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Tag Archive | "Fr. Freethinker"

Fr. Freethinker, the Secular Priest

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society views morality today, and though he remains with the institution that stubbornly and arrogantly insists on an outdated moral standard on human sexuality, he calls on the same institution to come up with a non-sectarian, philosophically tenable answer on what makes contraception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.
Going back to secularism, our legislators, who are given the constitutional command that no law shall be made respecting an establishment of religion, can do a better job in representing their constituents if only they would heed Fr. Rannie’s words:
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.

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Freethinking Priest pwns CBCP – again!

Remember Fr. Ranhilio Callangan Aquino, the freethinking priest featured in Age of Reason finally dawns on the Philippines? He wrote an article in Manila Standard Today titled Why the bishops’ statement is a dud which tackles the CBCP’s pastoral letter Choosing Life, Rejecting the RH Bill from a legal and surprisingly secular point of view.

Here are some excerpts:

…it is not a very good statement.  It does not make for pleasant reading (serious reading need not be boresome!), and its logic is, in several crucial places, flawed.

The RH bill is clear in its position against abortion; there is no repeal of the provisions penalizing abortion under the Revised Penal Code.

One of the demands of the times is what I have repeatedly called a “public theology”—theology that you can take to the public forum, because most Filipinos today, you will not meet in Church, and even those who go to Church are not necessarily convinced of everything the Church teaches.

My point is not that the bishops were wrong.  You cannot be wrong if you hardly advance an argument.  When you assert, for example, that human life is a “sacred gift”, what do you mean by that?  A Christian, from within the tradition of Christian teaching on human life, may be able to make sense of that, although I am not sure if there is unanimity even here.  But how should a pluralistic society understand that?  The crucial question remains unanswered: What non-sectarian, philosophically tenable answer can be given the following question — What is there about artificial contraception that makes it morally objectionable?

Is it the moral teaching of the Church that couples that can have children ought to have children?  If it is, what would the premises of such an argument be?  Where are the p’s and the q’s and the logical operators in between them?

What I have long been batting for is honest-to-goodness work by our Catholic professors of philosophy and theology to come up with discourse in the public sphere that will be convincing on the unacceptability of artificial contraception, and if we cannot come up with any such argument, then let us humbly admit that our opposition is sectarian in nature and credal in origin.  Then we will also realize what we can and cannot rightfully demand of the State.

Fr. Rannie, thank you for helping bring the voice of Reason to our theocratic State. If only we had more priests like you, it would not be hard to imagine the Philippines being predominantly Catholic and truly secular at the same time. Would you like to join our meetups? 🙂

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Age of Reason finally dawns on the Philippines

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:

Given the pluralism of our times, different persuasions thrive, and so there is no way that one can vindicate claims by invoking mysteries.

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.

On the other hand, it is silly to demand of the Catholic Church that it “adjust” its moral teaching to suit populist tastes.

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.”

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