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This isn’t bridge building

One of the Latin titles borne by the Roman Catholic Pope is Pontifex Maximus. Today, that title is translated as Supreme Pontiff, or even High Priest. Pretty accurate, right?

But Pontifex is of much older vintage than that. The word actually comes from the ancient Roman  religion – the one where they worship Jupiter, Neptune, etc – and literally means “bridge-builder.” This was important on two levels. First, in the physical sense as it related to the worship practices of those times, it was only the priest – the pontifex – who was able to address the river god to “get his permission” for the erection of bridges. And bridges were critical to the financial and political well being of the Roman empire.

Second, on the symbolic level, it was the pontifex who was expected to “bridge” the gap between the gods and men. This is the sense of the word that prevails now and makes “Pontifex Maximus” such an apt title for the Roman Pope. He – Pope Francis today – is the one who bridges the divide between the earthly kingdom and the heavenly kingdom; he is the one who brings billions of Catholics in communion with the one God.

Breathtaking responsibility, isn’t it?

Over the last few years, however, more and more Catholics have been feeling more and more alienated from that one God who is supposed to welcome them with open arms. And the fault is often laid at the feet of the Catholic Church and its Pope – particularly the unpopular Benedict XVI – due to its policies on reproductive health, homosexuality, and child abuse by priests.

The Church’s hardline positions on these issues have been driving a deep wedge between itself and the faithful, causing the latter to drift away. Now if you were to take the hardline stance, that isn’t such a bad thing. After all, there have been bishops who have shrugged of the dwindling congregations by saying that those who remain are the true Catholics. There is a certain amount of sense in that. Religions are, by their very nature, meant to be exclusive clubs open only to those who believe in the core faith. It follows therefore that if you don’t believe, you’re welcome to leave.

But the inescapable fact is that these issues – RH, homosexuality, and child abuse – cut across religious boundaries because of the Church’s preeminence. Let me explain.

Today, the largest non-government healthcare provider in the world is the Catholic church. Considering the state of government run health facilities in many countries outside of the developed world, this means that even non-Catholics basically have no choice but to go to Catholic institutions for health services.

Now imagine going to a Catholic clinic and asking for condoms because you already have more children than you can feed? Or asking for a morning-after pill coz you’ve been raped and don’t  want to get pregnant? Nope and Nope. Condoms are prohibited, and contraception and abortion are strictly verboten. Abortion actually results in automatic excommunication.

But beyond health services, consider also the effect of 1.1 billion Catholics on public policies regarding non-discrimination against homosexuals, and the treatment of priests found to have molested minors.

These are real-world situations that, by rights, should have nothing to do with religious beliefs, and yet the very pervasiveness of the Roman Catholic Church practically define how they are professionally and officially addressed.

As a result, many people – finding their religion being used to deprive them of service and solace – end up losing their religion. Remember how I said that isn’t such a bad thing for purists? Yes, well, the Roman Catholic Church is also pragmatic and the fact is, the Church pulls down at least 4 billion US dollars a year in donations, from the American churches alone! If the number of faithful diminish, so too will the collections. It really is as simple as that.

Now this isn’t to say that it’s just a money-grubbing industry. While the Church has its share of embezzlers, much of that money still goes to funding the thousands of hospitals and missions maintained by the Church in developing countries.

Nevertheless, that’s the quandary the Church is in right now. It’s hemorrhaging believers and losing dollars. Downstream, this will mean less money for charities, hospitals, and missions. Everybody loses.

The proximate cause of this exodus of believers, everyone agrees, is the Church’s stance on reproductive health, homosexuality, and the treatment of child abuse cases. Ironically, these are the very same issues that the Church refuses to  give ground on. Again, understandable from a strictly purist point of view, but murder on the pragmatic side of the Church. In a very real sense then, the bridges of the Church to its flock are crumbling and, as a bridge builder between men and God, the Church is failing miserably.

Which is why many Catholics – and Church observers – are over the moon with Pope Francis now. This affable, selfie-taking, Argentinian has taken the world by storm with his humility and no-nonsense attitude. Many hail him as a breath of fresh air, and people are just quivering with excitement at his decidedly forward-looking statements.

In 2013, his statement “If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?”  had everyone and his gay uncle jumping for joy. Here in the Philippines, formerly implacable critics of Benedict XVI were suddenly more inclined to give the Church the benefit of the doubt.

And certainly, doubt we should.

Here are the other things Pope Francis says, compiled by Salon.com

Here, a collection of his very worst quotes on the issue.

1. A Senate vote on gay marriage is a destructive pretension against the plan of God

From a letter to the Carmelite Sisters of Buenos Aires on the perils of marriage equality:

“Let’s not be naïve, we’re not talking about a simple political battle; it is a destructive pretension against the plan of God. We are not talking about a mere bill, but rather a machination of the Father of Lies that seeks to confuse and deceive the children of God.”

2. Gay marriage will destroy the family

More from the same letter to the four monasteries of Argentina:

“The Argentine people will face a situation whose outcome can seriously harm the family… At stake is the identity and survival of the family: father, mother and children.

3. Gay parenting is a rejection of God’s law engraved in our hearts

Again:

“At stake are the lives of many children who will be discriminated against in advance, and deprived of their human development given by a father and a mother and willed by God. At stake is the total rejection of God’s law engraved in our hearts.”

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4. The political struggle against marriage equality is war

And finally:

“The bill will be discussed in the Senate after July 13. Look at San Jose, Maria, Child and ask them [to] fervently defend Argentina’s family at this time. [Be reminded] what God told his people in a time of great anguish: ‘This war is not yours but God’s.’ May they succor, defend and join God in this war.”

5. Gay adoption is discrimination against children

According to the National Catholic Reporter, Francis called gay adoption a form of “discrimination against children.” A comment that resulted in a public rebuke from Argentine President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, who said that Francis’ remarks suggested “medieval times and the Inquisition.”

This isn’t bridge-building. Not in the least. And the worst part is that this dark core of anti-gay thought is now being clothed in the purest white and being sold to an adoring public, and for the most cynical of reasons – money.

 

Filed under: church and state, international, sex, sheepage, , , ,

Gruesome

She sat in the SUV, her big dark glasses firmly on her face. No one could possibly see through the heavy tint, but she felt eyes on her all the time now. Ever since she found out that she was pregnant.

She looks over at her nanny. Nineteen and she still had a nanny. It was good to be rich in the Philippines. Her nanny stared straight ahead in stony concentration. Through the dark glasses, she seemed darker than usual, but there was no mistaking the competence that radiated from her. Nanny had always taken care of her, and this wasn’t going to be an exception.

The driver pulled into the church’s parking lot. What better place to park on a Sunday afternoon? A quick exchange in Bisaya passed between the driver and the nanny. “Stay here. Keep the engine running. I won’t be long,” nanny said. Her voice clipped and businesslike.

She scooted away from the sunlight that stole into the car when the nanny got out.

When nanny got back, she barely flinched; Her head leaning back into the soft leather headrest, her ears stopped up with the earphones of her iPod, and her immaculately manicured fingers drumming the rhythm softly into her alabaster thighs. The only sign she gave that she was even aware of her nanny’s return was the flicker of a smile that passed over her lips. Still, it might not have been a smile at all.

The SUV pulled away smoothly, away from the church, over the bridge, and back into the perfumed streets where it usually prowled. 

The thing tasted as vile as it looked, as vile as it smelled. But her nanny said it would do the job. More importantly, it would do the job before anything showed; before, her nanny joked, she needed to buy new jeans. 

So she swallowed as much as she could, tears streaming down her face, and fall-out boy blaring in her ear. She chased it down with a glass of cold cold water and wiped her tears away. Taking a deep breath, she put on a big smile and walked softly into the other room where Qiang was on the playstation, waiting for her. He had already taken his shorts off. Shooting zombies always gave him a hard-on and it wasn’t like he could get her pregnant anymore anyway. She knelt between his knees and made him shoot a couple of innocent bystanders.

The house smelled of cats. She crinkled her nose and held onto her nanny’s rough callused hand, letting herself be led deeper and deeper into the squalor. Her nanny pushed her into a room and, after shutting the door behind them, started taking her skirt off.  She didn’t even flinch. Years of being undressed by her nanny had made the act of having her clothes taken off by someone else seem like the most natural thing. Almost by reflex, she lifted one leg and then the other out of the skirt. Her panties followed soon after.

On her back, with her head on her nanny’s lap, she closed her eyes and hummed along to Rhianna. She hardly felt the midwife’s warm oiled hands touching her still flat belly. 

At first the sensation was pleasant enough. Just like a massage. The warmth, the steady pressure induced a sense of euphoria in her. When she heard a moan, it was a jolt to realize that it was her and that she was getting wet. And that was when the pain started.

Her eyes flew open when the midwife leaned into the stroke. It felt as though a knife had been plunged deep into her belly. She opened her mouth to scream but a strong hand clamped down on her face. She screamed into the hand even as she vaguely heard her nanny whispering smoothly, cutting through the dying strains of Rhianna’s singing.

Then she felt fingers insinuating their way into her, spreading the entrance that would soon be an exit. The deep massage continued, each stroke bringing a fresh assault of pain. She felt urine start gushing out of her, collecting in a warm pool under the small of her back. She screamed again and kept on screaming into her nanny’s hand until she passed out.

When she awoke, her nanny has wiping her lower body down with a rough towel soaked in warm water. “It’s over. We can go now,” her nanny said. “Get up.”

She tried. At first her knees buckled, but after a few moments, she was standing on her own. It was a good thing she wore flats, she mused, and chuckled at the absurdity of her thought. And as they made their way out of the house, she realized that the house no longer smelled of cats. Just the acrid odor of blood.

Her phone beeped. It was Qiang. “Suck me.” the message said simply.

Mario saw the tall young Chinese girl leaving the midwife’s house. She was prettier than most, with a strong jaw and high cheekbones that set her apart from the typical round-faced Chinese girls. She was busy reading her cellphone while an older woman – dark and severe looking – made sure she didn’t step into any puddles. Mario thought she was smiling, and for a moment entertained the thought of forwarding a message to her.

Then a movement from the second floor window caught his eye. The midwife had hung a red towel on the window sill. Ah, Mario thought. What a waste. Such a pretty girl too. 

He pushed away from the small sari-sari store and walked towards the midwife’s house. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw the young girl turn to look at him. But he was already wondering where he would dump the fetus this time. He was running out of good spots.

Filed under: sex, society, stories,

RH is not equivalent to abortion

DJB, over at FV wants to start a debate on whether abortion should be decriminalized. Great respect to the Dean and all that, but I think this forced debate takes away from the main focus of the bill being considered – which is reproductive health. Or in less lofty terms, do we allow contraception or not?

By stirring up this question of abortion, might we not give the impression that abortion is at issue? If people get around to believing that the RHB espouses abortion (and never mind the hundred shades of gray because the under-informed public ever sees only in black and white), then that bill is dead in the water as far as public perception goes. And because we have a strictly populist Congress, if the people – however blindly – condemn the RHB, then Congress will kill the RHB for real. When that happens we lose this great chance to educate people on this very critical topic.

Filed under: law and order, sex, society, ,