Testing the limits of our tolerance
PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte has justified his latest blasphemies and profanities against God and the Catholic Church by dismissing them as “mere jokes,” meant
to “test the limits of civility,” as his latest spokesman puts it. One broadsheet calls it his “way of responding to detractors who have been maligning him.” I thought I spoke passable English, but apparently not enough to understand what this means. Whose “civility” are we talking about? We can only say it’s the civility of the Church whose limits are being put to the test. DU30 apparently wants to find out the limits of what the Church can take. Once the “limits of civility” have been reached, and the Church begins to react, DU30 can then say, “it’s all a joke!” Otherwise, the abuse can continue without any apology or explanation from the President.
The meaning of words
In my elementary grade composition, my English teacher would have encircled the words “civility” and “detractors” and marked each of them, “wrong word used.” Words are important. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God,” says the Gospel according to St. John. In his secular prose, T. S. Eliot, one of my favorite 20th century English poets, says no matter how words are perverted they always retain their meaning. We cannot and should not use one word to express the meaning of another. So, we should know the limits of the Church’s and the public’s “civility” have long been breached; it is now their “patience” or “tolerance” that’s about to break.
Mere civility is no longer the issue, and the ranks of those raging against DU30’s blasphemies and profanities can no longer be trivialized into mere “detractors.” There are fundamental issues involved, the grievance now runs deep, and detraction does not arise. As John A. Hardon, S. J.’s reminds us, detraction (from the Latin word means: “Revealing something about another that is true but harmful to that person’s reputation. It is forbidden to reveal another person’s secret faults or defects, unless there is proportionate good involved. The fact that something is true does not, of itself, justify its disclosure. Detraction is a sin against justice. It robs one of what most people consider more important than riches, since a person has a strict right to his or her reputation, whether it is deserved or not.”
What it is not
Raging against fundamental and grave human rights abuses- and this is what we are witnessing right now — can never be dismissed as mere detraction. To label as mere “detractor” a person who denounces the brutal killing of mere suspects without due process, and the wholesale destruction of the rule of law and the constitutional order is to downgrade the most wretched crime as a mere lapse in judgment, which should not concern society at all, but should rather be protected from public scrutiny, censure or condemnation. To claim that DU30’s blasphemies and profanities are a response to “detractors who have been maligning him” is simply impermissible.
Clearly, DU30 could not have embarked upon his extrajudicial killing of suspected drug users without expecting adverse moral and religious consequences. But he had this unique playbook in mind, and instead of responding constructively to the adverse reactions of the bishops, priest, religious and laity as well as the international human rights community to the extra-judicial killings, he put himself in the position of the aggrieved victim and started badmouthing God, the Church, the doctrines and practices of the Catholic faith and human rights activists and institutions everywhere.
Instead of admitting his errors and making amends for his excesses, DU30 donned a mantle of perverse righteousness and called the former president of the United States and the former UN secretary-general, among others, “sons of bitches” for calling attention to his human rights violations, which he insisted it was his
people as the head of an independent and sovereign state. He has slandered and threatened bishops and priests for their unshakeable position against the killings and sent some of the most threatened and vulnerable into hiding in some religious sanctuaries.
Attacks on the Church
DU30’s attacks on the Church have grown as virulent as his attacks on the Constitution and the rule of law. Not only has he attacked the consecrated persons and lives of some clergymen, he has also tried to dissuade the faithful from going to church and performing their ordinary duties to their parishes. He has attacked some Church dogmas and doctrines and sought to replace them with his own demented ideas, based on his imagined power to invent whatever religious teaching he wants, by virtue of his having been elected president for six years. He is beginning to look like Simon Magus who, at the height of his
Nobody has proposed calling him a heretic or an apostate, since nobody seems to know whether he has ever been part of the Church. He would be an apostate if he was a baptized person who gave up his Christian faith entirely; a heretic if, having been baptized, he now denies or questions a truth that is taught not merely on the authority of the Church but on the word of God revealed in the Scriptures or sacred tradition, like the three persons in one God.
The best- known heresies all came from within the Church, promoted by churchmen like Arius, Nestorius and Pelagius. Arius (256 to 336), a priest of Alexandria, denied the divinity of Jesus Christ, preached that there are not three persons in God, co-eternal and equal in all things, but only one person, the Father. In 325, the First Council of Nicaea was convoked to meet the Arian crisis. St. Athanasius (296 to 373), bishop of Alexandria, was the soul of the council; at least 220 bishops, mostly from the East but also from Africa, Spain, Gaul, and Italy signed the creed that af-
condemned Arius as a heretic.
The Nicene Creed ( updated) reads: “We believe in one God, the Father, the Almighty, Maker of Heaven and Earth, and of all that is seen and unseen. We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only Son of God, eternally begotten of the Father, God from God, Light from Light, True God from True God, begotten, not made, consubstantial with the Father. Through him all things were made…”
Nestorius, Bishop of Constantinople, taught that there were two distinct persons in the Incarnate Christ, one human and another divine, as against the orthodox teaching that Christ was a divine person who assumed a human nature. This teaching was condemned as a heresy by the Council of Ephesus in 431.
Pelagius (355 to 423), an Irish lay monk, taught that Adam would have died even if he had not sinned; Adam’s fall injured only himself and at worst affected his posterity by giving them a bad example; newborn children are in the same condition as Adam before he fell; mankind will not die because of Adam’s sin or rise on the Last Day because of Christ’s redemption; the law of ancient Israel no less than the Gospel offers equal opportunity to reach heaven. Pelagianism ultimately denied the supernatural order and the necessity of grace for salvation. The heresy was condemned by Church councils several times, notably by the Councils of Carthage and Mileve in 416.
Many Catholics look at DU30 as a foul-mouthed non-believer who likes to mock the Catholic faith and to superimpose himself and his anti- Catholic ideas on the Church’s Magisterium. On January 9, on the feast-day of the Black Nazarene, many waited to see if DU30, having previously
some saints, would say anything blasphemous, profane or derisive about the centuries-old image of the Black Nazarene as millions of devotees joined the annual
(procession) out of Quiapo church. Perhaps out of gratitude for the prayers the devotees had offered for his healing, DU30 did or said nothing that risked offending the sea of devotees.
But this isn’t all. A good number of Filipinos I have spoken to said they never really cared very much about what DU30 has done or will ever do to the Supreme Court, the Congress, or the Constitution. Nor about how the propaganda surveys will be cooked to project an alleged spike in DU30’s and "Bong" Go’s “popularity” ratings. But they vowed never to allow DU30 to abuse or make a mockery of God and their faith.