Digong and the saints

Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro - - Front Page - BY: RHODERICK JOHN ABELLANOSA

There is no point spend­ing so much time and en­ergy ar­gu­ing as to whether Pres­i­dent Duterte was blas­phe­mous in his re­marks about Catholic saints. I am sure heaven knows what to do with him af­ter his death. No mat­ter what bib­li­cal or the­o­log­i­cal ba­sis we would cite, Tatay Digong’s loy­al­ists and blind fol­low­ers would also find a schol­arly jus­ti­fi­ca­tion for his foul lan­guage. His diehard fans draw their hermeneu­tic pow­ers from vast sources of rea­sons why a foul mouth can­not but, in the end, be the sym­bol­ism of a blessed and a pure hearted leader.

I over­heard, for ex­am­ple, in a restau­rant a col­lege stu­dent say that there is so much truth in his beloved Tatay’s state­ment that saints are drunk­ards. She made use of St. Au­gus­tine as an ex­am­ple of one who lived a sin­ful life be­fore his con­ver­sion. I even know of a priest (who hap­pens to be my friend) who de­fends the pres­i­dent say­ing: “Je­sus ridiculed the scribes and the Pharisees.”

Per­spec­tives and in­ter­pre­ta­tions like this make me feel un­com­fort­able. For me it isn’t just about blas­phemy. What is more ir­ri­tat­ing is the fact that the pres­i­dent of the repub­lic is mak­ing un­nec­es­sary re­marks about reli­gion in­stead of sen­si­bly talk­ing about po­lit­i­cal or eco­nomic re­forms. As the high­est po­lit­i­cal leader of this coun­try, it is none of his busi­ness to waste time talk­ing about reli­gion. Reli­gion, un­less it af­fects pub­lic lives, should not be the con­cern of the govern­ment. It would be quite un­der­stand­able if Digong were a Born Again pas­tor crit­i­ciz­ing the ven­er­a­tion of the Vir­gin Mary. But as the chief ex­ec­u­tive of the repub­lic who is fac­ing a lot of prob­lems, it would be best for him to spend more ef­fort ridi­cul­ing the drug lords he hasn’t killed yet rather than quar­rel with saints who have long gone to eter­nity.

The is­sue for me, there­fore, is not just about the sound­ness of Digong’s crit­i­cisms of reli­gion es­pe­cially Catholi­cism. More se­ri­ously, he has gone be­yond his job de­scrip­tion. I hope his ad­vis­ers would tell him that, ad­di­tion­ally, his spare time could be used for more prac­tices on how to de­liver his speech more flaw­lessly in a man­ner that would make him sound more pres­i­den­tial.

Digong’s fre­quent tirade against Catholic be­liefs and prac­tices may not be un­com­mon among politi­cians who are an­tag­o­nis­tic of the Catholic Church. The late DOH Sec­re­tary Juan Flavier, for ex­am­ple, would trade ver­bal punches with the late Jaime Car­di­nal Sin. How­ever, Flavier had a rea­son for what he did as then Health Sec­re­tary. He also did not go as far as mak­ing fun out of Catholic be­liefs.

Jokes serve the pur­pose of ex­press­ing things which we can­not ex­press for­mally. Com­ing from the psy­chol­o­gist Sig­mund Freud, jokes are ver­bal­iza­tions or sub­li­ma­tions of our un­con­scious. Some­times we make fun out of some­one we would like to de­stroy or rebel but we can­not.

By mak­ing fun out of Catholic prac­tices and be­liefs, Digong is mak­ing him­self a more in­ter­est­ing fig­ure for be­hav­ioral and so­cial sci­en­tists to in­ves­ti­gate. His jokes must come from some­where. He must have hated some­thing and some­one so much. The saints per­haps re­mind him of some­thing or some­one so sig­nif­i­cant that he would like to, per­haps in the past, rebel but he can­not.

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