LEA SALONGA sang John Lennon’s “Imagine” last week at the launch of the “purple ribbon” campaign, and no song could be more apt.
That song of course has become a virtual anthem for peace, a thing that has crossed space and time, geography and generation. Strange for a song that sounds almost prose than poetry, though that is probably its secret, the childlike simplicity, or wonder, with which it puts things. It’s John Lennon’s utopian vision of a future freed from strife. “You may say I’m a dreamer,” it says, “but I’m not the only one.” And true enough, to go by the longevity and ever increasing popularity of the song, he is not.
But that song is even more apt, as sung by Salonga before the RH advocates, in one respect. I’ve heard “Imagine” sung in all sorts of places, even in far-flung ones, but I’ve always wondered if people really listened closely to the lyrics. Especially the part that says: “Imagine there’s no countries/ It isn’t hard to do/ Nothing to kill or die for/ And no religion too.”
That last line has always assumed the aspect of a footnote, or something to conveniently drop. But it’s certainly worth thinking about, particularly these days. For religion to be mentioned in the same breath as patriotic fervor of the kind that makes people kill and die, well, the two often go hand in hand, probably far more so today than yesterday.
I leave others to debate religion in general as a source of strife, but I would like to consider the Philippine Catholic Church in particular in that light today. What is at stake in the RH debate in fact is not just the future of RH, it is the future of that Church. Its mission statement is to lead the faithful, but over the last decade or so the shepherd has seemed far more lost than its flock. Enough for the members of the flock possessed of some moral GPS, also called thinking Catholics or thinking Filipinos (which are not necessarily a contradiction in terms), to wonder how long they are going to remain faithful.
In the end, the Church’s opposition to RH doesn’t draw attention to RH, it draws attention to itself. It draws attention to two things in particular, one a matter of commission, the other a matter of omission. One a matter of benighted tenacity, the other a matter of lost opportunity.
The first is mind-bogging enough in itself. I attended the “purple ribbon” event last week, and the first thing that came to my mind was why this was necessary at all. Why in God’s name—yes, his, or hers—do we have to have a show of force just to be able to begin to mount an effort to voluntarily limit family size? Have we remained that backward? No wonder the rest of Southeast Asia has left us biting its dust. Unless we want to consider those countries havens for mass murderers for committing genocide against their millions upon millions of “unborn children.”
Indonesia, the country with the biggest Muslim population in the world, has been practicing family planning for the last 30 years which has brought down the average number of children in a family from six to seven in the 1970s to three today. Truly, you have to ask if the Philippine Catholic Church, if not religion itself, is an impediment to simply getting by, never mind progress.
The irony of it is that its opposition to RH is being passed off as a defense of life, which is a case of at once seeing too much and too little. It sees what is not there, or the mythical existence of the “unborn children,” but does not see what is there, which is the quality of life of the very real born children. Whose teeming numbers assure a vicious cycle of misery. But I’ve said my piece on this before, and will leave it at that.
Far more lamentably, there’s the Church’s sin of omission, or missing out on opportunity. There’s no lack of moral issues, and far more obdurate ones that the Church could be supporting, if not leading as its role of moral guide bids it do, which it is completely reneging on. Not the least of them being the fight against corruption which this government, however you quibble about its strategy and tactics, seems determined to wage. While the Church is summoning all its resources and dredging its arsenal, including vowing hellfire on the unfaithful in pulpits—Jose Rizal’s “Noli” has a brilliant scene that shows that in full glory; truly we haven’t entirely left the 19th century, never mind the 20th—to fight a phantom menace, it allows a very real one to riot in our midst. Certainly its silence on it is deafening.
What could be more patently moral than that? Corruption kills the body, corruption kills the soul. By all rights, the Church should be stalking the frontlines in the fight against it.
But it is not.
Only a few years ago in fact, it was hovering in the frontlines in the fight for it. That was during the time of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo when the bishops ruled to defend not just the corruption that had to do with stealing money but the corruption that had to do stealing hope. A defense of corruption that owed to the Church profiting from it. I don’t know how many of the faithful remained faithful as a result of it. I do know we did not lack for people publicly threatening to stop being so from disgust and frustration.
And now this. A month or so ago, shortly before Lent, some parishioners of a church in Pangasinan were reported to have stood up and left when the priest challenged supporters of RH to do just that. The Church steps up its fight against it, and it won’t be just Mass a lot of parishioners might be leaving. Truly, you have to wonder if it’s the RH advocates or the Church itself that has to ask the question. “Quo vadis?”
It’s enough to make you sing, “Imagine there’s no pulpits/ It isn’t hard to do/ Nothing to flog yourself for/ No superstition too.”
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