. . . is the topic of my Trade Tripper article in this Friday-Saturday issue of BusinessWorld:
A priest once asked: "Have you ever bothered to think how absurd it is to leave one’s Catholicism aside on entering a university, or a professional association, or a scholarly meeting, or Congress, as if you were checking your hat at the door?"
The question is relevant. I’ve heard fellow lawyers, government officials, policymakers, and even from so-called "civil society" (oftentimes not very civil) say that while they have personal beliefs on the matter, they set it aside because of certain professional or political reasons. And that, in a nutshell, is what’s wrong (or at least one of the things wrong) with this country: people have compartmentalized their lives so much that there no longer exists in them a working internal compass other than self-gratification.
They say they’re nationalistic but are contemptuous of the Filipino poor. Business leaders claim to fight for domestic industries, but everything about them, from the cuisines they prefer to the shoes they wear, scream "foreign is better." And they loudly proclaim being Catholics but think nothing of bashing the Church or the pope.
Ironically, in today’s Philippines of instant gratification, of a supposedly empowered youth that resents being taught by their elders, and an IPod culture that celebrates individual freedom way above the welfare of the country, it’s the Church that is made to seem archaic and out of touch.
Frankly, there is no going around the demands of faith. The clergy, even if it wants to, simply cannot conform to the changing fashions of thought or beliefs. The Catholic faith does place demands on its followers, a lot of which are admittedly quite hard. But what people have to remember is that it’s not the priests or the pope that imposes these demands. It is Jesus Christ himself.
Some people make the mistake of considering Jesus merely as a wise and free-spirited man who preached love but whose message got twisted by the Church. Anybody who actually read the Bible would know how far that is from the truth. Yes, Jesus did preach love but the overshadowing priority of that love is for God. Love for fellow man comes second. And Jesus was no long-haired disheveled slacker saying a soft "peace dude." The guy was an uncompromising disciplinarian. And many of the things Jesus was saying are downright nutty (i.e., slice off a body part rather than sin, to be first one has to be last, no to divorce, love your enemies, that a piece of bread and a cup of wine is His body and blood and we should eat and drink it, etc.). Nutty, that is, if taken outside the context of His hugely outrageous claim that got Him crucified in the first place: that He, an uneducated promdi carpenter without any discernible source of income, is the son of God.
Truly, there is no middle ground in this. It’s either you believe in what He is saying or you don’t. If the latter, you have to dismiss him as some crazy person who just stayed too long under the sun. In which case, perhaps one would be justified in doing whatever one feels like doing. But if you believe that He is the son of God, then what becomes ridiculous now is not following Him. So, when He demands that we should (because He says we can) control our hormone-filled bodies and "be perfect," you have to believe He knows what He’s talking about (because He’s God). And since you believe He’s God, then you have to recognize that the Church He founded He authorized to guide us with fundamental truths that not even science, marketing campaigns, popular actors or columnists, can change. Otherwise, reject him as a mere repressed celibate jerk. What you can’t do is proclaim you’re for Christ and then insult Him by waving condoms at His earthly representatives. It’s childish, flaky, and inane.
Some people insist that we should be directed by our individual consciences. But remember that we are always capable of self-deception. And fickle-mindedness depending on one’s current emotion or desire (or in the case of some "presidentiables," an absence of conviction: flip-flopping from support for the RH Bill to a suddenly "nuanced" view on the matter). That is why our consciences have to be guided by the truths pronounced in the Bible, by the Church, and by holy tradition.
Finally, some people blame the Church for today’s immoral society. The Church is not at fault. We are. What the Church can only do is show us the way and it has been doing so consistently, responsibly, and bravely. It is up to us to take that way or not. Unfortunately, a lot of Filipinos now seem to think that bratty disobedience is a virtue. Perhaps people should take time to consider that a little bit of humility and growing up might be in order. It may even do this country good.