Thursday, December 13, 2007

Separation of Church and State

The mere wording of the constitutional provision whereby the Church is first mentioned when addressing the norm of her separation from the State, already implies the following three significant and revealing realities: One, the Church is much ahead in establishment than many States that thereafter emerged all over the world. Two, the Church is existent and operative in all the Continents, and wherefore much bigger in population and territorial coverage than any State where she is implanted. Three, that the Church is by and large universally recognized that she has diplomatic relations with many States all over the world to the extent that by virtue of the Geneva Convention, all her Apostolic Nuncios or Ambassadors are ipso facto the Deans of the Diplomatic Core of the States that have them. This in no way means that the Church should lord it over any State. But neither should the Church be bullied by the State.

It has to be duly noted and admitted that there are certain peculiar and distinct elements in Church and State relationship in every country where their separation is constitutionally provided for. First is the truth no one nor any group of people may claim that they are the Church, nor the State for that matter. Then there is the fact that there are people who are at the same time members of the Church and citizens of the State. Lastly, is the reality that there are people who are officials in the government and who thus represent the State, and who are officials of the hierarchy who then represent the Church. Neither of these individuals however loses their membership in the Church and their citizenship in the State.

To this age and times, the “Separation of Church and State” continues to be an issue when Churchmen get involved in questions with moral issues in conjunction with politicians. More often than not, government officials and even some good meaning people are prone to invoke the Church and State separation when Churchmen speak and/or act on questions of errant socio-moral issues impacting on the people through government acts of commission or omission.

It might be good to bring out the following historical moments in Philippine History—with exactly the same substantive circumstances: there are the well-known Fathers Gomez-Burgos-Zamora who intervened against Spanish authorities due to the latter’s socio-moral abuses against the Filipinos in general. There were Cardinal Sin, some Bishops, Priests and Sisters who intervened against socio-moral abuses of Martial Law against the Filipinos that precisely brought about EDSA 1 and EDSA 2. There was a Bishop and a priest who recently joined the Manila Peninsula episode brought likewise about socio-moral abuses by the present government against the people, specially the poor and the helpless. Incidentally, even in Buddhist Burma, the monks intervened on account of ethico-moral abuses by the military junta against the Burmese people.

The moral of all the above is quite plain and common: when Churchmen make their direct intervention in disturbing and disgusting local and/or national concerns, this they do not to meddle in State matters but to affirm or protest aberrations of the government. When they go to the streets, join rallies and/or dissenting moves, these they neither do not against the State but in denouncing morally erring public officials. The conclusion is simple: let the government officials live upright life and do their tasks with integrity and honesty, and the Churchmen will keep quiet and stay still. It is as clear and simple as that.

12 December 2007