By William M. Esposo (The Philippine Star)
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.