Starting September 8, 2012, anonymous comments -- whether for or against the RH bill -- will no longer be permitted on this blog.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

In defense of civil disobedience and the Church's power to withhold communion

Jemy Gatdula

To everything, a reasonable basis is needed. One just can’t act like a spoiled brat and do or say anything because he felt like saying it. And the basis must have a logical connection to the action done or contemplated. All of which is founded on law. Because we are supposedly a society of laws and not caprice. Because, simply put, that is what a sane society does and should be.

Calling for civil disobedience, for example in relation to the RH Bill, may be said to be justified under constitutional law. Not to mention history. The most probable legal rationale for which can be found in the Constitution’s Articles II and III. There is also the Supreme Court ruling validating the Cory Aquino government. Following the 1986 People Power uprising (a good example of civil disobedience which, incidentally, was first called by the Catholic Church), the Supreme Court recognized in Lawyers League vs. Aquino that the new government is indeed de jure rather than merely de facto.

In fact, threatening imprisonment against those organizing civil disobedience could be tantamount to the "chilling effect" that is frowned upon by our laws. The case of Chavez vs. Gonzales is but one recent legal basis for this, as well as the "overbreadth doctrine" and the "freedom from subsequent punishment principle."

Civil disobedience could possibly also find eloquent basis in Estrada vs. Escritor, which tolerated non-application of the law on the basis of "sincere religious belief." The ruling recognizes the "religious nature of Filipinos" and the "elevating influence of religion in society." Considering the highly dubious necessity of the RH Bill, this ruling arguably provides the basis for refusing to pay taxes due to religious conviction. As the Supreme Court declared: "man stands accountable to an authority higher than the State." After all, if civil disobedience calling for a change in government (as Cory Aquino did in 1986) could be legally acceptable, then all the more should civil disobedience in the mere form of non-payment of taxes.

An interesting aside is Fr. James Reuter’s call for those teaching in a Catholic school to leave if they are preaching support for the RH Bill. Indeed, it’s quite insane to insist in teaching in a Catholic institution while publicly going against the doctrines of that institution. This is covered under Article XIV of the Constitution. Also in Supreme Court rulings such as Miriam College vs. CA, Camacho vs. Coresis, and UP vs. CSC, as well as guiding foreign opinions such as Sweezy vs. New Hampshire (cited by Supreme Court Justice Antonio Nachura in his Political Law Reviewer). It is the academic institution’s prerogative to decide "who may teach [and who may continue to teach], what may be taught, how it shall be taught, and who may be admitted to study."

For Catholics, the foregoing should definitely not be construed as restricting academic freedom. This point has been addressed in Ex Corde Ecclesiae. As superbly explained by then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger: "As you see with, a medical faculty, you have complete academic freedom, but the discipline is such that the obligation of what medicine is determines the exercise of this freedom. As a medical person, you cannot do what you will ... Catholic theology is not individual reflection but thinking with the faith of the church. If you will do other things and have other ideas of what God could be or could not be, there is the freedom of the person to do it, clearly. But one should not say this is Catholic theology."

Of course, there’s that weird argument that Catholic teaching proscribing contraception is not an infallible but rather "reformable" Church teaching. Whoever said that need to consult more knowledgeable theologians. Giovanni Montini, Karol Wojtyla, Joseph Ratzinger, George Weigel, Steve Ray, John Murray, John Hardon, William Most, Jimmy Akin, Scott Hahn, Janet Smith, Mike Aquilina, Roberto Latorre, Mark Shea, Charles Chaput -- one cannot get a better set of theologians than that and all uphold that the doctrine against contraception is an ordinary "universal" Magisterium of the Church. One can see this clearly from Humanae Vitae, Theology of the Body lectures, the Catechism of the Catholic Church, and Caritas in Veritate.

Finally, the authority of priests to refuse to give Communion to anyone deemed unqualified is protected by Article III of the Constitution, elaborated upon by the Supreme Court in cases such as Austria vs. NLRC and Taruc vs. Bishop De la Cruz. Accordingly, matters relating to doctrine or enforcement thereof are left to the discretion of the bishops or priests. Canon 915 of the Code of Canon Law also affirms the priests’ authority to refuse Communion to those publicly disagreeing with Church teaching.

In any event, to have "Communion" means to be at "one" with the Church. I don’t see the logic of one publicly and obstinately going against Church teaching and then wanting to have Communion. That’s just plain childish. And stupid.

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