Interesting point revered “constitutionalist” Father Joaquin Bernas makes as he weighs in on the subject of Article 133 of the Revised Penal Code (RPC)…
[…] Article 133 also raises an intriguing question: When a priest or bishop castigates or consigns to the netherworld those who oppose the Reproductive Health Law in a sermon before a captive audience of churchgoers, should he be penalized by the State or canonically censured for offending religious feelings? After all, defenders of the RH Law also have feelings! What is good for the gander should also be good for the goose.
Sounds impressive, doesn’t it? The newly-enacted Reproductive Health (RH) Law officially makes artificial contraception available to the public at state expense. Basically Bernas is saying that priests too can, in theory, be accused of “offending religious feelings” and presumably charged on grounds of violating Article 133 of the RPC if they damn RH Bill “defenders” at the pulpit in front of their “captive audience of churchgoers.”
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Bernas’s characterisation of these churchgoers as “captive” is a pivotal assumption that holds up his house-of-cards of an argument. Unfortunately it is a flawed one. Artificial contraception after all is categorically not an acceptable practice under Roman Catholic Canon Law. By entering a Catholic Church voluntarily to participate in a Catholic service, it is presumed that you subject yourself to the by-laws of the administrator of the premises and the officiator of the service. And the Catholic Church makes its terms of membership quite clear when it comes to human sexuality and procreation…
Similarly excluded [from “lawful means of regulating the number of children”] is any action which either before, at the moment of, or after sexual intercourse, is specifically intended to prevent procreationâ€”whether as an end or as a means.
Perhaps then, a priest damning the pro-RH Bill amongst his flock in Church may hurt their feelings (to be fair, Bernas acknowledges that they too have feelings). But by coming to Church churchgoers had de facto effectively waived their right to be offended by any Church official who says stuff that is consistent with canon law. They came to Church to hear mass. Compare that to how some “activists” go to and even barge into premises to say something that could be construed as an offense to “religious feelings.” Big difference.
Churchgoers, a “captive” audience? Indeed they are. But Catholics don’t even have to walk into a church building to be a captive of Catholic dogma. Simply professing one’s membership in the Catholic Church already makes one a captive of whatever a priest has to say that is consistent to Catholic dogma — whether you are in a church or outside of it. And to be a Catholic and offended by a message that is clearly consistent with Catholic Canon Law is oxymoronic at best.
It is easy to justify breaking the law when you’ve got popular sentiment behind you. That’s how former President Arroyo got away with assuming power extra-constitutionally in 2001. Just because a million-odd bozos trooped to Edsa that year, removing a legitimately-elected president from office was easily re-packaged as a “miraculous” achievement. In the same way, it is easy to get caught up in the popular sentiment of the moment and miss the underlying fundamental flaw in the logic of it all sitting right under your nose.
Too much education often has the effect of dulling common sense.
benign0 is the Webmaster of GetRealPhilippines.com.