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Tuesday, April 10, 2012

The Vow of a Sexless Life

I was a couch potato most of the long Holy Weekend: playing Fruit Ninja, getting exasperated by Temple Run, chilling out with Bubble Explode, jogging in place to The Voice super marathon, watching endlessly movies playing both on cable and free channels. Nora Aunor's "Naglalayag" was fairly interesting. I didn't know Yul Servo could really act.

And there it was, a foreign film (Mexican I guessed and my guess was right when I checked the movie details later.), dubbed in Filipino over Cinema One. I was channel surfing when the remote hovered over it. You have to hand it to Cinema One. When they dub non-English foreign films to Filipino, the films are most likely notable. So I checked what was going on. I didn't catch the opening credits of the film, but the scenes were so good, one would be easily drawn into it. It is one of those films that can start in medias res.

The movie The Crime of Father Amaro was first released in Mexico in 2002. It caused a lot of controversies and mayhem on the part of the Catholic groups who tried to stop the film from screening. But this chaos only helped the film be one of Mexico's top grossers of all time. When it was released in the United States, it received the same protests from American Catholics. And like a moth to a lamp, moviegoers gave it its renewed commercial success. I wonder if it was also shown here in Ph.

And here's Cinema One showing the controversial movie for free, late afternoon of Good Friday, the Catholic Church's most sacred day. Good job!

The movie is about a young priest who fell in love with a 16-year old teacher of Catechism whom he got pregnant and who died after he sent her to an abortionist. The film offered he could have left the Church and gone to a place where no one knew him and the girl, where they could start a new life together as husband and wife. But Father Amaro wouldn't leave priesthood because it is his life, and that it gives him immeasurable joy to help people with his teachings of the Word of God. The movie showed no sarcasm in this. It was the young priest's twisted belief in what is right. He taught that what feels good must also be right.

The movie also tackles the church's cuddling of a drug lord who financially supports the hospital project of the church. This reminds me of our own bishops who received SUVs as "gifts" from the former administration of Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. Never mind that it was illegal, mind only that these vehicles helped them help the poorest of the poor. Some of the bishops said, or something like that.

The film also depicts the path that the late Father Balweg took. It shows a priest who joins the insurgents and defies orders from the Catholic hierarchy to come back to the fold , and who later on is slapped with ex-communication.

Then there is Father Benito, an elderly priest who has taken a widow to bed as his mistress. He defends that she needed him after her husband died. In the beginning, it was just an act of kindness, but love came in and sex came, too. The widow's daughter is the 16-year old who fell in love with the young Father Amaro. At the third quarter of the film, Father Benito finds out about Father Amaro's affair with the 16-year old religion teacher. The elder priest's driver informs him about Father Amaro's little excursions to his house, and the young priest using one of his rooms to teach the girl the basics of the nunneries. Of course, this is just a scheme for the young priest to have the girl all to himself.

One of the strongest scenes in the movie that impressed me is when the bishop is shown giving orders to Father Amaro to lead the parish after Father Benito sustained an injury which the former caused (See the movie to know how it happened.), and the rebel priest got booted out of the fold. While Father Amaro is talking at the other end of the line, the bishop is on his cellphone, naked and is seen getting ready to take a bath in the tub. This metaphorical scene tells how human the bishop is like everyone else doing humanly chores. It is a big departure from a lot of films that show religious men impeccably clad in robes and other paraphernalia of their ranks when they perform official duties in their office, surrounded by assistants. It shouts to me "Don't attach divine attributes to God reps , they are as fallible as you and I."

So should priests be forced to carry to the ends of the earth the vow of celibacy? Never mind marriage. It is not even discussed in the film. The movie doesn't show the struggles of both Father Benito and Father Amaro to want to marry their women. They don't say they are willing to commit sin to marry them. They are only ready to commit sin to satisfy carnal desires, the call of the flesh, the way of the flesh.

Just because they can't marry the women, they will just have sex with them. This is too crass. It isn't about marriage at all. It is about the vow of a sexless life.

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