost its moral authority over the great majority of Filipinos.
“Imagine if most of the 85 million baptized Catholics in the country water down the religion’s key tenets, and pick and choose which of the Ten Commandments to follow.
“Indeed, millions already discard the Sixth and Ninth Commandments, while countless others break the Fifth and the Seventh. (If people don’t know that the first two prohibit illicit sex, while the latter ban killing and stealing, that only underscores the problem.)
“What if Duterte actually succeeds in convincing tens of millions of Filipino Catholics that they don’t have to listen to bishops and priests because of abuses and hypocrisy by some clerics? Would that lead to more or fewer people killing, stealing, and deviating from traditional family values?
“Would eroding Catholicism’s influence increase or decrease lawlessness, sleaze, drug addiction, violence, family breakups, juvenile delinquency, and all the other social ills Duterte rails against? Or does religiosity advance lawful, virtuous living?
“And which would help win the battle against lawlessness—quarreling with the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines, or persuading the CBCP to issue pastoral letters and institute sermons, prayers, and parish programs enjoining tens of millions of believers across the archipelago to abide by the law, support law enforcement, eschew corruption, and strengthen family values as a bulwark against delinquency and drugs?”
Indeed, the Church certainly commands far more credibility and respect than the government. The Philippine Trust Index of 2015, the latest nationwide survey done by public relations company EON, counted nearly three-quarters of Filipinos (73 percent) trusting the Catholic Church, far ahead of the academe (51 percent), media (32 percent), and the government (12 percent).
Sure, President Duterte enjoys an excellent trust rating of more than 80 percent. But that’s an argument not for bashing the Church, but working with it, so that their combined high public credibility would mobilize the people to fight crime and drugs, instead of eroding each other’s lofty trust ratings
In short, Mr. President, you need the Filipino people’s centuries-old adherence to Catholic faith, morals and authority to fight the scourge of lawlessness and drugs.
The bishops also need Digong
At the same time, the Church needs President Duterte’s rough campaign against drugs and lawlessness.
Crime incidence tripled in the past administration, to more than 1 million a year starting 2013, from 324,083 in 2010. Imagine how many grave sins are committed every day, endangering the souls of millions of people.
Thankfully, after six months under Duterte, crime is down by one-third to one-half, depending on the type of offense. That means at least 3,000 murders prevented, along with 3,000 rapes, 20,000 robberies, and 75,000 physical injuries, based on 2014 data.
As for drug addiction, which enslaves souls to the demands of body and psyche, between 1 million and 3 million users are in narco-chains, their free will and consciences rendered largely incapable of exercising the moral choices which affirms the faithful’s faith, hope and love toward the Lord.
Even worse, millions of families are torn apart, hugely burdened, and even bloodied and beaten, as loved ones are driven to anger, depression, crime, and violence.
Except in a few families graced by God, can virtue flourish amid such entrenched vice?
And while killing outside of self-defense violates God’s law and can never be justified, the sad reality is that if the government relied solely on strict due process to fight drugs and crime, the syndicates and their protectors in government would just laugh, and more than a million drug users and pushers would still be sniffing and shooting, plus stealing, kidnapping, raping and killing under narco-influence or in hopes of getting cash for their habit.
But thank God, Church and State may be moving toward talking and walking together.
Last Friday, Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella said of the Church: “Let’s try to reach out to one another and have a real dialogue and real conversation.”
“That is always the better solution to anything,” agreed Bataan Bishop Ruperto Santos. “You listen to them, present everything, and let’s observe what are the things that we can work together and things that we are going to avoid.”
May Church and State find common cause for our nation’s sake. So help them God.