Sex and Religion

Finding Religion and Spirituality in Population, Gender, Sexuality, and Reproductive Health Advocacy in the Philippines.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

When roles roll and rollick

A yebrows met en masse at the Vatican City when former British Prime Minister Tony Blair received Holy Communion from Pope Benedict XVI, an indication of his newfound Catholic faith. But more stunning are his plans of applying as a permanent ordained deacon! He discussed this possibility of being an ordained minister with a priest in a neighboring parish in his headquarters in Chequers, Canon Timothy Russ. This revelation would soon be contained in a book written by Garry O' Connor.

So, what we have here is a politician wanting to become an ordained minister and here in the Philippines, we have an ordained minister who is now a governor of a province in the north. The Catholic News of Singapore in its June 24 issue even put the news article about Blair's intentions and Fr. Ed Panlilio's victory next to each other. My good friend Fr. Johnson Fernandez, editor of the said news magazine, must be feeling naughty! In fact, however, it would seem that governor-elect Father Panlilio inspired some popular clerics worldwide that the Archbishop of Paraguay, Fernando Lugo, is running for president in 2008 in Paraguay. Despite the strong prohibitions of the Vatican, Bishop Lugo's ears are glued wide open to the popular call of the Paraguayans. Again, the saga of former Salesian priest, Jean Paul Aristide who became president of Haiti, would soon repeat itself in history.

Worth emulating, however, with the good priest is what every winning or losing politician should do — that is to reconcile with his political opponents. Father Panlilio had been doing unity visits and talks with his Vice Gov. Joseller Guiao, vice gubernatorial candidate of losing aspirant Lilia Pineda, with Lubao Mayor Dennis Pineda and Sta. Rita Mayor Yolanda Pineda of the Pineda clan in Pampanga. And last Thursday, Among Ed was lunching with his kabalen, Mrs. Gloria Arroyo. Father Panlilio must be feeling too much weight already bringing around his bullet vest. It's time to take it off.

The Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) is coming up with guidelines on the proper attire inside the church especially during liturgical celebrations. Of course, initially, some Catholics are howling over some "drastic" measures such as the banning of blue jeans and pants for women. As we were discussing its merits and demerits in one night out we had, a feisty middle-aged lady blurted out, "How about you priests leading the pack….how about wearing your black polo with clerical collars and that white thing on it or just wearing your cassocks all the time." And oh boy, she was gazing at my collarless black and red printed shirt! She had a mouthful but she was right. Somebody has to roll the ball.

Then there is that news from the Vatican that efforts should be made by all parishes to celebrate at least once a week a Latin Mass! If the authors of this decree think that this would be an airtight solution to the exodus of many Catholics to other Christian evangelical groups, then not only a second but a deeper thought should be employed by these church strategists because definitely it wouldn't work. But if conservative liturgists would insist on a Puritanistic recoil of a church perceived to have gone too liberal and ultra-modern, then again, some deeper thought is in order. The universality of the church should not be compromised by such moves from the hierarchy such as discriminatory impositions like impractical dress codes and Masses said in a dead language. Are we retracing the medieval times when the poor and un-attired are relegated to the back pews or even outside the church doors, while the nobles in their proper royal attires are singing the Kyrie Eleison in Gregorian chants, while the marginalized are mumbling their own personal prayers and intentions. The church has gained much in its ecumenical efforts to adopt and relate not only to its faithful members but also to its counterparts in the world of religion, these conservative outlooks and discriminatory impositions may just antagonize the efforts of greater unity in the church.



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