Tuesday, October 5, 2010

The Separation of Church and State

uctIt has been a defining feature in almost every constitution in the world (I don't claim to know all of them) that the Church and the State is always separate. However, this current ruckus between the Philippine Catholic Church and President Aquino's fledgling administration puts this into question.

Aquino has always been a supporter of the Reproductive Health bill, which brought him under criticism from the Catholic Church even before he became president. This criticism continues until his current administration, since none will back down from their own perspectives... which is a good thing. What is not good is when the Church starts to reiterate his position and harass our president with a threat for excommunication.

So this puts into the question the actual separation between Church and State in this country. Just how far can the Catholic Church step into political matters?

This is not the first time that the Church meddled into affairs of state, particularly with the Reproductive Health bill. I remember Church personnel trying to coerce me into signing a petition or something that puts forward its own bill that it wants to lobby into Congress, which was purported to act as an anti-RH bill as far as I remember. I don't know about you guys, but that move is indicative of the Church's willingness to overstep its bounds just to get its way.

So now it wants to scare President Aquino to back down with a threat of excommunication. If I were in his shoes, I wouldn't be scared of such a threat. However, I believe President Aquino is a devout Catholic. I'm a professed agnostic/deist, or whatever term defines my beliefs, so that makes both of us very different.

In a wider view, this is yet again another attempt by the Church at exerting its authority over the State. They should grow up, though. Excommunication is a threat that holds gravity back during the Renaissance and the years before it. No longer can the Vatican use excommunication or even the Inquisition to assert its authority, but it is entirely possible that the Philippine Catholic Church along with the ultra-conservative administration of Pope Benedict XVI will try a lot more things.

To be fair, the Catholic Church's position is based on its dogma, on which the RH bill breaches by encouraging promiscuity. However, the RH bill goes beyond just that: it is the government's responsibility to make sure that everyone gets the right services like health care, housing and other help it can extend to the members of our society particularly the marginalized sector.

Without proper family planning, it will be tough to do that because our population will balloon without control. The government then will have too much on its hands and, by theory, the RH bill can help alleviate that by providing for artificial means of birth control. Let's face it, the natural rhythm or calendar method is not known for its effectiveness in family planning. But hey, it does encourage abstinence probably why the Church so favors this one.

Well, in my point of view, I believe that the public has the right to choose what it believes to be the right form of birth control. By suggesting that people should be limited only to the natural rhythm method, I think the Church is simply increasing the risks and dangers of uncontrolled population control can bring.

That's the Church's prerogative. However, I believe it doesn't involve it starting to get involved in affairs of the State which unfortunately have to consider more than the religious aspect when it comes to decision-making. Go to Mass one of these Sundays; I believe chances are some priests will be blatantly preaching against the RH bill and by extension our president when they should concentrate on explaining the Word to the devout.

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