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MANILA, Philippines – Bishop Pablo Virgilio David called on Catholics to “respond in a spiritually intelligent way,” and not to “turn into a lynch mob,” after a Filipino drag queen was accused of blasphemy over a viral video.
David, president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), also warned about blasphemy “in many other forms in our daily lives,” such as neglecting abused women and children, the poor and the homeless, and victims of extrajudicial killings (EJKs).
“Yes, we are hurt, and we may have every reason to be offended. But remember that we take offense only for love of God and of our faith,” David said in a Facebook reflection posted on Monday, July 17.
David wrote this reflection after Pura Luka Vega, a Filipino drag queen, stirred controversy for dressing up as Jesus while the crowd danced to a rock remix of the “Ama Namin” (Our Father) at a drag party.
The video of Pura Luka Vega has gotten 19.3 million views as of posting time, and has prompted Filipino politicians, including Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri, to release statements condemning the video. Zubiri also urged authorities to look into the matter, as “a criminal charge can be filed” against the drag queen.
‘God is merciful’
In his reflection piece, David said that despite the insults hurled against the Catholic faith, “we continue to hold on to our faith in a God who is consistently merciful.”
David said: “Of course, we have every right to react vehemently when we feel that our dignity is being violated by those who seem to disrespect what we regard as holy – our icons, our prayers, our devotions. But isn’t our Christian discipleship about learning to take the blows the way the Nazarene himself did, hating the sin but loving the sinner, never giving up on anyone of us, suffering and dying for our redemption?”
“How hard it is to follow the exhortation of our Nazarene Lord to love our enemies, do good to those who hurt us, and pray for those who persecute us,” said David.
David, an internationally trained Bible scholar, then drew from biblical teachings that the face of God can be seen in one’s neighbors, especially the poor and neglected.
“Christ may indeed be blasphemed by people who mock his icons and his teachings,” David said.
“But I am sure he is blasphemed even more by people who come to church regularly but cannot recognize his face in women and children who are abused, in victims of human trafficking, in the thousands of alleged ‘drug suspects’ who have been abducted, tortured, and summarily executed in the last several years, in the homeless poor who live like rats in dwellings unfit for humans, in the undocumented Filipinos who literally do not count and are treated like unwanted aliens in their own country,” he continued.
“There are many ways of committing blasphemy, and while we notice the more obvious forms of it, we may be completely oblivious of its many other forms in our daily lives,” the bishop explained.
David, 64, is the bishop of the Diocese of Kalookan, which was a hotspot of drug-related extrajudicial killings during the Duterte administration. The drug war killings are the subject of an investigation by the International Criminal Court.
‘Seeds of blasphemy’
Like David, Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas said the video by Pura Luka Vega “was a plunge into a deeper cliff of vulgar blasphemy,” but “it was bound to happen in time.”
Villegas said the “seeds of blasphemy” were planted during Rodrigo Duterte’s six years as president, from 2016 to 2022.
“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,” Villegas said in a reflection posted on Saturday, July 15.
“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,” Villegas said.
“A drag song and dance against the ‘Ama Namin’ offends indeed,” said the archbishop, “but some matters are more offensive than this.” – Rappler.com