The Crucifixion of Cruz.
‘Public Sinners’ As Union Of Church & State
March 30, Sunday, Manila time. It’s the week after Holy Week and I understand some well-meaning Filipinos want to crucify Lingayen-Dagupan (Pangasinan) Archbishop Oscar Cruz for condemning our President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo (GMA). Both are Catholics, one the former President of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), the other the current President of the Philippines. Two wrongs don’t make a right. Two heads at loggerheads are no better.
Where else in the world but in the Philippines where you can witness real-life crucifixions? As a Filipino, I’m not surprised. In another sense, those who would be crucified invite it upon themselves. It’s the tongue. ‘From the same mouth come both blessing and cursing’ (James 3: 10, New American Bible).
I wouldn’t want to be the one crucified, so I wouldn’t want to nail anyone on the cross, even verbally. I couldn’t even entertain the thought of watching Mel Gibson’s The Passion of Christ, although I’ve heard and read that it’s great. But I’m a writer, so I write. I’m safe as long as I watch my speech.
In the time of Jesus Christ, before the court of Pontius Pilate, the priests were inciting the people, who then demanded, ‘Crucify him! Crucify him!’ (Luke 23: 21, New American Bible). It was the priests who were inciting the people to betray Christ. Christ is The High Priest. Today, it is the people demanding that a high priest be crucified. Tongues and times haven’t changed much.
They could not have chosen a more perfect target for crucifixion: Lingayen-Dagupan (Pangasinan) Archbishop and former CBCP head Oscar Cruz. In fact, ‘Cruz’ means ‘cross’ in Spanish, the language of the Spaniards. (You know a cross, of course, the one they nail you on alive if you were bad, or thought to be bad, and leave you there to perish in your own time. At other times, they would burn you at the stake. A choice between the devil and the deep blue sea.) I remember, the Spanish friars were historically the first to crucify the Filipinos. History repeats itself even to those who remember. Now we’re making history ourselves – we’re crucifying our own kind.
In fact, it is Archbishop Cruz who has been calling for the President to be crucified. This Catholic priest has been doing that publicly since I can remember. Would you believe 2004? And Oscar Cruz has been careless with his idiom as Jesus Christ has been careful with his metaphor. Why do you associate with public sinners? the people asked Christ in reproach. Because it is the sick who needs a doctor, Jesus said. That’s a parable. I would not associate with public sinners, Oscar Cruz said. I would deny them, including GMA and her family, the sacrament of Holy Communion. That’s not a parable. Then he denied that he would deny them. (I forgive everyone in the Black & White Movement for not associating with public sinners, for none of them is Christ.)
This is what the good Bishop is denying; ABS-CBN reports (March 30, abs-cbnnews.com):
Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Oscar Cruz said ‘public sinners’ should not be given the Holy Sacrament of Communion including, he said, President Arroyo. ‘I would not give communion to somebody receiving communion in public whom I know is a public sinner.’ Because to do so would be ‘like throwing the body and blood of Christ into the garbage.’
I understand that. If you didn’t know, we Roman Catholics believe that the bread becomes the Body of Christ when it is consecrated during Mass. On one hand, to receive it during Holy Communion with your soul dirty white, that is, without the benefit of Confession and doing Penance for your sins, is to commit at the very least a sacrilege. On the other hand, it is horrible if you are a Catholic and denied it because ‘Holy Communion is morally necessary for salvation’ (newadvent.org).
Whether you’re a Catholic or not, I want to tell you that when I go to Mass – and that happens about 3 times a year – I am almost always the one left on the pew when almost everyone stands up to receive the Holy Eucharist. I’m not ashamed; I don’t fidget in my seat. Why? Because I know two things. One is that you need to confess and be sorry for your sins, that is, to receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation (that is, Confession and Penance), before you can receive the Body of Christ in the sacrament of Holy Communion. Two is that I confess here and now that I had not gone to confession before.
To me, you are a public sinner if you receive Holy Communion in the public eye of the Church (the people) but you have not confessed your sins to a priest. So, if Archbishop Oscar Cruz would not associate with public sinners, he would have a problem – in one Catholic church alone in a single celebration of the Mass, there are too many of them to avoid!
And isn’t it that you are a public sinner too if you deny public sinners their Catholic birthright to receive Holy Communion as Archbishop Cruz would? Jose Rodel Clapano reports (March 27, philstar.com):
Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Oscar Cruz vowed yesterday not to give Holy Communion to President Arroyo, members of her family, and other known ‘sinners’ in the country. Cruz told the Newsmakers Forum held every Wednesday at the Crowne Plaza in Mandaluyong City that he will encourage the Catholic Church leadership, specifically the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), not to allow any publicly known sinners like Mrs Arroyo and members of the First Family to receive communion.
Almost like fire and brimstone in the bad old days.
Norman Bordadora reports that Archbishop Oscar Cruz said he would not give Holy Communion to ‘public sinners’ when asked if he would give the sacrament to GMA or members of her family (‘Lawmakers want prelate punished,’ March 30, inquirer.net). He said what he said. Having said that, the Archbishop made the Southern Tagalog alliance in the House composed of 28 congressmen very angry. Quezon Representative Danilo Suarez, their leader, said the alliance had asked the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) to censure Oscar Cruz, one of them. Would they?
Suarez said his group was thinking of ‘elevating the matter to the Vatican if the CBCP will refuse to sanction Cruz.’ The Archbishop said he was misquoted. Suarez said, ‘Archbishop Cruz cannot claim that what he said was taken out of context or misunderstood by members of the media as that press conference, I believe, was videotaped.’
If Oscar Cruz is telling the truth, then the media who reported otherwise are lying, manufacturing the truth. That includes inquirer.net, and GMA News, who quotes Suarez as saying that Cruz set a ‘very bad example to Catholics by telling a barefaced lie to backtrack on what a multitude of people heard him say during a press conference.’ Suarez also said: ‘It’s the height of ecclesiastical arrogance for an Archbishop to be very quick in condemning others while turning a blind eye on his own mistakes’ (gmanews.tv).
If it is true that the priest would not deny the public sinner the blessings of Holy Communion, that would deny the credibility of the media who reported the incident. It’s not that I believe in Oscar Cruz less but I believe in the media more. So, shouldn’t we the people instead be reproving Oscar Cruz and be shouting, ‘Crucify him! Crucify him!’
Still: Should a priest be in the first place in the political arena slugging it out with the politicians? Isn’t there a separation of Church and State?
No, Archbishop Cruz would tell you, according to Santosh Digal (February 28, cbcpnews.com):
There are no directives from the Vatican telling Filipino Catholic bishops to keep out of the country’s politics … In fact, the opposite is true, says Dagupan Archbishop Oscar Cruz. Vatican II document Gaudium et Spes says that the Church should ‘pass moral judgments even on matters relating to politics, whenever the fundamental rights of man or the salvation of souls require it.’
So, Archbishop Cruz is in his proper element, and I agree with him. Except that his language does not agree with me.
Now, does the Archbishop speak for the Catholic Bishops of the Philippines? Fortunately, no. Some bishops are for GMA to resign, some are for GMA to resist. So, is the CBCP a house divided against itself? Cher Jimenez reports (March 12, globalresearch.ca):
Archbishop Oscar Cruz … said that the division among the clergy is ‘not a question of faith and morals, where we are united, but of a judgment call on the ethical dimension of a government.’
‘The ethical dimension of a government’ – yes. The virtual dimension of the real. I myself do not believe on the doctrine of the separation of Church and State. What would be your moral basis without a moral basis? When Archbishop Cruz uses the term ‘public sinners,’ inadvertently, he is using the language that connects the physical with the metaphysical world. ‘Public sinners’ is a concept that is by itself a good example of the concept that you cannot separate the Church from the State.
‘Public’ refers to the people, and there is no government without the people, so the people are in fact the Government, the State. What is the physical proof of that? We Filipinos have two historical proofs of that. On February 25, 1986, People Power I (also called the EDSA Revolution) occurred, the people changing their national leader by ousting Ferdinand Marcos. That is a mighty exercise of Government, the only exercise that matters. On January 20, 2001, People Power II occurred, the people changing their national leader by ousting Joseph Estrada. That is another mighty exercise of the power of the State, who is none but the People. (When the Filipinos are good, they show the world. Now, some people have been trying another mighty exercise of People Power, this time against GMA, but the people are not with them. Sorry about that.)
‘Sin’ is not a human invention like a ‘lie’ is a human invention. ‘Sin’ belongs to the spiritual world as a ‘lie’ belongs to the material world. And yet you cannot separate the two.
Wikipedia says Oscar Cruz is ‘a vocal critic of the Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo administration.’ Bishop, you can disagree without being disagreeable. As a Christian, you can be a vocal critic of the Sin, but never of the Sinner. You have to distinguish the act from the actor. Otherwise, God would not have forgiven Paul of Tarsus because he didn’t know what he was doing! ‘I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate to do’ (Romans 7: 15, New International Version).
Archbishop Oscar Cruz knows about media and language. He has published a great many books, including Media In Our Midst and Call Of The Laity (cbcponline.net). He has his own website, ‘Viewpoints,’ http://ovc.blogspot.com, which he started in December of 2004.
As a Roman Catholic, this is what I believe about media: It is not right to separate the Church from the State. It is only right to separate princely language from unpriestly language. What is the message I’m trying to put across? The crucifixion by language that is a cross.