Carlo's Think Pieces

Reflections of a Filipino in the Netherlands

Posts Tagged ‘Mary’

Catholicism Impedes Philippine Development

Posted by butalidnl on 22 January 2011

People ask why is it that the Philippines is underdeveloped, when it is the only Catholic country in the region. Well, I think the simple answer would be: precisely! Catholicism has some features that tend to make a country underdeveloped, and it is important for the Philippines (and other Catholic countries) to be able to overcome these in order to move forward.

Saints and Palakasan
The Catholic tradition has a lot of saints, who we are supposed to pray to in order to get favors from God. This is a form of patronism: talk to someone who has contacts “higher up”. This idea of going through contacts is at its height with praying to Mary; she is supposed to really have the “hot line” to Jesus. So, praying to Mary and the saints is indeed a form of indirect “democracy” – or democracy through your contacts.

Intercession by saints, or Mary for that matter, is just another form of “palakasan“. And this is reflected in the real world. No wonder we have such a strong patronage system in Philippine politics. It merely reflects the patronage that exists in our religious life.

Of course, going through contacts in heaven is a lot fairer than going through contacts here on earth. We can easily pray to whichever saint we want to, without having to have voted for them or gone to the same school with them, or whatever. But the whole idea that we can get things through contacts; and reciprocally, that we have to cultivate (or be loyal to) these contacts, is a direct influence on how we behave on earth.

The whole idea of penance for one’s sins, which is prescribed during confession with a priest is another problem with Catholicism. It may be a caricature; but the idea of committing a murder, and then having to say “three Hail Mary’s” as penance shows the disproportionality of penance to the sin.

Politicians could be corrupt, violate human rights, etc, but if they build churches and pray every Sunday, they will still go to heaven. The Catholic Church doesn’t demand that you return the loot (in contrast, Protestants would require it) before you get forgiven. So, Catholics could get away with murder, for a prayer, sometimes literally.

Celibate Priests
Priests are another thing wrong with Catholicism. Why is it that there is a class of MEN, who are required not to have any sexual experience (if this is possible??), to have the biggest say in how people live their lives?  These men only know sexual experiences and women (assuming of course, that these are heterosexual men) from a “theoretical” level. And they don’t know anything first hand about family life, and about the raising of children. I think it is therefore quite anomalous for these priests to have a say (and they do have a VERY big say) in people’s relations, in child upbringing, in family life.

The concept of celibacy for priests is a remnant of the way the church behaved in the Middle Ages. They didn’t want priests to be part of any family, in order to avoid conflicts of loyalties. Besides, since the church was a feudal power it itself, they didn’t want church officials handing down benefits to their children.

While it is true that some priests are so immersed in the social life of their communities that they are able to give good advice to people; the church as a whole does get in the way of formulating laws that would have been good for social development. The church is against sex education, birth control and divorce for so long; and its lobby against these has been quite successful so far.

It is rather ironic that many parents purposely enroll their children in religious schools in order to ensure that they are taught correct values. In these schools, their children absorb the values of palakasan, disproportional penance and the dominance of priests in society. They are destined to perpetuate these things which impede Philippine development.

All this is not to say that a country that is mainly Catholic is “hopeless”. Other countries with significant Catholic populations could overcome its limitations.  In the Netherlands (which is about 50% Catholic), Catholics no longer have confessions (so the “penance trap” does not happen), and saints are just looked upon as good examples and not as “people with contacts in higher places”.  And priests have not blocked divorce nor birth control.


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The Real Christmas Story

Posted by butalidnl on 24 December 2010

It was a cold day, and Joseph was entering Bethlehem together with his pregnant wife Mary. Joseph had some misgivings about Mary’s getting pregnant without him having any role in it, but he knew that if he denounced Mary it would meant she would be stoned to death, and he didn’t want that to happen.  Anyway, things were better this way – he would recognize the baby as his own, and the baby would be the heir to his title (if it were to be a son, that is).

Joseph was no ordinary carpenter from Nazareth; and the people in Bethlehem knew that. Joseph was the latest in the secret line of “Jewish Kings” who had gone underground when Alexander the Great took over Judea some hundreds of years back, and who still remained “secret” even under Roman rule. Herod, as with all of his predecessors, would like nothing better than to extinguish this secret line of Jewish Kings. The Jews knew that Herod, being of Greek/Macedonian descent, was an usurper to the Jewish crown; and that Joseph and his line would one day take over their rightful role.

But that was for the future. The family had arrived, and the thing that Joseph was now thinking about was that Mary was about to give birth; and that none of his relatives and friends in Bethlehem dared to openly host the “King of the Jews” and the birth of the next in line. He has become quite frustrated at the cowardly attitude of his relatives. He had chosen to have the child born in Bethlehem to further legitimize its claim to the throne; Mary had to give birth there if she had to do it in a cave.

Well, it wasn’t a cave after all. A distant cousin agreed to have them rest together with the animals under their house; but on the condition that in a few days they would leave. It would be something of a “credible deniability” for him; he can always say that Joseph and family never slept in their house. So, that was it: Mary gave birth (thankfully to a boy) while they were resting with the animals.

The birth of Joseph’s son (or at least that was the story that they put out),  became known throughout Bethlehem anyway (news travels fast in rural communities!). And it was the shepherds who said: “Here is born the heir to the Jewish crown, and the people in the poblacion of Bethlehem were pretending that they don’t know anything about it. We are shepherds like David our ancestor, and we don’t think this is right. We will pay the king a visit, and sing out to everyone the truth that the Jewish king is born. And to hell with Herod’s spies!To hell with the poblacion people who are too scared to admit it.”

After about two weeks, Joseph and Mary received a surprise visit from three wise men from the East.  They knew that their cover was blown. If outsiders knew that a royal heir was born, it would be only a matter of a (short) time before Herod would know it. So, they left for Egypt, to visit other relatives there, and to lie low for a while.

A couple of months later, Herod heard of the birth of the newest of the Jewish royal line, and that the family had reinforced their claim by having the boy born in Bethlehem. He knew that he had to kill this child. In order to make sure that he killed the child, Herod orders all infants in Bethlehem killed, from 0 to 2 years old. This was the massacre of the innocents. The family that owned the “manger” was not found out. It was an intelligence breakdown for Herod: he had no spies in Bethlehem at the time; and he had to resort to harsh blanket measures in an attempt to correct this.

But by this time, the family was safely in Egypt, with other relatives.

Well, we know how the rest of the story goes, sort of…

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