Lee Kuan Yew's Prayer

Manila Bulletin, September 30, 2010 | Go to article overview

Lee Kuan Yew's Prayer


MANILA, Philippines - When I read Seth Mydans' piece "Founder of Singapore reflects on his journey" in the International Herald Tribune last September 11-12, 2010, I could not help thinking back to the years I studied at Harvard 50 years ago. In the late 1960s, there was still much talk in the Harvard community about a Catholic priest who was excommunicated by the Bishop of Boston then for refusing to stop teaching a heretical interpretation of the Biblical expression "Outside the Church there is no salvation." This priest, who for a while was the chaplain of the Harvard Catholic Club and who fortunately was reunited with the Catholic Church when he died, had angered the non-Catholics at Harvard by telling them in no uncertain terms that they were all going to hell. He did not take into account the Catholic teaching that those non-Catholics who try to live a good life can receive what is known as "baptism of desire."If there is a public figure whose actions and accomplishments merit his receiving a baptism by desire, it is Mentor Minister Lee Kuan Yew, who in Mr. Mydans' words "made Singapore in his own stern and unsentimental image" and transformed it into "a first-world oasis in a third-world region." Through his personal example of integrity and servant leadership, Mr. Lee Kuan Yew has helped to build institutions and a culture of hard work and discipline that are unparalleled in the whole of Asia. Contrary to the image projected by some sectors of the international press, he has sufficient humility to admit that he has made certain mistakes. As he told Mr. Mydans, "I'm not saying that everything I did was right, but everything I did was for an honorable purpose. I had to do some nasty things locking fellows up without trial."Let me review here the doctrine about "baptism by desire." As Fr. John Flader wrote in his best-selling book "Question Time" (Sinagtala Publishers, 2008), "When we hear about the need for Baptism, though, we should not think only of the sacrament of Baptism, in which water is poured on the head of the recipient, making that person a Christian and member of the Church. The Church has always admitted that people can be saved by a 'baptism of desire,' which can be explicit in the case of catechumens who desire to enter the Church, or implicit in the case of people who perhaps do not even know the Church, but who strive to live a good life.

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