IN honor of Saint Lorenzo Ruiz of Manila, September is National Catechetical Month for Filipino Catholics. The contradictions, however, include the fact that this country, the birthplace of Christianity in Asia, has a president who likes to castigate the Catholic Church even while delivering his speech on the 120th anniversary of Baptist churches in the Philippines.
While he may look like a pastor-politician, the president’s rhetoric would have been more interesting if he based his tirades on something philosophical and / or reasonably compelling. Critics of Christianity have provided strong arguments. Among the classics are Feuerbach’s The Essence of Christianity, Engels’s On the History of Early Christianity, and A Contribution by Marx to Hegel’s Critique of the Philosophy of Law. Perhaps a substantive tirade struck the foundation of Catholicism. But why Catholicism and not Christianity and / or religion in general? How serious is the president’s “presentation”?
Previously, the president presented the altar of secrets. Subtitled Sex, Politics and Money in the Philippine Catholic Church, he dedicates it “to those who remain firm in their faith while wishing for reforms within the Holy Mother Church”. Does the President want the Church to reform? If so, what about the Church? Pope Francis denounces the shortcomings of the Church. Atheists too expose the discourse both in writing and in public debate.
The late atheist Christopher Hitchens debated with former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, a Catholic convert, after his retirement from politics. The former also debated with another former Oxford student, Alister McGrath, at Jesuit Georgetown University. But why would a Catholic university invite renowned atheists to attack religion, especially Christianity and the divinity of Jesus? In this act, there is intellectual humility and sincerity in learning.
Perhaps the president is playing politics. The president’s tirades against the Church have afflicted college students and professors. Some have bought the president’s demagoguery without providing any literature and / or theoretical foundation, and are baffled, for example, a software engineer turns into a sociologist, etc. They despise intellectuals and hail pilosopo kanto as the new arena for academic discourse. The president has indeed turned out to be a populist.
Populism causes divisions, hampering the vocation of the laity to know the character of the Church, that is to say militantis ecclesiae (militant church). Pope Leo 13 in 1897 dedicated an encyclical recalling how kings and teachers defend the Catholic faith. The greatest of these educators was Peter Canisius, the first German to enter the Loyola Society, the very community that demonstrates intellectual humility and sincerity in learning through dialectical discourse. May Filipino Catholics continue the long tradition of Church learning as Filipinos celebrate National Catechesis Month and the Feast of Saint Lorenzo Ruiz of Manila.
Imitate Saint Canisius and avoid disunity! No division, but reform. And may the words of Pope Leo 13 resonate with Catholics in the Philippines: “… take this opportunity to present the vigorous leader Peter Canisius as a role model to all those who fight for Christ in the army of the Church.” . weapons of knowledge with weapons of righteousness, they will be able to defend the faith with more vigor and efficiency. “
Noah M. Santillan
Assistant Professor of Philosophy and Social Studies
University of the Philippines Cebu