In his column “Unfinished debate over the RH law” (Inquirer, 1/14/13), Fr. Joaquin Bernas cites statements made by John F. Kennedy and Rick Santorum about Church and State separation. Kennedy said, “I believe in an America where the separation of Church and State is absolute; where no Catholic prelate would tell the President—should he be Catholic—how to act ….” Santorum said, “I don’t believe in an America where the separation of Church and State is absolute. …. To say that people of faith have no role in the public square? You bet that makes you throw up.” Father Bernas sides with Kennedy, and that makes me throw up.
First, Kennedy was a womanizer and thus was not a true, practicing Catholic, while Santorum is a devoted family man, a true, practicing Catholic.
Second, Santorum is right and Bernas is wrong. The separation principle bars the State from establishing a national church and from passing laws against the free exercise of religion. It does not bar Church people or people of faith from saying anything about matters of state. They are, after all, citizens and should be involved in the affairs of state.
Father Bernas says, “I am rather disturbed by preachers who use their opposition to the law as a way of defeating electoral candidates who favor or have favored the law.” First of all, the hierarchy and clerics are very prudent and they do not campaign for or against individuals, much less name names. However, they do have an obligation to preach against what is immoral, corrupt, unjust or bad for the people. This is their prophetic role. Bernas mentions “the law.” So now that RH is a law, Church people can no longer speak against it? This is precisely one reason the global pro-RH forces want to legalize contraception (and, later, other abominations), so they can say it is legal and, so, no longer the subject of contention.
Bernas says he is not impressed by the constitutional arguments against the law. He reduces the arguments to one sentence: “The law is unconstitutional because it does not hew closely to the Catholic teaching on contraception.” As usual Bernas misrepresents the pro-life view. Bernas knows very well that the argument against contraception is it is contrary to the natural law, aside from its many undesirable consequences. Contraception is evil not because the Church says so, but because it is intrinsically evil.
Bernas says all this “is a throwback to pre-1908 political society in the Philippines.” Prior to this he says: “As to religious influence on the life of society, we are too aware of the excesses of churchmen ….” Bernas is among those who depict clerics as Padre Damasos whenever it suits their purpose. Not only is he now a supporter of RH, he is also among those who would weaken the moral authority of the Church.
Well, at least Bernas is right on one thing: His column’s headline says, “Unfinished debate over the RH law.” Yes, the fight has just started.
Pontifical Council for the Family