Thank God for Martin Luther

Rethinking one’s faith in a positive way, as Michael Tan notes in yet another remarkable column on religion in today’s Inquirer, will lead me to the same conclusion: we need a Reformation. We always do, as a church. Every time we forget what we’re supposed to do, someone like Martin Luther should come along and wake us up.

So thank God for the Reformation. It may have divided the Church, but it allowed us to clarify our respective ecclesial visions and move forward as civilizations. If it weren’t for Martin Luther, I can assure you that we would not even have the Reproductive Health Bill.

Thank God for the Reformation, for it reminds us to take the Bible seriously, the book which Roman Catholics take for granted and Protestants take far too seriously at times.

Thank God for the Reformation, for some of what the Second Vatican Council owes itself to the insights of the Reformers and the Counter-Reformers.

Of course, I must say that the Orthodox have never had to live through that, but then again, would it not be better that they need a Martin Luther to wake them from their complacency and remind them of Jesus Christ?

An enigma

A year ago, around the time this blog turned five, I visited my old university to register and to find out what was going on. It was a time when I was a little too morose about some things—most notably about a little infatuation I had back then with a person who shall mercifully remain unnamed. (Yes, dear readers, I have gotten in trouble for dropping names. That is one of the low lights of my blogging time.)

In fact, I was so morose that I decided to mention that line which an old philosophy professor often quoted, a saying from a Chinese sage about the making of wheels. If I were less morose, I would be a little more generous and drop a few hints.

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In any case, today I must admit something. I am still inept at figuring out how to go public with how I feel about anyone, especially about, well, the one person whom I discovered in the past few weeks proved to be a surprise.

I would say that this person is a surprise, and rightfully so, because I barely knew this one when I was in university. We met each other again, albeit online, and just after I joined a social network on which both of us were. And then, a year on, I was surprised.

Being surprised is really part of who I am, because that really is the nature of grace. It is never predictable, and as I mentioned to this person today, it is never tidy. Ironically, even if one would be tempted, as I am, to be neat and tidy and be quiet, I can only say that I am beginning to appreciate this surprise. And while I am not going to be as open about it as I would, and rightfully so, I should add that it is a most lovely one.

Interdict?

Imagine this: a group of concerned Roman Catholic parents go to a bishop and say that members of a certain university under his jurisdiction have come out in opposition to the teaching of the ordinary universal Magisterium on sundry moral questions. These members, claim they, are corrupting the Catholic youth by promoting opposition to the Faith and the moral authority of Holy Mother Church.

Meanwhile, in some of the more conservative alumni circles of that university (and indeed there are some), a lament is being issued forth that the university can no longer claim to be Catholic, contrary to what it claims. They wonder why such defiance is being tolerated. And then some of them decide to pull out their endowments, giving it perhaps to an institution whose members are required by statute to seek a mandatum from the diocesan, after making the Profession of Faith.

And sermons will be preached out in the provinces, places where a Protestant is either a rarity or an antagonist, perhaps by those who are currying favor with the powers that be for the purple piping. Sermons I can imagine are full of polemic, the kind which have their echoes in the equally polemical tongues of some of my Christian brethren condemning the Theotokos and the cloud of witnesses. They will write to Rome and lead protest rallies in their part of the world, with probably half of the attendees bused in from their local schools.

And then the fall of the Old Establishment continues, the day someone dares issue an interdict. I will not hasten that day, but I fear that someone will try. But that would not happen, I hope. For if there is a danger in taking such extremities, it is the danger that more people will choose to be unchurched, or leave. Then perhaps real change would begin to happen to the Christian part of our country, which for centuries was only shallowly so.

The gates of hell will not prevail against the Church Christ founded, but whether I can still recognize it as Christ’s Church is a question that will be tested by the events of coming days.

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Meanwhile, I will continue to read, reflect, and pray. And perhaps I will reflect on how Wittenburg was like on the day before the 95 Theses were tacked to that church door. And perhaps on how Constantinople was the day the Papal Legate walked in to find himself excommunicated as he decided to excommunicate them. I do not think this is the moment to claim anything similar is happening, but would it be idle talk to say that what happened in Wittenburg is happening today?
 

Petulance and progress

On my Multiply site where my note, “The latest bit…” was cross-posted, Ben Vallejo wrote the following comment:

“This is good news. Now if UP and Ateneo would stop being so parochial and more cosmpolitan about a lot of things, then we can expect even higher ratings.

About theology faculties, we don’t have a university where faculties of Catholic, Protestant, Anglican/Episcopal and Ecumenical theology coexist. We are too sectarian….” He went on to comment about the RH bill debate, which I will not repost here because I will not talk about it.

Now, I agree with the general thrust of his suggestion—we have to have these faculties of theology coexisting in one place. If I may be so bold, my university, the Ateneo de Manila for example can host an ecumenical confederation of faculties of theology which would at first be sort of a branch of LST which would then build on refugees from other Catholic or non-Catholic schools of theology who are turned off, say, by the overtly ideological agendas of their institutions.

What I am about to post is a further comment reacting to a series of emails I received this afternoon:

“I would like to draw attention to recent developments. As Ben noted in his comments, Philippine universities in general, and the two ranked ones in particular, should stop being so parochial about these things, but then I hear that one of these universities’ alumni and administrators are grumbling about two things:

1. The survey agency is “shady,” so the rankings don’t count, and
2. Peer rankings are an unreliable measure of excellence.

“As I said in the main post, I won’t think rankings are everything, but they do tell us something. Are we back to the days of the Asiaweek survey when we all either protested or beat our chests in self-pity? I think we are!

“Sadly, parochialism and petulance are not helping us improve. I would hope therefore that those concerned should send the necessary wake-up call. In the case of three of these universities, alumni should stop giving and tell administrators how they should best spend their money. And in the case of the fourth, I urge the authorities to warn the institution that unless they shape up, they won’t get a single peso from people like me and the millions who pay taxes!”

The latest bit of good news for the Philippines.

Two Philippine universities, one secular and one faith-based, jumped dramatically in the Times Higher Education Supplement university rankings. Ateneo de Manila is now ranked at 254 from the 401-500 bracket (which this year the THES-QS survey did not “rank” because of data concerns), and the University of the Philippines is now 276 from being in the same bracket the year before.

As I have connections with these two institutions, I must say that I am terribly proud. However, my concern is that the two other institutions I know are… well, based on this one, off the radar.

Rankings aren’t everything, but they do tell us one important statistic: the institution in question is in the radar, meaning that it has a profile of some sort to show in the academic world. So I suggest that rather than being petulant about it, we should now ensure that we can assume a wider profile. Also, if there is one legal amendment I would want to pursue, it is to end quotas on the number of foreign faculty a university can appoint. While it will be initially disadvantageous to Filipinos, supposedly, I think it is about time that we grow up and accept being judged on the same playing field.

Elsewhere, I commented on Leland de la Cruz’s note that this year’s COMIUCAP meeting will help keep the profile of the Ateneo de Manila (and, in hindsight, the University of Santo Tomas as well, as a co-host) high enough to factor into the 2009 survey.

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I must note, for the benefit of some of my readers, that Ateneo de Manila is in the same bracket as the Sorbonne, York University in Toronto, and is a rank below the School of Asian and Oriental Studies of the University of London. Full rankings here.

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On a related note, one of the things I would like to see is that consortial arrangements for theologates should be strengthened here, especially among schools of different Christian traditions. That may be one of the ways, I suggest, that Philippine theology would gain a higher profile of some sort on the world stage. Of course, with the likes of Bishops Daniel Arichea (Methodist) and Chito Tagle (Roman Catholic) making an impact elsewhere, we have a place to start. Unfortunately, mutual suspicion between different Christian traditions have not helped at all.

A big hat tip to Leland de la Cruz of the Ateneo de Manila for pointing out the rankings.

Thought for the week

Paraphrased from a homily by a clergyman who shall remain unnamed, save for the fact that he was an alumnus of LST:

“The real owner of the Church is the Triune God, its true Lord is Jesus Christ, and everyone else—even the Pope—are but God’s servants. Anyone who claims to be the owner, the boss, is nothing more than a thief and a usurper.”

Something to think about as I begin this week, this month, and the sixth year blogging.

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