IN the light of the recent strong pronouncements by the Church against the current administration on the rampant killings happening in the country, it is not remiss to once again revisit the principle of separation of church and state which is enshrined in our Constitution (Art II, Sec.6).
Some people believe that church leaders should just confine themselves to purely religious activities, like saying masses, baptizing babies or anointing the sick. They think that priests and other church leaders should not dip their fingers in political or government affairs.
It should be emphasized however that the doctrine of separation of church and state does not mean that the church or it’s leaders cannot get involved politics or government. Constitutionalists and legal experts have long interpreted this doctrine to mean more as a restriction to the state rather than the church. Under this principle, the state cannot enact laws establishing a religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof. (Sec.5, Art III of the Bill of Rights.)
There are no secular laws or regulations prohibiting church leaders or members, from participating in political matters. Priests and church leaders, have political rights too, just like you and me or any Filipino citizen. Thus, we have had some priests ran and won elective offices. Parenthetically, under their own laws, the Catholic Church does not allow priests to hold a public post. But non-compliance with canon laws may not disqualify a priest from filing his candidacy. We also see nuns and priests, organizing and/or marching in political rallies. They are merely exercising their rights and expressing their political opinions.
At their homilies, priests also remind or encourage their congregation to be vigilant and to stand up for their rights, specially their unalienable rights to life, liberty and pursuit of happiness. Priests usually explain these concepts with perspectives from the scripture readings for the mass. We also hear pastoral letters being read during mass, touching on current issues and concerns like extrajudicial killings, government corruption, war on drugs, etc. All these are done to provide the church members with the truth about important developments occurring in our midst. We all need the truth specially because we are constantly bombarded with fake news and lies from everywhere… TV, radio, print media, internet, and even from the highest leaders of our government.
We all need to voice out what is rightful. As Archbishop Socrates Villegas stated recently: ‘To keep quite in the face of lies is a sin’