Pope Paul VI to the Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Michael Ramsey

"(B)y entering into our house, you are entering your own house, we are happy to open our door and heart to you." - Pope Paul VI to Dr Michael Ramsey, Archbishop of Canterbury.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

The culture wars have finally reached the Philippines

Tourist guide Carlos Celdran's heckling protest stunt (protesting the Catholic Church stance on the Reproductive health (RH) bill) during an ecumenical prayer service at the Manila Cathedral brought home the fact that the secularist culture vs Catholic culture wars has finally come to the Philippines. Mr Celdran, who is a member of a group of freethinkers and is a most sought heritage tour guide in Manila, shouted to the bishops to stop "getting involved in politics".  He raised a sign with the name "Damaso". Padre Damaso is a fictional friar in Dr Jose Rizal's "Noli Me Tangere" and has become a culture icon of what is  most despised and hypocritical in Catholic clergy.

Observers noted that Celdran was dressed up like Dr Rizal himself. It appears that was done for more propaganda impact. The ecumenical service was attended by Protestant clergy too as it was to celebrate efforts between the churches to distribute millions of bibles for indigent families. When Celdran disrupted the service, a Protestant bishop was at the lectern delivering his address.

Celdran was immediately removed from the cathedral by police officers, arrested on orders of the Mayor, handcuffed and was placed in custody in the nearby Ermita police station. He was booked on the basis of an archaic provision in the Penal Code, which penalizes "acts offending religious feelings".

Many lawyers have told me that this is the first time they know of  anyone being charged of violating this provision. In fact religious ministers of certain sects bash each other's doctrines in prayer rallies and no one has been arrested for doing so.

Celdran should have been thrown out of the Cathedral and onto Plaza Roma on his butt and that should have been it. Celdran deserves that.  But the Manila Cathedral dean pressed on with filing charges.  Celdran doesn't deserve to gain media mileage when photos of him in Dr Rizal's trademark suit and bowler's hat inside a jail cell is found everywhere!

Unfortunately some in the Catholic hierarchy were simply unprepared to deal with such issues. Some bishops threatened civil disobedience if the RH bill is passed. The bishops conference president Bishop Nereo Odchimar even mentioned the "e" word (excommunication) in an interview with a blurb whose "balanced and fearless" views is open to question!  Odchimar speculated on the canonical grounds by which President Benigno Aquino III could be excommunicated if he insists in promoting the bill. This is downright silly and irresponsible. This has been flashed in the international press and even in international Catholic news websites. It has made the Philippine church a laughingstock the world over.

This of course fanned the latent anti-clericalism in Filipino society especially in the elite and intellectual class. The CBCP has released a statement that it never considered excommunicating the President. Gee! The CBCP should seriously consider putting a gag order on its president! If it can't do that, Catholics should ask the Pope to do so. The damage to the credibility of the Catholic bishops has been severe!

The Philippine bishops have still a lot to learn in dealing with secularism. They can take a good cue from Pope Benedict XVI, who never appeared to be condemning of secularism as long as it respects faith (this was grudgingly accepted even by the Protest the Pope people in England). The Church has to dialogue with secularists of every stripe.  A siege mentality will make a fool of the Church hierarchy. The bishops have to listen to the laity and here catechism is somewhat lacking. Instead of talking about excommunicating anyone, the Church should aggressively promote its pro life stance in catechesis of the young.

In this tale, it's 1 for the secularists and 0 for the Catholic traditionalists.

1 comment:

  1. I thought of giving the same opinion of not having this attention hungry tour guide. But in the contrary, it makes it appear is powerless in these malicious attacks. Celdran got the attention alright...of both sides of the RH debate. And this is the chance for the CBCP to catechize, not to threaten excommunication.


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