Church can take part in state affairs—bishop

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MANILA, June 22, 2013—In an attempt to settle debates pertaining to the constitutional provision on the separation of the church and state, a Catholic prelate said that the church hierarchy is entitled to speak and express its opinion on public policies that could affect the welfare of the majority.

Manila Auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo cleared out debates on the controversial separation of the two institutions, saying that taking part in public discourse fulfills the social responsibility of church officials as citizens of the country.

“The separation of the church and state does not imply that members of the clergy are not allowed to criticize the mishaps of politicians in governing the public. We are allowed to criticize them for we are citizens of this nation, too. As Filipinos, it is just right and fitting for us to point out what is wrong in our government,” Pabillo said in the vernacular during his talk at the Katolikong Pinoy recollection held last June 15 at the San Carlos Seminary.

“If we would remain silent, we are not doing our rightful duty as citizens of this nation,” he added.

Pabillo voiced his opinion in light of the frequent clashes happening between the church and the government due to recent legislations deemed by the clergy as against the dogmatic teachings of the Catholic Church.

Among the state legislations that has caught church and state officials in a tussle, is the controversial Reproductive Health law signed by President Aquino last December 21. The law provides reproductive health care and promotes the use of both natural and artificial family planning methods.

The church, which espouses only the use of natural family planning methods, staunchly opposed the measure, saying it promotes the culture of death and promiscuity among Filipinos. Another proposed legislation that has earned the ire of church officials is the bill legalizing divorce in the country.

Pabillo added that constitutional provision on the separation of the church and state is addressed to state leaders for them to implement and enforce, and not to prohibit the church from voicing out its opinion on issues of national concern.

The prelate further urged public officials and lay people alike to act according to their conscience and consider the moral and spiritual implications of their actions.

“Every person, most especially those in the government, must act according to his conscience. If they are faithful Christians, their acts must reflect the deeds of a true Christian,” he said, noting the importance of conscience as an inseparable aspect from one’s being.

Pabillo said that incorporating church teachings in secular life allows people to grow spiritually toward salvation.

“We are saved by God to become one body and blood of Christ. If we are separated from the church, it follows that we will be separated from Christ as well,” he said.

“We have to continue our earthly journey as one people of God. A person who is detached from his community becomes ineffectual. We can never be Catholics who are detached from the church,” he added. (Jennifer M. Orillaza)

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