‘Only Jaime Cardinal Sin can answer like Cardinal Sin’
If Jaime Cardinal Sin were alive today, he probably would advise fellow Church leaders to use new methods—even the so-called “jejemon” lingo—to help push their campaign against the reproductive health (RH) bill and teach the “misled” youth about the meaning of freedom.
“What would Cardinal Sin tell us about what is going on in the country now?” said Sin’s protege, Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas, as he marked the 83rd birth anniversary of the late Manila archbishop on Wednesday.
“What would Cardinal Sin do about the situation of the Church and government now? Only Cardinal Sin can answer, for Cardinal Sin and only Cardinal Sin can answer like Cardinal Sin,” Villegas wrote in his reflections.
Villegas on Wednesday joined other Church leaders and government officials in a ceremony renaming E. Rodriguez Street in Mandaluyong City as Jaime Cardinal Sin Street. The street intersects Shaw Boulevard and runs along Villa San Miguel, the residence of the legendary prelate.
Waxing “nostalgic” over the 18 years he served as Sin’s secretary, Villegas tried to guess how Sin would have responded to the various issues facing the Church, like the contentious RH bill and the “blasphemous” art exhibit at the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) that outraged Filipino Catholics early this month.
Knowing Sin, Villegas said, the cardinal would have encouraged the Church to enter the arena of public opinion and explore new ways to connect to the youth, like using the “jejemon vocabulary to make the message of God convincing.”
The bishop was referring to the fancy lingo devised by today’s teeners especially when sending text messages, where a simple greeting like “hello,” for example, gets morphed and mangled into “eOw poOohhzz.”
“I imagine him say: The real battle about the reproductive health bill is not with the legislature where the debates are ongoing and where the voting will be done. The real person to wrestle with is not the President who has sadly called the bill a priority bill,” Villegas said.
“The real battle is in the minds and hearts of the youth,” he said, for they “were being misled by wrong teachings.”
“The youth are like parched dry sponge. In their thirst, they absorb all and retain (these teachings) regardless of the purity of source. I pity our youth. The Church cannot impose its right and authority in this highly pluralistic society,” he added.
Call him ‘Jim’
Jaime Lachica Sin, fondly called “Jim” or “Amie” by relatives, was born on Aug. 31, 1928, in New Washington, Aklan province.
He was the 14th in a brood of 16 children of Sin Puat Co (Juan), a Chinese merchant, and Maima Lachica, who belonged to an illustrious clan in Kalibo.
Sin was ordained a priest in 1954 and became the youngest member of the Vatican’s College of Cardinals when he was made a prince of the Church at age 47. He became archbishop of Manila in March 1974, and was elected president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines three years after.
In February 1986, Sin became a driving force in ousting dictator Ferdinand Marcos when he sounded the clarion call for people to come to Edsa to defend the breakaway military faction led by then Defense Minister Juan Ponce Enrile and Armed Forces Vice Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Fidel Ramos.
In January 2001, he also rallied thousands to Edsa to force then President Joseph Estrada out of office in the face of massive corruption allegations.
Apart from orchestrating two people power uprisings, Sin was a staunch opponent of artificial birth control and Charter change. He died of kidney complications on June 21, 2005, at age 76.
The 1986 Edsa People Power Revolution, in which Sin played a key role, restored freedom in the country, but this “freedom had been abused, terribly abused,” Villegas said.
Referring to the CCP display, in which an installation titled “Poleteismo” by artist Mideo Cruz juxtaposed Christian icons with comic or sexually explicit images, Villegas said: ‘“The blasphemous art exhibits point to a deeper and more alarming issue.”
In the ensuing debate over the artwork, “the irreverent calumny thrown at religious leaders are symptoms of deeper problems.” he said. “It is due to the wrong understanding of freedom and the misplaced primacy that is laid on conscience.”
The controversial piece, which was part of a larger show, drew strong condemnation from Church leaders and lay Catholics, while its defenders maintained that it was a form of free expression protected under the Constitution. The CCP management was eventually forced to close the entire show, citing threats of violence.
For the late cardinal, Villegas said, freedom must be cherished but not raised “to a value more than it deserves … (It) must recognize unchanging truths (and) must not enchain truth.”
“Freedom is not absolute. The limit of freedom is love. The exercise of freedom must make us more loving. If the use of freedom violates the freedom of another, it is licentiousness; it fails to love. That freedom is lewd and obscene,” he said.
Villegas reflected that he lived longer with Sin than with his own parents. “He taught me. He guided me. I knew he cared for me as much as he cared for the millions who belonged to his flock. He knew the meaning of being ready to die to protect his beloved.” With Inquirer Research
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