Tag Archive | "religious authority"

The Church’s Constitutional Mandate

In response to criticisms against the Church’s meddling on the RH Bill, Archbishop Leonardo Legaspi wrote a pastoral letter citing the Constitution’s Preamble – “We, the sovereign Filipino people, imploring the aid of Almighty God, in order to build a just and humane society and establish a Government that shall embody our ideals and aspirations…” – and explained that it was  “the duty of the Church to remind the government of her constitutional mandate to protect this aspiration”, and that it was the “Church’s mission from Christ which impels it to speak about social, economic or political issues.”

While the archbishop’s explanation may sound logical (and constitutional!), it is the implied corollary that makes it wrong: the statement connotes that the Catholic Church is the sole authority when it comes to God. The Preamble never said “imploring the aid of Almighty God through His revelations to the pope“; it’s just plain “Almighty God” with no reference to any particular sectarian teaching of God – and especially not to the Roman Catholic God who abhors contraceptives. No, the Catholic Church does not have universal religious authority to say what is the command of God, much less the constitutional mandate to exercise such imagined authority.

Authority is an interesting word especially in the religious context. The sociologist Max Weber theorizes about “charismatic authority” and the “routinization” of charisma:

Charismatic authority is ‘power legitimized on the basis of a leader’s exceptional personal qualities or the demonstration of extraordinary insight and accomplishment, which inspire loyalty and obedience from followers’…For instance, a charismatic leader in a religious context might require an unchallenged belief that the leader has been touched by God, in the sense of a guru or prophet.

Routinization is the process by which ‘charismatic authority is succeeded by a bureaucracy controlled by a rationally established authority or by a combination of traditional and bureaucratic authority’.

In the case of Christianity, authority allegedly started with Jesus as he commanded charismatic authority among his disciples, who later on “routinized” it into the traditional authority of the Christian religion.

But the thing about Christianity is that its routinization over the millennia has ended up in so many sects with different beliefs that no single order can claim authority over the rest, and that is why the Catholic Church cannot invoke “constitutional mandate” to justify its meddling in State affairs because its authority ends outside the church walls. It may have some sort of authority partly based on the fear of Hell and excommunication over its own members, but certainly not among all citizens of the State.

The Constitution may have expressly recognized our country as generally composed of God-believers, but it never said anything about God being represented by the Roman Catholic Church. So no, the Church does not have the constitutional mandate to meddle with the affairs of the State. It has the constitutional right, of course – that’s called freedom of speech – but such right should not be asserted as if it carries with it a rational-legal authority tied to the established laws of the State, especially now that more and more people listen to reason than to self-proclaimed authority.

Posted in Religion, ScienceComments (9)