Miriam to Church: Help poor, back RH
MANILA, Philippines - The Catholic Church must aid in abolishing injustice, particularly to the poor, and opposing the reproductive health (RH) bill would go against this objective, Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago said yesterday.
In her sponsorship speech on Senate Bill 2865 or the RH bill, Santiago cited the principles of liberation theology, which revolve around the theory that the message of Jesus Christ is “above all a call to struggle against the social forces of oppression.”
“I respectfully submit that in the Philippines, the Church must take a clear stand against social injustice. In all humility, I dare to echo the call of liberation theology: the first step in abolishing injustice is to recognize how much the Church itself is tied to the unjust system that oppresses the very poor. RH is available to the rich, why should it not be made available to the very poor?” she said.
Santiago, who took up postgraduate studies at the Maryhill School of Theology, explained that liberation theology originated from Latin America where liberation from social, political and economic oppression was seen as “an anticipation of eschatological salvation.”
It is part of progressive theology where the Church is seen as a fellowship of spiritual communities held together in essentials by their recognition of papal primacy as opposed to traditional theology, which sees the Church as a super state governed by an absolute monarch whose aim is maximum amount of conformity.
Santiago argued that progressive Catholics and even Filipino Catholics are no longer willing to obey the Church blindly, and they support the RH bill.
She cited the October 2008 survey conducted by the Social Weather Stations (SWS), which showed that 71 percent of Filipinos were in favor of an RH bill.
In October last year, Pulse Asia reported that 69 percent of Filipinos were still in favor of the RH bill.
Santiago maintained that the controversy over the RH bill was brought about by the encyclical Humanae Vitae issued by Pope Paul VI, which condemned the use of artificial methods of contraception, including the pill.
An encyclical is a papal letter sent to all bishops of the Catholic Church.
“With authority as the central issue, the Church reached a state of extreme tension when Pope Paul VI issued his encyclical Humanae Vitae. Notably, the Pope did not act collegially with the bishops in issuing his encyclical,” Santiago said.
She pointed out that the encyclical was the result of a Special Papal Commission that submitted a majority and minority report, the first of which proposed that contraception should no longer be condemned.
The minority report, on the other hand, urged the Pope to continue to condemn contraception.
“Paradoxically, Pope Paul VI decided in favor of the minority view. His unusual decision shook the Catholic world and that is the reason why the Catholics in this country are so intensely divided over the RH bill,” Santiago said.
The sponsorship speech of Santiago was the first of three parts for the RH bill, which she divided into three topics, namely Catholic theology, constitutional and international law, and social economics.
She is set to deliver the rest of her sponsorship speeches in the coming weeks.
Also present at the Senate to support the RH Bill were former health secretary Esperanza Cabral, former Rep. Riza Hontiveros Baraquel, Population Commission Commissioner Ben de Leon, Gemma Cruz-Araneta, and actress Heart Evangelista.
The good senator is commendable in calling out to the Catholic Church in the Philippines to aid in abolishing injustice, particularly with respect to the plight of the poor, something which the Church has been doing for a very long time, and which still continues at present, through its livelihood programs and institutions whose major concern is to help the poor and raise their standard of living. For that she is commendable.
What seems to be below her however is when she begins to dabble in theology, using it to underline her point. Well, Senator Santiago is an accomplished an a respectable legislator, and I wouldn’t begrudge her the fact that in the halls of the senate she’s really good. But she’s no theologian, and shouldn’t be treated as such. In the first place, in wading in the theological and doctrinal arena choosing to speak from the standpoint of liberation theology won’t do her nay good, much less would it earn her any serious sympathizers within the ambit of Catholic theology, for the reason that liberation theology is not soundly Catholic. Any serious student of theology, in dealing with liberation theology, aside from hearing out the likes of Gustavo Gutierrez and other proponents of the said theology, would have had read also the official stand of the Catholic church concerning it, as it is expressed in the Instruction offered by the Congregation of the Doctrine of Faith, headed during that time by the then Cardinal Ratzinger. The document states very clearly, without ambiguity, from the very first sentence to the last, what the Catholic Church views liberation to be: The Gospel of Jesus Christ is a message of freedom and a force for liberation; Liberation is first and foremost liberation from the radical slavery of sin.(Introduction, Instruction on Certain Aspects of “Theology of Liberation”, Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith, August 6, 1984). The lady senator is mistaken when she refers to the center of the message of Jesus Christ is above all a struggle to combat the forces of social oppression. But this blunder of hers is not surprising; this was principally the same one committed by proponents of the said liberation “theology”. She is correct, however, in describing it as a theory, because in reality it is: a theory not in consonance with the Gospel truth. This blunder is made all the more understandable due to the fact of how she sees the figure of Christ in relevance of the issue, which is merely that of a revolutionary with whom I could cross opinions, one with whom I could either agree or agree to disagree with, and not as the Lord whose law of love is binding. This pronouncement would make many “progressive” “catholics” sneer, but then this is another point in the issue. In the Church one doesn’t do justice to the Gospel and to Christ the Lord by labeling everyone whether he is conservative or progressive, since this labels ought not to exist in the Church. These are political labels, and the Church is not political (term used not in the way many people would understand). The truth is much simpler: either you’re faithful to Christ and the Gospel which the Church has been commissioned to teach, or you’re not. “Whoever is not with me is against me; does not gather with me scatters” as our Lord himself said (Lk. 11:23).
The liberation that the lady is talking about is not the really the solution to the oppression of the poor that she sees. The fight against the RH bill is precisely the fight against corruption of the most radical kind: moral corruption. The senator is calling out to the Church to do something that she has been doing all along, whether within her ranks, or in society at large. One does not help the poor in blinding them to the truth of things, by giving them a utlilitarian philosophy and morality: it would serve all the more to bury them in their poverty.
Rh advocates are always fond of pointing out statistics showing numbers of Catholics dissenting from Church teaching to legitimize their claims. This again stems from a deep misunderstanding and misconception of what the Church is, one that may be influenced by the democratic political setting that we are in. Though we all know that for now this may be the most suitable system of government that we can have, nevertheless we are all too painfully aware of its many shortcomings and imperfections. Sorry to say, the Church is not democratic, nor is it a democracy. Such has not been the way its holy Founder envisioned it to be. Church teaching is not swayed nor affected by the will of the many, nor of the people, much as the truth is not affected by the winds of opinion wherever they may blow. In the Church, people of God and the mystical body of Christ, the prime statement is not “We the People” but rather “for you alone are the Holy One, You alone are the Lord, you alone are the Most High, Jesus Christ, with the Holy Spirit, in the glory of God the Father”, words which we sing every Sunday in the Gloria at Mass. Funny that “progressive catholics” don’t seem to notice that. In the Church therefore we come not to air out our opinions but rather to listen to the Word of God, to the Truth that liberates, a truth that is as immovable as the Rock upon which it stands. That is why it is no big deal that Pope Paul VI waived the findings of the theological commission set up to study the morality of artificial contraception, primarily because it stood against the truth which the Church had taught and believed in for ages. No, as the lady senator in question above would purport, this was no breach of collegiality (and however the lady might understand it to be, no doubt something akin to the parliamentary process no doubt. This is politicizing the Church all over again, and they are the ones who are telling the Catholic Church to respect the boundaries of Church and State) between the Pope and the bishops of the world. The fact that there was much turmoil especially within the Church over this magisterial acclaration on contraception was understandable: it was the wailing protest of an intantile generation in their puerile unacceptance of authority. Who could not forget the cry of the Spirit of ’69, suspicious of any authority, especially one that comes far and above any other government made by people, in an era when change occurred suspiciously just for the sake of change?
So, basically, whether it be true or not that many Catholics opine favorable towards contraception and the RH bill does not budge the truth one bit. Jesus Christ once likened himself to the stone rejected by the builders, a stone that has become the foundation of a big edifice, upon which anybody would stumble, and upon which anybody whom it would fall upon would be squashed.
The speech delivered by the lady senator Santiago was the first of a triptych. She has considered the bill from the standpoint of Catholic theology which is not actually too Catholic (not to mention that the institute from which she had her postgraduate studies in Theology, which she evidently preens in, is questionable in its orthodoxy and fidelity to true Catholic teaching). Further one she would consider it from constitutional and international law, and from there she would move to economics.
But I really think she shouldn’t be dabbling in Theology as something she could make pronouncements authoritatively. She would do herself a grave injustice if she does so, since all that she could spin would be fictional theology, not one which anybody with a mere baccalaureate decree in Theology could even handle.
By the way, why does the name of an actress figure among her supporters? as if that could help for a has-been...i don't wish to be uncharitable mind you...