Forgive Me, Pope Francis
I have been wondering what it takes to be forgiven. Or at least, forgiven by the Catholic bishops of the Philippines.
Arch(critic)bishop Oscar Cruz went to visit former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo in hospital detention at the start of the year. Earlier, he backed calls for allowing her a Christmas furlough. He went so far as chiding the Aquino administration for its “persecution” of her.
Subsequently Archbishop Rolando Tirona, Archbishop Neri Odchimar, Bishop Emilio Marquez, Archbishop Diosdado Talamayan, and Bishop Ramon Villena came to visit. News reports also have it that several Catholic nuns from different congregations led by Mother Ma. Clarita Balleque, RVM, and Sister Fely Declaro have also called.
It is not just the religious who are visiting her. Former President Joseph Estrada – unseated by Arroyo, convicted of plunder during her term, and immediately pardoned by her – also visited. Even Imelda Marcos, widow of (lest we forget) the infamous dictator Ferdinand Marcos, also visited.
Among those who also visited her were Bacoor Representative Lani Mercado-Revilla, Surigao del Sur Representative Philip Pichay, and Buhay Representative Lito Atienza.
Arroyo spokesperson Raul Lambino has been all goody-two-shoes about these visits. These are merely visits of people who “sympathize” with Arroyo and who are concerned about her deteriorating health.
I can imagine that her “friends” would come and visit because they are concerned about her. I can imagine that I, who feel nothing but an alarming onset of stomach acidity at the mere mention of her name, might feel otherwise, had I been her friend. It is only human nature. I must admit to being soft on the few people in my circle associated with her.
How much more would I sympathize if, like Lani Revilla, my family's wealth increased during the Arroyo years when my husband was allegedly fooling around with the people's money? How much more forgiving would I be if, like Joseph Estrada, my son now stands accused of giving in to Napoles-type seductions? This too could be said of Philip Pichay whose family had been known to have an undying loyalty to Arroyo and who is now alleged to be the top customer of the brothel that was PDAF in the House of Representatives.
Compassion for the corrupt
My political friends are also all agog. All these people are at threat from the seething anger of people who are giving President Aquino's anti-corruption war its fuel. All of them may conceivably want to see this government fail.
However, Lambino clarifies that none of the visitors talked about politics. So I say to my evil-minded friends, “Shush!”
Apart from Lambino's assurance that this beeline to the Arroyo hive is all good, we do have all those religious. The 5 bishops who came all on one day held a Mass for her. Lambino is reported as saying that the bishops just wanted to “share love and compassion.”
Now what motivation other than love and compassion would the bishops have? In news reports, Lambino is quoted as saying that lawmakers talked to Arroyo about their opposition to the passage of the reproductive health (RH) law. The bishops have always loved Arroyo for her anti-reproductive health bill stance. They have given her free pass during all those corruption scandals because, when it comes to sexual issues, she has been good to them. Other than Oscar Cruz, the bishops who celebrated Mass in her hospital room were never all that critical.
Note, however, that Lambino said lawmakers talked about this, not the bishops. So I say to my paranoid friends again, “Shut your dirty little mouths, conspiracy theorists!” The bishops did not discuss the RH law with her at all. It was the lawmakers who did that. So I guess they just decided to reach out to Arroyo at this time for no reason except they are a forgiving bunch.
They have reached out to her with love and compassion despite her seeming lack of genuine remorse for her other sins. She has not admitted to any form of graft and corruption; has used all legal defenses available to her to delay the graft cases filed against her from proceeding; has not offered to return a single centavo of the monies tainted by allegations of plunder.
Who would the Pope visit?
So I am wondering if the bishops might decide to reach out to me with love and compassion too. I am at least innocent of Arroyo's sins. I have not stolen a single centavo in my government job nor elicited a bribe.
I have advocated for the RH law, though. And, like Arroyo, I have no remorse. I remain firmly convinced that the law will save women's lives. I accept the findings of expert bodies like the World Health Organization that contraceptives are a necessary component of programs that will decrease the number of women who are dying in pregnancy.
So here is my reasoning. If the bishops consider both corruption and advocating for the RH law a sin, Arroyo and I come out even. She is guilty of one sin and not another. I am guilty of one sin but not the other.
In fact, I think I should have been forgiven while Arroyo should have been thrown into the sea. Pope Francis has been reported as saying that the Church is too obsessed with abortion, contraceptives, and homosexuality. He urges the Church, especially the priests, to find “a new balance” lest the “moral edifice of the Church fall like a house of cards.” What this “new balance” may be, I interpret in the light of yet another sermon, where the Pope suggests that those who steal from the State to give to the Church should be tied down with rocks and cast into the sea.
So please, please, bishops, start arriving at my door. I am ill too. You see I have defended you and your compassionate reach for Arroyo against the dirty-minded interpretations of my friends. Having had to mention her so often, my stomach acidity has become a full blown ulcer. Having to think of those Marcoses, Estradas, Revillas, Atienzas, and Pichays has made me fit for a straight jacket. If you don't visit, things could get worse. My friends could turn on me and say it is I who should shut my mouth.
You must do your pastoral duties and come. I really would hate to bother the Pope about this. He is probably writing another sermon about prelates who don't listen to their leader. That is a far better use of his time than forgiving and comforting little old me. – Rappler.com