A CERTAIN bishop has reminded the clergy in his diocese to refrain from using the pulpit for partisan politics. Perhaps he wants the Church “spared” from any allegation of “endorsing” a candidate for whatever political position. I believe that the prelate’s intentions are good. However, I find the reminder lacking in force to the point that it is unnecessary.
The desire to insulate the Church from partisan politics has been an ideal goal. Sadly, even the members of the hierarchy have not been fully successful in staying away from the divisiveness of political life. For a Church that enjoys influence on people's lives because of its political and social capital, the abovementioned reminder is in simpler terms “to good to be true.” In the very first place, politics is naturally divisive, and it does not make sense to speak of a Church “evangelizing politics” while at the same time dreaming or wishing to live an immaculate life without a tinge of partisanship.
I see, however, a deeper reason for some people’s preference for a non-partisan Church. Especially among some members of the clergy, there is that unconscious aversion to the secularization of what they believe should be purely matters and practices of faith; the liturgy is one. For some, the clear divide between the sacred and the secular must be seen in the Church’s life, specifically the celebration of the Mass. One priest says it well in his FB post: only the laity must be involved in partisan politics, the role of the clergy must be to guide them.
I won’t delve into what the laws (both civil and canon) say about the participation of the clergy in political life. Much has already been said about this issue and apparently many people are bored repeating what legal luminaries have said on the matter. Only those who are literalist in their interpretation of the constitutional provision on the “separation” (of Church and State) would insist that the wall is not collapsible. What I’d like to raise is on the Church’s own attitude towards the “sacred and profane” divide. For me, this is where the Church, especially the clergy, are not consistent.
Precisely, this is where I find that “certain bishop’s reminder” is not only forceless and unnecessary but also shrouded with pretension. If the argument is for the Church to ultimately stick to its role to evangelize and (primarily) promote charity, then this must be lived or carried out through and through not just during election or campaign season.
I have some questions for the members of the clergy, particularly those in the hierarchy to answer. Why can’t the Church apply its reminder not to use the pulpit for partisan politics to other areas in the ecclesiastical sphere. Why is the Church, especially the clergy, tolerant of politicians’ exploitation of religion through various styles? Why are members of the clergy on some occasions, themselves, the enablers of promotion of some politicians? Aren't politicians our special guests during fiestas? Don’t they occupy the privileged spot in our parishes? Don’t parish priests go to them for donations and support (did we even ask the source of the donation; was it clean money)? In issues where the Church needs the backing of some lawmakers, did not the Church approach them for support especially when the bishops were losing in their battle against the RH Law? Did not some members of the hierarchy even go as far as giving ecclesial awards or honors to those so-called “pro-life lawmakers”?
In other words, when was it in Philippine history that the Church was not partisan when it entered the political arena?
February 17, 2022
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