Padre Damaso was a portrait – a perfect caricature of Roman Catholicism in the Philippines.
Dámaso Verdolagas was a perfect villain. Cunning, self-righteous hypocrite Damaso was a man of faith who hides a dark, immoral secret. A meddler with little concern to those he hurts.
Padre Damaso was an antagonist, just like today’s bishops (not only in Rizal’s time) – those who use religion not only as a shield, but also as a weapon, protection, citadel, fortress and armor.
It is not a new story, not even in the late 19th century Philippines. The Roman Catholic Church has been using it so-called divine right to meddle in secular affairs. Let us start from the beginning…no, not from Jesus who said to render unto Caesar what is Ceasars’ (Matthew 22:21).
Let us start from the Fathers of the Church. Ambrose (374-397 CE) was once a lawyer and the Governor of Liguria before becoming the Bishop of Milan insisted that the Catholic Church is supreme even to the Emperor. According to him, the emperor is within the church, not above it. Augustine (354-430 CE) wrote The City of God and on its pages he declared the infallible authority of the Catholic Church. According to him, if the state wants to be a part of the City of God, it has to obey the Church.
By the Middle Ages it was a tradition that only if kings walked the ways of righteousness, as the Church interpreted those ways, could they obtain felicity, good harvest and victory over their enemies. In that time, the king (which represents the state) gets his authority from the blessing of the Pope (Catholic Church) who believed to be the direct representative of Jesus here on earth…and that is not enough.
Lothario Conti who would later become Pope Innocent III (1198-1216) declared himself as the half-way between God and man. He imposed that everything in the world is the province of the Pope and that St. Peter has been ordained by Jesus to govern not only the universal church but the entire secular world.
And what did the Catholic Church gained? It acquired lands and riches that were given by kings that became patrons and this gave the Catholic clerics strong control over men.
Because of these recent events in the issue of artificial birth control and responsible parenthood, the word excommunication was again resurrected from its forgotten slumber.
Excommunication was the Roman Catholic answer to those who defy their orders…well that was when most people still believe in curses and bad omen. In those times, excommunication is the most horrifying thing that can happen to a person. When a person was excommunicated he is barred from participating in the liturgy in a ministerial capacity and from receiving the Eucharist or the other Sacraments. Well…your chances of going to heaven will be quite slim.
It was believed that social ostracism as form of a discipline can be found in the Bible (Matthew 18:17) but the idea originated in the pagan ritual of divotio. It was first described in detail in a 3th century Syrian document, the Didascalia. In 1078, Pope Gregory VII produced the Quoniam multus which was designed as a rule dealing with excommunicants. In fact, Gregory VII extended the idea and practice of excommunication.
In the Catholic Church, formal excommunication is normally resolved by a statement of repentance, profession of the Creed (if the offense involved heresy), renewal of obedience by the excommunicant and the declaration of the reconciliation itself, during the act of confession.
Here in the Philippines, it is said that all Catholics who participated in the creation of an independent church in the Philippines, in 1902 were excommunicated. Also, Xavier Eubra de Borja was excommunicated by Bishop Honesto Ongtioco of the diocese of Cubao in the Phillipines. de Borja untruthfully claimed to be an ordained priest when he was a layman even offering Mass and hearing confessions.
Canon 1398 provides that, “a person who procures a successful abortion incurs an automatic (latae sententiae) excommunication.” This means that at the very moment that the abortion is successfully accomplished, the woman and all formal conspirators are excommunicated. There are no laws in the Roman Catholic canon that says using artificial contraception can lead a person to be excommunicated.
Dr. Jose Rizal (1861-1896) wrote the Noli to distinguished the true religion from the false, the superstitious from that commercialism that uses the sacred word to extort money, to make us believe in foolish things, of which Catholicism would be ashamed if it had known from them…that is his own words. Well, as we recall our history, Catholicism was used by Spain not just to…er…spread the Good News.
Even today, the Roman Catholic Church still insist that its stand against artificial birth control is a call against the moral implication of these methods. The church is adamant that it is only protecting the state against immorality. But is morality the only issue? How about doctrines…are that also a part of the responsibility?
The main reason why the Catholic Church is against artificial birth control is found in their doctrines that promotes Natural Law. Artificial birth control methods alter God’s intention – the natural consequences when man and woman form a union. Pope Paul VI in his 1968 encyclical Humanae Vitae condemned artificial birth control methods as he said the following:
Therefore We base Our words on the first principles of a human and Christian doctrine of marriage when We are obliged once more to declare that the direct interruption of the generative process already begun and, above all, all direct abortion, even for therapeutic reasons, are to be absolutely excluded as lawful means of regulating the number of children. Equally to be condemned, as the magisterium of the Church has affirmed on many occasions, is direct sterilization, whether of the man or of the woman, whether permanent or temporary. Similarly excluded is any action which either before, at the moment of, or after sexual intercourse, is specifically intended to prevent procreation—whether as an end or as a means.
But the Bible gives clear and direct guidance on many topics of morality, but not on birth control. In fact, the Bible is clear in that matter that if a fetus died but still unformed, the person that accidentally killed it will not receive the death penalty (Exodus 21:22). The Bible is also specific that life came from the blood (Leviticus 17:11)…so does that follow that a fetus is truly human when he is 18 to 21 days after conception?
Catholics believe that God gave humanity with stewardship to all of what He created. Does it also follow that it is natural for humans to seek all available alternatives?
Today the issue of over-population is turning our survival at a balance and the time has come for Roman Catholics to recognize that traditional dogmas can’t save us. Responsibility doesn’t end on conception, it starts there. Responsibility also includes thinking for your child and your neighbor’s welfare.
We must stop listening to Padre Damaso. All he did was to bring despair and hopelessness to Maria Clara and Ibarra. Personal theologies and doctrines are not solutions. What we must do is to throw Damaso and let the “Pilosopong Tasyo” re-kindle our rationality to save our own patrimony.