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Wednesday, January 30, 2013

On Celdran, Intrusion And Convenience

No one who follows the news could escape the recent decision handed down to cultural activist and tour guide Carlos Celdran for "offending religious feelings".

Disrupter, or truth teller?
(Courtesy of

Since when did truth telling become a crime?

No, I am not speaking from a legal point of view, I am not a lawyer. I am coming from a place of being fed up: a citizen of a supposedly secular democracy that sees the constitutional provision mandating the separation of state and church being trampled upon on a daily basis, yet most everyone just shrugging their shoulders, as if to say "there's nothing we can do about it, it's the way we've practiced our form of politics."


Celdran is correct in saying that this is now bigger than him, and I have always thought of the bigger picture even before his Damaso 'stunt' was played out: the time is actually ripe to discuss what it means to have freedom of expression, why one particular religion is lording it over all other religions in this country and practically dictating our secular laws, and getting into what secularism really means.

The tour guide has been accused of "intruding" into a solemn, sacred and religious rite. But who has been intruding into secular politics for centuries? You can browse any news item after his stunt, Celdran himself stated that the reason he did it is because the Catholic Church in this country has again flexed its' political muscle - when it shouldn't have one in the first place - in trying to block the discussion of the (then) Reproductive Health bill from moving forward.

Just yesterday, the evening news showed the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) hosting a lunch for all of the legislators who opposed the RH Bill - quite literally, an intermingling of politics and religion - and anyone who can even say with a straight face that this particular religion has never tried to intrude in the formation of our secular laws is the worst kind of fool, what we natively call nagbubulag-bulagan, fooling only yourself.

Any public official who truly imbibes our Constitution, one that says that no religious test will ever be conducted for public positions, would have easily and with no compunctions refused to sit down with the CBCP - or any other religious leader - on any topic concerning secular laws. Frankly, I was disappointed when PNoy tried to extend some form of an olive branch to them after the RH Bill was signed into law, and even during its formulation, one of his lackeys voiced out the idea that the Catholic Church would be consulted before the final version was to be passed.

What does this say about the "separation of state and church"?

This blurring of roles, this lack of clear demarcation lines, is one of the reasons why we have not been able to push for laws as fast and as much as we could have. When our own lawmakers and even the President has to bend over backwards for one particular religion, for fear of political backlash come election time, we cannot expect the citizens of this country to do the opposite, seeing that our official institutions kowtow to the whims and tantrums of one religion.

And yet, when Celdran attempted to talk to the priests, by using his placard to urge them to stop interfering with the business of government - in other words, when a call for secularism tried to intrude into how their religion would be run and their actions noticed - their immediate response was to file a lawsuit to ensure that no one outside their hierarchy would be able to do so in such an "offensive" manner.

So, the CBCP is free to comment on what laws to pass, and even dangle the threat of eternal damnation on lawmakers who will vote against their wishes, but no one can ever make the mistake of saying anything remotely resembling criticism against their religion?

That is hypocrisy, pure and simple.

And even now, when various sectors are urging them to take a "Christian" stance and forgive Celdran, they nominally say yes but also cling on to the convenience of having a legal verdict handed down, and accrue to themselves the illusion of being upright citizens who follow the law to a tee.

If you really wanted to be law-abiding citizens, you would desist from intruding into politics.

But then, that would diminish your already diminishing stature, wouldn't it?

It reminds me of a news item last week elsewhere, where a malpractice suit was filed against a Catholic hospital by a widower who lost his wife and two babies because no doctor was available, resulting in the death of all of them. Now, anyone who has followed the RH debates knows that the official Catholic stance is that a fetus is already 'human', in fact, some of the more absurd claims were along the lines of saying that masturbation was tantamount to murder, so what do the lawyers of the Catholic hospital cling to as their legal defense?

Their secular laws do not recognize a fetus as a human, and therefore they shouldn't have to pay anything at all.

(Read it here: - and yes, the Catholic hospital won.)

Hypocrisy, inconsistency and convenience - you'll forgive me if I'm beginning to think that these are the cornerstones of this supposed 'moral' religion.

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