Im­mac­u­late Con­cep­tion and the sep­a­ra­tion of Church and State

The Freeman - - OPINION -

To­day is the Ro­man Catholics' feast of the solem­nity of the Im­mac­u­late Con­cep­tion. In our church, the Parish of the Res­ur­rec­tion of our Lord in BF Homes, Parañaque, where this writer heads the Eu­charis­tic Min­is­ters of Holy Com­mu­nion, to­day is a great hol­i­day of obli­ga­tion. In the gov­ern­ment, to­day is also a non-work­ing reg­u­lar hol­i­day by virtue of Repub­lic Act 10966 signed into law by Pres­i­dent Ro­drigo Duterte on De­cem­ber 28, 2017. The State dec­la­ra­tion of a Church feast day had been ques­tioned by my non-Catholic stu­dents in the Col­lege of Law, whether it con­sti­tutes a vi­o­la­tion of the con­sti­tu­tional prin­ci­ple of sep­a­ra­tion of Church and State.

The Philip­pine Con­sti­tu­tion, in Ar­ti­cle II, Sec­tion 6 pro­vides “the sep­a­ra­tion of the Church and State shall be in­vi­o­lable. No law shall be made re­spect­ing an es­tab­lish­ment of re­li­gion or pro­hibit­ing the free ex­er­cise thereof.” The ques­tion that should be re­solved is whether the dec­la­ra­tion of De­cem­ber 8 every year as reg­u­lar non-work­ing pub­lic hol­i­day vi­o­lates the prin­ci­ple of sep­a­ra­tion. By so pro­claim­ing, isn't the State in ef­fect “es­tab­lish­ing pref­er­ence” for Ro­man Catholi­cism, over and above the other re­li­gions like the Protes­tants, Methodists, Pres­by­te­ri­ans, Sev­enth-day Ad­ven­tists, Je­ho­vah's Wit­nesses, Church of Je­sus of the Lat­ter-Day Saints (Mor­mons), the Philip­pine In­de­pen­dent Church (Agli­payans), and the Igle­sia ni Cristo, among oth­ers?

Well, I told my stu­dents if they ob­ject to it, they should ques­tion the con­sti­tu­tion­al­ity of the law be­fore the Supreme Court. I re­minded them that their re­li­gious con­gre­ga­tions never ques­tioned in the past the dec­la­ra­tion of the fol­low­ing Catholic cel­e­bra­tions also as na­tional hol­i­days: Maundy Thurs­day, Good Fri­day, and Christ­mas Day, and the fol­low­ing as spe­cial non-work­ing days: Black Satur­day, All Saints' Day, and All Souls' Day. All these are solemn Catholic cel­e­bra­tions. The non-Catholics have been silent and never ques­tioned the same. Thus, they might now be deemed to be un­der estop­pel.

In the past there were at­tempts to ques­tion the acts of gov­ern­ment in spend­ing pub­lic funds for re­li­gious pur­poses. When the pope came to the Philip­pines for the first time, the Philip­pine postal of­fice printed stamps with his face on them. A case was filed ques­tion­ing the use of pub­lic fund for re­li­gious pur­poses and fa­vor­ing the Catholic Church. The Supreme Court dis­missed it be­cause the Pope is not only the head of the Catholic Church all over the world; he is also a head of state of the in­de­pen­dent state of the Vat­i­can. There were other sim­i­lar at­tempts which were all un­suc­cess­ful. Some 87 per­cent of the Filipinos are Ro­man Catholics. In a democ­racy, the ma­jor­ity rules, even as we al­ways re­spect dis­sent from the mi­nor­ity.

Sep­a­ra­tion of Church and State does not mean that the two can­not co­op­er­ate with each other, es­pe­cially when their con­stituen­cies are one and the same peo­ple, ex­cept the mi­nor­ity of non-Catholics, of course.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Philippines

© PressReader. All rights reserved.