Published on January 23, 2018.
At the “Catholic media in challenging times” forum in San Carlos Seminary in Makati City on Friday, the veteran journalist and former professor Crispin Maslog—he wryly introduced himself as a “centennial,” not a millennial—rose during the open forum not to ask a question but to offer a comment. “I would like to share with you an answer,” he said. He pointed to the theme of the forum blazoned on the backdrop, read it out loud, and said: “I think our challenge is President Duterte.”
He cut to the quick. That is in fact the real reason why we live in challenging times, and why Catholic media organizations—in common with other media and with other sectors of society—are facing a challenge. The election of President Rodrigo Roa Duterte inaugurated a parallel era of anxiety in the Philippines; behind the record high survey ratings of the President are consistent confessions of fear, mistrust, uncertainty. The same surveys that show majority satisfaction or trust ratings for the President and approval for his signature antidrugs campaign show that almost three-fourths of voting-age Filipinos fear they or someone they know will be the next casualty in the so-called war on drugs. A far greater majority, over 90 percent, say keeping suspected drug dealers or users alive is important. Less than one-tenth say they trust the police when the police allege that suspects were killed because they fought back. Continue reading
A response to Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle’s keynote speech at the “Catholic Media in Challenging Times” forum in San Carlos Seminary, Makati City. Friday, January 19, 2018.
The responsible shepherd
It is an honor to be here; I don’t know if taking part in today’s forum qualifies as a plenary indulgence, but this sinner certainly jumped at the chance when the invitation arrived.
I share Cardinal Chito’s misgivings about not having a female perspective on this panel; I hope we can help cure that in the Q&A. But I look at the panel and I realize—this is not only missing the female perspective, it’s missing other male perspectives too, because we are all graduates of the Ateneo. It’s the Jesuit mafia at work! But keeping our limits in mind is good. We are only offering our views from the limits of our own experience.
My experience is primarily that of a journalist.
Indeed, I am wearing black today because today the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines and other alliances and associations are marking #BlackFridayforPressFreedom, in support of our colleagues at Rappler, the staff at the 54 Catholic radio stations whose licenses to operate have been I think deliberately ignored, and other journalists on the receiving end of the government’s iron fist. Continue reading
Published on January 13, 2015.
It is a safe bet that many Filipinos want the upcoming papal visit to be a politician-free zone. Even the politicians themselves are wary, all too aware that just being seen with Pope Francis as he visits the Philippines could be mistaken for that new state of disgrace we can call “epal-ness” or, worse, as an abuse of political privilege. With the exception of the Pope’s courtesy call in Malacañang, there is good reason to keep the apostolic visit free of politics—but not necessarily of politicians.
I would wager that Pope Francis himself, while acutely conscious of the corruption, the venality, the self-seeking and self-perpetuating culture of politics, would welcome politicians of all shades of conviction in his audiences. He has the same high regard for the calling of politics that the pope of his formative years in the priesthood, the intellectual diplomat Paul VI, expressed often and emphatically.
In a characteristically candid interview with veteran Vaticanista Andrea Tornielli in December 2013, he spoke about the relationship between the Church and politics. Continue reading
Published on January 6, 2015.
The most consequential papal journey of the year will not be to Sri Lanka or even to the Philippines next week, although Pope Francis’ second visit to Asia is important indeed. It will be in September, to the new center of gravity of Catholic conservatism: the United States.
Apart from its intrinsic importance, then, the Pope’s second-longest journey outside Italy to canonize the Apostle to Sri Lanka Blessed Joseph Vaz and to condole with the victims of Supertyphoon “Yolanda” in the Philippines can also be understood as a series of way stations en route to a historic encounter in Pittsburgh. (His longest journey, longer by a few hours, was the eight-day swing to Brazil in 2013.)
I do not wish to minimize the significance to the fourth papal visit to the Philippines. I understand that the Pope wanted to visit the country as early as late 2013, or just several months after his election—after all, it hosts the largest Catholic population in the world’s most populous continent and, despite the parochialism of much religion news in the country, plays a pivotal role in Asia in the new evangelization.
Unlike the visit to Seoul (his first to Asia, in August last year) and the one to Colombo that’s coming up in a few days, there is no beatification or canonization ceremony to perform in the Philippine visit. Unlike his visit to Rio de Janeiro in July 2013 or the one to Istanbul last November, there is no World Youth Day to grace or Joint Declaration to announce in the Philippines. He is, simply, a pastor visiting his people. Continue reading
Column catch-up, all over again. This piece was written after the so-called Million People March, and was published on August 27, 2013.
In August 1999, or just over a year after the popular Joseph Estrada took office as the country’s 13th president, a major protest rally brought the Makati central business district to a standstill. A hundred thousand people, perhaps 120,000 at the most, occupied the intersection of Ayala Avenue and Paseo de Roxas; they were there, mainly, for three reasons: They went to signal their disapproval of the Estrada administration’s Charter change campaign; they went to sympathize with the plight of the Manila Times, then recently shuttered, and the Inquirer, then undergoing the second month of an unprecedented advertising boycott, both in circumstances many believed to have been orchestrated by Malacañang; not least, they went because Jaime Cardinal Sin and Cory Aquino asked them to.
Published on March 12, 2013, at a time of heightened speculation about the possibility of a pope from Asia.
I haven’t finished reading Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle’s dissertation, a theological thriller titillatingly titled “Episcopal Collegiality and Vatican II: The Influence of Paul VI,” just yet, but one passage has struck me with the force of revelation.
“But Paul VI also poignantly laid bare the irony at the heart of the papacy: the divinely instituted center of communion constitutes in the present time the greatest block to Christian unity. The lofty view of the papal office supported by a sure faith is cast in an almost tragic shade.”
This insight, which I understand Paul himself recognized, is sandwiched between a recapitulation of his “abundant reflection” and “innumerable musings” on papal primacy as the gift of the first Vatican Council, and his “slow acceptance” of the teaching that supreme power over the Church was shared by the communion of all bishops, “united to its head.”
This tension which Paul felt with all his being reflected one of the central challenges of the second Vatican Council. In Tagle’s formulation: “Collegiality as a mark of the renewal of Vatican II must be related to the papacy as defined by Vatican I. This issue proved to be one of the most contested in the council”—and gave Paul, perhaps the most conflicted of all 20th-century popes, “the most torment.”
Published on February 26, 2013.
I suppose that anyone who has seen Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle speak can testify to his gifts as a preacher: He is a truly engaging speaker, who connects to his audience both because he appears to be thinking on his feet, fashioning his words to suit or reflect the nuances of the occasion, and because his preaching is animated by a very strong sense of structure, and thus of direction. His audience knows where they are at any given moment, and where the good bishop is headed.
There is nothing of performance in his talks; he does not jump up and down, he does not wear loud colors, he does not use flashy graphics.
Published on January 29, 2013. It seems Inquirer.net added videos to the story some time after my column came out.
A Jesuit friend I esteem cried foul recently over Karen Boncocan’s characterization of a major homily given by the new Cardinal Archbishop of Manila, Luis Antonio “Chito” Tagle. (The homily, on the occasion of the Feast of Jesus the Nazarene, was read, or rather extemporized, on Jan. 9, but I read my friend’s e-mail to me only the other day.)
My friend wrote: The “news report about Chito Tagle taking a ‘swipe’ against the RH Bill makes gratuitously speculative assertions that I think are inappropriate for a news report. If she [the reporter] were an opinion writer, one could let that pass. But she is supposed to be reporting news and what she does is make assertions here that cannot, in my view, be squared with the actual text of Chito’s homily. Would you know anything about whether this is just a lapse or according to some kind of editorial policy?”