(A reprint from my column today in the opinion page of Sun.Star Cebu)
When one’s value judgment shakes in the wind of controversies now threatening to pummel one’s faith cold, certitude has become such a lonely word.
So what’s the last word about a former parish priest in Danao town who has been sneaking under the shadow of his dalliance with a young lady? Or, about the case of another local priest—now circulating again in the Internet— who’s still under the pall of accusations by two altar boys he allegedly slept with some two decades ago in the United States.
In spite of all that, however, the faithful is still coming in droves, filling up the pews every Sunday here in this so-called Cradle of Christianity; our minds stubborn over matters too smeared for headlines and scoops to gloss over. Only the heavens know. Or so we seem to say, our eyes shut in prayer so that what remains of our faith won’t be frayed any further.
For those waiting for moral certainty, up goes the dare to be detectives. And, yes, to be hawk-eyed while hoping for discernment. Consider the point raised by Jewish theologian Abraham Heschel: “The cardinal issue— Why does the God of justice and compassion permit evil to persist— is bound up with the problem of how man should aid God so that his justice and compassion prevail.”
As if raising smoke out of the burning issue these days, John Patrick Shanley’s acclaimed play titled “Doubt” couldn’t be timelier. Brought to Cebu by Little Boy Productions, Shanley’s Pulitzer Prize-winning work deftly dramatizes how tricky the matter of truth can be. As an opportunity for soul-searching, Shanley suggests, nothing beats ambiguity.
Set in a Catholic school in Bronx, the conflict in the play is kicked off with the suspicion of the rigidly no-nonsense principal Sister Aloysius (in a fiery performance by Cherie Gil). Wary of Fr. Flynn, the boys’ basketball coach, she has sensed something fishy between him and the school’s only black boy.
What ensues unravels like a witch-hunt until the nun’s conscience gets wracked with her white lie triggering the priest’s resignation, casting a dark spot on Fr. Flynn’s claim of innocence. But up to the end, Shanley leaves the viewer with no clear-cut proofs of either the nun’s moral ascendancy or the priest’s guilt. Evidence remains inconclusive, the sense of disquiet dares the audience to go back and wrestle with the words of Fr. Flynn's sermon at the start of the play: “What do you do when you are not sure?”
That’s a challenge many of us had to confront head-on in this season so rife with confusion.
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From my inbox, here’s a bit of reminder or reality check about a God who does not discriminate about who he uses. The next time we shake our heads in uncertainty, here are characters from the Bible who seem up to no good:
Noah was a drunk. Abraham was too old. Isaac was a daydreamer. Jacob was a liar. Leah was ugly. Joseph was abused. Moses had a stuttering problem. Gideon was afraid. Samson had long hair and was a womanizer. Rahab was a prostitute. David had an affair and was a murderer. Elijah was suicidal. Isaiah preached naked. Jonah ran from God. Job went bankrupt. John the Baptist ate bugs. Peter denied Christ. The disciples fell asleep while praying. The Samaritan woman was divorced, more than once. Timothy had an ulcer. And Lazarus was dead!