Last October 1, Intramuros tourist guide Carlos Celdran staged a shocking, stupid, and shameful stunt all in one when he disrupted Holy Mass at the Manila Cathedral, where Apostolic Nuncio Edward Joseph Adams and Archbishop Gaudencio Cardinal Rosales were present. Styling himself as the “new” Jose Rizal and dresssed in the national hero’s characteristic European attire, he broke up the solemn Mass and carried around a placard with the inscription “Damaso,” a reference to the friar-character in Rizal’s novels, and shouted at the bishops and clery on the altar, “Stop involving yourselves in politics!” He was referring to the Church’s opposition to the Reproductive Health bill, several versions of which have been refiled in the new Congress, as well as criticism of President Aquino’s statements during his US trip that he’s in favor of “responsible parenthood,” or some form of birth control.
Even if he clearly does not agree with the Church, Celdran could have just let his mind known by a letter to the editor: after all, the Church representatives only made known their stand when they were interviewed by the media. But arrogantly enough and without regard for religious sensibilities, Celdran did the brazen act of desecrating the Church, her priests and liturgy. As a result, he landed in jail for committing a crime against religious worship, a violation of Article 133 of the Revised Penal Code.
But what was more alarming was that many Catholics did not condemn Celdran’s “shameful deed,” as described by the Manila clergy.
Even more terrible was that at the time of Celdran’s detention, about 6,500 people, apparently Catholics, had immediately supported a Facebook fan page calling for his release. Moreover, feminists rallied in front of the building of the Church’s episcopal conference in Intramuros with obscene placards directed at the bishops such as, “Get your rosary out of my ovary.” Even harlots would not use such language!
In what planet are Celdran and his supporters living? Perhaps they should repeat their stunt in a Muslim mosque or an Iglesia ni Cristo service. Let’s see if they would not get lynched.
Celdran’s arrogance was not only an affront to religion; it was an insult to the national hero. Even if Rizal was a Mason, a liberal secularist, and an anti-cleric, he would not have disrupted the Holy Mass and cursed the clergy. In his distasteful, unseemly blog, Celdran styles himself and those opposed to the Church’s stand on population control as “the new Jose Rizal.” What megalomania! Even the diehard Rizalista would not make such a claim. Apparently Celdran and his ilk have been making the fantastic claim inside the Mandaluyong sanatorium.
The apathy of many Catholics to denounce Celdran’s outright assault of the Church is a reality check on the Church both as a hierarchy and as people of God: Catholics are woefully ignorant of the Church’s teachings. The Catholic Church and her leaders have failed to educate Catholics on the teachings of the Church.
This problem may also stem from the failure of schools, particularly Catholic schools, to impress upon the students the position of the Church on issues such as the RH bill, which goes against the Church’s teachings on the basic right to life.
Closer to home, has UST, which prides itself as the Catholic University of the Philippines and a Pontifical University no less, done its job in teaching the Church’s pro-life stand as it confronts issues such as population control?
In the University, a minimum 15 units of theology subjects are mandated. Despite this, a study of former Arts and Letters Dean Armando de Jesus last year revealed that many Thomasians are “religious but not moral”––a finding which implies the tendency of Thomasian students to support the RH bill.
To be sure, this disturbing situation in the academe should force the Institute of Religion, the office in charge of the theology subjects, to start rethinking its curriculum and method of instruction, particularly SCL3 (The Social Teachings of the Church) and SCL9 (Marriage and Family).
All of the subjects are treated in an abstract manner, without reference to pressing issues of the day. For example, the chapter on natural family planning in the Marriage and Family textbook does not really explain why there should be family planning at all, it does not explain the geopolitcal context that has forced couples more and more to limit their family size. The discussion does not reveal the population-control mindset that occasions the discourse on family planning, whether natural or contraceptive.
Moreover, the chapter does not explain really why natural family planning is best. It does not even make reference to the natural law that underpins the Church’s moral teachings.
Theology professors appear to be ignorant of the issues around the RH bill and population control, considering that these issues are pressing to young Thomasians who have impressionable minds. Corollarily, UST doctors and bioethicists have largely evaded the issues. Most UST doctors, who receive perks from drug companies some of which produce contraceptives, don’t even go out of the way and explain to the public the side effects and risks of chemical contraceptives.
The Church, her leaders and teachers should tell Catholics that alleged overpopulation is not the cause of the poverty in the country but corruption, mismanagement and poor public policy. As columnist Atty. Jose Sison, a loyal Thomasian, said, “overpopulation” is the wrong term to use for the congestion of Metro Manila and urban centers, which is a migration and development phenomenon. In any case, he said it is wrong to blame the poor people for their poverty: the corruption and mismanagement of public officials are the culprits.
World-class economists such as Simon Kuznets and Jacqueline Katzun have denied any negative correlation between population and economic growth. Meanwhile, Nobel-winning economists Amartya Sen and Gary Becker have recommended that funds for birth control would be better used in directly addressing poverty.
Moreover, the RH bill is draconian and violative of human rights. The version by Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman bill forces employers into providing contraceptives to workers under their collective bargaining agreements. How can UST, a Catholic institution, offer contraceptives to its employees?
Catholics should understand that natural family planning teaches husbands to respect their wives’ body cycles. It teaches trust, discipline and fortifies the family as an institution contrary to the RH bill, which advocates shortcuts, fosters irresponsibility, and weakens the family. Therefore, natural family planning humanizes us while artificial methods, which RH bill espouses, make us look like sex-starved rabbits.
House Bill 5043 carries a provision in which a spouse can get a vasectomy or ligation without the consent of the other spouse, which is tantamount to legalized treachery.
In addition, the bill also wants to muzzle the opposition by providing a provision that punishes those who allegedly spread “disinformation.” In addition, foreigners who speak against the bill may be deported. (What if the Pope visits the country and calls population-control measures anti-life? Can Lagman kick the Supreme Pontiff out of the country?)
Catholics are duty-bound to study the many anti-life and anti-human-right provisions of the RH bill and uphold with conviction the stand of the Church against it and other social-engineering measures of the state. Thomasians and other Catholics should rouse themselves from their apathy. Let the biblical injunction be their guide: “If you are neither hot nor cold, I will vomit you out of my mouth.”