Thursday, January 29, 2015

'Poverty, the first violence'

Philippine Daily Inquirer/OPINION/by Ma. Ceres P. Doyo

Fifteen years ago in 2000, I met and interviewed Dominican Fr. Gustavo Gutierrez, then 72, proudly Peruvian and known as the “father of liberation theology.” He was here as a guest of the CO Multiversity then headed by Dinky Soliman, now social welfare secretary. She informed me that Gutierrez was here for an international conference of community organizers. Would I want to have coffee and conversation with him? she asked.

That was one interview I would not miss for the world. (I did write about it.)

From that interview I got an understanding of poverty that was not totally new but which sank in deep because it was profoundly explained by someone who lived it and walked with the poor. As they say, the medium is the message. Or maybe his reputation preceded him.

I had been reflecting on Gutierrez’s words these past days when the subject of poverty and the poor was a hotly debated topic in the mainstream and social media. (“The fallout,” I call it.) Also because Pope Francis, when he was here for a four-day visit this month, constantly reminded us to reach out to the poor and learn from them. I kept wondering: Would the Pope’s blockbuster visit and the unprecedented, mind-boggling turnout of six million Filipinos on his last full day in Manila, and more important, his visit to Tacloban and Palo in Leyte (his priority above all else), change our priorities?

Friday, January 23, 2015

The Caravaggio effect

Philippine Daily Inquirer/OPINION/by Ma. Ceres P. Doyo

“If you have time,” Pope Francis said during his encounter with thousands of young people last Jan. 18 at the University of Santo Tomas, “go see the picture that Caravaggio painted of this scene.”
By “this scene,” he meant Jesus calling the tax collector Matthew to come and follow him. This surprise invitation, as narrated in the Gospel (Matthew 9:9), caused a stir among the self-righteous because Jesus was consorting and eating with the so-called scum of society. And in the case of Matthew, Jesus even called him to join his team, his ragtag band of apostles.

The Pope painted his own scene to stress a point: that God springs surprises and we must allow ourselves to be surprised. “The important thing is to let yourselves be loved by him,” he said in his native Spanish, which he used when he wanted to strongly express something. In that encounter with the youth from all over the country, Pope Francis put aside his prepared speech in English and spoke from the heart with passion and joy.

“Real love is opening yourselves to the love that wants to come to you, which causes surprise in you. God is a God of surprises.” I thought of God calling in gentle and sometimes dramatic ways—calling us by name, calling to mission, but first, to conversion.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Filipinos' faith introduced to Pope

Philippine Daily Inquirer/OPINION/by Ma. Ceres P. Doyo

At Pope Francis’ first Holy Mass in the Philippines yesterday at Manila Cathedral, Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle, in his own effusive way, introduced the Filipino people to the Pope and pointed to the reason for their resiliency and strength amidst tragedies. Quoting noted historian and the Pope’s fellow Jesuit Fr. Horacio de la Costa, Tagle said: It is the Filipinos’ love for music and their faith.

From Pope Francis, a solemn statement rang loud and clear, louder than the roaring organ and singing at Manila Cathedral, clearer than the joyful shouts of welcome from the thousands who cheered him outside and on the streets of Manila. “The poor are at the heart of the Gospel. If we take away the poor from the Gospel, we cannot understand the whole message of Jesus Christ.”

This reminder, simply and directly said, could very well be the heart of Pope Francis’ homily for more than a thousand bishops, priests, religious men and women and seminarians at Manila Cathedral, or Basilica of the Immaculate Conception in Intramuros. It was also for the more than 20,000 bishops, priests and religious who were not present and who serve some 89 million Filipino Catholics in various ministries.

Because his message was going to be grave and serious, Pope Francis must have thought it is best to start off by putting everyone in a happy, receptive mood. “Do you love me?” he began his homily by asking the question Jesus asked Peter in the Mass’ Gospel reading (John 21: 15-17). After hearing a yes, he promptly said, “Thank you very much,” making the audience break into laughter.

He was serious from then on. Jesus’ question for Peter, the Pope said, was the first thing he wanted to ask, because “these words remind us of something essential. All pastoral ministry is born of love. All consecrated life is a sign of Christ’s reconciling love.”

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Compassion, 'habag,' awa ng Diyos'

Philippine Daily Inquirer/OPINION/by Ma. Ceres P. Doyo

In Filipino, “mercy” is awa; in the Visayan languages, kaluoy. But how translate “compassion”?

“Mercy and compassion” is the theme of Pope Francis’ visit to the Philippines. (Misericordia y compasion, in his native Spanish.) It is easy to differentiate one word from the other when one is thinking in English. But one is suddenly at a loss when trying to find the right Filipino word for “compassion.”

I googled online dictionaries and I could not find a precise word for “compassion” in the Philippine languages. Almost always, awa or kaluoy would come up. Theologian and Redemptorist Bro. Karl Gaspar suggested pakig-unong.

And then the Filipino word habag appeared on screen. Habag, as in Diyos na mahabagin. Is this it?

In news broadcasts on the papal visit, one often hears the word malasakit being used. I don’t know how that word was chosen. But you don’t say, Diyos na may malasakit to mean the compassionate God. To me, malasakit is simply concern, a human duty embodied in the Golden Rule.

Lingayen Archbishop Socrates Villegas, head of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, provided a profound meaning of the word “compassion”—and a Filipino nuance as well—at the second Inquirer Conversation on the papal visit held at the University of Santo Tomas last Monday, where my fellow columnist Michael Tan (of “Pinoy Kasi”), the students and I took turns asking questions, with editors John Nery and Chito de la Vega facilitating. (The first Inquirer Conversation on the papal visit was held last Saturday with Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle tackling the theme of mercy.)

At the holding room before the program began, I mentioned to the archbishop (“Call me ‘Father Soc,’” he said) that I would be asking him a question on the meaning of compassion in the Philippine context. Over coffee I also asked what story in the Bible was, for him, a good example of compassion. The Good Samaritan? The good shepherd looking for the lost sheep?

His quick answer stumped me: the father of the prodigal son. Aww, I exclaimed in jest, but wasn’t he quite unfair and didn’t he play favorites? Oh, that “prodigal father,” I thought.

I reflected on his answer while we were walking to the auditorium and I began to see why—God showing love in an extravagant, lavish, unconditional way.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

9 bishops falling all over themselves at 'royal wedding'

Philippine Daily Inquirer/OPINION/by Ma. Ceres P. Doyo

During hard times when the “A” and “B” words (austerity and belt-tightening) are on people’s lips, I do a Mary-Quite-Contrary and find myself saying, “But those who have money to spare should spend, spend, spend and spread their money around. Quietly. Not in a lavish way. Let the rich splurge here and not abroad. Don’t keep your money to yourself. You with a little extra cash can have your roof fixed, garden trimmed, gate repainted, party catered. Just so the jobless and the cash-strapped can earn some extra money.” My economics of sharing.

So I am not against spreading money around. But open display of one’s affluence is another story. The wedding of show biz couple Dingdong Dantes and Marian Rivera last Dec. 30 was perhaps the grandest wedding hereabouts not seen in a long time. Fawning reporters of GMA 7, the couple’s home network, unabashedly called it “a royal wedding,” and the bride and groom “the royal couple.”

From start to finish, it was supergrand any way you look at it—from the media’s months-long prewedding updates going crescendo to the coverage of the wedding day itself. The cost of the grandiose production, as reported, was staggering and jaw-dropping. The bridal gown alone was reported to have had a whopping seven-digit price tag. A footnote: The groom wore a brand-new, fresh-from-the-box Rolex watch, a gift from the bride, shown for us to see.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Laudamus te for 'feminine genius'

Philippine Daily Inquirer/OPINION/by Ma. Ceres P. Doyo

Some years ago the Vatican patriarchy sounded an alarm and conducted an investigation of American women religious who blazed trails on unfamiliar terrain or who held views that were not of the Vatican variety. Nuns who belong to the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) were perceived to be too feminist and secular for the Church’s comfort.

About 80 percent of American women religious are affiliated with LCWR. The women were not about to back down; as far as they were concerned, they were faithful daughters of the Church in the way that Jesus would have expected them to be. Still, it was worrisome.

In 2009, the Vatican, during the papacy of Benedict XVI, began an investigation of the religious life of American nuns. The Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith carried out the investigation and took over LCWR in 2012.

There was yet another investigation—apostolic visitation, it was called—conducted by the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life.

LCWR was viewed as promoting “radical feminist themes incompatible with the Catholic faith.” Other “damning” accusations were promoting “a distorted ecclesiological vision, and (having) scant regard for the role of the Magisterium as the guarantor of the authentic interpretation of the Church’s Faith.”

For example the Vatican denounced the book “Just Love: A Framework for Christian Sexual Ethics” by moral theologian Sr. Margaret Farley of the Sisters of Mercy. I did write about this and the support Farley received from the Catholic Theological Society of America.

A well-respected and admired theologian, Farley also initiated a big project in Africa to educate the nuns to work in a proactive way in the AIDS crisis. Farley was instrumental in the founding of the All-Africa Conference: Sister to Sister that offers ways to empower African women to more effectively address HIV and AIDS issues and to bring new information and hope to every village and hut in the sub-Sahara.

A Filipino nun-theologian said to me then: “The Vatican keepers of the gate have inferior knowledge of the whole living tradition compared to Farley! And she lives it totally!”