Much of the world of nations is reacting to the recent ruling of the Supreme Court of the United States declaring same-sex marriages as a right and legal nationwide. Few remember that the United States is only the latest country of more than twenty to decree this law. Forgetting that, many will be shocked when their own nations follow suit one day, sooner than later. How many Filipinos can recall that Canada already allowed same-sex marriage ten years ago?
The difference with the United States doing one thing is that it is the superpower of the world. Yes, it has military might that is the most potentially dangerous, definitely the most technically advanced, and the proven capacity to use it when especially provoked or motivated. Beyond that, however, is the fact that the United States has serious economic and technological power coupled with global alliances rolling out great influence worldwide. Today, with the United States and its people leading and dominating social media dynamics, in creativity, technology, production and use—or, in gist, military, economics, science and communications power—key developments in that country has much greater impact than any other.
There is another nuance about the United States. It is basically a Christian nation by population and culture. Yes, it is a multi-ethnic society, but Christian-dominated nonetheless. Its history and culture are Christian despite its liberalism, and is reason why there is intense domestic tension between the old beliefs and the emerging shift to the liberal, inclusive, non-sectarian, and multi-ethnic spirit. The United States, apparently, wants to be more universal than just national, another reason why its powers are naturally, intuitively and deliberately reaching out to the world. China and Russia would benefit if they understand this emerging consciousness of this North American nation.
For the Philippines, however, despite its patterned propensity to follow the footsteps of the United States, there is another country that deserves a serious look and reflection—Ireland. The Republic of Ireland is 92.5 percent Christian, 86 percent Catholic, yet, by referendum, by the direct vote of its citizens and not by Supreme Court ruling, voted last May 22, to allow same-sex marriage. Ireland and the Philippines share similar statistics on its Christian and Catholic demographics.
The Philippines does not live in isolation. In fact, Filipinos must be one of the most adaptable people by nature and by history. The overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) phenomenon is NOT only economically induced, it is also a cultural capacity. There are almost as many countries poorer than the Philippines than there are richer ones, but no one comes close to conquering the world by presence, even if such presence is basically through our OFWs. I think the latest count is that OFWs are present in about 180 countries.
The Philippines is low on self-reliance as well. Despite the great talents and natural wealth of country and people, the inability to understand poverty and its history has made government incapable of fostering a self-reliant attitude among a great number of its population. The fact that most Filipinos remain dependent in mindset and lifestyle makes them more easily influenced by global powers, most especially by the United States and its global allies. We all know that what can begin with economic dependence quickly moves to the political, religious, and social, too.
At that time last May when the Irish vote to include same-sex marriage as a constitutional right happened, the first published reaction of the very senior Vatican authority, its Secretary of State Cardinal Parolin, second in rank only to Pope Francis himself, was that the vote was “a defeat for humanity.” That reaction may well be an authentic view, but it lacked the clarification why a Catholic country would vote against humanity. It lacked pointing to the Vatican as being unable to influence its flock in the Republic of Ireland.
If the Vatican cannot more aggressively and openly address the fact why divorce is allowed everywhere except the Philippines, or the fact why Western Europe that hosted and exploded Catholicism in the developed world is only a shadow of Catholicism despite the Vatican being in Rome, then this unimpeded pattern should be frightening to hardcore Catholics. It is inconceivable to me how divorce will not be legalized soon in the Philippines, not because it is right, but because the arguments and resistance against it are weakening by the day. After divorce, too, can well follow many other religious “don’ts” that will become legal “yes, you can.”
Same-sex marriage will not be dominantly acceptable in the Philippines today. But that is basically because the older generations still hold sway, still hold power in every field. But twenty years from now, much of the older generations will be gone, and those who are twenty and below today will have the greatest number, and the greatest say. If the Catholic Church in the Philippines cannot find a way to reverse the tide, I am afraid that its greatest fears will all come true.
Catholicism in the Philippines was not adopted for its theology and dogmas. It swept the islands because the State and the Church moved as one. In other words, authority was the most effective evangelizer. Throughout the centuries, Church and State authority retained its power of influence. Now, however, the official separation of Church and State has weakened both in terms of authority. Now, both Church and State have to exert great effort to win hearts and minds.
Winning hearts and minds. Political, isn’t it? Commercial, isn’t it? Marketing, isn’t it? Numbers, isn’t it? The shift from authority to inspiration and motivation is undeniable and irreversible – except where dictatorship temporarily reigns. This is what the Catholic Church must confront – who and what inspires and motivates? Who are the models? What are the transcendent causes that the market can adopt?
The Founder of the Church chose to be poor, exhorted through his example and teachings that the poor are His priority (and that earthly power is not), that the gatekeepers to heaven will simply ask, “What have you done to the least?” God is not in trouble. The Catholic Church is.