I have yet to see “Gomburza.” My weak knees kept me from braving the long lines in my first attempt to see it. Still, it’s from the film’s wide acclaim that I now take off on Philippine Church-State relations.
Downplaying the priests’ heroism because they were pushing back on a purely Church policy forgets that Church and State were not separate in their time. The King was head of the one Spanish Church and State. In going against Spanish Church authorities, the threesome were actually defying the State. Hence, their execution by the State by way of the garrote.
Later Jose Rizal, who displeased not so much the State as the Church, met the same fate before a State firing squad. Both executions are reminiscent of Jesus’ death by crucifixion after a lifetime of standing up to Judaic priests, the powerful heads of the one and not separate Judaic Church and State.
Fast forward and today we see a de facto union of constitutionally separate Church and State. The Catholic Church is still married to the State. She can be observed behaving like a subservient wife that is afraid of what would happen to her if she moralized on her husband’s errant behavior. During Martial Law the Church followed a policy of critical collaboration with an unjust and oppressive State. Imprisonments, tortures, disappearances, executions etc. without benefit of trial were clearly moral evils; yet the Church equivocated and never condemned the State. It conveniently looked the other way and even refused to cover the backs of church members, both lay and religious, who dared stand up against the evil regime.
Instead of protecting the rights of people, instead of upholding Christian values of freedom and justice, it chose to protect what can only be arguably suspected as its position of privilege in the Philippine oligarchy.
Today, injustice remains the principal moral issue. Unjust social structures coupled with dirty politics remain the structural roots of mass poverty. Yet, it’s business as usual in the Church. It still promotes Christianity through “Christianisms” of prayer and ritual instead of genuine Christian acts of justice and mercy like standing up, in Cebu, for urban informal settlers who are suffering the injustice of having their houses demolished by the City without the law-mandated proper compensation and relocation.
Instead of being spiritual, the Church opts to being merely religious, thereby stepping on to a slippery road towards hypocrisy. Instead of a strong and unequivocal moral stand in the face of social injustice, it glorifies itself with beautiful churches and elaborate rituals such as this month’s Sinulog and Traslacion. These two religious events sidestep the moral-spiritual issue of injustice, the root of the poverty of millions that Church and State leave with veritably nothing more than a dance to Sto. Niño and/or a touch of the Black Nazarene as solution to their life-problems.