I remember our discussion on Berdyaev in class. Nikolai Berdyaev wrote the book “The Destiny of Man,” wherein he discussed about the sin of the Pharisees. Berdyaev explained that the sin of the Pharisees was their legalistic religion. The Pharisees are concerned more about the “legal technicalities” of their religion rather than the true meaning of its teachings. I quote from a letter written by Berdyaev in reply to V. Lossk:
“But to put the Sabbath higher than man is a betrayal of the commands of Christ. Christians have often become suchlike betrayers. Everyone for whom an ortodoks teaching stands higher than man and his human fate betrays the Gospel commands. The legalism within Christianity is a distortion of Christianity, a victory of non-Christian principles. There is nothing higher than the humanness, which likewise is the Divine, the testimony of the God of love and sacrifice.”
I cannot help but see that the same is happening in present-time Philippines. Our church leaders are too obsessed with the legalistic aspects of their religion that they fail to see the true face of their faith. They are committing the very same crimes Christ condemned. In a way, the CBCP is our present-day Pharisees. They would place their “rule of law” above humanness and risk the suffering and death of many people. And they would do so clinging to their “authority,” fueled by their “lust for power”.
But why should “authority” be such a heavy crime? After all, without a central figure or institution of authority, society would simply be a mess. But an adherence to order and community is different from obeying authority. Authority is built on fear, violence and dictatorship, while harmony is built on trust, communal understanding, and cooperation. Following rules because you fear the consequences is different from following rules because you believe in, respect, and understand the spirit of the law.
Authority begets blind conformity, hypocrisy, and false allegiance. And we can only liberate ourselves from this sin through questioning. Questioning, not in the sense of attacking, destroying or throwing away our values, but as an affirmation of our values, to evaluate and reevaluate our principles so that we avoid inflicting harm on others as well as on ourselves. We question to break away from blind conformity, and to unlock the possibilities, to transcend our current situatedness.
I champion the kind of hope built on a basic, intrinsic human quality, and as a Catholic would say, “God’s design”: the ability of human questioning, to liberate us from the chains of blind faith, to bring about change and improvements to our lives, to seek new and better ways of doing things, to open ourselves to “God’s Grace,” to unlock possibilities and accept truths may they be palatable or not, to evaluate and reevaluate our values so that they may be strengthened.
Quoting from my previous essay: “I wish to espouse hope, the kind that is found in human inquiry, learning and our ability to solve problems—the kind that speaks the human language and promotes understanding and connection. My only aspiration is to be proven wrong time and time again so that new and liberating paradigms may triumph over old and oppressive ones. And hopefully through our sincere discernment, may we find true salvation.”
The Catholic Church that I once hated but have grown fond of was one that stood for freedom. The Catholic Church that the Jesuits introduced me to is one built on questioning, on sound discernment, on possibilities, on hope. The Catholic Church I know is a community that I respect, love, and one I will staunchly defend to my death, despite being an atheist.
Based on the CBCP’s attitude and behavior so far, theirs is a Catholic Church I do not know.
But despite my frustrations, anger and disappointment, I still have hope. And hope is found when you learn to trust. Trust in the human desire and ability to question. Trust in our collective wisdom, in our ability to learn from our past mistakes, and our ability to move forward. Aspire to be “proven wrong time and time again so that new and liberating paradigms may triumph over old and oppressive ones.” It is alright to be wrong.
In letting go of our ego, of our authority, of our need to be right—in emptying our cups, we invite greater things into us. And as we continue to discern, to question, to invoke change, we open ourselves to a greater future, a future that a Catholic would say “we created, through our own actions, inspired by His Grace” and may “Thy Kingdom come, Thy Will be done in earth, as it is in Heaven.”
I invite you to read some of the works I mentioned/used in the discussion above
The Philosophical Enterprise by John F. Kavanaugh, S.J
The Destiny of Man by Nikolai Berdyaev
Image from lossofsoul.com