But heresy serves its purpose. It is like the husk of a seed: it eventually dies but in so doing fertilizes the kernel of a new tradition… It may be heresy to suggest that God died. But the cross makes us ask what sort of God are we believing in when we contemplate it… Dare a human being answer God back? The cross answers “yes.” Such behavior is not audacious when we stand before the cross. Everything about it is public. So when we ask what it means for God, we can expect a reply.
– Wesley Carr, Tested By The Cross. 1992.
Carr writes that the crucifixion of Jesus was not something that happened behind closed doors among a few witnesses but in public. I haven’t thought about that event that way before.
Following Carr’s line of thought, I’m imagining, standing among the others at Golgotha, after having followed with the others Jesus carry the cross through the street to the hill and witnessing His crucifixion and finally His death, finally coming away from the scene filled with my own experience of the meaning of the event. Supposing 100,000 people were there, then there had been 100,000 who scrutinized the event creating 100,000 and more meanings out of it. But the more puzzling part is, Jesus had not before, during, or after the event intervened to say, hey, you, what you’re thinking is wrong, or you there, you’re right. This implies that, and this is the point when I was struck by Carr’s writing, each of the 100,000 and more meanings contains shades of the truth. Except for the basic truth which is that God loves us, the 100,000 and more meanings imply that there is no one singular true meaning of the Cross. And this is where the mystery lies, just like the multiplication of the loaf and fish. It can also be seen in parallel with the lives of the saints – each experienced God in a unique personal way and from that experiences, gave themselves differently for others. It strengthens the belief that people need each other because together there is the truth made whole. It is with others, in community, that the true meaning of the Cross – the Church – is made a comprehensible whole. This is what Jesus wanted to say when He didn’t say anything.
On the other hand, imagine if that event were a private affair, there’d be no 100,000 and so meanings, no “miraculous” multiplication, no public awakening, just knowledge for and the salvation of a privileged few. The salvific and personal meaning of the Cross would’ve been lost. The life and purpose of Jesus would’ve been meaningless except for this privileged few. The bible would’ve been just any other writing about history. There’d be no Catholic (universal) Church to speak of.
Fast forward to today, here, as the nation is trying to forge its future direction, that event of the Cross is re-enacted once more. But the thing now is, as the crowd is trying to make personal meaning of the proposed future, the good Bishops (at least certain ones) who as they like to say of themselves are God’s representatives (and so let’s put them there on the cross to represent God) are instead freeing their hands from the cross to douse water on the crowd, calling the internal process happening among the individuals a heresy.
It’s very sad that the President of Ateneo University recanted, supposedly in behalf of those who spoke of the common meaning they’ve made out of the proposal.
I think that if St. Teresa of Avila, that great Carmelite scholar and reformer, was in his stead, she’d either write her Bishop a fiery letter or personally go to have a word with him. She would’ve been afire like the reformer she was. If Bishops have thrown saints out of their offices and branded them and their words as crazy, “sinners” should take comfort that they haven’t received better treatment.
There’s a time for everything. And now is the time to speak, when debates and discussions are made public. As with the public’s participation in the event at Golgotha, regardless of whether one is pro or anti, the public is called to take part in making meaning of the RH Bill.
And when the public is at it, the good Bishops should follow the example of The Crucified and in the spirit of the Cross allow the crowd – 80M Filipinos – to make 80M and so meanings of the Bill. Afterward, they can say their piece, and they are free to consolidate all the theological knowledge they have to support their stand, but without threatening the people to hell because if that is what this fight is for, then let it be said that Catholic books say there are priests even Bishops who went to hell too; that there are Catholics in Rome (right where the Pope is), the US, Europe, and in many other countries who are wisely planning the size of their families and does it mean they are condemned to hell whereas Catholics here if they don’t plan out their families wisely are guaranteed heaven? What would the Catholics in Rome and the other continents say to this? These certain Bishops here are creating conflict when there is in fact none.
After stakeholders have said their piece, then the nation decides. And the decision is effective only to the extent that the process toward it had not been curtailed.
(By the way, the Senate research staff – paid by taxpayers not to be plagiarists but to be ethical researchers – such as Senator Sotto’s should’ve gone to the localities to do their research instead of lifting written pieces here and there even to the extent of plagiarism. The ongoing debate in the Senate is rather an exercise in mindlessness, a bizarre theatrical act that only has for its audience itself. Imagine the reaction of the Golgotha crowd if Jesus instead of forgiving the thief who acknowledged his fault and asked for forgiveness slapped him, the Cross/the Passion Story would’ve been a farce. The debate (as I’m writing over and over) is far from ground reality. If Sotto’s shaky basis (because it only comes from one source) for his anti-RH stand hadn’t been brought to public knowledge, who could tell whether the arguments in the Senate are in fact the Filipino’s or a Martian’s view?)
If law making and nation building are made a private affair, what then is the meaning in democratic process? We could very well have underneath the current trappings a dictator’s government.