Better for CBCP to urge faithful to pray

Archbishop Socrates Villegas

Archbishop Socrates Villegas

Anytime the Catholic Church, through the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), comes out with pronouncements, either in the form of a homily or a pastoral letter, strongly criticizing state matters it always frustrate many people, including myself.

Lately, CBCP president Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas released a pastoral letter once again blasting the Duterte administration’s war on drugs and the resultant extrajudicial killings happening during the campaign.

Villegas seemed to be bothered by the fact that despite the violence and excessive killings, most people have been reacting indifferently to it and rather feeling oblivious at the terror they are witnessing.

Thus, the pastoral letter was written and sent out to all churches so that every Tom, Dick and Harry of the cloth shall make it their responsibility to remind their respective parishioners to get involve and be more vocal against the extrajudicial killings happening almost every day that are being attributed to the police.

Villegas implied in his pastoral letter that if the members of the Catholic faith continue to act like the three wise monkeys that embodied the proverbial principle, “see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil”, then they are just as guilty as those perpetrating the crime.

This is what bugs me and frustrates me because I think the CBCP is over-dramatizing the situation and playing to the sentiments of the people who, otherwise, are thankful that the drug menace, criminality and corruption are finally being addressed seriously and imperatively by a strong-willed president who has the political courage and the moral ascendancy to move this country forward and improve the quality of life of every Filipino.

I have said this before, and I am going to say it again: Let the political system run the state and the clerical or religious functions run the church. Let no one meddle in somebody else realm. Each is governed by its own laws and power and it is simply imprudent and discordant to encourage and advocate the members of their respective realms to go against one another.

I understand that the people belonging to the church and state are all citizens of this country and as such have the same rights and privileges under the constitution. Individually, each can voice out his or her opinion.

But it is totally different when we talk about the church and state as entities.

The state is about governance of the country and its people.

The church is about governance of the soul of people, which can be made better by prayers and other religious/spiritual activities.

That is how distinctly separate they are.


Duterte presidency has no opposition


President-elect Rodrigo Duterte

President-elect Rodrigo Duterte

This is how the Rodrigo Duterte presidency is starting to appear.

It looks like every politician worth his salt regardless of his political affiliation seems to embrace the changes going to be made by the incoming president that they are not hesitating in joining Duterte’s brand of politics.

After having governments administered by traditional politicians all these years, or at least during the post-martial law regime, the people, most especially the politicians have come to realize that it takes Duterte’s style of iron-hand, no-nonsense leadership needed to fight corruption, drugs and criminality – all evils that that have plagued the political, economic and social life of the nation – which made the country poorer and the lives of people miserable.

Many have been impressed by the way Duterte transformed Davao City from a lawless city to one who many attest is very clean, peaceful and livable place

It is for this reason, among many other out-of- the-box solutions to the country’s problem that Duterte has declared he would do, that the incoming president won overwhelmingly in the presidential race.

His determined and fearless stand on issues that matter most to the nation and the Filipinos, which translates to political will, is what has endeared him to the citizenry who are supporting his every move.

Even the Catholic Church has been warned this early not to interfere in the affairs of the State, but rather both the Church and State must respect its separate existence and functions or power.

So, since everybody seems to be for Duterte, who or what political party will stand up against him?

Although opportunists from the once formidable Liberal Party (LP) have been flocking and joining with Duterte’s PDP-Laban political bandwagon some, like vice presidential hopeful (canvassing of votes still going on as I write, thus, the word hopeful) Leni Robredo and perhaps Sen. Frank Drilon and a few others loyal to the party will remain as members of the minority party.

But what can they really do as members of the opposition against the muscle of the ruling party?


Church gets bolder after Pope Francis visit

Pope Francis with homeless children.

Pope Francis with homeless children.

I think the Filipinos, in general, learned a lot of things from Pope Francis’ visit to the country, most especially about his being human, just like us. The only difference is that in his face, in his words, in his actions, and even, perhaps, in his reaction to events that transpired anywhere he went, people saw in him the personification of Christ.

What I also think is that, while the pope’s aura made such indelible impression to the lay people, even those outside the Catholic religion, it impacted more, however, to the officers and members of the Catholic Church organization.

The least affected perhaps, I would venture to say, are the insensitive and the callous individuals in our society, and that includes the politicians, among others.

But that is neither here nor there,

What I am just saying is that while the Church gets bolder in its reaction to the pope’s urgings of showing mercy and compassion for the poor, protection of the family, appreciation for children and stopping corruption, that it should do it within the bounds of the Church’s reaches and never to impinge in State matters to avoid controversy.

The most effective way to do this is if representations from the Church and the State meet to discuss contentious issues without the ideas being made the subject of church homilies.

I still believe that both the Church and the State can make a big difference in moving this country forward and uplifting the lives of the poor and the marginalized by doing their own separate and distinct functions.

But where the line is grey separating them, there is no better way to resolve an issue than to bring it up in a dialogue without ever using the pulpit to expound it.

Poverty in this country is no doubt the product of corrupt officials in government. Yes, Pope Francis was right when he said it is the reason for the ‘scandalous inequalities’ seen in the country all these times.

But then we must admit also that our increasing population is correlative to the increase in the number of poor people in our society – which means to say that the poor and the impoverished know not much really about responsible parenthood.

The country seems to be making head ways in stumping corruption, but unless responsible parenthood is made to succeed without much interference from the emboldened church, then I am afraid the poor, the homeless and the street children are here to stay with the oblivious or uninformed parents breeding like rabbits, as Pope Francis described them.

PNoy unfazed over excommunication threat

The separation of church and state can be compared to an intersection. One has to allow and respect the passage of another without causing conflict and disharmony.

Neither the state nor the church should try to impose, control or adapt their opinion or belief upon the other when it is only good and applicable to their own respective organization.

In the same manner that the state has the mandate to run the affairs of the country and the socio-political being of its people, the way they see fit in a democracy, so, too, has the church been given the theological authority to take care of the spirituality of their flock.

As much as we want the state business to be conducted by our elected government officials, reality, however, tells us that the interference of the church, relative to population growth and control, is very much evident.

Never have we seen the church flexed its muscles so brazenly, as it is today, when the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) president and Tandag, Surigao del Sur Bishop Nereo Odchimar threatened no less than the President of the Philippines of excommunication from the Catholic Church for supporting family planning using contraceptives and for taking a strong stand for the Reproductive Health bill.

It is reassuring and inspiring that President Aquino is unfazed over the tirades and intimidation by the Catholic hierarchy of expelling him from the Catholic Church knowing that his primary duty is for the well being of the nation and its people.

“We are guided by our conscience. My position has not changed. The state’s duty is to educate our families as to their responsibilities and to respect their decisions if they are in conformity to our laws,” PNoy said, shrugging off Odchimar’s threat.

It is, likewise, motivating and moving that lay Catholic members for the RH movement have openly supported PNoy, with their leader issuing courageously the following statement: “I believe that the President should not fear the Catholic Church, after all the CBCP is not the Catholic Church.”

But there is nothing more heartening than knowing that Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. himself is ready to face the wrath of the Roman Catholic Church in pushing for the passage of the Reproductive Health (RH) Bill.

If excommunication is the price one has to pay for seeing more Filipinos eating three square meals a day, staying healthy and enjoying quality life with families, then include me for voicing my unwavering support for PNoy.

At the end of the day, my one-on-one communion with God is what matters most.