Fr Joaquin Bernas weighs in on Article 133 on top of a flawed assumption

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.”

catholic_mass

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 procreation—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.

print

34 Comments on “Fr Joaquin Bernas weighs in on Article 133 on top of a flawed assumption”

  1. What I heard was activists were trying to “reform the Catholic Church.” What the…. when I heard that, I flipped over. The Catholic Church is NOT a democratic institution. You are a churchgoer, you’re supposed to follow what the clergy tell you. You have anything against them, best not be their churchgoer anymore.

    Now if you want changes, you are supposed to go through your parish priest or elder, and hope it reaches the CBCP, or even the Vatican. But if you are refused, sorry nalang. You still have to follow.

  2. Benign0

    “Art. 133. Offending the religious feelings. — The penalty of arresto mayor in its maximum period to prision correccional in its minimum period shall be imposed upon anyone who, in a place devoted to religious worship or during the celebration of any religious ceremony shall perform acts notoriously offensive to the feelings of the faithful.”

    Note that the provision declares that: “The penalty … shall be imposed upon anyone who … shall perform acts.

    Problem here is that, ”in a sermon to a captive audience of churchgoers” (quoting Fr. Bernas), the priest or Bishop merely employs “WORDS” and does not “perform acts” as required under Art, 133

      1. Yes, speaking is an act. And an act is also a performance.

        I do agree with benigs –

        “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.”

    1. There is no doubt that religious leaders are well within their rights to speak or even perform acts for or against a certain issue. As long as what they do falls within the context of religious practice. One cannot, for example, fault a priest for speaking out against the Reproductive Health bill in his sermon. It is entirely appropriate; the official church position goes against the bill. In doing so, the priest is acting in his capacity to teach and counsel the faithful.

      The distinction should be drawn when priests and nuns (and assorted activists) exceed the scope of their rights as citizens and their obligations as religious leaders and interject themselves directly in the issue (be it political, social, economic, even religious) to the point of vilifying and inciting violence or prejudicial action against the target of their speech, conduct or writing. At this point, it is no longer a matter of exercising one’s right to free expression; behavior that is deemed offensive — even hateful — becomes subject to prosecution under the law regardless of who perpetrates it. Even if today’s so-called intellectuals consider the law to be anachronistic and ill-suited to the times.

      1. @J. Saint

        According to you –

        “The distinction should be drawn when priests and nuns (and assorted activists) exceed the scope of their rights as citizens and their obligations as religious leaders and interject themselves directly in the issue (be it political, social, economic, even religious) to the point of vilifying and inciting violence or prejudicial action against the target of their speech, conduct or writing. At this point, it is no longer a matter of exercising one’s right to free expression; behavior that is deemed offensive — even hateful — becomes subject to prosecution under the law regardless of who perpetrates it. Even if today’s so-called intellectuals consider the law to be anachronistic and ill-suited to the times.”

        Care to give us verifiable examples?

        Try googling “vilifying the Pro RH Bill” (without the apostrophe) and I can’t see any specific examples of what you’re talking about.

        1. I am speaking in general terms. That is — under Philippine law, and under the laws of most democracies, citizens (regardless of their economic status, gender or religion) are guaranteed the right to free expression. The exception being when the form of expression they adopt serves to vilify or incite. Or constitutes a violation of laws governing peace and order. In that instance, the state can decide whether or not to prosecute the violator under the law.

          As a general example, consider protests by various Christian organizations in the US and Canada against abortion. Several arrests have involved priests whose expressions of disfavor against the state’s position on contraception and abortion have disrupted public order.

        2. @J. Saint

          How can we have an educational discussion if you’ll invoke “speaking of general terms”.

          I don’t remember Jonass invoking that.

        3. The extreme I’ve read is the “excommunication” thing.

          And these Catholics In Name Only squeezed an issue out of that. As if they’re believers of metaphysical retribution.

        4. What is unclear now? Is the statement I made about freedom of expression in contrast to breaking the law false?

        5. @J. Saint

          “What is unclear now? Is the statement I made about freedom of expression in contrast to breaking the law false?
          Have I commented anything even nearer to that?”

          My comment was –

          “How can we have an educational discussion if you’ll invoke “speaking of general terms”.”

          Let’s be specific with your claims. No more no less.

        6. Correction –

          My comment should be read –

          “What is unclear now? Is the statement I made about freedom of expression in contrast to breaking the law false?”

          Have I commented anything even nearer to that?”

          My comment was –

          “How can we have an educational discussion if you’ll invoke “speaking of general terms”.”

          Let’s be specific with your claims. No more no less.

        7. I never cited a specific church leader. I simply stated the standards by which speech, conduct and behavior, writing and visual displays are supposed to be judged in a democracy. Regardless of who is exercising their right to “freedom of expression.” And that the decision to prosecute perpetrators should rest, ultimately, with the state, not public opinion or special interests.

        8. @ J. Saint

          So when you commented this –

          “The distinction should be drawn when priests and nuns (and assorted activists) exceed the scope of their rights as citizens and their obligations as religious leaders and interject themselves directly in the issue (be it political, social, economic, even religious) to the point of vilifying and inciting violence or prejudicial action against the target of their speech, conduct or writing.”

          you don’t have anything in your mind except what you like to see that conforms to what you want to see.

          And now this is your comment –

          “I never cited a specific church leader. I simply stated the standards by which speech, conduct and behavior, writing and visual displays are supposed to be judged in a democracy. Regardless of who is exercising their right to “freedom of expression.” And that the decision to prosecute perpetrators should rest, ultimately, with the state, not public opinion or special interests.”

          Can you reconcile them?

        9. benign0’s post started with the specific mention of Fr. Joaquin Bernas. The comment I made referenced that, which is why I wrote “priests and nuns.” The intent has always been to state that every citizen of the republic, while possessing the right to freedom of expression, may be prosecuted by the state (or even sued by private individuals) if that citizen abuses the right by using speech or conducting themselves in a manner that vilifies or incites (thereby breaking the law).

        10. @ J. Saint

          Don’ ever change the issue. Clearly, this was your comment –

          “The distinction should be drawn when priests and nuns (and assorted activists) exceed the scope of their rights as citizens and their obligations as religious leaders and interject themselves directly in the issue (be it political, social, economic, even religious) to the point of vilifying and inciting violence or prejudicial action against the target of their speech, conduct or writing.”

          Am I wrong in quoting you?

          Read that specific comment of yours…

      2. I am not changing the issue. Stop imputing other meanings into my comments other than what I have written. The use of “priests and nuns” was simply to reference the original post quoting Fr Joaquin Bernas. My gist of my comment has always been:

        In our democracy, ALL citizens have the right of freedom of expression. If a citizen exceeds the bounds of propriety and uses offensive language or behaves in a manner that incites violence or prejudicial action, that person is in violation of the law. The citizen is then subject to prosecution by the state.

        1. @J. saint

          “This is from yur comment –

          ” to the point of vilifying and inciting violence or prejudicial action against the target of their speech, conduct or writing.”

          I’m not putting any other meaning in it. One can clearly comprehend what you mean.

          I have asked you for verifiable examples in reference to that comment.

          And you can’t give any.

          Shall we say you’re just spinning it based on the narrative you want. No more no less.

        2. Not true. Not “can’t.” I didn’t give a narrative. I cited what the constitution says about freedom of speech and what its limits are. I simply refuse to play your game.

        3. @J. Saint

          My game here, if you can call it a game, is to challenge unfounded claims like the one you have.

          It’s obvious your taking potshots on Catholicism.

          Unfortunately for you, you can’t support your potshots.

          So be it and enough is said.

      3. And there you go again. Making up lies about the meaning and intent of the comment I made. The reference to priests and nuns (religious leaders as a whole) references the original post. My comment — which refers to all citizens as a whole — expounds on the limits of the right to free speech and expression that we enjoy in our society. A right which Carlos Celdran obviously abused.

        1. @J. Saint

          Then, can you cite where I lied in my comment?

          If you can’t cite anything, then, definitely you’re the dishonest one.

  3. “Too much education often has the effect of dulling common sense.”

    Was this really called for? We all have our brain-fart moments.

  4. To Benign0:

    I think what is not critically considered in your article is that the morality of the artificial contraception is not treated as a fallible teaching. Filipino moral theologian and active participant in the then-RH Bill debate, Bishop Teodoro Bacani affirmed the teaching as authoritative teaching of the Catholic church but not an “infallible and irreversible” teaching. What does it implies? It means that this teaching on contraception does not require an “act of faith” or an “act of definitive assent,” but only “religious assent”–“a docile submission of will and mind to what is being taught, motivated by the authority of the authorized teacher, which in this case is the Pope.”

    This is important to note because it means that a Catholic who dissented from this authoritative but not infallible teaching of the Church does not make him/her a bad Catholic.

    So, a pro-RH Catholic, if we follow the arguments of Fr. Bernas, would be offended by the constant damning of pro-RH in the pulpit by an anti-RH clergy.

    1. That’s a good point. Although in the case of the Philippines whose bishops (members of the CBCP) as vassals of the Holy See are categorical in their application of canon law in this instance. So as the “authorised teachers” in this case, the Filipino Catholic does not enjoy as much latitude when it comes to their personal position on artificial contraception vis-a-vis their participation in Church services…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.