Celdran and the Proper Forum

By in

I’m not a friend of Carlos Celdran: I know him, but I doubt he knows who I am.  I’m not a fan of the “Damaso” stunt, either.  That said, I’m not writing this entry to defend Mr. Celdran or condemn him.  I’m writing this entry for the sake of the argument that Mr. Celdran was convicted for the venue of his stunt.  The logic that – for all intents and purposes of the word – he should have raised his voice, and for that matter his “Damaso” sign, in the (drumroll…) proper forum.

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I think that whenever we blurt out phrases like “the rule of Law” (yes, with a capital “L”) and “the proper forum,” we detract – and perhaps even deduct – from the argument.  The reality is that the “proper forum” that we often defend to high heavens (pun intended) is not accessible to us.  Everything we do, and every place we go to do the things we do, is a relationship with power: negotiating with it, managing it, and often, taking control of it.

He should have, just like all of us, genuflected, prayed, and reflected.  Just like all of us, he should have just been the quiet spectator in the meeting, and waited until Mass was celebrated.

Just like all of us… the problem is, he isn’t.

I’m not coming into the defense of Carlos Celdran here, but to suggest that Celdran was “not using the proper forum” to air out his opinions about the Philippine Roman Catholic Church is stating the obvious.  The “proper forum” is great and all, but not all of us have the access nor the preference to use it.  Any forum is only proper when the powerful say it is so.

Some things – often, principles – demand a certain degree of boldness.  And there are certain consequences to boldness: often, consequences that we are not prepared for.  Of course he wasn’t using the proper forum, just like we do when we protest, when we demonstrate, when we boycott, and challenge conventions to get our messages across.

Protesters, demonstrators, and participants in a boycott know all too well that prison is a very real threat, but to suggest that Celdran should have been prepared for it is quite sketchy, too.  While we’re all too eager to face the idea of a prison sentence head on (like, say, the Cybercrime Law), it’s very different when it becomes very real: no one, not even the most hardened criminal, is prepared for it no matter how hard they think it through.

What Celdran did, whether we like him or not, was to give a face to the contentious and often tempestuous relationship we have with ourselves and the Philippine Roman Catholic Church.  Celdran stood up to the Church in a way none of us do or perhaps considered doing: none of us bear our “Damaso” signs or give priests a piece of our mind when they deliver the homily, but he did.  Not that we should find virtue in his act of boldness and call it “courage.”  What we should be reminded of, again, is that some situations and some principles demand an act of boldness.

Boldness: that which comes with Jesus turning the tables over in the temple when the people sold indulgences, and sooner or later gets crucified for it.  The boldness that comes with Gandhi taking his people to the salt flats in opposition of their British colonizers, and sooner or later gets assassinated for it.  The boldness that comes with Aung San Suu Kyi leading her people to peaceful demonstrations for democracy, and sooner or later gets imprisoned for it.  Not that Carlos Celdran should find himself standing tall amongst the greatest examples of defiance in history, but he defied.  He resisted.  The act was not without consequence.  But those who benefited from Celdran’s actions the most are the people who believed in his cause.

If not for a “Damaso” stunt, we would not have stirred the ambiguity between the had the kind of challenge we have now to our notions of the secular and the religious (edit on 1/31/13, 12:49 PM).  If not for his bold recourses, we would not have the kind of animus that helps us rethink the relationship between Church and State.  If not for that act of boldness – and yes, the oversights that came with it, we would not have had, in part, an RH Law.

The debates on whether or not Celdran should go to prison are things that are perhaps best left to lawyers and constitutionalists.  But if there’s anything we can take away from all of this, it’s that doing the right thing requires some degree of boldness.

Yes, boldness: not the “S-T” sort, but the realization and recognition that the “proper forum” is, more often than not, just a forum of power.  Bold defiance, all too often, is all that it takes to shake things up enough for things to change.  It takes a bit – just a bit – of boldness to disregard these notions of the “proper forum” and speak up – and speak out – for your convictions.  It’s a motherhood statement, but yes, it’s about doing the right thing.

Like I said, I’m not a fan of Carlos Celdran.  I am not his friend; I’ve yet to take a walking tour of Manila.  But this controversy reminds me of the wisdom one can take from Marvel Comics; the strongest and most powerful words that one of the strongest and most powerful superheroes ever imparted to the world:

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And this is why I’m planting myself like a tree beside the river of truth, and telling the world – the courts, and the CBCP in particular – to free Carlos Celdran.  To free him, in the same breath as political dissidents and political prisoners.  If not for innocence, then for the boldness that comes with convictions.

* – 1:04 PM on the boldface: yes, some things do require some degree of boldness, if you know what I mean.

18 comments on “Celdran and the Proper Forum”

  1. A very thoughtful article! BTW here is the Decision of Judge Bermejo
    which does contain the basic facts of the event that occurred in the Manila Cathedral on Sep 30 2010. The judge describes it as an ecumenical service, but reading closely it is actually the 2nd anniversary of “May They Be One” — a commercial joint venture between the Philippine Bible Society and the CBCP. which aims to sell 5 million Bibles for 50 pesos each by 2016 He did not stand up during a Mass or make any noises till he was accosted. In fact he genuflected before the Altar first and quietly raised the sign DAMASO in a Chaplinesque performance.

    • Ben Luna
    • January 31, 2013

    I am all for Celdran being free and all. in the same breath, I am thrilled by the possibility of him being jailed, which would make him bigger than he already is, and putting the CBCP frayles in yet again, the uncomfortable position of doing the wrong thing.

    • Leon
    • January 31, 2013

    “The reality is that the “proper forum” that we often defend to high heavens (pun intended) is not accessible to us.” — Spot on, sir. Spot on.

  2. Pingback: Carlos Celdran: Is he the Rosa Parks of the Philippines' Freedom Movement? | Get Real Post

    • fair enough
    • January 31, 2013

    Proper forum? Last time I checked, Mr. Celdran is a Catholic. Isn’t he, in fact, inside “his” Church? There you go, he is indeed in the proper forum!? ~ Charge against the dying of the Light!

      • Marck Ronald Rimorin
      • January 31, 2013

      @fair enough: well yeah, he wasn’t in the proper forum because apparently you can’t do that “inside Church.”

    • Alex Y. Lim
    • January 31, 2013

    This is another IDIOT who can’t distinguish between the need for a proper forum to air a grievance or dissent, and respecting the right of worship among people who do not share his belief. This is another IDIOT who thinks that such displays of disrespect can alter the immutable teaching of the Church. The solution is simple, get out of the Church if you think it no longer suits you.

    • Alex Y. Lim
    • January 31, 2013

    Since when is the Church a proper forum for dissent? It is a place of worship for people who exercise their beleifs without fear of repression or harassment. That is what Celdran violated. The exercise of free speech does not involve harassing worshippers of a religion. You have the internet, the media, TV and print, etc.

    Just imaging if you were holding bible study at home with your family and friends and a stranger barges in shouting investive at your religion. That is no longer freedom of speech, and the person can be shot to death for trespassing.

    In fact, if this had happened in Saudi Arabia, with Celdran doing what he did in Mosque, he would have been decapitated already. Good thing we are in a more tolerant society where such abusive infractions only merit a year of imprisonment.

      • Marck Ronald Rimorin
      • January 31, 2013

      @Alex: I agree with you, but that’s not the point. 🙂

  3. Reply

    The “rule of Law” was meant to be a refuge, the place you went to plant your roots beside the river of truth, to use a phrase. It is supposed to be there when everyone else condemns, because even they, in theory, must bow to the Law.

    You are right, though, in saying that through the years, and in most cases, access to the “proper forum” has been made obscure. Defiance, then, is a symptom, that there is something wrong with the system. The system is then supposed to correct itself by changing “with the times”, except for the times it doesn’t, and we end up with a stunt. Fortunately, it was only a stunt from an avant-garde theater personality. His accusations, if true, merit a far harsher penalty.

    The previous poster is also correct: if you don’t agree with the Church, leave. The problem is if one confuses the State with the Church, and perpetuates bigotry, intolerance, and cruelty in the process. The language employed by the poster should be proof.

    We would all be fools to dismiss or dilute Carlos’s message by pooh-poohing the manner in which he sought redress. His grievance is real, it is strong, and it will go stronger. He is not alone.

    The ball is now in the Bishops Conference’s court. Their turn to move.

      • Marck Ronald Rimorin
      • January 31, 2013

      @Kiko: Although Cap was against the Superhuman Registration Act because it was a violation of civil liberties (Iron Man was for it because he saw it as part of a natural evolution of the role of the superhero in society). So in a way, Cap went against the law. Iron Man’s refuge was the law; Cap’s refuge was his convictions.

      Although like I said earlier this isn’t a complete defense of Carlos Celdran’s actions – to do so would be to water down what his message is – but a defense of the “improper forums” we take to stand up for our convictions. And yes, the CBCP should move; in the end, that’s why someone stood in defiance. For them to make a move.

  4. Reply

    “Not that we should find virtue in his act of boldness and call it “courage.” What we should be reminded of, again, is that some situations and some principles demand an act of boldness.”

    Well done, Marck! Thank you for such a wonderful article and blog! I know Carlos and also aware of the work he’s doing for many. Really like the man! Thank you for expressing your stand on this current issue.


      • Marck Ronald Rimorin
      • February 1, 2013

      Thanks Ed!

  5. Reply

    “The “proper forum” is great and all, but not all of us have the access nor the preference to use it. Any forum is only proper when the powerful say it is so.”

    This is the kind of idea that separates the palengkero and palengkera from the person who fills out a complaint, files it, gets a decision, and has that decision enforced by the authorities.

    Carlos, by the looks of it, is intelligent enough and educated enough to have done this. With his clout and resources, I think he could have had audience with any forum he chose. But he didn’t and so, this is the consequence.

    And please, as much as I don’t like priests lecturing on political issues, I especially hate the antics of people who disrupt religious gatherings of any sort.

      • Marck Ronald Rimorin
      • February 1, 2013

      @Paul: Carlos is already privy to the consequences of his actions. As for the idea, where does a Catholic file a complaint against the Church? Luther nailing his theses on the door of that Church isn’t the “proper forum” for it either. And no, I’m not comparing Luther’s actions to Celdran’s.

      1. Reply

        Marck, that’s actually a good question and perhaps lawyers should be able to enlighten us.

        I do support the movement to remove the Tax Exemption for the Catholic Church if they insist of having a say in governance. It’s only fair, I guess.

        I don’t know if it will gain ground, but perhaps a bill ought to be filed.

          • Marck Ronald Rimorin
          • February 1, 2013

          I don’t usually agree with you but yes. Church should pay taxes.

    • Earl
    • February 1, 2013

    Our World can truly be peaceful if there are no more religions which divide the peoples of the world against each other.

    I believe that time has come for us all to investigate the teachings of the church and every religion so that we may know if they are really the bearers of God’s true word or are they just charlatans or false prophets who claim to preach God’s word but are teaching a deception that leads people to worship a false god and thus leading them more to destruction.

    The best example of these deceptive teaching of the religions is the preaching of the apostles’ writings that Jesus was sent by God to die for our sins. However, may you and the whole world be informed that the real Jesus in the Bible was punished by God to be beaten by men for his(Jesus) own wrongdoing and not for our sins as the religions claim.

    Based from the Bible revelations of Teacher Eraño Evangelista in the link:

    There is a Word of God about Jesus-the descendant/offspring of King David that we should know:
    2 Samuel 7:12-14 (NIV)
    12 When your days are over and you rest with your ancestors, I will raise up your offspring to succeed you, your own flesh and blood, and I will establish his kingdom. 13 He is the one who will build a house for my Name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. 14 I will be his father, and he will be my son. WHEN HE DOES WRONG, I WILL PUNISH HIM WITH A ROD WIELDED BY MEN, WITH FLOGGINGS INFLICTED BY HUMAN HANDS

    In the said verses: 2 Samuel 7:12-14 (NIV) – we can read that God speaks of a coming offspring of David and not a literal “son of God” as what the religions preach.

    Is it really true that Jesus was a descendant of David?
    …to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. Luke 1:27 (NIV)
    Jesus’ true father is Joseph who belongs to the house of David. So if we are to believe the teaching of the religions that Jesus is the “son of God,” then it should be Mary who should belong to the house of David.
    And in:
    You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus.
    Luke 1:31 (NIV)
    And who was Jesus’ father?
    He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David. Luke 1:32 (NIV)
    “will be called” – As you have read it, Jesus was only a son or a descendant of David not a real son of God;” he was just a man.

    Is it true that Jesus is a son of David? Let us read in:
    A record of the genealogy of Jesus Christ the son of David, the son of Abraham- Matt 1:1(NIV)
    Now we can see that the prophecy in 2 Sam7:12-14 (NIV)about a coming descendant of David and not a son of God has been fulfilled.
    Considering the prophecy in II Samuel 7:12-14 (NIV) that if the descendant of David commits a wrong or an iniquity, he will be punished with the rod of men. Was Jesus-the descendant of King David punished by the floggings of men?

    All the people answered, “Let his blood be on us and on our children!” Then he released Barabbas to them. But he had Jesus flogged, and handed him over to be crucified. Matthew 27:25-26 (NIV)
    Indeed, Jesus was flogged by men which when we read again what God stated in the prophecy in 2 Sam 7:14 (NIV): “I will be his father, and he will be my son. WHEN HE DOES WRONG, I WILL PUNISH HIM WITH A ROD WIELDED BY MEN, WITH FLOGGINGS INFLICTED BY HUMAN HANDS”
    We can discover for ourselves that based on what God said in the prophecy that the real reason why He allowed Jesus -the descendant of king David to be beaten by men was not for our sins but for his (Jesus) own wrongdoing.

    It appears now that the Apostles-the writers of the New Testament who claimed that Jesus was sent by God to be beaten for our sins were hiding from us what really happened to Jesus. Worse than that, the apostles made us worship Jesus -who in reality was punished by God for his own wrongdoing!

    How will God hear our plea of peace and salvation if we worship the one whom He has punished! We are indeed cursed as written in Deut.11:28 because we worship a false god made by the apostles. It is a shame that we even question God why we are suffering today.

    The truth is we allowed ourselves to be deceived by the teachings of the apostles! The pastors would say it was King Solomon who was prophesied in 2 Samuel 7:12-14 (NIV) but he wasn’t flogged by men when he committed sin against God. It was Jesus -the offspring of David – who was flogged and beaten by the rod of men. Isaiah 53 was never a prophecy about Jesus but a recollection of what Moses did, for Moses was the man to whom God revealed His Arm of Power(Exo.32:11) Read this link: http://www.thename.ph/thename/revelations/suffvant-en.html.

    Since the religions made us worship Jesus who- as based on God’s word in the prophecy in 2 Samuel 7:12-14 (NIV) was punished by God for his own wrongdoing and not for our sins as the apostles claim, it is clear that we were taught by the religions an erroneous teaching about God. This is why God does not hear the prayer of the peoples of the world for peace but continues to let mankind suffer from all these wars and disasters because they are calling on a false god made by the apostles.
    To know what wrongdoings Jesus had done which the apostles had hidden from us- kindly read this link: http://www.thename.ph/thename/revelations/greatestdeception-en.htm

    May you visit the website http://www.thename.ph and http://www.thenameonline.info and read its main page now to be informed of God’s judgement upon the religious leaders, priests and pastors and upon all the peoples of the world as written in the prophecy in the Bible that was revealed by Teacher Eraño Martin Evangelista and what they can all do to avert it.

    Disastrous events will continue to happen and even worsen as long as the world calls on the name of ‘Jesus “taught by the religions and not on the true name of God in the Bible (that jesus failed to make known) that was revealed by Teacher Evangelista in http://www.thename.ph

    It is time that all we, peoples of the world urge our Governments and Media networks to work together to make an investigation about the teachings of the churches and must ask these religions most especially the Catholic Church to prove their so-called Bible doctrines themselves through all media networks face to face against Teacher Eraño Martin Evangelista- if they were really true servants of God and not false teachers of God’s word as their teachings especially about Jesus-the descendant of king David (Luke 1:31-32 NIV) who they claim as “was sent by God to die for our sins” were proven clearly and logically as erroneous and even a blasphemy against God in the Bible Exposition presented by Teacher Eraño Martin Evangelista in http://www.thename.ph Thank you.

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