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The dictum ‘Charity begins at home’ binds Catholic Church

12:35 AM October 29, 2014

In an Inquirer special report, we learn that the national government has allotted P165 million for the reconstruction of 10 churches in Bohol and one in Samar. The churches were either damaged or destroyed by the last earthquake. Initially, the government balked at the notion in view of the “doctrine of separation of Church and State.” However, when advised of laws on preservation of cultural heritage, it agreed to fund the project (Front Page, 10/17/14).

Of course, any government assistance to restore or reconstruct churches damaged or destroyed by a natural disaster violates a most fundamental provision of the 1987 Constitution: “The separation of Church and State shall be inviolable” (Section 5, Article II).

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The doctrine of inviolability of separation is well-settled. Authors and commentators on constitutional law, among them Recto, Tañada, Carreon and Cruz, have pointed out that, indeed, there is a “wall of separation” between Church and State, which bars one from meddling in the affairs of other, or from assisting or influencing the other. Therefore, the decision of the Aquino administration, no matter how laudable, is constitutionally impermissible.

If the project is pushed through, what would prevent other religious groups, like the Protestant churches, Iglesia ni Cristo, Islamic or Buddhist communities, from requesting similar doles? The presidential “pork” perhaps is already reeling from the US demand to construct military or new naval bases (at Oyster Bay and Subic) under the unconstitutional Edca (Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement). But even if we have the money, aid to religious groups to rebuild their places of worship is simply anathema to the fundamental law.

The Aquino administration is too soft-hearted: It cannot resist extending comfort to religious and political groups (like the Bangsamoro) in a manner so liberal that it conflicts with the Charter. So when the Supreme Court declares some acts and practices (say the Disbursement Acceleration Program) as running afoul of the Constitution, President Aquino becomes indignant and accuses the Supreme Court of “judicial overreach.”

The Church is tax-exempt. There is simply no justification for the government not to respect the separation of Church and State—unless P-Noy is willing and able to duplicate the sagacity of two famous women in history—Maria Theresa of Austria and Catherine the Great of Russia, who were courageous and correct enough to tax the Church.

The Catholic Church is one of the richest institutions in the world. It has the capacity and main duty to help rebuild its churches destroyed by “acts of God,” following the dictum “Charity begins at home.”

—NELSON D. LAVIÑA,

retired ambassador,

nlavina3@fastmail.fm

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TAGS: 1987 Constitution, Bohol, Catherine the Great of Russia, Catholic Church, Church and State, Edca, Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement, Iglesia Ni Cristo, Maria Theresa of Austria, Protestant churches, Samar
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