Sunday, June 5, 2011

From belief to unbelief

Minyong Ordonez is a friend whose dedication to the Faith is admirable. His article found in the June 3, 2011 issue of The Philippine Daily Inquirer is worth our consideration.

HOW CAN one say he is a Catholic and ignore the teachings of his religion? Why be a Catholic if one thinks his religion is erroneous? Is there pride and truth in being an egoistic Catholic? Are such Catholics who fill up the church and who participate in the same rituals, say the same prayers, and profess the same beliefs in both God and the Church’s commandments sincere or hypocritical?

Pro-RH lawmakers insist they are Catholics but in the same breath disagree with the Catholic hierarchy’s rejection of the RH bill. This constitutes contradiction of the first degree.

Oneness in doctrine is one of the conditions defining Catholicism. The second is holiness of origin, and the third is apostolic succession. Holiness means that the Church is holy because it has been established by Jesus Christ who is Himself holy and that it is guided by the Holy Spirit in the proclamation of the truth and the administration of sacraments. Apostolic means that the Church traces its authenticity and heritage to the apostles who were instructed by Jesus Christ to evangelize the world headed by the apostle Peter: “Thou art Peter and upon this rock I will build my Church and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. To thee I will give the keys to the kingdom of Heaven and whatsoever thou shall bind on earth shall also be bound in Heaven. And whatever thou shall loose on earth shall also be loosed in Heaven.”

From this awesome passage in the Holy Scripture declaring the wisdom, love and trust of God, the Church grew and prospered organizationally and doctrinally under the guidance of the Holy Spirit beginning right after Pentecost.

The Catholic Church is firm in its stand that the killing of the unborn is intrinsically evil, a morality issue. And that the right to life and its preservation are guaranteed by the Constitution and that Catholics are free to practice their religious beliefs. If enacted into law the RH bill will be coercive for Catholics because they will be legislated to act against their faith and their will.

In the legislature, we have politicians who push for the enactment of the RH bill while proudly proclaiming that they are Catholics. They become evasive and rhetorical in confronting the Catholic objection to the bill’s birth control objectives which prescribe abortion-inducing abortifacients, contraceptives and invasive means such as ligation and sterilization.

The occurrence in contemporary times of Catholics who do not share the official teachings of the Church’s magisterium is widespread in the United States, the melting pot of rights and freedom for individual thinking and judgment.

Catholics who choose what or what not to believe in the composite teachings of the Church are popularly called “cafeteria Catholics.” Just like in a turo-turo restaurant, they choose to eat only what they like and skip those that don’t appeal to their taste.

Relativism, the “ism” that spawned cafeteria Catholics, was influenced by several philosophical, economic and scientific developments that took place during the last two centuries. In Central Europe, these developments caused the shift of societies’ dependence on the Christian religion as a way of life. The change was labeled as a shift from belief to unbelief. The late Russian Nobel prize-novelist Alexander Solzhenitsyn called it anthropocentricity, with makes man the center of everything that exists. One religious philosopher even redefined God as a “progressive providence,” almost modifying the axiom that truth is permanent and unchangeable.

The last century featured decades of more scientific breakthroughs in medicine, food production, engineering, transportation and communication technologies. The advances in marketing and distribution gave birth to globalization of business and consumer habits, further upgrading lifestyles and multiple-choice consumerism in a pluralistic society. The politics of democracy began to manifest its righteousness in the name of freedom, emphasizing human rights as the end-all and be-all in entertaining all possible human needs in pursuit of individualistic pleasures and conveniences, dimming and deadening Christian morality in human awareness and consequent acts.

Relativism has long encroached on the modern urban societies of the Western World, causing changes in both the political, social and religious tradition of politics and culture of the country.

Cafeteria Catholics exemplify this change from belief to unbelief in this age of modernism, affecting not only the legislation of our politics but also the behavior of our constituency.

To preserve the integrity of their faith, Catholics must re-study and re-learn their religion in order to gain depth in and perspective on their faith. They must discern not only the role of faith and reason in enhancing their adherence to the Gospel but also the doctrinal beauty and power of their catechism.

Minyong Ordoñez is a freelance journalist and a member of the Manila Overseas Press Club. Email:

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