It’s not everyday that a Catholic priest impresses me with his pragmatism and honesty when speaking about controversial issues like contraception and especially with his guts in defining the limits of the moral authority of his superiors, the bishops. I am talking about Fr. Ranhilio “Rannie” C. Aquino, who also happens to be dean of San Beda Graduate School of Law and whom I would like to call Fr. Freethinker, the secular priest.
And before anyone says, “Oxymoron!”, let’s try to put ‘secular’ into proper connotation:
Obviously, I am using the second definition in the case of “secular priest”. Fr. Rannie could profess allegiance to the Roman Catholic Church and yet carry no illusions that its dogmas are to be presumed infallible in public discourse. Let’s take for example these bits from the beginning paragraph of his Manila Standard Today
article titled Keeping in sync:
As a Catholic priest, I firmly believe that the Church has a sacred mandate and that…it is, and should be, “an expert on humanity”. And so it is troubling that many, if not most, church documents and pronouncements today…go unnoticed… Often, churchmen have only themselves to blame… Their pronouncements exhibit predictable patterns of thought couched in ecclesiastical language that is as tedious and as boring as the National Internal Revenue Code! This is true of the Philippine bishops’ comments on the reproductive health bill. The bishops’ theoretical framework is just out of sync with academic thinking today.
Now if you think there is some sort of hypocrisy here because how could a priest criticize the bishops’ statements and not resign from the Church, let’s take a look at what ‘hypocrisy’ means:
The first definition roughly says that hypocrisy means not believing
what you preach while in the second it’s not practicing
what you preach. In both cases, Fr. Rannie is not a hypocrite. Take note that the “preaching” being referred to here is his op-ed in Manila Standard Today
and not necessarily his sermons in church (which I have yet to hear). He “preaches” about the need for the Church’s hierarchy to keep up with the sophistication with which society views morality today, and though he remains with the institution that stubbornly and arrogantly insists on an outdated moral standard on human sexuality, he calls on the same institution to come up with a non-sectarian, philosophically tenable answer on what makes contraception morally objectionable
. Clearly this is not hypocrisy but integrity in its most concrete manifestation.
But alas, the influential bishops, who probably spend much more time reading Papal encyclicals inside their spacious, well-furnished residences than looking into the privation of Filipino families living in overcrowded slum areas, seem unable to distinguish between the Church and the Republic as far as the authority of their dogmas is concerned. And while our Fr. Freethinker may never become bishop because of his secular views, here’s to hoping that his voice, which is actually the voice of Reason, be heard by our politicians and echoed into our laws for the sake of our democracy.