Category Archives: Politics

A (post)modern-day Vandal contra the Church

President Rodrigo Duterte’s vituperation against the Roman Catholic Church is unprecedented in recent Philippine political history. Not even the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos’s record matches it.Yet, in a predominantly Catholic country, his outrageous display of irreligiosity appears to perturb only a few.

His harangue hits at the heart of Orthodox Christianity: the doctrine of the Trinity and the crucifixion of Christ. It highlights the biggest catechetical challenge as yet to the Filipino Church, even as it finds itself in yet another crossroads.

In the broader context, the Francis Papacy has exposed seismic rifts between Church progressives and traditionalists. His “Amoris Letitia” threatens to tear the very fabric of the Church’s existence; indeed, conservative Catholic leaders see his exhortation as an immoral rewriting of marriage, and a door through which liberal ideas are smuggled into the Church.

Too, the epidemic of pedophilia in the American Church and elsewhere that has devoured thousands, and Francis’s failure to decisively address it, has served to further undermine the global Church’s integrity as a clear moral voice amidst a postmodern amoral wilderness.Worse, the Vatican itself has been wracked by revelations of high immorality that would make even libertines blush.

Here, post-EDSA 1986 politics saw Catholic bishops playing footsie with the powers-that-be (think Pajero bishops!). This, even as they actively opposed the government’s program to promote family planning in the country and prosecuted such a harmless soul as Carlos Celdran for his schoolboy antics.

All we see now is a Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines reluctant to speak a common voice of conviction, not a body of believers a prophetic Cardinal Sin once led, although the recent bombing of the Jolo Cathedral, which killed 21 Catholic faithful and wounded nearly a hundred others,has forced them to issue a pastoral letter decrying the “cycle of hate” that has gripped the country.

The pastoral letter, issued at the close of the CBCP’s 118th plenary assembly, also made an oblique reference to the President’s anti-Catholic vitriol, but said they are responding to it with “silence and prayer.” At least, for now.

To my Protestant eyes, what we have is a Filipino Church at its politically weakest.

An astute politician, the President knows this. Like Arian Vandals besieging St. Augustine’s beloved city of Hippo and its Latin Christian culture, he is exploiting the crises facing the Church to whittle away at the foundations of what is potentially the sole unified opposition to his bloody drug war, and yes, his vision of the future.

He also understands that this is no longer the time of Thomas Aquinas, who, at the height of Christendom in Europe, taught that the Church has a moral right to excommunicate and depose from power a ruler who is leading the faithful away from the gospel.

But it is beautiful to see such weakness of the Church typified by Caloocan Bishop Pablo Virgilio David, a soft-spoken French-trained bible scholar who has chosen to walk with the poor and the powerless of his diocese.

Or by Sister Maria Juanita Daño, RGS, who has lived through the horrors of Oplan Tokhang in San Andres, Bukid with her fellow parishioners. Bishop Ambo and Sister Nenet exhibit the poverty of spirit of the Sermon on the Mount.Or by the Vincentian fathers who have given refuge to the families of victims of the deadly scourge of tokhang that has decimated scores of lives in urban poor communities in Quezon City.

They also reaffirm a central message delivered by Pope Pius XII from the Vatican on Christmas Day, 1942. In his address, Pius XII said every human power has a duty to give back to the human person “the dignity given to it by God from the very beginning.” This, said Pius XII, is only possible where people once again recognized a divinely instituted juridical order, one “which stretches forth its arm, in protection or punishment, over the unforgettable rights of man and protects them against the attacks of every human power.”

These brave words said at the height of the Nazi onslaught was “a critical turning point” for the idea of universal human rights, subsequently defining postwar history and shaping governments in Europe, argues Harvard law professor Samuel Moyn’s book “Christian Human Rights”(2015).

In 1945, diplomats drafted a Universal Declaration of Human Rights that echoed Pius XII’s words, saying the Declaration intends “to reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person.”

The Filipino Church badly needs to rediscover this legacy for such a time as ours.

This essay was first published by Verafiles  on January 31, 2019 here.

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Filed under Freedom of Religion, Human Rights, Philippines, political theology, Politics, Religion, Uncategorized

The Kings Two Bodies, E. Kantorowicz’s Political Theology

Thoughts thus far after having intermittently read 300 + pages of E. Kantorowicz’s TKTB:

1. Political theology is understanding how theological concepts are de-sacralized and then re-sacralized in an analogous/analogical sense (not the Thomist kind, mind you!) by politics and/or the study of statecraft.

2. Political theology is NOT public theology as it is popularized today.

3. One can really sense E. Kantorowicz engage Carl Schmitt here as a conversation partner (well, not in the literal sense, since they weren’t contemporaries). Having read Schmitt ahead of E. Kantorowicz eight years ago, the infamous Nazi constitutional theorist makes more sense to me now. I also understand Dutertismo better, seen from the lenses provided by E. Kantorowicz, Schmitt and Giorgio Agamben (ha!)

4. Reading through E. Kantorowicz’s chapters on the Christ-Centered Kingship, the Law-Centered Kingship and the Polity-Centered Kingship: Corpus Mysticum, I can argue from Dooyeweerdian eyes that what he discusses in these chapters is really what we mean by disciplinary differentiation, if in a rough way. Thus:

Ch. 1: the phrase ‘body politic’ often used by later philosophers (Locke and Hobbes, for instance) apparently finds root in the metaphysical theory of the King’s two bodies familiar to Tudor jurists — the indivisible body natural and the body politic. The theory itself developed out of the Christian doctrine of the incarnation of Christ and the Athanasian two natures. The King is dead, long live the King!

Ch 2. Shakespeare’s King Richard II illustrates the tensions and breakdowns of the theory in a subversive era.

Ch 3. In the Norman tracts, the theory gets further traction, the King becoming, as it were, an imitation of Christ on earth, under the notion of germina persona (something like the Lord President today who could do no wrong for that reason!). It is a liturgical kingship, the earthly ruler as christomimetes, the impersonator and actor of christ no less than priest or bishop celebrating the Eucharist.

Ch. 4 It gets more interesting for lawyers like me — the ground now shifts from liturgy to law, as the King becomes the epitome of equity and justice (as the canon lawyers take over, with their familiarity with Roman and ecclessiastical law). Thus the maxim the King is above the law, but is neverthless servant of the Law. The terms necessarily change –it is now a discussion between privata voluntas and persona publica (or private will as against public person).

Frederick II is its poster boy.

So this secularization is to be taken mostly in a positive sense, also pace Casanova (secularization as societal differentiation, marking out distinct boundaries for each sphere that is sovereign in its own orbit (Kuyper’s sovereignteit in eigen kring). So theologians shouldn’t take it out on jurists/political scientists/philosophers if their ideas were used by the latter in ways different from theirs. Also, they really shouldn’t wish things were back to the time when theology was the Queen of the Sciences.

5. This is what we otherwise understand to be the analogical moments that Dooyeweerd speaks of in the formation of disciplinary concepts as the various spheres open up in the process of societal differentiation (disciplines borrow from other disciplines in forming concepts, without transgressing the integrity of their own disciplinary concerns).

6. If we follow E. Kantorowicz (who was an atheist, by the way) –and now that we’re marking the 500th year of the Protestant Reformation — there’s not much to the often-repeated thesis that modernity (read as BAD secularization) is the fault of Protestants. Well, he does mention the nominalists here, but only in a very tangential way (take that, Milbank et al.) You can blame Dante for that. Or Marselius de Padua, or the Roman jurists. Or Frederick II. Or Paul of Tarsus. Take your pick.  Heck, Roman Catholicism could very well have bred the seeds of secularization, if we follow Kantorowicz’s account! (For an alternative reading of secularization in the BAD sense, see Dooyeweerd’s essay on the Secularization of Science).

7. I wish this book were one of the assigned texts, along with Harold Berman’s  two volumes on the development of law in the Western tradition, when I was reading legal history in law school.

(Nota bene: This is a slightly revised version of a post I earlier made on my Facebook account).

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Filed under Casanova, Dooyeweerd, Kantorowicz, Politics, reformational philosophy, Religion, secularization

The True Politician according to Max Weber

Here is H.H. Bruun, in his book Science, Values and Politics in Max Weber’s Methodology (1972) writing of how a true politician would conduct himself according to Weber:

…[T]he precondition which Weber establishes for action in conformity with the ethic of politics is the fundamental willingness to let oneself be guided in certain cases by the value axioms of other spheres than the political one. Only those who can have “Beruf zur Politik” who do not only have this “Beruf”, who in particular situations are able and willing to submit to other value systems.

This precondition again implies that the political ethic as defined by Weber does not only demand knowledge of the laws and regularities of the political sphere; in other words, the “true” politician must not only be aware of the teleological system
surrounding his political goal, but also of the axiological (value or ethical system) one.

But this awareness again destroys the possibility referred to above of a relative harmony inside the political sphere. The possibilities of axiological conflict which were in the first instance absorbed by the definition of power as an instrument of politics, are resuscitated by Weber’s demand that the politician should be aware of the relationship between political calculation of ends and means and those of the non-political value spheres.

Axiological value analysis becomes necessary to the politician. On the one hand, Weber’s description of the responsible ethic of conviction means a rejection of the pure ethic of conviction, where the axiological analysis is the only relevant one: the acceptance of the responsibility for the consequences of one’s actions demanded by the responsible ethic of conviction implies a knowledge of the consequences for which the responsibility is taken, i.e., a need for teleological value analysis.

A person committed to the responsible ethic of conviction, whether his actions be guided by the axioms of the political or of other value spheres, i.e., whether they be guided by the teleological or by the purely axiological considerations, should know the “cost” of these axioms (in the form of tensions arising in relation to other spheres).

He has to make it clear to himself what ethical (religious,aesthetic, etc.) norms he is violating by, for instance, declaring war in the name of (political) national interest; and conversely, he must know what political demands he neglects by refusing on (for instance) ethical grounds to declare war or to use force at all in the situation. Since he is a politician, it is natural to assume that his starting point is political, i.e., that he is striving to attain a supraindividual goal.

But even inside this chain of ends and means, he must constantly try to supplement the teleological relations, i.e., that he is not justified in assimilating the axiological  system to the teleological one;  this acknowledgment will force him to examine the intrinsic axiological value of the means, the side effects and the goal according to the value system or systems to which he also remains committed outside the political sphere; and finally, he must recognize that his knowledge cannot reach beyond a certain point: that the paradox of consequences attaches to both end and means.

Only after having elucidated all these points may he decide whether he can still accept working within the political sphere and submitting to its demands; only then can he take the responsibility for his decision and claim to have fulfilled the demands of the responsible ethic of conviction ( italics in the original, pp. 284-285)

Well, sounds like a Dooyeweerdian modal analysis of the intersection of the political with other spheres, right? (with some amendments because of sphere sovereignty)

*inset photo of Weber from this blog.

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Filed under Politics, Principled Pluralism, Public Interest, reformational philosophy, Sociology