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Wednesday, October 10, 2012

More Right Than Others

Solemn or intrusive?
(Courtesy of

The recent editorial of The Varsitarian was hardly something surprising to someone who has been labeled an outcast by the religious majority of this country.

It is symptomatic of what can really be described as religious superiority, only this time, being asserted on those who are deemed to have strayed from "the one true path", by the ones who think they are truly faithful.

It begs a question that I have long asked, whenever the ugly condescension I experienced  from those of this country's dominant religion would raise its ugly (though bejewelled) head:

Since when did one's faith become a matter of public discourse and policy?

In this latest incarnation, the school paper of the University of Santo Tomas sought to publicly castigate the professors from two other universities, Ateneo de Manila and De La Salle, who have declared their support for the Reproductive Health Bill. The position papers of these professors made it clear that they were doing this apart from the official stances of their respective institutions.

As a non-Catholic, all I can do is chuckle at the faith infighting because what it all boils down to me is this: I am more Catholic than you are.

I am more religious than you are.

I am better than you are.

The fact that one party is addressing this to people who belong to the same faith lends it a rather comical air. I grew up basically on the same receiving end of this stick, as someone who is not Catholic, and from what I have seen all my life as the actions of certain Catholics - who unfortunately are its so-called leaders - I won't be inclined to join its ranks for the forseeable future. 

I recently read that some local Catholic officials are decrying the lack of enthusiasm of the younger generation for the faith they represent, and this was even briefly touched on by the Varsitarian editorial. So, if even the hierarchy admits that they have somehow lost their luster with the people who will be the eventual torchbearers of the faith, you don't have to imagine how outsiders like me look at the current state of Catholicism.

I have friends from all three universities, and the response from all of them - no exceptions - is that they regret this had to come to pass, and are one in denouncing, in their own ways, the level and tone of writing of the editorial in question. Those who come from UST are the most expressive, with the common theme centering on "this doesn't represent the majority of UST students!"

Let me be clear: I have always held the position that in a democracy, one's faith - if one chooses from the many faiths competing for membership - should be a matter of privacy, borne out of personal conviction and contemplation. 

It has always come as a shock to me when anyone uses their faith - a personal, private matter and affair - to insult, denigrate, humiliate and shame others who should necessarily be entitled to the same choice.

This use of Catholicism as a weapon to bend others to its will is so pervasive, no one even questions our legislators who say "I can't approve of the Reproductive Health Bill because it is against my religion": the inability to separate secular matters from personal faith is so ingrained that anyone who dares question this state of public affairs is seen as "offensive". (I'm sure non-Catholics like myself are labeled much worse, seeing as how the editorial calls other Catholics as "interlopers" and "lemons".) 

Until we impress the idea that faith should be a private decision, it will continue to interfere with public policy, laws and even our very interactions.

And sadly, faiths, which are supposedly sources of love, acceptance and compassion, will continue being the very thing they are supposed to be railing against.

All because they wish to prove how right they are.

Well, more right than anyone outside their faith. And even to some within their own.

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