How Catholic Talibans stormed the CCP
AS I WRECK THIS CHAIR By William M. Esposo
The Philippine Star 2011-08-16
The Catholic Church in our country is so messed up that it cannot even stop its own followers from spewing fire and brimstone.
The internationally respected human rights and communications luminary Florangel Braid said that she was surprised at the language used by the Catholic group protesting the art work “Politeismo.” The Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) conducted a forum last August 5 for the artists and the public to discuss the art exhibit. Flor, who is my good friend, is also a member of the Board of Trustees of the CCP, the venue for the exhibit “Kulo” which featured the controversial art work of Mideo Cruz.
“Malaswa! Hindi gawa ng Pilipino, Gawa ng demonyo, (Vulgar! Not the work of a Filipino. It’s the work of the devil)” raved one of them. “If you are a Catholic you can no longer think independently!” asserted another woman identified as a theologian with the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP). The same woman was quoted by media for ridiculously claiming that the exhibit was intentionally timed to occur at the height of discussions on the RH Bill. In a rally, the Church group and its followers branded artists and members of the CCP as “anti-Christ.” We thought this had ended with the Inquisition.
On August 4, the art work was vandalized and there was an attempt to set fire to the exhibit. A Manny Andrada, identified as an author/businessman, smugly boasted on TV News 5 that he was the culprit and that if he chanced to see the artist, Mideo Cruz, he would maul him and break the wooden phallus that Cruz had attached to the image of Jesus Christ on the artist’s mouth. How very Christian.
What gave him the confidence that he would go unpunished? Like the Overlords of the Inquisition, he probably thinks that it’s okay to vandalize in the name of Christ, that he will be cheered for it and that he knows he has the support of the same rabid group that mounted protests against the RH Bill and now the art work.
Instead of cooling down tempers, foreign and Filipino priests who were present during the forum reportedly stoked further animosity by interjecting comments and interrupting speakers from the artists’ side. How very Christian indeed. Last Friday, a group of priests performed a rare ritual of asking God to “forgive the sinners” — referring to those behind the exhibit. They invited media so it was obviously meant for show.
What’s happening to the leaders of the Catholic faith? We would expect the Catholic clergy to exude an aura of holiness, calm and peace. We’d expect them to vibrate a certain loving kindness, the kind of spiritual energy that does not judge but seeks to understand and establish harmony. We can see these virtues and traits in the Catholic Focolare Movement that lives the gospel of love and interfaith harmony but we rarely see this in the CBCP and its rabid right-wing followers.
Our Church hierarchy and its followers claim to represent the nation’s 80 percent Catholics — presumably based on baptism numbers, which does not mean practice. Naturally, they lure grandstanding politicos to support them and when the issue happens to resonate in media, it becomes a formula for lynching.
However, the myth of the Catholic influence stops there. Surveys have shown that the Catholic followers do not necessarily toe the Church line. The latest SWS survey on people’s opinion about the RH Bill and family planning reveals a whopping 82 percent favoring freedom of choice in selecting method of birth control.
No wonder the credibility of the Catholic Church hierarchy among its own flock had plummeted. There are Catholics today who nurture their faith by independently using their own spiritual discernment or have totally shifted to another faith and belief system.
While other Catholic countries, including Italy, have adapted to the times, the Philippines remains the only predominantly Catholic country in the world that does not allow divorce. When asked for a reaction, retired Archbishop Oscar Cruz beamed with pride, insinuating that the Philippines is the only country that stood on moral ground. That demonstrates the “I can’t be wrong” attitude of the Overlords of the Inquisition and that this Philippine Catholic Church doesn’t intend to change or adapt to the times.
There is no divorce in our country but the rich can always get a marriage annulment. It is not only hypocrisy; it is also anti-poor and oppressive. Sometimes, it’s hard not to wonder if all the duplicity and hypocrisy in our system is a result of the friar — conquistador tradition, reminiscent of Rizal’s novel Noli Me Tangere.
While our nation cries for justice for victims of crimes and abuses and while we all need to address the gnawing gaps in wealth and education, these “holy and venerable champion and defenders of our morals” have opted to harass the CCP board for allegedly betraying public trust and the artists for being what they consider anti-Christ.
We’re witnessing the terrifying emergence of a Catholic Taliban who threatens to destroy the very foundations of our Christian morality. Read about the Inquisition and ask yourself if our lives will improve with a revival of that dark chapter of Catholic Church history.
The other day I was scrounging for news in one major daily when I stumbled upon this article by one of the columnists in its opinion section. What grabbed my attention was the word “Catholic” that figured prominently in the headline. You know nowadays I can’t seem to see the word without a diatribe attached to it. I’m generalizing of course, but nowadays (as always though) it’s not rare to come across a diatribe against the Catholic Church (funny, but when I looked up the meaning of the word “diatribe” in the dictionary application of my Mac the example was exactly this: a diatribe against the Roman Catholic Church). No, I don’t wish to address the person who wrote it I believe he is in his rights but the opinion article was really acerbic as to be ticklish. I was aching to supply an apology that would run counter to it. It’s really helpful to keep the debate to the issues and not to the persons themselves (though this is evidently very difficult, basing on my own experience). I always like to believe that ad hominem arguments are always the refuge of the cowardly and those who are far from grasping the essential truth of the argument, but then I digress…
The opening salvo afforded by the author gives the reader and inkling of the inquisition that would soon come. But anyway, that’s typical of all writers who come up with write-ups unsympathetic with the Church, so I’m not surprised with it. First you destroy the credibility of the Church and then you usher your points of contention. Give the image and the idea of an institution that is so messed up, so rotten so as to leave it as helpless carrion for the vultures, and it is form this point that the vultures swoop down to take their prey.
But is the Church so messed up? Perhaps it would really help to look elsewhere as well to see the whole picture. What “outsiders” tend to see are merely the ugly marks left by the sins of her individual children. I remember reading one novel of Andrew Greeley when I was in college and I was struck by the remark of one of the novel’s protagonists, an agnostic who later converted to the Catholic faith in the story who exclaimed to another protagonist, Bishop Ryan Murphy, saying “I love your Church, its as pure as a virgin and as slutty as a whore at the same time”. Not very edifying words, I know and I beg to be excused to saying something offensive to pious ears, but it presents the reality of a Church who is ever pure and holy but whose vesture is stained and torn by the many failings and sins of her children at the same time. Despite of the scandals and imperfections that surely abound within her, especially among the clergy and the hierarchy, people continue to choose to be reborn into the Church. It still remains vital and vibrant and young. As I write, thousands of youth from all over the world eagerly await the arrival of the Holy Father in Madrid for the World Youth Day (which I repeat is NOT a Catholic Woodstock, nor shall it ever be). The Church is young, as Pope Benedict XVI proclaimed in his homily upon inaugurating his ministry more than six years ago. It may be messed up, but it’s not going down. Far from it.
I’ve already given my opinion and thoughts concerning the offensive CCP exhibit in the earlier post, that’s why I would just reiterate that I consider it understandable that Catholics would swoop down upon CCP spewing fire and brimstone. Were the artist and the officials of CCP naïve in believing that nobody would be offended in putting up such a lurid show, or were they purposely provoking people with that while planning to put on a martyr’s mask later on with which to face the hordes that would descend upon them? Is it so unnatural to be so effusive in one’s outrage when somebody tramples upon something which one holds to be sacred. Funny nobody seems to react when Muslims explode when the Koran is desecrated.
Yes everybody expects priests to exude an aura of peace, calm and holiness. If priests where to take on the “I” of Jesus Christ then they should be taking after Christ, whose identity they take on by grace of ordination. But does anybody care to remember that when the Son of God saw what people were doing to the Temple what did he do? Smile benignly and pat children’s heads? “15 And they came to Jerusalem. And he entered the temple and began to drive out those who sold and those who bought in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold pigeons. 16And he would not allow anyone to carry anything through the temple. 17And he was teaching them and saying to them, "Is it not written, 'My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations'? But you have made it a den of robbers…" (Mark, chap. 11). As the resource described it, this is the only episode in the Gospels that we see Jesus using physical force, he who described himself as meek and humble of heart. Yet for all of that meekness, his sacred Heart burned in anger at the desecration done to things that are holy and that evoked the holiness of the God of Israel. What are priests and pastors of the Church to do? Smile placidly and sing Kumbaya? This guy must have been born yesterday. People may have this calm and peaceful perception of the figure of the priest, but many forget—or choose conveniently to not remember—the fact that the priest MUST also be a prophet, and it is part of a prophet’s job description to proclaim the holiness of God and denounce evil. And I would like to add that that piece of whateveryoumaycallit at CCP is not only ugly but positively evil. And pleeeaase don’ use the Focolare as an example of false irenecism because I know they’re better than that. At least they have a good grasp of what’s right and what’s wrong.
That which follows head-on is the inevitable harangue of the row about the RH bill, about how the Catholic Church is loosing influence over its members and how the majority of Catholics don’t agree with Church teachings on contraception and how others are turning to other ‘sources’ to ‘nourish’ their “Catholic” faith yiddy yadda yiddy yadda… this is basically another jab at the credibility of the Church and her place and significance in forming the moral conscience of society. But then again, the Church isn’t a democracy (and thank God); many secular minds somehow tend to see reality and all of it through the bifocals of democracy. Is heaven a democracy? Is hell? I’m not sure of the former, but perhaps for the latter I could say something. The Church’s credibility, its teaching authority, its power to govern, to loose and to bind does not come from the voices of the people below, rather, it comes from the Word above…it’s really hard for many people to get that, most of the time, especially in issues like this.
Here’s another thing. Another log floating in the wave of anti-Catholic bias is how anti-catholics always place progress with being Catholic. It always this equation: Catholic ≠ progress, change. Notwithstanding the fact that change doesn’t always lead to progress, that other so-called Catholic nations have favored divorce or abortion and the Philippines has not is another rock of choice which unsympathetic crowds would like to break Church windows with. Italy, Spain, Malta weren’t working on their Catholic faith when they said “yes” to these things. Rather they were denying it. Italy certainly wasn’t Catholic when she said yes to the pill and the bill. Fidelity to tradition, fidelity to something that was entrusted to her by the Lord is another “something” which her detractors can understand.
And finally we come to the pièce de resistance. The author depreciatively labels the people who wished to stand up for their faith “Talibans”, after a fundamentalist Muslim movement whose militia took control of much of Afghanistan from early 1995, and from 1996 took Kabul and set up a radical Islamic state. What these people were doing was basically facing up to a subtle tyranny that is creeping up in society these days, the tyranny of secularism. Now that’s the Taliban for you: a society where no one can speak of the rights of God and of the morality of virtue. Again, it’s funny that activists wouldn’t dare flash Damaso signs in mosques or use Korans in exhibits, but don’t hesitate for a second to come barraging into churches or use iconography that’s sacred and mutilate it. Is it perhaps because many people think that it’s easy and okay to bully Catholics and their faith? I’m wondering out aloud if whether the cry “Catholic Taliban!” is a whimper in front of the fact that Catholics don’t choose to be bullied anymore. In the Gospel the Lord told his disciples to turn the other cheek. It’s a good thing that He gave us only two. Perhaps this is the time that Catholics should really start acting like Catholics. The Church’s detractors—whether in the government, in the media, in intellectual circles—count on one thing to make themselves heard: those which I would fancily like to call ensaymada Catholics; you know those soft, white , sweet and fluffy rolls lavishly topped with cheese and everything else that would likely give rise to your stored fats in the beltline area. They’re full of air, sugar and nothing else. For as long as society is populated by Catholics who are okay with everything, even though it goes against their Catholic conscience and morality; Catholics who don’t even know much about their faith than just going to Mass on Sundays and not even making a good thing out of it, these voices will always be taunting us. It’s a good thing that there are a people who are standing up for what they believe in, people who would like to wreck this Catholic chair over people’s heads and wake them up, so to speak.
By the way, in the final paragraph of the article above, what morality is the author blabbering about?