Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Fatal Attractions

“So how do you assess your situation?” the elderly priest asked the teenager.

“What do you mean, Father,” she said, quite puzzled at the unexpected question of the priest.

“I mean,” the priest cleared his throat and started explaining, “after everything you’ve said about yourself and your struggles, shouldn’t you make personal assessment regarding how you are as God’s daughter, as a daughter of your parents and as a friend of your classmates.”

“Well, I guess…,” she rolled her eyes finding it hard to find the right words. “Well…, ah…, I guess all these tell me that I’m gay,” she shrugged her shoulders and sighed with relief for letting out something weighing her down.

“Why do you say so?” the priest gave her an understanding look.

“…I suppose it’s because I’m attracted to girls?” she responded.

“Are you affirming that or are you asking me to answer that for you?”

“I’m sorry, Father,” she giggled. The priest was happy to see that she was more relaxed and trusting now. “No, I mean, I’m gay because I’m attracted to the same sex.”

“And how is something so humanly natural as being attracted supposed to be defining of one’s sexual orientation or shall we say, confusion since the ‘gay option’ isn’t a choice that resolves one’s psychological-emotional turmoil?”

“But… I thought…,” her face revealed a rather new expression of interest, of hope.

“Yes, it means that it’s pretty unfair and unfortunate to let our natural attractions be some sort of definitive identification stamp for many of our richest human experiences. It’s like entering a hall of mirrors in a carnival where one sees his image transformed in various ways and comes out with the distorted image remaining in him.”

“Do you mean attraction isn’t bad, Father?”

“Of course not! Everyone, especially during his or her adolescence may feel certain indeterminate affections that make one feel attracted to the same sex.”

“Indeterminate?” she asked.

“That means an unsure or unclear emotional experience. It’s only natural for us to be attracted. Man’s attraction is always inclined towards what is good. The problem stems in confusing or defining such attractions towards persons in a sexual way. This happens when one’s attraction becomes an obsession which may then lead to sexual desires.”

“I think I’m beginning to understand…,” she said listening more intently.

“This experience, which shouldn’t really be problematic, can become one when it results with fear in the person. In this confusion, he may conclude that it is something abnormal or even sinful. He becomes reluctant to ask his parents for advice, afraid to be misunderstood in something hard to express. Moreover, the condition is compounded when his ‘tendency’ is confirmed by a host of available sources found in peers, readings and social networks over the Internet. All these invite the confused person into the bandwagon of homosexuality.
“You mean, false homosexuality, Father?”

“Precisely! It is false because one is led to misread his attraction towards noble human qualities in another person, such as talents in sports, arts, academics and even in virtues like loyalty and diligence.”

“I now understand you perfectly, Father,” the girl said quite enlightened. “But what should I do now to gradually reshape and form my attraction and emotions in order to avoid their deforming me?”

“Before anything else, they don’t distort us. Rather, it is applying our wrong interpretation of them to ourselves that mold us in a distorted fashion. In order to properly address these tendencies, one has to pray about these God-given feelings and ask the Lord for purity of heart and intention. This way, one is more aware of them, to channel them properly and turn them into something positive.”


“Yup. For example, instead of simply getting lost in such fatal attractions, one can thank God for having given good things to others. We can also be thankful about our own talents and share them with others, etc.”

“I think that’s a pretty good advice that I will try to practice,” she said.

“Then, couple this with frequent confession and spiritual guidance. Thus, one is helped to deepen his convictions in purity, magnanimity and generosity of the heart.”

“I’ll take note of them in our next chat, Father,” she smiled.

“Of course, it is also good to enrich and increase your social dealings. Widen the base of your friends, with boys and girls. Discern what is positive in each one and what good you can share in your friendship with them.”

“…but, like you said, Father, it would mean my being a good friend of Jesus first,” she concluded.
“Well, I guess so. Everything definitely boils down to that. Amen.” the priest said.

*Helpful sources on this topic.

Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Declaration on the Human Person, regarding certain questions in sexual ethics, and Letter regarding the pastoral attention of homosexuals, 1-X-1986.

Gerard van den Aardweg, Battle for Normality: A Guide for Self-Therapy for Homosexuality, IGNATIUS PRESS SAN FRANCISCO, PHILIPPINE COPYRIGHT, 1998 by Ignatius Press, First Year of Publication, 1993, Reprinted in the Philippines by National Book Store, Inc. by Special Agreement with Ignatius Press" in collaboration with Theological Centrum (Manila)
Jutta Burggraf Letter to David, Understanding and Helpingthe Male Homosexual, Originally published as Cartas a David Acerca de la Homosexualidad, © Ediciones Palabra, S.A.

Sunday, August 16, 2009


“Father, is scandal a sin?” Philip, a third-grade student, asked.

“Why do you ask?” I inquired further to know how to properly respond to his unexpected question.

“Oh, just wonderin’ ‘coz mum said I shouldn’t ask her scandalous questions,” he shrugged his shoulders.

“Questions? Like what, Philip?”

“Like, I asked what ‘virgin’ means ‘coz my other classmates mentioned it,” he looked at me confidently hoping I could give him some answers.

“Really? What did mum say?”

“She said sumthin’ ‘bout the Virgin Mary and...,”

“But what do you and your friends understand by virgin, Philip?” I interrupted him.

“Father,” he gave me a wide cute smile that revealed his two missing front teeth, “does it mean never been kissed before?”

Philip is amusingly just beginning to acquaint himself with some of life’s moral realities. It is, however, so timely to once again remind ourselves about the important moral principles regarding scandal. This is especially true in our days when the illness of moral relativism leads many to disregard the causes and grave consequences of a scandal. Moreover, this subjective outlook is making something distastefully sinful into something disgustingly fashionable.

The Greeks called skandalon an object (e.g. a rock or log) intentionally placed in someone else’s path in order to trip him or block his way. Latin takes from the Greek and defines scandalum in the moral sense of a “trap” or “temptation” laid for someone. Present times have somewhat watered down these ideas by focusing more on the public outrage or disapproval towards a misconduct of person.

God created man in His image and likeness. This is the source of every person’s dignity. This is why Jesus strongly denounced scandal as a grave sin. In Mathew’s Gospel, He taught that whoever causes a scandal –especially when it corrupts the young and innocent– should have “a great millstone fastened round his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.”

The Catechism of the Catholic Church includes scandal under the offenses against the Fifth Commandment. It is “an attitude or behaviour which leads another to do evil. The person who gives scandal becomes his neighbour’s tempter... Scandal is a grave offense if by deed or omission another is deliberately led into a grave offense.” (Catechism no. 2264)

The malice of a scandal isn’t something confined only to the moment of damaging a person’s spiritual integrity. By committing a scandal, one can “kill or harm” his neighbour’s soul by leading him to either die or be wounded by sin. It also can deform the person’s conscience and weaken his capacity to reject future temptations.

These principles uphold the right every person has to treasure his or her personal integrity and dignity. This also includes people who may be responsible for or involved in the scandal itself when their humiliating acts are unjustly and viciously revealed or published without their prior consent.

Today, however, the confusion brought about by moral relativism has made such lamentable events rather trendy: this could be called iScandals. This are personalized and intentionally marketed scandals for the public to rabidly consume. Hosts of iScandals “earn”, so to speak, their daily bread through their sensual movie scenes, coloured green talk shows, and vulgar radio interviews and gossips.

I personally find the outrage of those involved in iScandals bizarre –at least only at the beginning– because I wonder what difference there is between what they scandalously project in their public performances (i.e. their immodest films, indecent dances, poor songs and green jokes) and their hidden scandalous acts. Obviously, it would be that they too have a right to be respected in their privacy and intimacy.

Later on, as though nothing ever happened, they continue to scandalize the public. Their prior sentiments of anger and shame –definitely genuine feelings for being unjustly betrayed and used– fade and are converted into tolerance. Anyway, it seems their past exposé has helped them to gain more media mileage.

The reaction of public authorities was likewise inconsistent. They had to wait for something big before they “seriously” try to implement –at least on paper– laws and regulations penalizing the reproduction and sale of such “sex scandals”. But they seem to continue to overlook the constant flow scandals in the form of adult films shown in many family centers, the indecent billboards that litter our streets and buildings, the many T.V. and radio ads. These are totally demeaning of family and social values.

We, as citizens are also partly indifferent, because our sympathy for the “victims” only reaches the level of the sentiments. We are never too determined to make our respective communities more decent and modest society. This occurs when we continue to support, tolerate and not complain against the vicious intrusions of promoters of “daily” iScandals who abuse the intimacy of our family and social circles by portraying a bastardized image of human love, the marriage and friendships in their movies, advertisements, radio shows and interviews.

Let us bring these present “scandalous” events to prayer and personal examination. The smallest resolutions can already bring about the biggest conversions in our families and society. For example, our resolve not to watch certain noontime programs and shows. This also means not supporting the advertisers and sponsors of such shows. We can also complain in a short letter to editors and publishers about the inconvenient things they publish. We can refrain from buying the products and merchandise of fashion lines and beverages who have no other “method” than to sell their products at the expense of personal decency and integrity.

Through these and many similar examples we become, iPerson or one who upholds and lives according to the dignity of being children of God.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

“Smoking No, Sex Yes!”

Last July 1, 2008 marked a victorious milestone for anti-smoking advocates. On that day, the Tobacco Regulation Act of 2003, or Republic Act No. 9211 banned cigarette ads on television, radio and print in our country.

This significant legislation seeks to radically arrest the health risks that smoking brings to many especially the youth. The World Health Organization estimates that there are about 80,000 to 100,000 young people, half of which are from Asia, who pick up the habit every day. And many are strongly influence by cigarette advertisements.

Cigarette manufacturers will have to be more creative and entrepreneurial in finding ways to advertise and sell cigarettes. They have come a long way since the Second World War, –through carefully studied and manipulated marketing–, in converting smoking into something socially acceptable and a status symbol for successful men and women. Now all their efforts are going up in smoke!

Many parents will be more than overjoyed to say goodbye to the scenic and breathtaking ads of Marlboro Country and the enticing sportive worlds of Winston Cigarettes and Philip Morris.
Elders can now sit back and relax as another harmful influence is removed from their children’s path towards physical and psychological growth. Indeed, it would be a consolation to think of a new generation of children who will be fortunate enough to be born and raised in a smoke and nicotine-free world.

Still something seems amiss! As the smoke is cleared and the tar is brushed away, society seems to be unaware –or even indifferent in some public sectors– of the vicious and shameless invasion of indecency and immorality seething through both subtle and glaring modes through many billboards, advertisements, newspapers and magazines.

Imagine overhearing parents –coming out of a movie or after seeing an ad on T.V. and magazines– saying: “That was a great show! No one was smoking!” On the other hand how strange it would be for them to say, “The kissing and necking were really so romantic!” or “The bed scene was so realistic!” and worse, “Kids, don’t you think the young lady acted quite naturally wearing nothing?” If you think these reactions are only imaginary, you can think again.
It won’t be long before they become a reality in the form of increasing subtle attacks against the family’s intimacy and values.

For example, are we going to keep on guessing what GUESS conveys with its children’s fashion frequently displayed back-to-back with an adult counterpart? Are they saying they want to ‘start ‘em young’? Do you think that MOSSIMO, FOLDED & HUNG or BENCH are simply going to warm the benches by copying GUESS? Nope, they’re not. It’s all about competition, even to the point of playing ‘hard-ball’ with their soft-erotic billboards. Were you hoping that some Filipino teen idol or heartthrob could be our children’s model or heroine? Think again! Heroes never really get paid for being movie heroes until they start to publicly display the skin underneath the costume.

All these audio-visual moral garbage are polluting every inch of intimacy in our personal, social and religious spheres. Perhaps, advertisers and producers hope that the faint but intense bombardment of such type of ads and trends will gradually paralyze and eventually ruin the person’s moral defenses and remove from his vocabulary words like modesty and decency. These well crafted sensual ads and messages are among the many causes of today’s moral and social cancers degrading the dignity of the family and the youth.

In order turn around the red tide of indecency invading our society, parents, educators and children must first overcome the great obstacle of indifference. We cannot simply remain silent and wait for “what the Church has to say” or “what the authorities will do”.

We must strive to be the moral catalysts within our respective social spheres where we may exercise a certain amount of authority or influence (i.e. clubs, organizations, committees, etc.). This can positively begin at home, where we sow the proper ingredients of decency, modesty, sincerity and diligence. Our approach must be productive, for example, fostering the good use of time, having a sense of service, and helping kids to be sincere and loyal.

Afterwards, we have to study possibilities on how to extend our influence from the family towards broader social circles (i.e. school, office, malls and recreational centers). This can be done by writing letters to the board of directors, marketing heads, and even complaining to the local authorities so that the dignity of the person and the family are respected and promoted in every social level.

Finally, our concern must be constant and optimistic. Our efforts aren’t really meant to totally remove immoral pollutants from our world –since the devil, the world and the flesh will always attempt to lure man away from God– but it would already be a great victory for our children to develop the strength to say “no” to temptation and sin, and “yes” to loving God and neighbor more.