THE INFLUENCE of the Catholic Church with some 80 million Filipinos within its fold is being put to a test by President Rodrigo Duterte’s striking an unrepentant posture even while his handlers scramble to head off a costly collision for him.
One week into the tiff triggered by the President’s caustic comments about a “stupid” God and allegedly hypocritical prelates, and his questioning a number of Church tenets, Duterte remains unapologetic.
His sacrilegious remarks have incensed a growing number of Christians as reflected in social media postings and statements of organizations and opinion leaders in his dominantly Catholic country.
If mismanaged, the “stupid God” height of Duterte’s profanity-laced public statements and meandering speeches could be a tipping point leading to the 2019 midterm elections.
It helps, however, that despite the irreverence of the highest official of the land, Manila archbishop Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle asked priests in a letter Wednesday: “Be at peace. Be calm. Don’t let things disturb your inner peace. Let us read the situation with the eyes of faith.”
But in Panglao, Bohol, where the President keynoted on Friday the 25thnational convention of vice mayors, Duterte still insisted he would not say sorry — “Definitely not in a million years.”
This harks back to his speech the other week in Davao where he gave his uninformed version of the Creation: “Kinain ni Adam, then malice was born. Who is this stupid God? Istupido talaga itong put*ng*na kung ganoon…. You created something perfect and then you think of an event that would tempt and destroy the quality of your work.”
It is heartening that in his address in Panglao, the President appeared to have responded to Tagle’s plea for calm. Paraphrasing Ecclesiastes 3, he said: “There’s a time to be calm, there’s a time to be silent, to be poignant, a time to be subdued, and a time to be vicious.”
To help him wiggle out of his doctrinal clash with the Church, the Palace has formed a three-man team to feel out the members of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines and other religious leaders who have taken offense.
There are no indications, however, that Malacañang’s conciliatory move was upon instructions of the President himself or just a fire-fighting initiative by Duterte’s public relations handlers.
It is not clear what the unapologetic President’s instructions to the panel are, to whom they must talk, and what are on the agenda.
Dialogue without direction – like orders and policy statements blurted out in incomplete sentences – is likely to fail. To save the talks, Duterte may want to state that he is the one sending the panel on his behalf and that he is ready to listen.
On the side of the Church, it can be assumed that there is no problem on the matter of reconciliation. The shepherd of the flock never tires looking for those who go astray.
• Ecclesiastes 3: A time for everything
TODAY being Sunday, we quote below Ecclesiastes 3 (New International Version) that President Duterte said he reads everyday:
There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens:
A time to be born and a time to die,
A time to plant and a time to uproot,
A time to kill and a time to heal,
A time to tear down and a time to build,
A time to weep and a time to laugh,
A time to mourn and a time to dance,
A time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
A time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
A time to search and a time to give up,
A time to keep and a time to throw away,
A time to tear and a time to mend,
A time to be silent and a time to speak,
A time to love and a time to hate,
A time for war and a time for peace.
What do workers gain from their toil? I have seen the burden God has laid on the human race. He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end. I know that there is nothing better for people than to be happy and to do good while they live. That each of them may eat and drink and find satisfaction in all their toil—this is the gift of God. I know that everything God does will endure forever; nothing can be added to it and nothing taken from it. God does it so that people will fear him.
Whatever is has already been, and what will be has been before; and God will call the past to account.
And I saw something else under the sun: In the place of judgment—wickedness was there, in the place of justice—wickedness was there.
I said to myself, “God will bring into judgment both the righteous and the wicked, for there will be a time for every activity, a time to judge every deed.”
I also said to myself, “As for humans, God tests them so that they may see that they are like the animals. Surely the fate of human beings is like that of the animals; the same fate awaits them both: As one dies, so dies the other. All have the same breath; humans have no advantage over animals. Everything is meaningless. All go to the same place; all come from dust, and to dust all return. Who knows if the human spirit rises upward and if the spirit of the animal goes down into the earth?”
So I saw that there is nothing better for a person than to enjoy their work, because that is their lot. For who can bring them to see what will happen after them?