Monday, December 3, 2007
Tuesday, November 13, 2007
IT IS A CHALLENGING task to put together the broken pieces of the Philippine society today due to the recent events that have been making some of us think of where to begin in addressing the issues that confront us as a nation. I remember the description of Giuseppe Zanghi, an Italian philosopher who describes contemporary society in terms of a “collective cultural dark night” borrowing the expression from Saint Teresa of Avila’s spiritual classic—the Interior Castle—that speaks of the soul’s dark night as a period of intense purification in which the soul seems to feel abandoned by God. The description “collective dark night” could be used in our context to point out that the Philippines is experiencing not only a collective cultural dark night, that is, a period of intense purification of our society but also of political and moral dark night. Economic gains that do not trickle down to the majority of Filipinos cannot dispel the dark night of the Philippines today.
The present situation of our country could be considered a dark night, for many of us feel discouraged and outraged by the brazenness of political expediency. The dark night of the Philippines today could also be emblematic of all the compromises that we have made personally and collectively in order to peacefully coexist and avoid a radical shift in the present structural dependence of our society. It is about time to step forward and face our dark night by giving the right name to our society’s ills and by doing what we can do to get out of the present political quagmire, hoping that a flicker of light coming from prayer and action in our small communities, could slowly dispel the darkness that covers our beloved country.
There is a need to make an important distinction between homosexual orientation and homosexual activity. Homosexual orientation is an attraction that a person experiences towards members of the same sex. Homosexual activity is the actual physical engagement in sexual acts with members of the same sex. With this distinction in mind, let us take a close look at the four schools of thought or perspectives on homosexuality.
The first school of thought condemns both homosexual activity and orientation. The basis for the condemnation is that the bible considers homosexuality as a great offense against God and that natural law sees homosexuality as something against nature because a man is usually attracted to a woman and vice-versa. What is problematic in this first school of thought is the fact that if sexual orientation is not freely chosen then it seems unreasonable to condemn someone on that basis alone.
The second school of thought sees homosexual activity as an immoral act but sexual orientation or inclination is not itself a ground for moral condemnation. An inclination or orientation may be disordered but a person with homosexual orientation is not excluded from the Christian community. However, it is with great difficulty that a person with homosexual orientation can have the strength of will not to engage in homosexual acts. This is the Catholic position regarding homosexuality.
The third school of thought says that for those who have an irreversible or constitutional homosexuality (those who have taken homosexuality as a lifestyle) and have integrated their sexuality into their personality in a psychologically positive way, the physical expression of that sexual inclination may be acceptable. This is the controversial position of Fr. Charles Curran on irreversible homosexuality who says that “homosexual acts in the context of a loving relationship striving for permanency can be and are morally good.” This is a compromise position. Advocates of same-sex marriage are at the forefront of this school of thought. Heterosexual marriage is still normative.
The fourth school of thought argues that what matters is the quality of relationships. Thus, if homosexual relationship is supportive, nurturing, compassionate and loving then homosexual activity is right or moral regardless of the sexual orientation or the gender of two persons involved in the relationship. This perspective puts much weight on the kind or type of relationship in which sexual expression takes place and less weight is given on gender or marital status. In other words, those who advocate this perspective is actually trying to say that sex is right whether with the same sex or with the opposite sex as long as it is an expression of a loving relationship. Loving relationship within the context of marriage between a man and a woman is still the Ideal.
Re-assigning homosexuality has a very limited success. There is a need for a psychic acceptance on the part of homosexuals. The key is acceptance. One should not have an attitude of abomination towards homosexual persons instead there is a need for understanding and sympathy so that they may regain their worth as human beings and as fulfilled persons who in spite of their weakness strive to live life as a gift for others through the help of God’s grace.
I have been privileged to share with them some points on managing emotions. I tried to prepare my sharing but in the process of my preparation I have also come to know myself better in the sense that I was given a precious opportunity to explore my emotions and the role they play in my daily life as a priest.
One of the insights that struck me is on how to transform emotions into light, into grace. I must admit that while I was going through the steps needed in the transformation of emotions, I was challenged to focus on the dominant emotions of my life and how to integrate them meaningfully in my relationship with others.
Emotion, in its most general definition, is an intense mental state that arises automatically in the nervous system rather than through conscious effort, and evokes either a positive or negative psychological response.
There are eight steps in the transformation of emotion into light: 1] Take full responsibility for your emotion; 2] Name your emotion; 3] Let go of the emotional “story’; 4] Bless your emotion; 5] Feel your emotion fully; 6] Ask for light and clarity as to the reason for the emotion; 7] Identify the ineffective belief at the root of the emotion; 8] Replace the ineffective belief with the more empowering belief.
The first step in managing emotion is to take full responsibility for my emotion. I find this step quite demanding because I often deny my emotions and I fail to own my emotions. In fact, when I am angry with somebody I simply ignore it but the problem is that my anger lingers and I am not able to get out of it. The next step helps me in naming my emotion. When I am angry, I should be able to say, “I am angry.” The act of naming is important because it entails acceptance of my present emotional state. Letting go of the emotional story is actually being angry without hurting others and myself. It is difficult for me to bless my anger but I know that only when I am able to ask God for the grace to overcome my anger that I see what is positive in the situation. It is impossible not to feel the emotional change brought about by anger but feeling it fully means not repressing my anger but expressing it in a way that can channel the negative emotion out of my system. If a person causes my anger, I usually talk to somebody by telling him why I am angry. Asking for light and clarity in order to know the reason for my anger can only come after some time and I experience that this can only come from prayer especially a sincere prayer for one’s enemy or for somebody who has hurt me. There is an irrational belief at the root of my anger and in my case it is my desire that people should act the way I want them to act or behave. The more empowering belief comes from the realization that I cannot change people’s way of behaving or the way they are but I can change my attitude towards them. So every time I feel that I am getting angry, I know right away that it’s either I am overpowered by anger or I take the power of emotion to make me a better person.
There is really nothing wrong with men becoming emotional. In fact, emotions have great potentials for making us more sensitive to others and more at home with ourselves.
The banality of evil could only be redeemed by the banality of heroes. Some people instead of being transformed from good to evil can actually become heroes by not allowing the evil system or situation to take hold of their goodness. In this sense, one becomes a “rebel” by opposing evil powers and factors. I happen to sit beside a young Filipino overseas worker during the whole duration of the flight from Manila to Frankfurt. In his sharing, he laments how poverty in the Philippines has made him leave the country even if it means seeing his family only once a year. One of the striking lines that he shared is that sacrifice for one’s family makes him look at heaven even when he knows he is experiencing a great deal of hell in life. I think he has the quality of a hero not in the exceptional sense of the word but in the sense of turning evil situations into normal occasions to work harder, indeed to be the best in the worst situations of life. Zimbardo’s definition of evil as “knowing better, but doing worst” captures vividly the experience of the young Filipino overseas contract worker who knows the worst situation of poverty but tried to do something better out of the worst situation.