Praise Senator Ed Angara for the superb handling of the August 16 Senate hearing on the CCP “KULO” art work controversy. Very profound insights were discussed. Had our media bothered to get these insights before taking the Catholic Taliban side of the issue, a lot of people would have been spared from afflictions caused by severe aggravation.
Because our media, especially radio and television, are more attuned to tabloid reporting and sensationalism — the controversy surrounding the art work of artist Mideo Cruz at the CCP (Cultural Center of the Philippines) was blown out of proportion. Without even presenting the side of the artist and what he wanted to communicate, media pandered to the noise of the Catholic Talibans who stormed the CCP.
The initial radio and TV reports had immediately slanted towards a story of an artist that allegedly violated the sensitivities of Catholics and other Christians by the way he depicted Jesus Christ. It was only after the vilification of the art work and its creator had already been impressed in the public mind when media, mostly print, brought out the fact that Cruz did not intend to desecrate Christ but highlight the false practices of religion where idolatry, external displays of piety, hypocrisy — reminiscent of the Pharisees — had displaced spirituality.
Yes we can criticize the artist’s choice of how to present his point although there is also that aspect of art that says that it sometimes needs to disturb first before it can make its point. The “KULO” art work had indeed disturbed a lot of souls but it’s doubted if it conveyed what the artist wanted to communicate. Instead, Cruz became the target of politicians in search of a media forum and the rabid Catholic Talibans whose reactions have proved to be far more disturbing than the art work itself.
Of all people, Imelda Marcos should never ever bring up the subject of obscenity. What could be more obscene than her Film Center that was rushed and caused the deaths of many construction laborers? What could be more obscene than her accumulation of jewelry, shoes, and other expensive personal stuff?
What could be more obscene than the Marcoses telling us through their controlled media that they were doing us a great service while they were screwing us and to this day, that rape is inspiring a new generation of plunderers and abusers of power?
In the Senate hearing, UP Law School’s Raul Pangalangan and Florin Hilbay, National Artists Frankie Sionil Jose and Abdulmari Asia Imao, Sen. Chiz Escudero and CCP Chair Emily Abrera provided valuable perspectives to balancing religious sensibilities with freedom of expression. Representatives of the Catholic Bishops and that of UST (University of Santo Tomas) demonstrated their archaic narrow mindedness anew. Sen. Jinggoy Estrada transmitted the impression that he was out to lynch CCP officials, not really to decipher and solve the serious issue of religious sensibilities versus freedom of expression.
Raissa Robles, who writes for the South China Morning Post, raised a very relevant point in her August 11 article, Rizal’s novels would be banned today if the Catholic Church succeeded in 1956. Relating the 1956 attempt to ban the Rizal novels to the CCP controversy, Robles wrote: “This is not the first time the Catholic Church has pressured the government into banning a work of art on the grounds that it is sacrilegious and blasphemous.”
“To the late Cardinal Rufino J. Santos, the archbishop of Manila then, the novels Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo were the shocking equivalent of Mideo Cruz’ pasting of a wooden phallus on the face of Christ,” Robles wrote.
In his April 21, 1956 letter to the Philippine Senate, then Manila Archbishop Rufino J. Santos wrote: “We, the Catholic Philippine Hierarchy maintain that these novels do contain teachings contrary to our faith and so, We are opposed to the proposed compulsory reading in their entirety of such books in any school in the Philippines where Catholic students may be affected. We cannot permit the eternal salvation of immortal souls, souls for which We are answerable before the throne of Divine Justice, to be compromised for the sake of any human good, no matter how great it may appear to be.” Notice how he capitalized W in “We” as if they were referring to God.
Talk about the so-called “Bible truth” — Psalm 104:5 polluted people’s mind with this: “The earth is firmly fixed: it shall not be moved.” Subsequently, one of the greatest minds mankind has produced, Galileo, was persecuted by the Inquisition for promoting the theory of another great mind, Copernicus, that the earth is not stationary but rotates around the sun. The same “I can’t be wrong” arrogance we now see in our Catholic Talibans was the mindset behind the burning and martyrdom of St. Joan of Arc. St. Joan’s burning at the stake was a project of the Catholic Bishop Pierre Cauchon.
Christ reprimanded Peter at Gethsemane for cutting the ear of the High Priest’s servant. Christ was true to His teachings — to love our enemies and turn the other cheek, if need be. Yet, in the name of Christ, His Church had waged so many bloody, cruel and ruthless wars.
As Christ Himself had warned us: “Not everyone who says, ‘Lord, Lord,’ loves me.”
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