The advocacy for secularism is an advocacy for rights. More specifically, it is the advocacy for certain privileges and claims that are being denied due to the lack of separation of Church and State in our country.
The Hoefeldian system classifies rights into privileges, claims, powers, and immunities. The dynamics of these four elements can be appreciated by observing how a religious country like the Philippines attempts to change its laws as it slowly breaks away from the authority of the Church.
Privileges and claims are called first-order rights: entitlements to perform/not perform certain actions, or that others perform/not perform certain actions. To have a privilege to do something means to have no duty not to do it, while to have a claim on something means that some other person or entity has a duty to satisfy that claim.
Powers and immunities, on the other hand, are second-order rights that have a bearing on first-order rights. To have power means to have the ability to alter one’s own or another’s privileges or claims, and to have immunity means that another person or entity lacks the ability to alter one’s privileges or claims.
To illustrate, take for example the right to drink alcohol. It is a privilege-right in the sense that people aged 18 and above have no duty not to drink, but it is not a claim-right because the government has no duty to provide alcohol, let alone for free. The government, however, has the power-right to suspend the right to drink (and the right to buy and sell liquor) as what the Commission on Elections (Comelec) is set to do four days before and during election day, although foreigners have a limited immunity from the Comelec ban since they can drink in certain hotels and establishments with special permits.
The rights commonly advocated by secularists today are reproductive health (RH), divorce, and marriage equality. The RH law grants certain claims to qualified citizens by imposing a duty on the government to provide free contraceptives. The divorce bill seeks to grant couples of failed marriages the privilege to start a new life with a new spouse by relieving them of the duty to remain married to their old partners. Advocates of marriage equality fight for equal rights – not “special” rights – of same sex couples so they can enjoy the same legal recognition, protection, and claims that heterosexual couples often take for granted.
Unfortunately, these rights have yet to see the light of day as the supreme court issued a status quo ante order on the recently-passed RH law, while divorce and marriage equality still have to hurdle a tedious legislative process which at any point could stop them in their tracks. While it is the State that holds the power to grant or deny these claims and privileges, those who represent the State are also human beings and may be influenced by their religious beliefs or dictated upon by their religious leaders, adversely affecting the citizens who don’t share their persuasions. In effect, religion – actually just one particular religion – still holds considerable power over all of us whether or not we subscribe to it, the constitutional inviolability of Church-State separation notwithstanding.
And so the advocacy for secularism is an advocacy against theocracy. It is a struggle against the undue influence of religion in public affairs, a drive to remind our public servants that they answer to the people and not to some church hierarchy. The call for secularism is a call to our fellow citizens to wield their power to choose the life they want to live, to think and act free from fear of excommunication and hell fire while remaining grounded on reason and evidence, and to strive to increase happiness and lessen needless suffering in this world. Ultimately, the advocacy for secularism is an advocacy for immunity from religion, and the advancement of the rights of the rational individual.
If you share this advocacy, please join Filipino Freethinkers as we fight for a true separation of Church and State in the Philippines.
BANGLADESH — Several atheist bloggers have recently been prosecuted for blasphemy by Islamic political parties. The said parties are calling for the death penalty as punishment for the bloggers’ “insulting religion” online.
Despite how Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina claims that the Bangladesh constitution is secular, she still goes on to contradict herself by saying that ”existing laws are enough” and “If anybody tried to hurt any sentiments of any religion or any religious leader, there is a law. We can take any action.” The Filipino Freethinkers stand in solidarity with these bloggers as the religious groups of Bangladesh seek to trample upon their right to freedom of speech.
If you would like to help out as well, the following are just some of the many ways to take action:
Express your dissent online. There is a ”Scarlet B” campaign for bloggers and others to express solidarity with the Bangladeshi bloggers (use the image on the right). The Twitter hashtag #HumanistSolidarity has also been used in connection with the Bangladeshi bloggers.
Contact the ambassador to Bangladesh from your country. The American Humanist Association has urged its members and supporters to contact the US Ambassador to Bangladesh and express their concerns. Individuals in most countries can undertake a similar action, writing to protest the arrests, and the threat to freedom of speech they represent. If a national ambassador receives even a small number of letters on the same topic this can draw an issue to their attention and raise its priority with the foreign government.
It can’t be said enough that ideas do not have rights, but people do, and that no expression of criticism warrants harming one’s fellow humans. To quote Evelyn Beatrice Hall, ”I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it”.
Brace yourselves. Marriage Equality is coming. It’s been happening all over the world recently, and it’s only a matter of time that it happens here.
But as with many developments in science and social justice, the conservative Catholic Church and its Pro Life cohorts will do everything to stop it. They’ll be particularly more antsy with the recent loss in the RH battle and a potential loss on divorce also looming.
They’ll explain how marriage equality — we don’t call it same-sex marriage anymore* — is an attack on the traditional marriage, the sanctity of the family, Filipino culture, and human existence itself. They’ll bring out their usual non-sequiturs and one-sided statistics.
And although this especially applies to their flock, the Church will fight so that it applies to everyone else. They have every right to do so, but it shouldn’t matter in a secular democracy. Yet just like “equality,” “secular” and “democracy” are words the Catholic Church has always been allergic to.
Although it was particularly aimed at secularism, it illuminated the Church’s stance on other issues, showing just why equality, secularism, and democracy are foreign ideas to this foreign institution:
The Church is essentially an unequal society, that is, a society comprising two categories of per sons, the Pastors and the flock, those who occupy a rank in the different degrees of the hierarchy and the multitude of the faithful.
So distinct are these categories that with the pastoral body only rests the necessary right and authority for promoting the end of the society and directing all its members towards that end; the one duty of the multitude is to allow themselves to be led, and, like a docile flock, to follow the Pastors.
The encyclical goes on to explain why secularism has been, is, and always will be denounced by the Roman Catholic Church.** For now, understand that in the same way that the Church fought against secularism until it became the obvious choice to almost everyone, they will do the same against marriage equality. They’ll rehash the same tired arguments they’ve been using to block the measure here and all over the world.
But ultimately, behind the flawed arguments and supposed “science,” what it all boils down to is this: the Church does not think marriage equality is a good idea, so everyone else will just have to obey them. Because in their unequal society, our one duty is to allow ourselves to be led, and, like a docile flock, to follow the Pastors.
* What LGBT couples are asking for is not a special kind of marriage that merits its own moniker (same-sex marriage). All they’re saying is that the right to marry should apply equally to everyone.
** Fans of Vatican II will undoubtedly bring up Dignitatis Humanae, which supposedly corrects the Church’s stand on religious freedom. But one of the last things Pope Benedict XVI did was explain how this wasn’t really the case. But that’s a story for another article.
The Filipino cultural activist and performance artist, partnered with renowned Indian commentator and management guru Suhel Seth, went head-to-head with Selina O’Grady (celebrated journalist, historian and author of And Man Created God) and Prof. Azyumardi Azra (director of Syarif Hidayatullah State Islamic University, Jakarta).
Religion is Bad for Us
Celdran and Seth had the task of proving that ‘the systematic belief and worship of a superhuman controlling power, especially that of a personal God or gods’ is bad for humanity. For Celdran, philosophy and spirituality are not bad for us, but religion is.
“Religion is indeed detrimental to the development of progressive human societies and historically proven to cause terror, fear, guilt, war, genocide, and misogyny,” he said in his speech, adding that it is “perhaps one of the most damaging inventions of the human mind.”
Intelligence Squared debates are done in the traditional Oxford style, wherein the audience is asked to vote before and after the panel’s speeches, to see which side has persuaded the most people to change their vote.
The two succeeded in convincing all or most of the initially undecided 32 percent of the audience to join the 31 percent who were initially against, making 63 percent (almost two thirds) of the final votes against the motion. The votes in favor, which started at 37 percent, dropped to 34 percent (about one third). 3 percent were left undecided.
The Church finds this unbelievable, saying they can’t “accept the statistics without real evidence.” There is also no evidence of the so-called Catholic Vote.
Fact: Most Filipinos disagree with the Church’s position on RH and divorce, among other issues.
FF Welcomes You
People like Carlos Celdran show us that you don’t have to blindly follow your religious leaders and that you can–and should–stand up to them, especially when their stand is in conflict with your conscience.
If you feel like you don’t belong in your church group and you can’t relate to your religious friends and family anymore, you’re welcome in our community. You can join our bimonthly meetups, where you can meet freethinkers like Jong, Miam, and Keisi.
A recent Social Weather Systems survey has the Catholic Church up in arms. The survey, based on 1200 face-to-face interviews nationwide showed that 9.2% of Catholics have considered, at least sometimes, leaving the Roman Catholic Church. The study also showed that from 64% church attendance in 1991, only 37% of Catholics go every week to Mass now. The Church response has been quite the display of classic informal logical fallacies.
The initial public reaction from the Church to the survey was outright denial. Peachy Yamsuan, Communications Chief of the Archdiocese of Manila pointed to the quite repugnant, yet popular, practice of holding a supposedly solemn Mass in the middle of a shopping mall (mall giant SM was singled out by Yamsuan). Yamsuan, rather ironically, questioned the survey, saying that the Church couldn’t accept statistics without “real evidence.”
Apart from Yamsuan, several bishops, such as Jaro Archbishop Angel Lagdameo used his cathedral’s Mass attendance to attempt to refute the study. This was essentially the same response from Msgr. Clemente Ignacio, rector of the Quiapo Church, as well as from the bishops of Marbel and Cubao, as reported in the Inquirer piece.
Church in Jaro
The common strand you can gather from their responses is, “my local parish seems to be doing fine, so the study must be wrong.” This is a classic fallacy of composition, where what is true for a part is assumed to be true for the whole. Now, I’m not a big fan of cheaply calling out fallacies, but the defense of the Church against the survey seems to hinge so specifically on this fallacy, that it simply begs to be called out.
In a follow up piece, the Inquirer records Basilan Bishop Martin Jumoad repeating the same fallacious argument, “So, I don’t see here in Basilan the results of their survey.” The bishop from Sorsogon says the same thing, “I do not believe in that [survey] because the number of people going to Mass is going up. Last Holy Week, we had so many people in church. So as far as Sorsogon is concerned, I don’t believe in that survey.”
The thing is, it was not a survey of Sorsogon, Basilan, or Cubao. It was a nationwide survey, meant to reflect a national trend. And a national trend 27 percentage points deep is certainly not going to be refuted by off-the-cuff statements made from bishops’ anecdotes—especially since bishops tend to hold court in the largest, most opulent churches. As an aside, numbers during Holy Week are most definitely not going to be representative of typical Church attendance. Even atheists get dragged along to go to special Church holy days of obligation by relatives.
So, were these bishops lying about their observations when the trends greatly disagree with them? I wouldn’t be so quick to assume malice. One explanation that would easily agree with all pieces of evidence that we have, considering the CBCP anecdotes as well as the SWS survey, is that church attendance is dwindling, but it is also consolidating. That means that people are leaving smaller parishes and those that are left are flocking to the big churches (and malls), where bishops are more likely to see them. It is also likely that, while a larger proportion of nominal Catholics no longer regularly attend Mass, the great increase of our population from 1991 to 2013 due to a lack of a reproductive health program accounts for the bishops’ anecdotes. These do not excuse the bishops’ failure to understand basic statistics, but they just might explain it.
If the first stage of grief is denial, the next is anger, and this is now where the Church stands. Former CBCP President Oscar Cruz is now questioning the motives behind the statistical study. He is now branding the Aquino Administration, which championed reproductive health, as the “culprit” behind the study. “The Catholic Church in the country must be a big pain in the neck to the present administration… It has therefore become imperative to undermine the Catholic Church—such as the supposed survey result of Catholics becoming non-Catholics,” says Cruz.
It will be interesting how the Church will handle the bargaining and depression stages of grief. The last stage will be acceptance—acceptance of the possibility that maybe, just maybe, the Catholic Church is fading into irrelevance.
Two weeks ago, on March 19, the Supreme Court began hearing oral arguments on the Team Patay tarpaulins. Dean Ralph Sarmiento of La Salle Bacolod, counsel for Bacolod Bishop Vicente Navarra, defended the bishop by invoking his rights to religious freedom and free speech, especially as a private citizen who does not belong to a political party.
In response, Chief Justice Sereno said that election laws apply to all, even to a diocese. Sereno said: “In the Bible, it is said that you have to render unto Caesar’s what is Caesar’s. If there is government regulation on taxes, even if God owns the whole world, you have to pay taxes.” She added that all materials “that tend to influence the electorate” should be regulated.
Justice Antonio Carpio shared Sereno’s opinion. He said that the penalties for violating campaign restrictions also apply to private individuals.
These statements are promising. Yet I’m disappointed that they didn’t mention section 95 of the Omnibus Election Code of the Philippines. Also called Batas Pambansa Bilang 881, the Omnibus Election Code is the oldest law reference used by the Commission on Elections (Comelec); it’s been enforced since 1985. Which is why I’m surprised that both the Comelec and the Supreme Court missed such a crucial part of it, at least as it relates to the Team Patay tarps.
The crucial section of the Omnibus Election Code can be found in “Article XI. Electoral Contributions and Expenditures.” According to Section 95, “no contribution for purposes of partisan political activity shall be made directly or indirectly by… natural and juridical persons who have been granted… incentives, exemptions, allocations or similar privileges or concessions by the government.”
According to section 94, contributions include, “anything of value… made for the purpose of influencing the results of the elections… [including] the use of facilities voluntarily donated by other persons.”
Because the diocese of Bacolod is a religious organization, it receives exemptions on paying property taxes. Because they were granted this incentive by the government, they are forbidden from making contributions for political purposes. The Team Patay tarp, perhaps even the façade on which it is posted, clearly fall under the contributions defined in section 94.
Section 95 concludes by saying that it’s “unlawful for any person to solicit or receive any contribution from any of the persons or entities enumerated herein.” Which means that if the diocese is found guilty, the politicians listed under Team Buhay can be held liable as well.
During the hearing, Justice Teresita Leonardo de Castro agreed with Sarmiento that private individuals must not be punished for expressing their political views. She said that the government must show how private citizens could circumvent election regulations, particularly the limits on campaign spending.
In the case of the diocese of Bacolod, it’s quite easy to think of a hypothetical example. Consider Politician X. He has already reached his limit for campaign spending. But he still has money to spend. He decides to make a big donation to his local Church. He tells the local Bishop that he hopes the donation will help the church, and that he prays to God that he can win in the next election.
The local Bishop uses some of the money to create billboards on several parish churches, expressing how pro-life Politician X is. Of course, no one can prove that the politician’s donation went to paying for the billboards; churches, unlike other charitable organizations, aren’t required to report where donations go to. Politician X has thus circumvented election regulations.
The Team Buhay tarpaulins currently include senatorial candidates Mitos Magsaysay, Cynthia Villar, Gringo Honasan, Koko Pimentel, Antonio Trillanes, and JV Estrada. We don’t know how much these politicians have donated to the diocese of Bacolod – or to any church for that matter. We also don’t know whether these donations played a part in their inclusion in Team Buhay, or where the money used for the tarps actually came from. But the possibility that some campaign restrictions are being circumvented is there. This is one of the potential violations that can be prevented if Comelec enforced section 95 – provided the Supreme Court lets them.
But first, both institutions have to forget the poster size restriction issue. Because as far as section 95 of the Omnibus Election Code is concerned, the diocese of Bacolod shouldn’t be posting campaign materials in the first place. At least in this case, it’s not the size that matters.
Years ago, in my ironically state-run science high school, the Optional Religious Instruction program held a screening of Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ. As I was sitting through a torture porn-level scene of Jesus getting the bejesus kicked out of him, I noticed people sobbing around me. At first, it sounded like the deep inhaling from a hearty laugh, until I turned around to look. I saw students weeping profusely into handkerchiefs while a man was being beaten to a pulp onscreen. The reason was clear to me even then—these kids believe they were responsible for the man being executed.
The doctrine of Original Sin, Adam and Eve’s disobedience to God at the Garden of Eden, culminates on Easter, at Jesus’ resurrection. According to Christian belief, we inherited this sin from the first people, and because of that, we are condemned to die. In his letter to the Romans, the Apostle Paul wrote, “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” Jesus’ resurrection was meant to be victory over death, and that meant cleansing mankind of sins, including the Original one.
I never asked for this.
As written in Isaiah, interpreted as fulfilled by Jesus, “But he was wounded for our transgressions… with his stripes we are healed.” The Judeo-Christian faith believes in vicarious atonement. That is to say, it is possible to make up for one’s sins by having something else pay for them. This is the root of “scapegoating,” when the Jews cast out a goat on the Day of Atonement, to die in the desert. This goat would carry their sins and its removal from the tribe showed God’s forgiveness. Jesus’ death and resurrection is this ritual taken to the extreme—God Himself as the sacrificial lamb (another related idiom) for the forgiveness of sins.
But it is not enough for Jesus to simply die. He must overcome death and resurrect. The resurrection is key to the Christian mythology. As Paul wrote in his first letter to the Corinthians, “And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain.”
This is the Christian faith: that Jesus died for our sins that we may have eternal life, if we believe. This is why my fellow students were crying in that auditorium. They felt the crushing guilt of having a man’s death on their conscience. Perhaps the guilt was never that real to me, but I completely understand that what they did was the most appropriate thing to do—if they truly believed that God Himself was tortured and crucified for your sake. In their eyes, we put Jesus on the cross. We were to blame for the horrific scene we were witnessing in bloody detail. Our sins killed Jesus.
Then again, I never asked Jesus to die, and neither did they. It is asserted by Christians that we owe God our lives because he saved us from the fires of hell. But the entire metaphysics of sin leading to death and the inheritance of sin itself—this is all God’s handiwork. When the first couple supposedly sinned 10,000 years ago, sometime after the invention of glue, none of us were there. And yet, it has been ordained that every child born would have the stain of their sin—a stain that can only be cleansed in Christian baptism.
A baby that dies before baptism is sent to limbo. Since they have no sins apart from the Original, but did not receive salvation, innocent babies are sent to this no-man’s land outside of Heaven, Hell, and Earth. (Incidentally, limbo as a doctrine is not an official Catholic teaching. It remains a “theological hypothesis,” one of the most bizarre contradictions in terms ever produced by the human mind.) The bottom line is, if you are not saved by Jesus in his religion, whatever the case may be (even for geographically isolated tribes and mentally challenged humans), you are going to suffer somehow. There are some theological gymnastics used to wriggle out of the despicable belief of hell for all non-Christians, of course. Nevertheless, the only surefire way to avoid hell still is and always will be toeing the mainstream Christian line. As Jesus said, in the Gospel according to John, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.”
It is this strange and extreme case of emotional blackmail, where God will condemn you if you do not love him, that is at the core of the Easter celebration and, consequently, at the core of every mainstream Christian faith. And the blackmail’s not even for something we did!
I never asked Jesus to die, and neither did you. I would never ask a person to die for my own sins. I certainly would never expect someone’s child to pay for their parents’ sins (much less their descendants thousands of years from now). These are basic things we expect from every sane and ethical person. Christianity expects us to believe that God is the exact opposite of a sane and ethical person—and we are supposed to worship Him.
Image credit: Still from The Passion of the Christ
I rarely read the morning paper, much less buy it. Being almost always connected to the Internet, I still haven’t found any convenience or practicality in doing so, although I do find novelty in folding my way through an oversized broadsheet. But I bought one this morning anyway.
This is the first election that I’ll ever participate in, and I’m definitely not voting for either candidate, I thought.
It will be pointless now, at least in this post, to argue why secularism should be pushed for. Thousands of books and articles have been written about it already, and I expect that there should be at least a dozen such articles in this website alone. What I would like to talk about instead is why there seems to be a common sentiment against secularism among Filipinos, and why statements like Villanueva’s may actually help him win votes.
Filipinos just don’t get it
The fight for secularism is an uphill battle. Everyone seems to have this impression that mixing God with government is harmless, and can actually yield good results. With it, you’ve got morally guided laws and honest leaders to back them up. Yet at the same time, you’ve got a population which recognizes that their leaders are all corrupt. None of these politicians, by the way, profess atheism—at least not publicly.
So what do you do about it? I would like to believe that there is no correlation between religious belief and moral governance. After all, you’ve got the Catholic Church’s millennia-old string of sex scandals and systematic cover-up of offending priests over here, and Nordic countries’ flying colors in government transparency despite the generally atheistic populace over there. I wouldn’t be surprised, however, to find that many people would give the answer, “Put more God in it.”
Yes, there is just not enough God in government; that’s why you need more of it! Of course, there is no statistic behind this. But who needs evidence—right?—when you’ve got faith.
It’s deeply embedded in the psyche
Let me repeat it again: I would like to believe that there is no correlation between religious belief and moral governance. After all, you’ve got the Catholic Church’s millennia-old string of sex scandals and systematic cover-up of offending priests over here, and Nordic countries’ flying colors in government transparency despite the generally atheistic populace over there.
Despite! Despite! Why does it have to be “despite?” Church apologists have successfully penetrated all sectors of Philippine society that they have managed to completely dichotomize God and evil—as if atheists and good governance are logically incongruent. Everything that is good is God, and everything without God is evil. While I may cite as many atheists who have done good things for the world as I would like, you could always claim that they could have done better if only they had faith in God. It’s the perfect trump card, and the secularist always loses the argument.
Not only did the Church manage to dichotomize God and evil, they also managed to unify secularism and atheism into one ugly bunch. It is utterly impossible to advocate secularism without being labeled an atheist, or at least someone who is having doubts with God. Whereas parading a nation-under-God slogan should be a sure ticket to Congress, clamoring for secularism should be a fail-safe way to kill your political career—unless you’re Miriam Defensor-Santiago, whom a lot of Filipinos think is borderline insane anyway.
Pinoy pride and the fear of Western decadence
How many times have we heard the anti-RH camp claim that secularism, contraception, divorce, and marriage equality are essentially an invasion of dangerous Western ideas? That with these in place, Filipinos would lose their identity? It is unavoidable for people to think that secularism—that is government without God—will make society brim with the “culture of death;” just as how contraception will make Filipinos extinct; divorce makes all couples separate; and marriage equality makes all people gay-marry.
It’s funny how the United States is always considered by local politicians and religious apologists as the paragon of secular immorality, considering how it is actually a lot more conservative than its Western peers. It’s even funnier to think how, on the other hand, religious fundamentalists in the US would argue that conservatism is a uniquely American virtue. After all, you can cry out Western imperialism all you want when it comes to reproductive health and other “foreign” ideas, especially when you’ve got a Catholic Church imported straight from the same source.
Again, the Church has outdone itself. This time, it has successfully managed to unify “the Filipino,” God and everything good into a single idea. Everything that is good is God, and Filipinos believe in God, therefore Filipino conservatism is good. Indeed, patriotism and religion share a lot in common when it comes to political exploitability.
Reason is our only weapon
As much as I would hate to admit it, Filipino society is still conservative to the core, or else majority of senatoriables should no longer be tiptoeing around the topic of marriage equality; the University of the Philippines Los Banos would no longer be giving out copies of the Bible during its freshman orientation; and political candidates would no longer have to use putting God back into the heart of government as a platform.
Many solutions can be proposed to counter this tide. Be it through progressive legislation, like the RH law, divorce bill and antidiscrimination bill; through reform of education curricula, like putting more science in it and making lessons expressly secular; or through parenting, like teaching children rationalism in words they can digest; it really just boils down to one thing—reason.
Reason is an especially powerful tool. It is an instant litmus test for bullshit in itself. Conversely, it is the only way for us to weigh the merits of any argument, legislation or what have you. Through careful examination of evidence and not through acceptance of claims because of religious grounds, can we only progress as a society.
Sadly, we are still far from there, and it will take a lot of time. But least we can use reason as easily as hot knife cuts through butter, especially when these two guys—both promising to carry out the will of God—can’t even agree among themselves.
 Thankfully, results are not as consistent. Buhay may have won seats over the previous elections, but we all know how the Ang Kapatiran slate miserably lost despite backing from a number of bishops.
 As much as I would like to delve deeper into Filipino anti-intellectualism—well, it’s not the first time you’ve heard people say, “Wag kang masyadong mag-isip at baka mabaliw ka.”—that’s another discussion altogether.
 Or at least UPLB officials in charge of the event
With the Papal elections winding down in the Vatican, most pinoys are beginning to focus their attention on our very own parade of horribles: The May 2013 Elections.
The people will be voting for candidates who most closely adhere to their wants and needs, and they’ll be very interested in what the various candidates’ opinion on hot topics such as same-sex marriage.
It goes without saying that as a religiously conservative country, the Philippines has not been supportive of gay marriage, with an overwhelming amount of senatoriables voicing their opposition to the measure.
The question is, does their opposition to gay marriage hold any water? For the benefit of the people still undecided on this matter – and since I’m a mean-spirited blackheart with nothing better to do – I’ll be presenting some of the crazier reasons these people are against gay marriage…and why they’re bullshit.
“It’s against natural law. Ang lalaki, ang mapapangasawa niya ay babae, at sila’y mag-aanak at dadami ang sangkatauhan. ‘Yan ang naturang batas at hindi kailanman nagkaroon sa natural law na pwede ‘yung parehong babae, parehong lalaki… Walang pamilya! Hindi naman ‘yan magkakaanak.” – Lito David
Malayo ‘yan. Tayo’y ginawa ng Diyos na [ang] pag-aasawa [ay] para magkaroon ka ng anak, procreation, para magkaroon ka ng happiness. Kung para sa happiness lang, ‘wag na kayong magpakasal. Kung dalawa kayong lalaki, dalawa kayong babae, gusto n’yong magsama, puwede naman. So bakit kailangang magpakasal pa? – Dick Gordon
Marriage is for propagating family, but it is high time for registered partnerships. – Ricardo Penson
First off, there is nothing in our laws that makes having children a legal requirement for couples to marry. If this were the case, then marriage should be illegal for the sterile and the elderly. Strangely enough, lesbian couples can still skirt this requisite through the magic of science.
This argument was also used during the deliberations to repeal California’s Proposition 8. Prop 8 has since been repealed, with several states in the US beginning to legalize gay marriage, which goes to show you just how effective the argument was.
Furthermore, if David and Gordon are going to argue against gay marriage on the grounds that “It’s not natural,” they’re going to have to explain swans, seagulls, bonobos, dolphins, vultures, pigeons, ducks, sheep, and hyenas. All of the above have exhibited homosexual behavior in the wild.
Taking the naturalistic fallacy further, we shouldn’t be using “unnatural” things, such as modern medicine, cars, smartphones (of which David has taken to backfisting), and computers.
I’d include clothes, but do we really want to regularly see Mr. David’s junk, or Dick’s…well, you get the idea.
“I don’t think that’s a marriage. They can just live together if they want. No need to flaunt it.” – Jun Magsaysay
I think that is a joke of a proposal. I don’t know where that idea came from, but marriage is between a man and a woman so maybe the laws can be liberalized in such a way that the property relations of people of the same sex who decided to live together can be governed by law but let us not call that marriage. Madali naman yan sa partnership, we can let the government code govern that or the laws on partnership, not the family code. – Koko Pimentel
It’s more than just being able to live together and “flaunting it”. Marriage ensures that the partners involved receive the same legal protections as straight couples, such as the on the matter of hospital visitation rights. There’s also the myriad of laws under the family code that protect the right to property of both people entering a marriage, in the event of the death of the spouse.
This isn’t about granting “special” rights to the LGBT community, as Pimentel implies. This is about granting them EQUAL rights, under the same family code that protect all straight marriages in the Philippines. And on a more sentimental note, it is about two men or women who have entered a long-term relationship, being able to proudly say “We’re married!” instead a word salad like “We’re under a recognized civil union!”
Pimentel should brush up on history, so that he’ll understand why his plea for things to be “Separate but equal,” should be ignored, if not outright ridiculed. Just like his stance on reproductive rights.
“Ang paniniwala ko pa rin between man and woman yung marriage.” – Nancy Binay
Sa akin, parang ‘di maganda dahil man and woman ang marriage. – Samson Alcantara
I don’t have anything against gay people… they were probably born that way but this should not be sanctified by marriage. Some of my friends are gay but marriage to me is a sacred institution. – Bal Falcone
We are still a Catholic nation. If we look at the Bible, the marriage of two persons is always man and woman. It’s always been Adam and Eve. Wala namang Adan at Adan. Wala ring Eba at Eba – JV Ejercito Estrada
Marriage is not the exclusive property of the Catholic Church. Furthermore, it’s not as if legalizing same-sex marriage will require RCC churches to marry gay couples; The couples can always get married in churches that support gay marriage.
And really, the “some of my friends are X” defense is a crapshoot argument. Would it be any more sensible if Mr. Falcone said “Some of my friends are black, but I think segregation is a sacred institution”? Is it any surprise that most of the arguments against gays sound similar to the tired rhetoric of the proponents of the Jim Crow laws?
Furthermore, Mr. Estrada, the Philippines is not a “Catholic Nation.” While it is true that most of the people here are Catholic, that doesn’t give them the right to impose their religion on all other non-Catholics; Even constitutionalist Fr. Bernas considered this a very bad idea.
And assuming we limit our definition of marriage to consenting adults, the one-man, one-woman definition can also be disputed. Polygamy is also a widely accepted form of marriage among numerous cultures, such as Islam.
Lastly, it’s a PERSONAL belief – nobody is forcing you to have a gay marriage. However, it also follows that you don’t have a right to impose your personal belief of what marriage is on gays. It’s not your job to force your “paniniwala” on the people – it’s your job to defend their basic rights. And if you don’t understand that, you don’t have any business running for senate.
Totally against that. Equal rights are guaranteed by the United Nations Charter on Human Rights. There is really no need to expand the concept of human rights. I respect the human rights of gays and lesbians, but when you allow same sex marriage, there is no purpose whatsoever as to the objective of that. – JC Delos Reyes
JC failed to mention that as of 2011, the United Nations passed a resolution opposing discrimination or violence against the gay community.
That discrimination doesn’t necessarily have to come in the form of laws that directly oppress the LGBT community. It can be as simple as denying them the right to marry the person they love, and wish to spend the rest of their life with. A right straight people like me can enjoy, and most often take for granted. JC has no business claiming to agree with the UN if he can’t even acknowledge that gays deserve to be protected by the same range of laws that protect everybody else in RP.
On a related note, he certainly has no right to be claiming to be in support for the UN charter on human rights, given his attempts to block every woman’s right to RH medicine and education, which are supported by the UN.
“I am for the protection and respect ng political rights ng lahat, regardless of gender. Pero pagdating sa marriage of same sex, sabi ng Good Book, huwag gayahin ‘yung nangyari sa Sodom and Gomorrah dahil darating ang paggunaw sa isang bansa pag ‘yun ay ginawa.” – Eddie Villanueva
We saved the best for last.
The gist of Bro. Eddie’s argument is that he’s for equal rights, unless it goes against the teachings of his good book. The problem is that even a cursory reading of the bible shows that it’s anything but a “good” book. From its endorsement of genocide and slavery to unleashing bears on kids who make fun of baldies, the bible’s text goes anywhere from morally questionable, to the sort of religiously-motivated actions that would make even Kratos take pause and say “Whoa there! Isn’t that getting a bit excessive? ”
As a parting note, I advise all voters reading this to go through their favorite candidate’s stances on various social concerns before voting. It’s your responsibility, and privilege.
With the resounding defeat of Church lobbyists on the matter of the RH Law, Fr. Melvin Castro of the CBCP said that he could at least thank the law’s proponent and principal author Albay Representative Edcel Lagman for one thing—because of the publicity of the RH debates, young Catholics are now confessing the sin of using contraception.
If you are familiar at all with the Catholic Church and its behavior regarding rapes by its employed priests, you would know that they view confession as so sacred that any part of it cannot even be used as testimony against a rapist. A priest hearing the confession of a rapist cannot be compelled to reveal that confession to authorities, secular or ecclesiastical. The priest is bound, upon pain of excommunication, never to speak of the secret.
Castro’s statements emphasize the complete hypocrisy and lack of human compassion of the Catholic Church, where it can just as easily break that sacrament when it can score cheap political points but never do it for its institution’s victims. Without revealing specifics, Castro, and whoever reported the confessions to him, broke that sacrament.
Of course, Castro denies breaking the sacramental seal. He says the identity of the penitent must be “publicly” revealed in order for the seal to be truly violated. It appears that the sins you tell your priest are fair game for gossip as long as they don’t tell everyone your name. If only the Church would exploit such technicalities to support police investigating rapist priests.
Where There’s Gold…
The sacrament of confession is a particularly strange relic marking the ancient and bygone political powers of the Catholic Church. Through this sacrament, priests are told by penitents, both the small and the powerful, their deepest darkest secrets, for the guarantee that they will be forgiven by God. Needless to say, the confessional is a goldmine for blackmail and coercion. It was particularly useful in discovering the Katipunero rebellion during the Philippine Revolution.
The confessional is a very intimate place. It is at this place the faithful are most vulnerable as they are encouraged not to hold anything back. In fact, it is itself a mortal sin to willfully keep any grievous evil from a priest during confession, as an earnest confession clears one’s soul of any wrongdoing.
Assuming you don’t sin on the way, if you get hit by a car going out of Church after confession, you are going straight to heaven—no purgatory necessary. The confessional is where priests have believers by the balls. This is true both figuratively and literally.
The Places You Have Come to Fear the Most
Dave Rudofsky was 8 years old in the 1980’s. Like most Catholic children his age, he would soon prepare for receiving the literal body of Jesus Christ in the form of bread. This means he first has to clean the vessel that is his body by confessing all his sins in his first holy confession. His confessor, Rev. James Burnett took advantage of the 8 year-old’s vulnerability and molested him.
Cases like Dave’s have become so frequent that Pope John Paul II issued the encyclical Sacramentorum sanctitatis tutela in 2001. This updated Crimen sollicitationis, released in 1962 during Pope John XXIII’s tenure, which tackled the problem of priests using the confessional for the purpose of sexual activity. Among those outlined as “grave delicts” or violations of canon law in Sacramentorum was “Solicitation to sin with the confessor against the sixth commandment of the Decalogue, in the act of, context of or pretext of the Sacrament of Penance.” This was reinforced by the head of the Inquisition, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger in De delictis gravioribus.
However, in addition to condemning rapist priests using the confessional to, for example, forgive sexual partners of the sins they commit together, these statements also reiterate the inviolability of the seal of the sacrament of confession. No one must ever reveal what goes on during confession, even if it means justice for a rape victim. This would be a “direct violation of the sacramental seal.”
Though Castro argues that he and his cohorts did not break the sacramental seal, it can be argued that they did so indirectly. The sacramental seal is so deeply regarded that Crimen itself states that during canonical trials conducted to investigate rapes, any testimony that might even “suggest a direct or indirect violation of the seal” will be thrown out of the case and will not be recorded (Crimen sollicitationis, Chapter III(52)). Castro’s political grandstanding surely suggests at least an indirect violation. More to the point, regardless of any technical wrongdoing under canon law, Castro shows the moral cowardice of the Church and its employees—revealing some confessions when expedient while keeping others when inconvenient.
The Secret’s in the Telling
Doctors enjoy physician-patient privilege. They do not reveal the contents of their consultations with patients with anyone, upon pain of having their license revoked. This is to make sure there is a culture of trust between doctors and patients; it improves the medical relationship, which results in more accurate diagnoses. The same could be said as the motivation behind the sacramental seal, but at a far grander and cosmic scale. However, doctors are still obliged by secular law to report information to the police if their patients pose a threat to society, among other situations. Priests do not have such ethical or legal duties to the nations they operate in. Their duty is to the king in the Vatican first.
The Church does not care about the harm it causes society (indeed, denies it) and does everything it takes, even going against their own principles, to make sure their institution survives for centuries to come. The Catholic Church has consistently used the seal of the confessional as a defense against criminal investigation of rapist priests. Melvin Castro reveals what this defense truly is—a sham and an abuse of religious freedom.
This Lent, think about whether you can trust your priest with your sins. Think about Dave the next time you walk into a confessional. From the start, the Church has acted as if its hands have been bound with supernatural chains, unable to help rape victims by disclosing details revealed during confessions. Castro’s statements expose that these chains are imaginary. Goodness knows what other imaginary things they tell the faithful.
Despite sounding like a very progressive Catholic, Ateneo de Davao University president Joel Tabora, S.J. has never really stated, at least not publicly, whether he agrees with the underlying logic of the Reproductive Health (RH) Law.
When asked on Twitter by Filipino Freethinkers president Red Tani if he believes that using artificial contraception is inherently evil (as defined by the Roman Catholic Church in Casti Connubii and Humanae Vitae), Tabora replied:
“Based on the level of natural law that is presupposed in those encyclicals, yes. But I do not think an abstract category such as “inherently evil” is fruitful in understanding the demands of Christian ethics today.”
Notice that the first sentence is as qualified as it gets, and the second sentence removes whatever illusion of significance the first sentence has to Red’s question on Tabora’s stand on contraception. And if that wasn’t enough, Tabora further said:
“To illustrate: is it “inherently” evil to separate the conjugal act from both its unitive and procreative meanings? Do not get me wrong. The notion of natural law and its use as a foundation for moral teaching has developed. It is “complicated.” Doctrines develop. There was a time when the Church tolerated slavery and persecuted heretics.”
It seems that Tabora is being deliberately ambiguous or evasive by implicitly undermining the encyclicals without expressly going against the Church’s teachings. But does his doublespeak mean dishonesty? Let the reader be the judge, keeping in mind that the university president’s job description is unlikely to include the right to publicly deny the Catholic position.
But while his statements on RH are so carefully crafted, look how freely he speaks of things he truly believes in:
“I certainly believe there are grave sins. That’s why there is the Cross. And Resurrection.”
This time he didn’t mention the Church, let alone the encyclicals. He categorically stated his belief in Christ – something he did not do on the issue of RH and contraception and whether he agrees with the Vatican’s teachings.
“If the “Catholic Church” is truly convinced of its position, convince first the Catholics of it, then propose law based on their collective witness. Running to legislation to do the job of proclamation and religious education will not convince Catholics who are not convinced.”
In those two sentences Fr. Tabora summed up everything secularism stands for. It doesn’t matter if he never clearly stated his support for reproductive health, because he left a reminder that the legislature ought not to aid any religion. And as far as the advocacy for the separation of Church and State is concerned, this Jesuit educator is as secular as Catholic priests ever get.
I remember staying up into the wee hours of April 20, 2005, watching CNN, eagerly anticipating the new pope. I was Catholic then and the only pope I had ever known was John Paul II. He had reigned for 26 years, and suddenly, my Church had no earthly leader.
When Benedict stepped out of the curtains that morning and into the balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica, I choked up. I believed I was witnessing God’s hand, active in the world. While John Paul I began the tradition of eschewing the extravagant papal triple tiara, popes were still kings—and we had a new one. Popes are absolute monarchs of the Mussolini-established Vatican state. At the same time, popes are vicars of Christ. That is to say, they take the place of the Son of God on Earth. For Catholics, popes aren’t really elected by the College of Cardinals. Rather, popes are chosen by the Holy Spirit—the third person of the triune God. This gives the pope supernatural powers to rein in a billion-strong flock.
Unlike the popes that came before him for hundreds of years, Benedict quit his post. He quit being Jesus Christ’s human representative. Had I stayed Christian, his leaving would have deeply troubled me. Here was a man who was throwing away a divinely ordained commission because he was, as he says, too sick to go on. Too sick to be supported by God, apparently.
Looking from the outside now, it is patently obvious how utterly human the entire Catholic institution is. And, no, not the humanity that the Church peddles as sharing in human experience. It is human in the mortal and parochial sense. For all its lofty claims, the Catholic Church is really an earthly business run by a small cabal of conservatives. Benedict’s resignation made this clear and it is made entirely transparent by the election of Jorge Bergoglio, a 76 year-old Jesuit of Italian descent from Argentina. Latin America, once a bastion of Catholicism, is now seeing a dwindling Church losing political influence—one a South American pope just might rectify.
It always struck me as strange when Catholics hope for the new pope to reform the Catholic Church. That is like asking God Himself to change his mind. (And, of course, what are petitionary prayers for but to ask God to suspend his divine plan for your insipid request?) If one truly believes that the Holy Spirit guides the pope and, in turn, guides the Church, why would one even think about reforms?
Bears defecate in the woods, and popes are Catholic. It therefore comes as no shock that the new Pope Francis, just like the old pope, is an enemy of equal rights for the LGBT. Apart from allegations of colluding with the Argentinian military junta in the 70’s, including hiding political prisoners from an international delegation (an evil not as easily dismissible as Joseph Ratzinger’s membership in the Hitlerjugend), Bergoglio was also a staunch opponent of the marriage equality initiative in Argentina. Belying supernatural intervention, Argentina is the first Latin American nation to allow same-sex couples to enjoy equal rights with opposite-sex couples. Bergoglio called the initiative a “destructive attack on God’s plan,” which of course includes stopping gay marriage.
Benedict XVI is my last pope. I left the Church under his reign when I saw how much suffering it had caused the world—suffering my Catholicism indefensibly and directly supported. Francis has now replaced Benedict after 7 years of reigning. At Francis’ age, he will probably be replaced just as soon. Cardinals are keenly aware of how young popes tend to stymie ambition with long reigns. Behind the pomp and circumstance of white smoke and secret conclaves, the pope is the leader of an organization that stands enemy to human rights, all the while touting humanitarian causes. Apologists complain that skeptics like to emphasize the flaws of the Church and that we should not expect a perfect organization. But, at some point, when you claim that your club is divine, faults as egregious as those the Church is guilty of simply cannot be excused.
I didn’t wake up early this time to hear the new bishop of Rome address the city and the world. It is no longer a supernatural event to me. But, the Catholic Church is still important, despite my complete rejection of it, as long as it continues to dictate so many things about our lives. I, now an atheist, maintain hope that perhaps this new pope will take that miraculous tiny first step towards joining the world here in the 21st century. Forgive me this one delusion.
For an institution that thrives on tradition and that loves talking up the long history of the Roman Catholic Church, the CBCP has sure demonstrated that they are open to expedient changes of heart when it comes to their own moral teachings.
This is an action that screams of frustration from an institution whose loss of power has just been demonstrated nationally, and it is also a demonstration of the CBCP’s hypocrisy over its own moral dispensations.
Fast forward to 2011, in another scandal involving the PCSO and SUVs, the CBCP issed forth the defense in the Senate that their bishops only took the PCSO money (which comes from a form of gambling) to… help the poor.
The CBCP demonstrates a pattern of flip-flopping on issues whenever it suits them, damn whatever moral utterances they may have made before. The CBCP may have their lists of Team Patay and Team Buhay, but they are clearly their own Team Balimbing.
The progressive Catholics have split from the Vatican to form their own church. They’ve called it the New Catholic Church.
A handful of progressive bishops have taken the place of the Pope as its leaders, and none of them call themselves infallible. Completing the clergy are progressive priests and theologians, mostly Jesuits, who feel exhilarated by the freedom to openly air their opinions without fear of being censured, excommunicated, or fired.
Unlike the Roman Catholic Church, the New Catholic bishops are in constant dialogue with their priests. Theologians thrive as their expertise is sought sincerely. Best of all, the laity are also given a voice. They’re invited to pastoral committee hearings on relevant social issues such as contraception, women’s rights, LGBT rights, and freedom of conscience. It seems like for the first time in centuries, progress is possible.
Because most Roman Catholics were progressive, the New Catholic Church now outnumbers the Roman Catholic one significantly. And because the Roman Catholic Church is no longer the predominant religion, few politicians pander to them. The drop in donations has forced them to start using their billions in investment, which they have also been using to settle clerical abuse cases. More families are pressing charges with the New Catholic Church urging and supporting them to speak out.
Meanwhile, the New Catholic Church, being the biggest religion, has a steady flow of donations that has allowed them to build simple churches, unlike the luxurious Roman Catholic ones. Most of their funds are spent on charity instead of partisan political campaigns and causes. And none of it is used to settle abuse cases out of court; they report the rare offender to the police and fully cooperate with the authorities so that justice is ensured.
Having learned from the dangers political meddling, the New Catholic Church focuses on the well-being of its flock, avoiding partisan politics and fully respecting the separation of church and state. This has allowed legislation to proceed more smoothly, with the blackmail and fear mongering of the Roman Catholic Church falling on the ears of few conservative politicians.
New Catholics are thriving in their new religion, where they agree with the moral position of their priests and bishops, never again having to withhold tithes or walk out of sermons. Their personal views no longer conflict with their Church’s teachings, and educating the youth is now a cooperative effort between parents, teachers, and priests, each lesson based on scientific evidence and humanistic ethics.
Now. In this hypothetical future, if you are a progressive Catholic who still belongs to the Roman Catholic Church, would you join the New Catholic Church? Remember that the progressive priests and theologians who have made your religion bearable have already left to join this new one. Most of your progressive friends and relatives have also converted.
Would you remain a Roman Catholic when your views on so many social issues are at odds with the clergy? Would you tithe and pay for sacraments in a conservative church when you could so easily get the same experience in its progressive counterpart? What good reasons are there to remain Roman Catholic?
Hans Kung, one of the most prominent Catholic theologians today, has long urged progressive Catholics to revolt, but to no avail.
I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that most progressive Catholics would convert to this New Catholicism in a heartbeat. I believe that this is the ideal situation every progressive Catholic hopes would happen inside the Roman Catholic Church. The only problem is, this is not going to happen.
The conservatives in the Vatican are in full control, and because they’re a dictatorship, the opinions of the majority don’t matter. The only way progressive Catholics can get their ideal situation is by forming their own institution outside the Roman Catholic Church.
And this is precisely the problem. To make the New Catholic Church possible, they have to leave the Roman Catholic Church. Every person has to leave on their own. And someone has to start it. But who would begin such an exodus?
The youth would probably be the most willing. But their youth might be a turnoff to those who are so used to getting guidance from more mature men.
The older progressives are more authoritative, but they’re probably too settled into their Roman Catholic routine, with careers and families taking up most of their time, that taking on such a big change would be too much to ask. Not to mention they still wouldn’t be authoritative enough for those who look for a sense of the sacred in their leaders.
Progressive priests and theologians would have this holy authority. But compared to the laity, they would be risking their careers, their livelihoods. They would need to rely on their savings because while starting a new religion they wouldn’t have a source of income.
Bishops probably have enough saved up. But the way the Vatican has been screening bishops since Vatican II, finding even one progressive bishop is a challenge in itself, and such a person would be risking the most in terms of the wealth and influence he would have to give up.
That leaves no one.
I believe that every individual needed for this New Catholic Church is already here. Majority of Roman Catholics who now have more progressive views than their conservative counterparts and clergy. A group of dissenting priests and theologians who have been expressing their progressive ideals more and more publicly. Enough ideological and theological conflict in many core beliefs to make forming a new religion necessary. And enough shortcomings of the Roman Catholic Church to make leaving it, ceasing to further support its bigotry, an ethical necessity.
But progressive Catholics have to start somewhere. Each of them would join this New Catholic Church if it is ever formed. But few, if any, of them would be willing to leave the Roman Catholic Church to start it.
Progressive Catholics will be content to bear their burden together, comforting each other with their shared dissent, hoping for change but knowing in their hearts that it will never come. Meanwhile, the Vatican thrives with power, arrogance, and impunity, never having to worry about the progressive church that will never come.