Baby in the manger

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By Miel Feria

On my way to Makati the other day, I could not help but notice a sign in front of a church that greeted everyone a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. The sign was festive, save for the big Anti-RH Bill sign underneath it.  The Anti-RH sign was bold and red, sharply contrasting the festive Merry Christmas sign.

The big bold letters strongly proclaimed the church’s opposition against the RH bill. The Christmas greetings made me wonder whether the church ever thought about those children who will never feel the material aspects of Christmas because their parents had more children than they could properly provide for, or those children who will never have their mothers with them during Christmas. Maternal deaths seem to be a non-issue. It was as if the church was saying, we don’t care about those who died during childbirth, or those who do not have anything to celebrate Christmas with. We are against RH, period. And oh, Merry Christmas.

It reminded me of a homily given by the parish priest in my friend’s parish one chilly early morning last December. It was the second-to-the-last Simbang Gabi, and everyone was feeling the Christmas spirit. As the priest was known to give long homilies, we were anticipating another long-winded sermon, but that morning, the parish priest had other plans. Instead of lulling us to sleep with another long homily, he wanted to do something else. At 5 in the morning, he decided to show a video about abortion before his homily. It was an emotional video, complete with dramatic background music. The video showed how abortions were performed, how fetuses were killed and unceremoniously disposed of. It was gut-wrenching, tear-jerking, and thought-provoking. It was also inappropriate.

Not only was it a couple of days before Christmas, but at 5AM. No one really wanted to see mangled remains of fetuses in church. Worse, there were children present.

What followed was even more inappropriate than the video. After showing the inappropriate video, the parish priest went on an hour-long tirade about how the RH bill would lead to the legalization of abortion, and how sex education in children would result in immoral adults in the future.  Raising his voice and showing some anger, he passionately preached that the RH bill was just a step away from the video he showed. “That’s what RH is about,” he said. “Do you want that to happen?”

Having been shocked awake by the video, the parishioners took every word the priest said as writ. It didn’t matter that most of the things he said about the RH bill were lies. Some mothers had tears in their eyes as they listened to the priest’s words.

I had to fight the urge to stand and refute the things the priest was saying. This was too much, I said to myself. Isn’t it a sin to lie? Why then is the priest lying to his congregation in the name of the church’s stand against reproductive health? Was it fine to lie just so you can convince your parishioners that the RH bill should not be supported? My friend merely smiled and patted my shoulder. “Leave him be,” she said. Not wanting to make a scene, I merely shook my head in disgust and tried hard not to listen.

It got me thinking. How could a man of God lie with a straight face about something just to rile his parishioners up? Of all the things the priest said about the RH bill that morning, only about ten percent were true. Everything else was an exaggeration and an outright lie. Imagine having to sit through that early in the morning, two days before Christmas.

These outright lies being spoken by a person of influence are oftentimes taken as Gospel truth by most churchgoers. After all, a priest would not lie, right? Only a few would actually go out of their way to verify the things that was said that early morning. I have had to sit through a number of these sermons but none have been as misleading and further from the truth than the sermon that morning.

I wish I could have done something, but I was just as shocked as everyone around me. I have always associated Christmas with seeing a baby in a manger. Now the baby that is forever etched on my mind is that mangled baby I saw on that video.

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