President Rodrigo Duterte’s rantings against the Catholic Church and against God Himself, calling the Lord “stupid” for creating imperfect creatures in Adam and Eve and the snake (and, by extension, all mankind) may be forgivable if one considers his own tacit admission that he himself is imperfect, thus his kanto boy logic.
In his own crude way, Duterte actually touched on the concept of Creation and the foundation of the Christian faith. They teach this in Catechism class, in case Duterte failed to take the subject.
God alone is perfect. Thus, Adam and Eve could not have been made perfect because that would have been a contradiction of the singular divinity and perfection of God.
Even in Buddhism, by which a believer seeks to attain nirvana, there is no presumption of attaining perfection but only release from the fetters inherent in human existence.
Christian doctrine tells us that God sent His only begotten Son to assume the nature of man in order to suffer and atone for man’s sins (not just the original sin of Adam and Eve but also our everyday blunders, violations, and crimes, including those of Duterte ).
No mortal, with his or her imperfections, was considered capable of atoning for mankind’s sins. Thus the Messiah and Redeemer had to do it.
In other words, Christianity and Catholicism are based on the premise of the imperfection and sinfulness of folks like you and me and Duterte. Does that suggest a “stupid God” or one who so loved his creations, He sent his own Son — one of His Trinities — to redeem us (the Tagalog equivalent is para tubusin tayo)?
Is this too esoteric?
Arguing with Duterte on this issue would be like an episode of the Battle of the Brainless. In fact, Duterte has been honest enough to admit his flaws (expectedly, he has blamed God for these).
With Duterte going into nearly two years of his term, the CBCP should have already gotten used to his mindless cursing and blustering. The more the bishops criticize him, the more he will do it.
Engaging Duterte in an exchange of insults — tit for tat — would be an exercise in futility. The Catholic Church should settle the intensifying conflict with Duterte and his die-hard supporters. Even if Duterte continues to heap abuse and profanities on the Church and everyone in it, our good bishops should remember what the Lord Jesus Christ said on the cross.
Forgive him for he knows not what he does.
A pundit has suggested that everytime Duterte curses the Church and the bishops, the latter should respond with charity and love, as follows, “Peace be with you!:
The same pundit hastens to caution against mispronouncing the exhortation, to make sure it doesn’t sound like, “Impeach be with you!”
Duterte is fortunate because he can insult the Catholic Church and all Catholics till he’s blue in the face. In a country that is predominantly Catholic, the bark of the devout, as well as that of the princes of the Church, has always been worse than their bite. And, oftentimes, the bark itself isn’t genuine.
But even if Catholics would like to bite and not just bark, the Church frowns on that. The Lord Jesus Christ Himself told his disciples that if someone were to strike them on one cheek, they should turn the other cheek. And when Peter asked how many times someone should be forgiven for a transgression, the Lord’s answer was not just seven times but seventy-seven times.
In other words, the CBCP should forgive Duterte for all his cursing and profanities not just up to the end of his six-year term (assuming he has no plans for an indefinite extension) but even after he has gone back to Davao.
When I mentioned these endless acts of charity to a neighbor, he protested that it meant letting Duterte get away with his transgressions (My neighbor actually said, “get away with murder” and I don’t think he simply meant it in a figurative sense).
I had to remind my neighbor that vengeance isn’t for mankind to inflict. The Lord does this in His own good time. Even Moses could not cross over to the Promised Land due to one singular transgression (momentarily doubting God’s ability to bring forth water from the rock at Horeb.
But on the subject of never-ending forgiveness, I understand the devotees of Islam have a different attitude when it comes to someone insulting their faith.
The novelist Salman Rushdie found this out after the publication in 1988 of his book, Satanic Verses, which took liberties with the Quran, considered blasphemous by the Islamic faithful. No less than Iran’s Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini issued a fatwa ordering Muslims to kill Rushdie.
And in 2005, there was an international uproar over a cartoon in a Danish newspaper depicting the prophet Muhammad as a terrorist. Danish and Norwegian embassies were attacked by Muslim devotees.
Given this zeal of the Islamic faithful, would Duterte, with all of his avowed fearlessness and machismo, dare to insult their religion?
I will not speculate on whether Duterte would or would not dare. Maybe he is really that fearless. Remember how he vowed to ride a jet ski to the Spratlys to confront the Chinese?
Of course, presidential mouthpieces Harry Roque and Martin Andanar may rationalize that the Muslims have not criticized their boss as severely as the CBCP has, so there is no reason for a Duterte retaliation. But then Pope Francis had not done anything to Duterte (aside from simply causing traffic because of the Manila visit of His Holiness) and the Pontiff got an earful of curses from Duterte.
We have also noticed that Duterte has avoided using harsh language against Beijing while raining expletives on the US. The Davao macho man has also been careful not to hit back at former President Fidel Ramos in spite of the latter’s repeated criticism of Duterte’s ways.
Based on these indicators, we are inclined to believe that Duterte knows whom to insult and whom not to, who will turn the other cheek, and who will strike back and issue a fatwa.
Duterte reminds me of that villain in a Hollywood comedy who wisely declared, just as he ran from a fight: “He who fights and runs away lives to fight another day!”
Greg B. Macabenta is an advertising and communications man shuttling between San Francisco and Manila and providing unique insights on issues from both perspectives.