Will CBCP history repeat itself?
Five months ago, I intended to write “The Church is doing its part” to combat the escalating extrajudicial killings. I kept a list of Church statements and initiatives including an early item on a wear-black Mass at San Marcelino Church to coincide with President Duterte’s first State of the Nation Address. I clipped statements by Archbishops Villegas, Lagdameo and Cruz, Cardinal Tagle, and Father Villarin, SJ, as well as church offers for drug rehab and a “Holy Eucharist” at Liwasang Bonifacio by the National Clergy Discernment Group.
But I lost steam and chucked list and clippings. I was waiting for some moral authority, theologian or professor to write on the morality of EJK, to show that there are killings and killings: self-defense, killing in war, euthanasia, death penalty, abortion, etc. There is justified or unjustified killing.
By no means does EJK pass any criterion for justified killing.
The war on drugs has been the administration’s centerpiece. And EJK has been the method of choice for its execution (no pun intended). As such, shouldn’t protests gather around EJK in one united, strong heave?
Meanwhile: “I am a good Catholic,” says a lady, “but I am for the killings.” Says a yuppie: “More. What’s three thousand to three million; four thousand to four million?”
Is this then the new normal which we have accepted and become numb to? Is this why a dog (with animal rights) killed in a movie elicits more outrage than human beings killed like pigs? Three, four, five, six… do I hear 7,000 dead? Talk of a “culture of death” that the church so loathes; isn’t this it?
Admit it: The President is unbeatable in his vocabulary (such as it is) and rapport. He remains his best man. Cry your heart out but his ratings stay high, aided moreover by an army of trolls and the spread of “post-truths” and “fake news.” (“What does this say of us?” a friend asked.)
Then “The Church lost its influence during Arroyo presidency” (Opinion, 1/23/17) by Oscar Lagman Jr. came out. The point about 2005, “when they rejected calls for Arroyo to resign,” must have been a reference to the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines’ pastoral letter of July 9, 2005, “Restoring Trust: A Plea for Moral Values in Philippine Politics.” That much-awaited letter is said to have “saved the Queen” (i.e., Arroyo).
There were three successive CBCP letters in 2008: “Reform Yourselves and Believe in the Gospel” (1/28); “The Truth Will Set Our Country Free” (2/10); and “Seeking the Truth, Restoring Integrity” (2/26). The last was a letdown for those who had held their breath for it. I quote myself (“Dear Bishops—hello and goodbye,” Opinion, 3/26/08) and cite the Inquirer’s editorial cartoon (2/29/08) showing a ponderous bishop with miter and staff, back turned and walking away from a tiny Juan de la Cruz, saying, “You’re on your own but with our blessings.”
Why am I bringing this up? Because the country is now at a very similar fork in the road; the church is “at a crossroad.” Déjà vu is echoing and reechoing.
Good news has come. “Our shepherds have not been silent” (Marin, Lim, Falguerra, SJ, Opinion, 1/3/17) defended the hierarchy. Father Faraon in a TV Mass talked of many priests doing their part, and asked that they not be excoriated (Huwag n’yo kaming murahin). Nonetheless, isn’t it possible that the foot soldiers, the kaparian all over the archipelago, feel leaderless and yearn for the church leadership to demonstrate and declare one strong voice?
The CBCP held its plenary assembly on Jan. 28 to 30. The Inquirer ran the headline “EJK, war on drugs on bishops’ agenda” (1/29). Will scattered efforts coalesce and finally take a concerted, collective stand and position? Or will the church dissipate its energy to rail against reproductive health and other issues again, instead of getting its act together and confronting today’s “clear and present danger” stalking the nights and our poor? Will it come out with a strong pastoral letter or another feeble (as in 2005 and 2008) “studied neutrality”? Is it going to be “save the King,” like the last decade’s “save the Queen”?
Many no longer hold their breath for what the church has to say, but a great number still do. This time, I again wait with bated breath for what the CBCP will say.
Asuncion David Maramba is a retired professor, book editor and occasional journalist.
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