What probably is the most discomforting aspect of the Ratzinger's papacy is that it has taken aim at secularism is the new "evil" that threatens the Church. This is worrysome since secularism has been coexisting with institutional religion for more than a hundred years but never was in the sights of the Church as a whole.
This trend has many alarmed since Benedict's subalterns have taken on science, with a top cardinal questioning the basis for evolutionary theory. As a corollary of secularist principles, science has achieved autonomy from religion. John Paul II has admitted and apologized for "theological misunderstanding" in the Galileo affair and was extremely careful not to intrude into the Magisterium of Science. Here John Paul got the praises of agnostic evolutionist Stephen Jay Gould.
The possibility of another Galileo affair has increased under Benedict's watch. If this happens this would inflict considerable damage to the Church. We have Galileo as a precedent. Historians say that the Galileo affair did more damage to the Church than the Protestant Reformation ever did.
What is the Church so worried about when John XXIII had no problem working with secularists? and John Paul II with the scientists?
Papa Ratzinger may be right when this kind of liberal secularism has been elevated to a Religion in which its dogma cannot be contested. If that's the case, Benedict has the right to call in the Church Army!
This kind of secularism was never the original idea of course. There idea was simply to provide space for free exercise of religion with the state not favouring any religion.
But if Secularism becomes a religion in itself, which the state is bound to uphold, then we can expect confrontation.
Well it seems the Catholic Church in the Philippines is starting to view things that way. However when has the government exalted secular principles? When did Filipinos become rabidly secular? Even in the bastion of secularism, the University of the Philippines, there are churches and Islamic prayer rooms. The Belen and Christmas star are pretty fixtures for Yuletide. Despite this former UP President Pepe Abueva complains that the UP has become too secular!
Manolo Quezon describes the historical trajectory of secularism in the Philippines in his latest Inquirer op ed. The answer is that the secularist traditions dearly held by my abuelo and that of Manolo's (both Freemasons) are almost dead and gone.
In the end Manolo Quezon has this to say
"At the very least the hierarchy not only has the right, but the duty, to mobilize. It is up to the faithful whether they will follow their shepherds’ lead. Personally, I do not think it either desirable or productive to question Catholics on questions of faith or morals: Any serious Catholic is under the same obligation as any decent Filipino to defend his principles, to the death, if need be. To demand of Catholics that they restrict the application of their faith and morals to the confines of their homes and churches is essentially to ask them to commit apostasy."
I have to dissent and be a "heretic" if Manolo doesn't want to prick Holy Mother Church. We have to question Catholics (read: the hierarchy) on questions of faith and morals if these reinforce unjust social structures in the country. Since the Roman Church has never been disestablished in this country, this questioning and critcism is much needed and will do good for the nation. The nation's founders envisioned the nation above all democratic and secondly secular. If the Catholic Church or any religious group constrains our democratic traditions then resistance is the only moral choice.
The Roman Church (read: the bishops) in the Philippines simply doesn't want to lose temporal power. The independence of the Philippines wasn't realized when the Senate kicked out the US bases as the Left would have it. The independence of the Philippines hasn't been realized since the Roman Catholic Church in the Philippines still exercises temporal power. This is the raison d'être of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente and also my nationalist forebears.
Catholics are not asked to limit their practice of their faith to their churches and homes. That destroys our democratic foundations as a society. It is offensive to my rights as a citizen of this Republic if that were asked of me.
But the State has the right to enforce the constitution's principles of secularism. The Church has the duty to respect that. That's why I believe that it was dishonest for Father Ed Panlilio not to resign his Holy Orders when he ran for Pampanga governor. Mere taking of "leave" from priestly duties isn't enough. His bishop was not that honest too. He should have removed Panlilio's faculties to act as a priest. This is prime evidence that the principle is honoured in the breach. The same is true for Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. She has honoured the principle in the breach so many times.
Irony! It is only England which has an Established Church that bans by law any cleric that tries to sit in the Commons.
Manolo Quezon failed to say that this country is a multireligious society. Thus the Republic cannot exist for Catholics, Iglesia ni Cristo or any religious group for that matter. It exists for the Filipino people.
The Population and Reproductive health bill in Congress is an important litmus test for the nation. If it passes then the Roman Church is on the way to disestablishment. It would still be a important player in the nation's life and it can fulfill its true mission that is based on charity, not temporal power. The country would have recovered its secular principles and a real recognition of the multireligious nature of Philippine society would have begun.