United but distinct not divided PDF Print E-mail
Thursday, 02 June 2016 13:28

REFLECTION

BY FR. ROY CIMAGALA

 

 

I just would like to put in my two cents’ worth in this issue of separation of Church and state. This issue has been hogging the limelight lately, and all sorts of ideas have arisen, including the wrong and dangerous ones.

To be sure, both Church and state have to be united and have to know how to work in tandem, because both serve the same people who are both Christian faithful and citizens. Of course, their service is distinct from each other, not divided, much less hostile to each other, with the Church working for the spiritual and eternal common good, and the state for the material and eternal common good.

The separation of Church and state has to be understood properly. When Christ said, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and to God the things that are God’s,” (Mt 22,21) he certainly did not mean that there are two mutually exclusive authorities here on earth.

God is the supreme authority to whom even the most powerful earthly authority has to pay obeisance. After all, as St. Paul said in his Letter to the Romans, “there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God.” (13,1)

We have to junk that notion that all authority here on earth simply emanates from the people. That’s a Godless understanding of authority and power that would consider these values detached from God’s providence and fully dependent on our common will, considered as the supreme will beholden to no higher authority.

We need to understand that “the things of Caesar” are also part of the “things of God” except that given our earthly condition and the way we handle “the things of Caesar,” meaning all our temporal and mundane affairs that have to be regulated by an earthly authority, we enjoy a certain autonomy that is proper to our human nature that enjoys our God-given freedom.

Part of the peculiarity of our temporal and mundane affairs, especially our politics, is that there are no uniform positions to be regarded as so necessary as to be assumed by everyone.

Things would depend on a great variety of conditions—one’s background, aptitude, culture, history, orientations, personal preferences and taste, etcetera. And these, complex and complicated as they are, have to be respected.

Of course, the way to resolve and integrate all this vast variety of different positions has to be agreed upon by a certain consensus. In this regard, we have to contend with the reality that there will be no “perfect” position in a given issue or “perfect’ solution to a given problem.

We just have to contend with what is workable and effective for at least a period of time and to the majority of the people without entirely neglecting the preferences of the minority.

While we should try our best to accommodate everyone, we should not forget that we cannot please everyone. We just have to learn with that fact of life.

So, any politician or political program that touts to have all the solutions to all the problems of the country, i.e., that promises a utopia, is definitely a false leader and a questionable program.

The Church actually has something to say on anything about our temporal and earthly affairs, since everything in our human affairs has a moral and spiritual bearing. Yes, this can include our politics. In fact, our political activities carry with them a heavy moral and spiritual burden that would and should be of great concern to the Church.

The Church may not have the competence to talk about the technicalities of these human affairs, but it not only has the competence but also the authority to speak on the moral and spiritual aspects of the issues involved.

Within the Church, the hierarchy and the clergy, from the Pope down to the latest deacon, should not be partisan, though they can and in certain instances should talk about the moral and spiritual dimensions. In this, they should avoid even sounding partisan.

These pronouncements, put as reminders, suggestions or clarifications, should not be considered as partisan. Rather, they simply are views which the rest of the faithful are invited to consider.

It’s the laity in the Church who can be partisan based on their conscientious assessments of the issues involved. In resolving their differences, everyone is invited always to be respectful and  charitable.

The Church leaders can only take strong positions in politics when serious issues needing clear Christian guidance are involved. The laity themselves should also take active part in this. Let’s remember that the Church includes both clerics and laity.