Facts of the Case: While a service was on going inside Manila Cathedral where hundreds of church goers are inside, Mr. Celdran stood up in front raising a placard with words “DAMASO”, which disrupted the service. Damaso is a fictional character in the novel of our national hero Jose Rizal. Damaso is depicted as a corrupt Friar, who came along with the Spanish colonizers.
Under our criminal law, an act committed that offends religious feelings are punishable by law. It was under this provision that a case was filed against him and months after, he was convicted. Thus the debate on freedom of expression…
Celdran’s conviction has sprouted a lot of conflicting sentiments. Others call it an attack against freedom of expression. Some call it as detrimental to democracy.
I am a professed Catholic, to this faith I was born and raised, to this Faith I will close the book of my life. To comment further on this issue may intensify further the heat, but I just cannot stop my self. As a member of this oldest Christian Church, I find it irritating to hear, lest I find it sad to hear all these criticisms, supposedly to some leaders of the Church, but were carried not against this specific persons, but against the entire Catholic Church. To bring peace to my mind and soul, let me in my simple and humble understanding, express my sentiments on this issue. I wrote this, with utmost caution to be free from biases and prejudices. I tried my best that passion will not overwhelm me. Let the Holy Spirit guide me.
I do not like all the bishops and priests, as i do disagree on some of them. I have been critical to some of their acts. My criticisms on them found its way on one of the widely circulated Catholic Publication, the World Mission Magazine. But as I acknowledge that there maybe some corrupt and bad bishops and priests, there are much more good Ones. I found it unfair to give the bishops, priests and other clergies a blanket hate attitude. What about the thousands, who have chosen to live out of the comfort zones of their lives and far from their families just to be at service to our unfortunate brothers and sisters in the most unfriendly parts of the world, which most of us dare not go. What about those who have died in line of their service to God and men, and those who are in imminent danger as of now?
Moreover, The act of Celdran is not only against the bishops but an attack to the entire Catholic Church. He hates a bishop or priest, he could have confronted him, wrote a letter, he could have conducted his one man demonstration outside the Cathedral, in Mendiola, Aquino Grandstand or in the CBCP premises to name some, but what he did, is not just an attack to the Bishops, and clergies but to the entire Catholic Church. The Catholic Church aren’t only Bishops and Priest, but a community of faithfuls.
I found it even more saddening that in this case, he appeared to be the victim while the church is the antagonist.
There is freedom of expression for Celdran but not for the bishops and priests and the Catholics. Aren’t the they filipinos also? why then Celdran has the freedom to express his opinion on the RH bill while the bishops and priests cannot? We call it democracy, but we want the pros only to talk. Isn’t it a more healthy democracy if all the stake holders in the society express their opinion on such an issue? There is freedom of expression for pro RH while we want to silence oppositions. Isn’t that a greater injustice? The bishops and priests are against the RH bill, they used the proper forum and venues, Celdran was in favor, he used an inappropriate venue. Freedom of expression is not freedom to offend. I doubt if there will be one religion who rejoices if in the middle of their worship someone would raise a placard saying that they are but false prophets and a damned church. Question, is it only the Catholic church, the only religion in this country that is politically active?
While the constitution guaranteed freedom of expression it also guaranteed the freedom of anyone to freely and peacefuly practice his religion.
We hate the Catholic Church for meddling on the politics? Isn’t it that a shephered is to guide his flock? its just that we have different shephered. The church role to the lives of the people does not end on the four corners of the building but its true mission is in the real world, where its flock lives and walks everyday.
We accused the church for meddling in politics. Going back to history, did we hate the church for meddling in politics when it played an important role in EDSA 1?
We call for democracy yet we want to silence some, we claim for freedom of expression yet we dont want others to talk. A healthy democracy is not when everyone say yes, but its when there are as many voices as there are. If we claim for a right, then be ready to acknowledge that others are entitled to the same right, and as the old concept, freedom is not absolute, it ends to where the other’s right begins. It is well enshrined in our laws that “Every Person must, in the exercise of his right and the performance of his duties act with justice, give everyone his due, and observe honesty and good faith,” For one who wilfully causes loss or injury to another is liable.
The law is not the making of the church, more so the penalty is not the making of the church, it wasn’t the church who imposed the penalty. Celdran commited an act that fell within the definition of the law, and a corresponding penalty the law has fixed. Pardon and forgiveness of the church does not alter the court’s decision.
Pinoy together with other groups is calling for the bishops or rather the church to forgive Celdran, it has been long given, but there is a law that punishes and the court have pounded the gavel of justice. We forgive under the law of God, but there is a law of men that punishes. Pardon or Executive clemency is not in the province of the bishops,not even the Church, it is a presidential power.
President Aquino cited the 2 Popes as an example of forgiving Christians, indeed! Pope John Paul forgave his assasin, Pope Benedict forgave his buttler, and the two culprits/convicts were truly repentant sinners, they acknowledged their sins and served their penalties. They never incited their supporters to cause chaos so that they may be freed, they willingly accepted their penalty as a consequence of their acts. I then at this moment remember the two thieves crucified alongside Jesus, one was repentant and willingly accepted his punishment, while the other even at the doorstep of death cannot see his sins for his ego/selfishness is bigger.
Brothers and sisters, forgiveness and justice are not conflicting concepts but rather are trully compatible concept. When you forgive, it doesn’t mean that justice is moot and academic. The two virtues shines in their own glory when further the virtue of repentance accompany them.
We forgive, it has been given long time ago, but it is hard to forgive, rather it is useless when one does not ask for it, or if apology was given half heartedly. I remember the story of God and Lucifer. Lucifer said “God, why is it that even these humans kept on sinning again and again, you kept on forgiving them, why is it, that I, I only sinned once yet you never forgave me. God replied, “its because you never asked for forgiveness, you never truly repented.”