Test­ing the lim­its of our tol­er­ance

Manila Times - - Front Page - Mod­ern Catholic Dic­tio­nary de­trac­tio) STEIN­BOCK fs­[email protected] trasla­cion

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.

Great here­sies

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.

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