So let us start right there and then, how would I react to the recent conviction of Carlos Celdran to the offense against religious sentiments?
I’m not sure how would I say it, but I’m one of those who were deeply offended by what he did inside the Manila Cathedral. I would never mind anyone protesting against any government institution or against any religious denomination for that matter so long as it lies within the bounds of decency, sensitivity and well maybe formality. Had he carried the placard carrying the name “Damaso” at the gate of the church or even within the premises of the church, I would just have shrugged my shoulder off. It would have been a decent and formal protest by him if not sensitive. Had he done it in those places, I wouldn’t have mind hearing him shouting his protest, criticism and even derision against the Church, at least I would have interpreted it as a legitimate right of expression. But he did it inside the church and during a solemn service. If he didn’t have a speck of respect for the bishops, at least he should have even for God’s sake. He did it during a divine service when all, sinners and saints, were in the middle of their supplications to God. If he didn’t consider the bishops as saints, at least the sinners deserve his respect too. He doesn’t need to go that far in order to be heard by the bishops, just standing there at the gates would do. Or he could go to the convent and disturb the sleeping clergy if his guts for disrespect would allow him. But please not inside the church. What he did only diverted a social issue to a religious one.
So now that a conviction has been served him, he should learn his lessons. He should be aware that despite the number of people dissenting against the Church’s stand on many issues, the church building still remains a sacred place for over 80 million Filipinos in this country. This is not a secular country where religiosity is looked upon with condescension. This is not a country that has lost its faith. This is a Christian country – infested with corruption maybe, full of children who have gone astray, but this is still a country who cries out to God in times of need and who looked to Him for strength. So next time, if ever another individual would follow Mr. Celdran’s footsteps he should take time to observe sensitivity for his disrespect.
For sure, I would be very glad if the Archdiocese of Manila would forgive Mr. Celdran and dispense him of this temporal punishment. It is enough for the records to show that indeed he had hurt us. He did hurt my faith and the faith of millions in this country. But should the Archdiocese be firm in its stand, then I’m on its side. I believe in the decisions of our bishops. I’m not saying this because I’m a Catholic, the fact is had this happened to other denominations, I would still feel the same.
Many people who had a taste for hostility towards the Church have come and gone. But even that cannot assure that the Church would be peaceful in the coming years. No, Christ did not promise that the Church will not face any challenges. What he promised is that whatever storm the Church will face, the gates of hell would not prevail against it.
“Damaso!” “Damaso!” – not even a placard could destroy my faith.