About three weeks ago we witnessed the feisty Prof. Monsod's teaching presentation to her students at the University of the Philippines via a Youtube video that circulates over the Internet.
In the last day of her class in economics, Prof. Monsod bade her students to live by UP's principle of Honor and Excellence. In her excitement to ignite the fire of patriotism of helping the country by being in the country, she ruffled a few feathers particularly the "bagong bayani" Overseas Fiipino Workers.
The other day, an article/letter written by Asuncion David Maramba to her former student-priests who wrote to PDI to "condemn the Celdran's Damaso protest act" came out of the same daily.
To my dear student-priests
By Asuncion David Maramba
Philippine Daily Inquirer
THERE WERE your names: Fathers Lincoln Carabaña, Sammy (misspelled Sanny) de Claro, Edgardo Coroza, Alexander Thomas, Antonio Navarrete Jr., signatories with eight other priests to a letter to the editor, “Priests condemn Celdran’s protest act.” (Inquirer, 10/5/10)
Your names brought back memories, for make no mistake, you are very dear to me, a “generation” of seminarians at San Carlos Seminary and the Rogationist Seminary with whom I spent the last dozen years of teaching, rudely terminated by the onset of double vision right in the classroom. Nobody noticed as I cautiously picked my way down the staircase at San Carlos.
Who can forget your dramatizations and improvisations for stage, costume and rendition, as when with flair you acted out the election of the new Pope from “Shoes of the Fisherman” as “cardinals” filing in to cast their votes? Or our singing of “Sounds of Silence” and “Eleanor Rigby” as final flourish to reading and interpretation? And it was one of you who introduced me to a naughty word, “manangoniacs” - so pre-Vatican II, you said.
Now, you are parish priests, rectors, superiors, deans, formators, spiritual or vocation directors, etc. (It matters little whether you become bishops or cardinals). Thank you, because my heart swells when I hear of you or bump into you and can never seem to have enough of talking.
Your letter made me wish we were in the classroom again. I would put its subject up for discussion. (Horrors, the manangoniacs might say, or, thank God, she’s no longer teaching!)
Remember “symbol”? We’re in class again, so here goes: First, a symbol is a thing, deed, person, etc., that is explicitly and literally in the selection. Second, like a clap of thunder it instantaneously bears a meaning. Third, it has one or many meanings (thus the phrase “levels of meaning”). Lately we have been served symbols related to RH. The incident you protested yields several: Celdran himself, Celdran dressed as Rizal, the Damaso placard, the protest action itself in the Manila Cathedral.
How we could explore the meaning/s of each! Outspoken Coroza would readily say what he thought; De Claro would pause before giving his measured opinion; Thomas might smile and demur. Or we could confuse each other by forcing meanings that are not there. And after collegial consensus, we could finally agree that this or that is closest to the truth of the situation. Or we could hear no evil and see no evil and dismiss the matter as just an amusing story.
But no one thinks it was just an amusing story. “Damaso” was instantly picked up like “wang-wang” (sirens) and meanings were attached to both its parts and to the whole. The Internet has been flooded with meanings mixed with flotsam through which you must navigate.
But what is the meaning of your choice? That’s important. At this point, your one-time teacher chooses to sit with you as a forever-student. Go figure.
Since we are at symbols, we might as well go the mile. I refer to the babies and fetuses: the survivor in the airplane toilet, the dead ones at the Cathedral and Quiapo Church, a dead newborn on Pioneer Street, a fetus in the Starmall toilet. Are they isolated cases or deliberate “plants” to “malign the Church” (Inquirer, 10/14/10) or sharply symbolic as “an eloquent statement of unwanted pregnancies,” now becoming a recurrent symbol?
I am tempted to ascend the teacher’s platform again and ask you to write a half-page reaction to the last question.
We can’t go on skirting the issue seething beneath these symbols. We all know what it is. Let’s go on study-group mode and toss some statements and references too:
High hopes for the dialogue between bishops and leaders are dim in the sense that neither will change their stand; but there are talking points to thresh out. (See the RH paper by the Loyola School of Theology and the John Carroll Institute on Church and Social Issues.)
Let there be no more name-calling, labeling, intellectually dishonest accusations like “abortionist,” “pro-death,” “an abortion bill.”
Anyone who would comment on the RH bill should read one through. (Try the Consensus Bill for Population, Family Planning and Development. 8188501—Philippine Center for Population and Development.)
Science may still moot all our quarrels on when-life-begins. A friend just told me about Aquinas’ view on “ensoulment” which is certainly worth checking.
The bottom line is not “foreign funded” or “the saintly mother argument” but whether birth control is moral or not. This is the sticky part. Here’s food for thought: “The Church has never explicitly claimed to speak infallibly on a moral question” (“Christian Morality” chapter in Richard McBrien’s “Catholicism”). There are two models of morality: one looks only at the “act”; another also considers “circumstances and motives.” The first descends as a general principle/rule from the top; one size fits all. The second weighs in who-what-when etc. on specific applications of the principle whereby not all contraception, etc. is immoral. (See “A Morally Complex World” by James Bretzke, S.J.) And we haven’t even touched conscience.
Since we have gone back to school, let’s quote newly beatified Henry Cardinal Newman who proposes: “the culture of the intellect,” “…to remove the original dimness of the mind’s eye… to look out into the world right forward, steadily and truly; to give the mind clearness, accuracy, precision… to conceive justly what it thinks about, to abstract, compare, analyze, divide, define, and reason, correctly.”
The first teacher has threatened that when she dies, she would haunt her students when they err. The second one has just proven she would. The latter didn't wait for death.