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‘Ama Namin’ blasphemy? Bishop unearths ‘seeds’ from Duterte years

Jul 15, 2023, Paterno R. Esmaquel II

‘A drag song and dance against the ‘Ama Namin’ offends indeed, but some matters are more offensive than this,’ says Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas

MANILA, Philippines – Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas challenged Filipino Catholics on Saturday, July 15, to look at themselves and examine their consciences even as they criticize the “blasphemous” viral video of Filipino drag queen Pura Luka Vega.

The video showed Pura Luka Vega in a Jesus costume while the crowd danced to a rock version of the “Ama Namin” (“Our Father”), the foundational prayer of Christianity since it is believed to have been taught by Christ himself. 

In an advanced Gospel reflection for July 23, Villegas said the video “was a plunge into a deeper cliff of vulgar blasphemy,” but “it was bound to happen in time.”

Villegas, one of the staunchest critics of former president Rodrigo Duterte, cited the “seeds of blasphemy” that were planted during Duterte’s six years in office. 

Duterte was known to attack the Catholic Church before and after he became president of this predominantly Catholic country. During his presidential campaign, Duterte called Pope Francis a son of a bitch. When he was already chief executive, Duterte said God is stupid and also urged Filipinos to “kill bishops.” 

Despite his tirades against the Catholic faith, Duterte won the presidency by a landslide with 16 million votes in 2016. He also enjoyed high survey ratings while his allies kept “supermajorities” in Congress, with opposition bets failing to win any Senate seat in 2019. In 2022, Duterte’s ally Ferdinand Marcos Jr. became the Philippines’ first majority and first continuity president in decades.

Villegas said: “The seeds for this scandalous video were already planted in the field when we allowed vulgarity by high leaders in government to become a joking matter. Our cooperative indifference and supportive laughter, as we heard those vulgarities, make us accomplices in blasphemy. This was a small beginning like the seed of weeds.”

“The small seeds were already planted when we chose cowardly silence as God was cursed by the highest government official. We giggled and later on voted for more officials who support such vulgarity. We were in cahoots,” he added.

Villegas said Filipinos also “conspired by our silence” after “enemies of God” threatened bishops with murder. Villegas, a protégé of the late Manila archbishop Jaime Cardinal Sin, who helped oust dictator Ferdinand E. Marcos, was one of the prominent Catholic leaders who received death threats during Duterte’s term. 

“A drag song and dance against the ‘Ama Namin’ offends indeed, but some matters are more offensive than this,” the archbishop pointed out.

“We call God our Father but do not treat one another as brothers and sisters? We call God our Father but nodded with approval when drug addicts were killed? Killing others made our lives safer? Is that the way to worship God as Father? They are seeds of the weeds,” Villegas said, referring to extrajudicial killings under Duterte, which are now being probed by the International Criminal Court.

Villegas said Filipinos also “conspired by our silence” after “enemies of God” threatened bishops with murder. Villegas, a protégé of the late Manila archbishop Jaime Cardinal Sin, who helped oust dictator Ferdinand E. Marcos, was one of the prominent Catholic leaders who received death threats during Duterte’s term. 

“A drag song and dance against the ‘Ama Namin’ offends indeed, but some matters are more offensive than this,” the archbishop pointed out.

“We call God our Father but do not treat one another as brothers and sisters? We call God our Father but nodded with approval when drug addicts were killed? Killing others made our lives safer? Is that the way to worship God as Father? They are seeds of the weeds,” Villegas said, referring to extrajudicial killings under Duterte, which are now being probed by the International Criminal Court.

‘Hallowed be your name’ but…

Villegas continued by dissecting elements of the “Our Father” and asking Filipino Catholics to reflect on how they themselves have desecrated the prayer in daily life.

“Our lips pray, ‘Hallowed be your name’ and yet our hands on our gadgets confect calumny and gossip and slander? Is God’s name adored by our fake news? We have even baptized gossipers and rumor mongers as Marites. These are seeds of the weeds.

“We beg Him ‘to give us our daily bread’ but accept money to sell our votes? Is God honored when we tolerate and benefit from the stolen money of public servants? Is not our acceptance of the culture of graft and plunder of public money a greater blasphemy of the ‘Ama Namin’? These are seeds of the weeds.

“We ask God ‘to forgive us’ and yet we have chosen to solve our social problems by the ‘extrajudicial’ way (outside the court of law) by killing and later covering up for the murderers of those who were never proven guilty? How can the defenders of mass murderers and crimes against humanity pray to ask God for forgiveness when their lifestyle is its exact opposite?” the archbishop said.

He then urged Catholics to ask themselves, “In what ways have I contributed to the vulgarity and blasphemy, desecration and profanity of language and lewdness of action against the Ama Namin?” 

“If we are honest and humble enough, we should be ready to admit that we planted the seeds of weeds in the past by our indifference, cowardice, and connivance. The weeds came from me. The enemy is me. I must now change myself first,” he said. 

Voices from the Senate

Pura Luka Vega’s video has drawn criticism from a wide range of sectors in the Philippines, including the Senate. 

In a move unseen when Duterte attacked the Catholic Church, Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri said on Thursday, July 13, “I condemn in the strongest possible terms the extremely blasphemous and offensive video that has gone viral showing people in a club making a mockery of the Christian faith and disrespecting the Lord’s Prayer.”

Zubiri, a Duterte and Marcos ally, then urged authorities to look into the matter, as “a criminal charge can be filed” against Pura Luka Vega. 

Senator Robin Padilla, who is also allied with Duterte and Marcos, told Pura Luka Vega in a public Facebook post that the Our Father “is a holy prayer that you expressed in a very, very unholy manner.”

“I pray and hope that you stick that to your thick skull,” said Padilla, a former Jehovah’s Witness who later converted to Islam.

“If it’s very hard and difficult for you to apologize, you better just shut up and lay low or face the consequences,” the action star-turned-senator said. “You’re dragging spiritual people to extremism.” – Rappler.com

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