Two of my previous articles in this column discussed issues concerning the Roman Catholic clergy in the Philippines, and the objectionable behavior displayed by many of them in contemporary times.
I also cited the villainous Spanish friars Padre Damaso, Padre Salvi and Padre Camorra in Jose Rizal’s novels Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo. The popular television serial Maria Clara at Ibarra was also the subject of my discussion.
My articles also emphasized the importance of the inviolability of the separation of Church and State as mandated by the Constitution.
I likewise called attention to the highly politicized priests and nuns in the Philippines, and their meddling in the affairs of the State, in violation of that inviolability.
It looks like my articles gave some Catholics the wrong impression that I am not a Catholic, simply because I am very critical of cardinals, priests and nuns.
For them, a Catholic should not criticize the Church and its officials.
They are mistaken.
I was born and raised as a Catholic, and I grew up in a Catholic environment.
In my youthful days, I had the juvenile ambition, nurtured by the clergy of my elementary and high school, to join the priesthood.
All that changed when I discovered that the young priests in a seminary I occasionally visited frequently drank liquor on the sly.
Some of them even had girlfriends, in violation of the celibacy rule imposed on the clergy. That discovery was enough reason for me not to pursue the priesthood.
I still heard mass quite frequently during the closing years of the administration of President Ferdinand Marcos Sr.
When priests began the practice of reading anti-government “pastoral letters” in lieu of the usual homily during the mass, my trips to church became infrequent.
It was worse when President Corazon Cojuangco Aquino obtained power in February 1986.
During her term (1986-1992), the Church exercised immense political power and influence in government, unprecedented since, perhaps, the Spanish colonial era when there was a union of Church and State.
Since 1986, it was noticeable the homilies of the mass, and the occasional “pastoral letters” read by the priest instead of the homily, were politically charged and designed to justify the clergy’s meddling in politics.
Jaime Cardinal Sin, the scheming archbishop of Manila back in the 1980s, was instrumental in gathering the crowds at Camps Aguinaldo and Crame in Quezon City during the so-called EDSA Revolt in February 1986.
Because that event paved the way for Mrs. Aquino to seize the presidency, Aquino recognized a debt of gratitude to the cardinal.
In the ensuing years of the Aquino presidency, Sin was powerful enough to get a priest and a nun appointed to the 1986 Constitutional Commission, the unelected assembly of Aquino minions who drafted the defective 1987 Constitution, and to get several priests and nuns appointed to administrative agencies such as the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board.
He also tried his best to influence Aquino in the selection of her candidate for the 1992 presidential election.
President Rodrigo Duterte did not allow the Church to get in the way of the government.
That is why during his term, homilies very critical of his administration were delivered by many priests during the mass. One priest even publicly admitted to wishing bad health for President Duterte.
A priest once said to me that he wished Rizal was never born. That way, the priest said, Noli and Fili would not be around to annoy the clergy in the country today.
The Church currently finds it very difficult to discredit the administration of incumbent President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. because of the overwhelming and unprecedented majority of the votes he obtained in the May 2022 presidential election. That’s good news for me.
News reports of local priests involved in sexual and physical abuse in the past two decades have weakened the credibility of the Catholic clergy today.
For me, the clergy should not get involved in politics, not only because of the constitutionally mandated separation of Church and State, but also by reason of the tax exempt status of organized religion, a status granted by the Constitution.
The right of a citizen to criticize the government arises not only by reason of the free speech clause of the Constitution, but also because of the taxes they pay.
In turn, taxpayer money is spent by the government to function.
Without taxes, government cannot operate.
Thus, those who pay the taxes which finance the operation of the government have the inherent right to criticize the way the government operates.
Since the Church enjoys a tax exempt status, the clergy should not meddle in the affairs of the State.
They should pay taxes before the clergy may interfere in the secular activities of the government.