Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Do we know what being a Catholic means?

Do we know what Catholics want?

The above title of Rina Jimenez-David's latest opinion piece in the Philippine Inquirer begs the question in a manner of speaking that what the majority 'Catholics' want, must surely be accorded superiority in the public sphere by weight of argument. If many of them want something, they must be right? Of course it goes without saying that it is a source of mystery as to what she means by the word 'Catholics'.

"One of the pending pieces of legislation in the House and the Senate is the Reproductive Health bill, now subject to the politics of brinkmanship as this Congress enters its dying days."

Just by her opening salvo, it is not difficult to predict where the rest of the column is leading to, going by her previous diatribes against the Catholic Church here, here, and here.

Again, she laments the involvement of the Church in the RH bill, going as far with an allegation that "there’s word that the Catholic hierarchy has talked to Arroyo and wrangled an agreement that in exchange for their continuing support, the President would prevent passage of the bill by talking to her congressional allies..". Never mind if it is plain hearsay because just after a few more sentences, Ms. David quickly reveals her foregone conclusion:

"And that’s our situation today: the greater good of citizens, but especially of women and children, held hostage to political accommodation and moralistic bullying".

In sum, Ms. David's idea of the Church's role is to flex political muscle and moralistic bullying at the expense of the 'greater good of citizens'. So, to Rina David, the Church is just a terrorist organization, being hostage-takers? But then again, it is another source of mystery as to what she understands by the word 'greater good of citizens', let alone the word 'moralistic'.

Ms. David now draws parallels with the health care debate in the United States. She devotes much of the rest of her column into extolling the advocacy of the US-based group "Catholics For Choice". This group, which calls themselves Catholics, advances the hotly-debated health care reform by the Obama administration. This group is also unabashedly pro-abortion, and that is why they label themselves as pro-choice Catholics: "for choice". That is, for choice of abortions. It's website states that: "Catholic support for legal abortion is grounded in core principles of Catholic theology, which respect the moral agency of all women". Apparently, this group has also invented its own catechism.

On a related note, Rhode Island Bishop Thomas J. Tobin has released an open letter to Congressman Patrick Kennedy, in response to the public statement of Congressman Kennedy that: “The fact that I disagree with the hierarchy on some issues (read: abortion) does not make me any less of a Catholic” .

Here is an excerpt from Bishop Tobin's letter:

Congressman, I’m not sure whether or not you fulfill the basic requirements of being a Catholic, so let me ask: Do you accept the teachings of the Church on essential matters of faith and morals, including our stance on abortion? Do you belong to a local Catholic community, a parish? Do you attend Mass on Sundays and receive the sacraments regularly? Do you support the Church, personally, publicly, spiritually and financially? In your letter you say that you “embrace your faith.” Terrific. But if you don’t fulfill the basic requirements of membership, what is it exactly that makes you a Catholic?

The same question may be directed to our own sari-sari-store 'Catholics'.

Back to Rina David's column. She concludes her piece by saying:

"On the way to the eventual passage of the RH bill, do we know the answers to the question: Do we know what Catholics want?".

Well Rina, first of all: Do you know what being a Catholic means?.


petrufied said...

ugh frustrating. Could Rina David read about the why the Church is against the RH bill first before she antagonizes Her? Since she asks that question in the title of her piece, I assume she is Catholic too. (Is she?) Let's pray that she makes an effort to understand her faith more.

One can't be fully Catholic if one only picks out some teachings and disregards the rest. Religion is not fast food! D:

Joe said...

You see how the Devil works overtime on deceiving us. Let us work together on strengthening our faith through our family & life ministry.

sunnyday said...

This reminds me of the commenter at Manny Amador's FB page who is engaged in the discussion regarding the judging and proclaimed winner of this year's Ateneo Art Awards. He called himself a "very devout Catholic" but one who has a misguided notion that there is such a thing as a "cookie-cutter understanding of the Catholic faith." What are we, then? Robots? And our understanding of our faith, a microchip of the Bible and pre-recorded copy of Tradition (if that would EVER be possible)inserted into the brain of each person upon baptism?

I guess the person means well, but I really try not to cringe whenever I hear or read about someone describing himself as "a devout Catholic" -- especially when, later on, it becomes obvious in his actions that there is a lack of understanding of what it truly means to be a "devout Catholic."

Is Rina David a Catholic? Kasi if she's not baptized pala in the Catholic Church, then that somewhat gives her the "excuse" of being merely someone who, shall we say, is on the outside looking in. Parang observer ba.

WillyJ said...

Fast food!. Cafeteria, carenderia, sari-sari store...they're all the same. Some catholics abuse and misinterpret the primacy of conscience.

Tito Joe,
Yes the devil works overtime, and can deceive well-meaning people too. Thanks.

WillyJ said...


Well the US Speaker of the House calls herself an "ardent, practising Catholic", but aggressively promotes abortion. ugh.

Yes, Rina David is a Catholic although obviously, she doesn't understand what that means. Its a pity because she's very intelligent and witty. Well, not as intelligent and witty as the devil I guess.

aeisiel said...

Here's a beautiful answer to the question to today's topic that I picked-up at CA Live:

"Being a Catholic, you must have the virtue of faith;
to have a virtue of faith, you must accept everything that God has given to His Church; precisely because He is God, who cannot deceive or be deceived.

And to reject one of the teachings of His Church is to cease to be His follower."

WillyJ said...

" must accept everything that God has given to His Church..."

That includes ALL the essential matters of faith and morals, which is what Bishop Tobin is referring to. Sadly, even the essentials are rejected by the erroneous conscience.

btw, here is a short but incisive treatise on anti-Catholicism by indignus. Good read.

sunnyday said...

Ah ok, so we belong to the same Christian family with her...

I see this as an opportune time to ask a question that used to plague me. Still, I'm sometimes at a loss as to how to answer it particularly when discussing with, shall we say, cynical people (believers or not, Catholic or not) who don't seem genuinely interested in the answers.

Regarding this: "Being a Catholic, you must have the virtue of faith;
to have a virtue of faith, you must accept everything that God has given to His Church..."

It's more specifically about the "you must accept everything that God has given to His Church." I used to tell myself something like "Okay, so be passive, and don't question anything. Basically, stop thinking. Is being a Catholic and using common sense incompatible then?"

Now I'm grateful that I have come to understand this aspect of being a believer and being a member of the Church that can be traced back to the apostles. But explaining it rationally and simply can be challenging. I'd appreciate your thoughts on this :-) Thanks!

WillyJ said...


Let me attempt, and be as brief as possible. (aeisiel, help me out here, ok?:-)

" must accept everything that God has given to His Church..."

His Church here refers to the body of the faithful, not just the Church hierarchy composed of the clergy. The apostles entrusted the "Sacred deposit" of the faith contained in Sacred Scripture and Tradition, to the whole of the Church - the body of the faithful. Thus the body of the faithful possesses what we call the 'supernatural sense of faith' - Sensus Fidelium.

Catechism states:
91 All the faithful share in understanding and handing on revealed truth. They have received the anointing of the Holy Spirit, who instructs them, and guides them into all truth.

92 "The whole body of the faithful. . . cannot err in matters of belief. This characteristic is shown in the supernatural appreciation of faith (Sensus Fidei) on the part of the whole people, when, from the bishops to the last of the faithful, they manifest a universal consent in matters of faith and morals.".
Thus, it is not a call to stop thinking and be passive. It is a call for sharing in understanding and handing the revealed truth. The laity is called to be active in this role. While Vatican II affirmed the structural hierarchy, it also empowered the laity to share "in the one priesthood of Christ" (Lumen Gentium 10), which even includes playing a role in the formulation of doctrine (LG 12).

The sense of the faithful is exercised under the guidance of the sacred teaching authority, in faithful and respectful obedience to which the People of God accepts that which is not just the word of men but truly the Word of God. In other words it must be guided by the Magesterium - the official teaching authority.
However, we cannot appeal to the Sensus Fidelium in an attempt to justify dissent (It appears that Rina David is mistakenly following this notion). Their argument is that if a significant portion of those who identify themselves as Catholics hold or adhere to a dissenting opinion, the Pope and the Bishops should submit their minds and wills to that group's opinion. Nope, the Catholic Church never contradicts itself. The laity's role is to understand, build up, and to transmit the deposit of faith according to their particular lay calling, and live the Truth more fully in life. Ok, sometimes we may respectfully contradict some (misguided) clergy in doing so, but never the Magisterium and the entire 2000++ faithful history of the Church.

aeisiel said...

Hi Willy and Sunnyday,

Let me take a crack at it… one apologist best described our journey to God by comparing it to a train, he simply asked where does the train run smoother and more efficient, on or off its track? The answer was obvious. But does the track limit the train’s freedom to move? No, as it makes the train function properly and does what it was intended for.

Man was created in the image and likeness of its Creator but is the only creature that doesn’t want to properly function for what he was intended to be; he either he likes to play god or act like an animal, so to keep us “on track” God gave us His Church, so does accepting everything His Church teaches makes us passive? Certainly not, She merely makes man more human.

Hope this helps.

WillyJ said...


Wow. The more that I better grasp why the best lessons have been imparted using parables. Your allegory brings much more sense and clarity.


sunnyday said...

Oh, I forgot to thank you and aeisiel for your explanations. I read them several times (the better to absorb them, thereby coming in handy when the need arises) :-)

I think it's important to point out the significance of the Church, the hierarchy, the Magisterium, we the lay faithful, and people composing the Church -- and differentiating them -- when talking to others about what they understand to be the Church. And to use analogies from time to time, too :-)

Thanks again!