When citizens and politicians start publicly opposing the Church on an issue as serious to the Catholic doctrine as contraception, one cannot help but imagine that the Age of Reason is finally coming to our country. And when a Catholic priest himself says that reason cannot be substituted by dogma, it seems there may really be hope for a true separation of Church and State after all.
Chairman of the Jurisprudence and Legal Philosophy Panel of the Philippine Judicial Academy Fr. Ranhilio C. Aquino wrote in Manila Standard Today a very interesting article titled Excommunication and other issues. On the proposed dialogue between Malacañang and the CBCP, Fr. Aquino expressed skepticism it will work:
It is necessary that our Republic be neutral in matters of religion—and in that sense, secular. In fact, the public sphere should be secular because religious dogmas, especially when they are exalted to the level of “mystery”, are notoriously opaque when it comes to verification and criticism. I am not saying that there are no mysteries; but you cannot invoke them in public discourse, except with others of similar persuasion.
The bishops and the supposedly secular government are on very different planes, the former insisting that their dogma is infallible and applies to everyone and the latter presenting facts and logic to say it isn’t so. Fr. Aquino continues:
Take that, CBCP! And those were not the words of a secularist; they came from within your very own clergy.
If the Catholic Church rejects the reproductive health bill because artificial means of contraception will be readily available under the aegis of such a law, then it should rightly be asked: What does the Catholic Church have against artificial means of contraception? If the only response the Church can give is “Humanae Vitae” and the consistent teaching of the popes and of most (certainly not all!) bishops, then that is not good enough an argument for the public sphere.
Indeed. If all they can say is that in 1968 God revealed to Pope Paul VI that sex must be kept open to procreation and that it is an abomination to isolate the unitive from the procreative purpose of sex, they cannot expect everyone to believe that. And if they say that Humanae Vitae is infallible because it was issued ex-cathedra, that won’t work either considering how science and history have shown how human fallibility exempts no one, not even the popes.
Of course, and that’s what true separation means: the State leaves the Church alone to preach to its own members whatever it wishes; the Church leaves the State alone to deliberate which laws would best serve the citizens.
And if the Church wants its own members to keep listening amidst the growing voice of Reason in the Philippines, the leaders should also try to hear what Fr. Aquino has to say:
At the present, that is what I find wanting: a truly coherent presentation of the Catholic position against artificial contraception that can meet with the approval of all of its members engaging in rational discourse as equals—whose voices are not silenced because they wear no miters on their heads! Perhaps this is the opportune time for us in the Catholic Church to revisit the matter, to take one more look at our premises and to ask about their dependability.
And perhaps this is an opportune time for the State as well to truly assert its independence. As Jose Ma. Montelibano said in his article The Church Has Lost Her Dominance, “The Church has used fear, it has used force, yet lost. It may try to use attraction, may try to raise its credibility, it may try to be the voice more of conscience rather than edict. It is not too late, but it is very late.”