The Catholic Church, Madonna and Pacquiao

>> Monday, March 7, 2016

Alfred P. Dizon

The conservative Catholic Church of the Philippines has presumably the most outspoken bishops who comment on anything under the sun from politics, religion to sex and yes – not to forget world boxing sensation Manny Pacquiao, who hit the limelight anew for saying Lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transgenders (LGBTs) are  “worse than animals.”  
The Philippine Catholic bishops’ latest peeve was their calling Wednesday on the faithful to boycott pop diva Madonna's sexually charged concerts in the nation's capital, calling them the devil's work.
The 57-year-old "Like A Virgin" and "Erotica" hit-maker had cavorted on a giant cross-shaped stage during two concerts on Wednesday and Thursday as part of her global "Rebel Heart" tour.
"Pinoys (Filipinos) and all God-loving people should avoid sin and occasions of sin," Archbishop Ramon Arguelles said in a statement posted on the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines' official website.
Arguelles said the concerts, Madonna's first in the Philippines, were among "subtle attacks of the evil one". "Why is the Catholic Philippines the favorite venue for blasphemy against God and the Holy Mother?" said Arguelles, as quoted by Agence France Press.
Arguelles had previously campaigned against provocative pop diva Lady Gaga, saying her 2012 Manila concert was the work of Satan. Conservative bishops are famously outspoken in the Philippines, where 80 percent of its 100 million people are Catholic.
Ahead of her concerts, Madonna visited a shelter for abused children and a Catholic orphanage in Manila on Tuesday. "Chillin' with my homies," Madonna said in a caption to an Instagram selfie with three children, as they lay on cardboard mats on the floor of Bahay Tuluyan, home to about 500 abused or abandoned children.
Wearing head-to-toe black and oversized shades, Madonna came with an entourage of 20 dancers and burly bodyguards, Bahay Tuluyan executive director Lily Flordelis told AFP.
"The children were very happy to see her. She played with them, danced with them and chatted with them," Flordelis said. Tipping her maroon hat in another Instagram post, Madonna said: "Hats off to the Bahay Tuluyan Foundation in Manila for taking so many kids off the street and providing food and shelter."
Madonna also visited the Hospicio de San Jose, one of Manila's oldest orphanages.
She posted a picture of herself carrying a baby in pink overalls while holding the hand of an emaciated girl, also in pink, whom she identified as Celeste.
Madonna is touring the world to support her 13th studio album, Rebel Heart, which combines her trademark sexually charged lyrics and imagery with an array of musical genres.
Madonna has courted controversy since bringing her tour to Asia this month.
A Catholic bishop in Singapore called for a boycott of her concert purportedly for insulting religion. She also drew Chinese anger for draping herself with the Taiwanese flag during a concert in Taipei.
Now here comes our friendly, perennially tipsy neighborhood philosopher. He says when it’s anything related to the Catholic Church, you have to be prim and proper. It’s the bishops’ right to say anything on any matter, he adds, but when it comes to artistic expression, maybe that’s more on the realm of artists or musicians like Madonna. If there is religious tolerance, there also has to be artistic tolerance, he says.    
Now comes Pacquiao who said LGBTS are “worse than animals.” Pacquiao had earned the ire of many people worldwide for saying this, that he even lost endorsement deals.
The Catholic Church Tuesday, not surprisingly, defended the Sarangani congressman for his opposition to gay marriage, saying he was only quoting the Bible.
But Father Jerome Secillano, executive secretary of the public affairs office of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), said Pacquiao should also respect homosexuals and not judge and condemn them.
Pacquiao, who converted from Catholicism to an evangelical Protestant faith late in his boxing career, was pilloried by local gay rights groups and celebrities after he described homosexuals as “worse than animals.”
 “But this is really in the Bible. There is this quote he uses from the Bible and we cannot change that,” Secillano said over radio station dzMM.
The CBCP official said it was “unfair” to condemn Pacquiao for echoing what he reads in the Bible when he was asked about same-sex marriage. But Secillano also said the boxing hero should not have used offensive language.
“The church says that if this is your lifestyle, if this is your orientation, then we respect that. We cannot condemn them,” the priest explained.
Secillano reiterated that the Catholic Church still opposed the legalization of same-sex marriage.
Church influence has also kept divorce and abortion from being legalized in the Philippines. Homosexuality is not criminalized and several LGBT figures have become celebrities.
Pacquiao, who intends to retire after his April fight against American Timothy Bradley to pursue a career in politics, issued an apology on social media on Tuesday but later said his apology was qualified.
Pacquiao’s statement had generated a lot of comments.  Hollywood actor and former wrestler Batista also lambasted Pacquiao for discriminating homosexuals.
“My opinion on that is he’s a [expletive] idiot,’’ said Batista, of Filipino descent who is David Michael Bautista in real life, in an interview with TMZ Sports.
“My mom happens to be a lesbian so I don’t (expletive) take that (expletive). I don’t think it’s funny,” he added. “If anyone called my mother an animal I’d stick my foot in his a**.”
Liberal Party vice presidential candidate Leni Robredo also reminded Pacquiao that freedom to choose who to love and live with is a basic right.
 “The choice of who we are going to love and who we are going to live with is a basic human right. That must be respected by others who have differing beliefs,” Robredo, a lawyer, told reporters.
“It’s unfortunate that there appears to be discrimination, judgment, because the essence of democracy is to give voice to all sectors no matter how small they are; to listen to all; to respect each others’ preference even if we believe in different religions,” she added.
She explained that while she does not subscribe to same-sex unions being a devout Catholic, she believes the government must open the debate on the controversial matter.
Robredo said she has been fighting discrimination for years, even filing the Anti-Discrimination Bill “that in essence simply states that whatever our beliefs are, religion, culture, sex, preferences, age, there should be no discrimination — everyone should be able to freely express themselves.”

The partymates of the world boxing icon in the United Nationalist Alliance have appealed to the public to continue supporting him amid his controversial remarks against homosexuals. 


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