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IMO, the Catholic Church is free to express its view on the Madonna show that is coming to town. As the ‘head’ Catholic, Archbishop William Goh is within his rights, duties and obligations to remind (I don’t agree with the word ‘admonish’) his flock. Having said that, I also think that in the present age of ‘enlightenment’ (I am using the term rather loosely for obvious reasons) it is the right of every catholic to decide for himself/herself whether to go or not to go, because IF there is an issue, it is one between him/her and God. I know this flies in the face of the Catholic’s basic ‘mother-child’ doctrine.

The Catholic Church cannot make ‘good’ Christians out of members of its flock by mere words of condemnation of an act or thing, any more than it could prevent or save them from carrying out an illegal activity or act because it just does not have the sort of ‘real world’ power to back it up. 

In days of yore, the Catholic Church wielded awesome real world political and legal power over the life and death of members of the Catholic faith, in particular, those who came before it accused of a crime against the faith, but that was history. The gradual/progressive loss and erosion of the Catholic religion’s real influence and power, or a sense of it, over people has been fading, fading and still fading.

Once upon a time, people would be ex-communicated and burned alive at the stake for being accused of practising witchcraft or having committed acts judged to be blasphemous. The Catholic Church’s influence and power to which even Kings had to subscribe to/abide by (or lose his crown), even if it were merely more of paying lip service or going more by the letter than in actual spirit of obedience and supplication (eg. one English king was infamous for finding excuses to behead his wives, so that he could marry his latest fancy, as divorce and polygamy were (still are) frowned upon by the church of the day. Marrying somebody without the blessings of the church was tantamount to religious and political suicide in those times when religion and politics were intertwined and very much one and the same).

Back to the current topic. My impression is that the head of the Catholic Church here is doing no more than indulging in an act of token symbolism of power over its members.

I tend to see, the ‘Power Formula’ of the modern day Catholic Church vis a vis the lay believers as something like this:

*Church Power = Flexible and Discretionary, as far as its believers are concerned

*strictly referring to Christianity only

Having say that, I would hasten to also add that IMHO, among Christian denominations in Singapore, a spontaneous sense of community among Catholics arguably exists far more strongly than in other denominations. And I actually do admire that it is so. However, this is not saying that I necessarily agree with everything it does or doesn’t do. I disagree, for instance, with the deathly silence of the church over the Amos Yee (an ex-Catholic) saga. It was as if the Christian denominations were waiting for each other to be the first to cross the red line or no fly zone that was very swiftly drawn up by political elites and acolytes of the ruling party – I am referring to the number of police reports lodged by apparently ‘enraged’ citizens. Or, were the churchmen viewing it as getting (or rather, avoid getting) their respective religions mixed up with the politics (of abject adoration for the late leader)? 

We all know that in this country mixing religion with politics is a huge blasphemous NO NO. Witness the hapless helplessness of the lamb when a number of Catholic do-gooders were labelled, arrested, accused and detained without trial, for being members of a ‘MARXIST CONSPIRACY’. (Of course, it is true too that the PM of the day was one scary and shrewd politician who brooked no gainsaying or challenges to his power and decisions.) Where and what was the stand of the Catholic Church then (and ironically, even now), and for that matter, the rests of the churches? It would appear that the supplication and surrender was made to the secular power-that-be THEN, and not to the God-that-be, ALWAYS, ironically.

On a kinder note, one would suppose that PRAGMATISM, or more precisely being left alone to practise a religion sans politics (even in the most fundamental sense of the word) was the paramount order and objective of the day. After all, it would had been (and still is) a monstrously uneven power of an egg (church) against the sledgehammer of the government and its acolytes.

It is very much like the other side of the coin of the church’s modern day perfunctory and acquiescence-dependent ‘power’ of persuasion over its members.  Case in point – recently, the present Vatican Pontiff made a point about Donald Trump’s deliberately racist comments against Mexico and Mexicans.  Trump accused the Pope of playing to the Mexican gallery as he was a guest of the Mexican govt at that point in time. Jeb Bush, a fellow Republican presidential contender (he had since announced his retirement from the race to be Republican presidential nominee) when asked for his comment, notable replied to the effect that he would take the Pope’s view only where religion is concerned! That in my view, is a measure of the irrelevance and marginalization of religion when it comes to the crunch, in this day and age. 

Finally, to borrow something appropriately enough from the pop music world: What will be. Will be. So why not ‘Let it be’? Madonna is simply being ‘offensive’ only because it makes show biz sense for her. 



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