Friday, August 12, 2011
Willy Jose responds to Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago on Conscience and the RH Bill
Miriam's "encyclical": The primacy of conscience says the RH bill is great and all the Popes were wrong after all
by Wilfredo Jose
Senator Miriam Santiago delivers Part 1 of her sponsorship speech of the Senate version of the RH bill.
In so many words, Santiago attempts here to justify her dissent of a key teaching of the Catholic Church. Mainly, she cites the primacy of conscience as the primary justification for her support of artificial contraceptives.
She hinges her dissent on a "historically conditioned", "liberal progressive", personal appreciation of Vatican II. With her selective quotes of Vatican II passages and piecemeal excerpts from encyclical sources, she might indeed present a seemingly acceptable case to the gullible reader. Such is the case that adroit lawyers are wont to present their cases. It is commonly perceived that lawyers can easily portray the innocent as guilty or vice-versa with the crafty turn of words and selective citations. This reminds me of the joke commonly told about lawyers. You can always tell when they are not telling the truth: their lips are moving.
Senator Santiago's idea of progressive theology is that where one does not have to follow KEY traditional Catholic teachings. In this particular case, her dissent ranges herself against the constant, perennial teaching of the Catholic Church against contraception - from the earliest Church Fathers all the way to our present Pope Benedict XVI.
She rejects Humanae Vitae with her explication on the supremacy of her personal conscience. Even as she makes her case for "progressive theology" that sees "fellowships" held together in essentials by their "recognition of papal primacy", her research fails to uncover the fact that her supposed recognition of papal primacy falls flatly in stark contradiction to what Pope Benedict XVI clearly says. It was on the very occasion of the 40th anniversary of Humanae Vitae, that Pope Benedict XVI clearly spells it out: "The truth expressed in Humanae Vitae does NOT change. Quite the contrary, in the light of new scientific discoveries, its teaching becomes more relevant and stimulates reflection on the intrinsic values it possesses.". Clearly, Miriam Santiago's "primacy of conscience" is at odds with her "recognition of papal primacy" on the moral issue of contraceptives. Even as she liberally references Vatican II's Gaudium et Spes, she conveniently fails to note that the same document speaks of the "right conscience" guided by the "objective norms of morality". Senator Santiago on the other hand clearly proposes moral relativism: "what may have been perceived as morally wrong in one set of circumstances would be regarded as morally justifiable in another situation." In other words her definition of morality is: it depends on your own fallible conscience, period.
Here, one who values primacy of conscience should now carefully discern ("after proper study, reflection, and prayer" as Santiago recommends) who is right in this instance: Senator Miriam Santiago or Pope Benedict XVI with the whole weight of Catholic Tradition behind him? I take it to mean that when Senator Santiago says "after proper study", we don't confine our study to her speech alone for that would be far, far from proper. For starters, the early Church Fathers had much to say that Santiago contradicts. Pope Pius XI had much to say likewise. Pope Paul VI of course, as well as the Magisterium throughout the ages. One has to wonder what "historical" theology Miriam is referring to.
Particularly offensive is the part where Senator Santiago downplays the authority of the priests and bishops in emphasizing her dissent. She states: "The priest is not a special person, just because he performs strictly cultic tasks, such as presiding at the Eucharist and administering the sacraments.".To Santiago, the source, summit and very apex of our Catholic faith is reduced to a strictly cultic task that a priest presides over. This is not an attack on the identity of priests anymore, who has been ordained - not of their own power - to pronounce: do this in memory of me. It is an appalling, stunning irreverence of Christ himself - something I never expected even from the dissonant senator. It is a very sad and pathetic testament as to how far she has veered away from the faith.
Even as we should pray for her conversion, the thought most disconcerting is the likely possibility that her piece could be able to sway a considerable number of the flock to her own misdirected way of thinking. That is the very intention of her speech, make no mistake about it. It goes beyond just having the RH bill passed. It seeks to undermine the very fabric of the Catholic Magisterium for it leads us to follow our own conscience regardless. Jesus himself has some grave warnings in leading believers into sin in Mat 18:16 - whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a large millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea. Incidentally, in today's scripture the first reading portrays the namesake of the feisty senator: Miriam the brother of Moses and Aaron. (Nm 12:1-13). Moses' sister Miriam was equally feisty as she and Aaron questioned the divinely-inspired, primary authority of Moses and criticized him roundly: "Is it through Moses alone that the LORD speaks? Does he not speak through us also?". The Lord took grievous offense that his anointed leader was grossly disrespected. The narrative goes... "so angry was the LORD against them that when he departed, and the cloud withdrew from the tent, and...there was Miriam, a snow-white leper!"
We do not know whether Senator Santiago realizes she is practically asking to be turned into a leper or to be thrown to the depth of the seas with a millstone tied around her neck. Miriam the sister of Moses actually suffered only seven days, with the intercession of Moses. Senator Miriam Santiago looks pretty incorrigible but if only she would undergo a similar conversion experience, there is probably hope. Perhaps it would do good for Senator Miriam to be afflicted with leprotic lesions all over her body, while she is sent adrift on a tiny barge in the midst of the ocean, with a millstone around her neck, no food and water, and only a copy of Gaudium et Spes to read over and over again until she gets it right.