By ABRAHAM V. LLERA
May 24, 2016
I don’t know how the incessant attacks by Rodrigo Roa Duterte will play out, but of one thing I’m certain: he will miserably fail if it’s the destruction of the Church he is after.
From the word go, the Catholic Church has been buffeted by tempests of all kinds from all sorts. Heretics from her own ranks from the infamous Arius to various Roman emperors messed up with her.
Paradoxically, it was the best Roman emperors who were also her worst persecutors: Trajan, Marcus Aurelius, Septimus Severus, and Decius, not counting the madmen Nero and Domitian.
And it was brilliant theologians who were a constant thorn on the side of the early Church: Arius, Eusebius, Nestorius.
But the Church triumphed. Today, the faithful numbered 1.2 billion. She is in more countries than ever, united in an uncontested and popular hierarchy, proclaiming the Good News to all corners of the world.
Duterte will deal the local Church a serious blow. Count on the Devil to know precisely where to squeeze where it will hurt most. In this particular case, it is pitting Duterte against the Church, and putting the considerable resources of the government behind Duterte.
But Duterte will fail, even if he initially succeeds in his attacks against the Church. And Duterte, his rah rah boys, and his Duterte government will find out like Julian the Apostate did how the Church always triumphs in the end.
For readers who have not come across the name before, Julian the Apostate was a Roman emperor shortly after Constantine the Great, his uncle who ended the Roman persecution of the early Christians by allowing their religion alongside others.
Raised a Christian, Julian the Apostate was a pagan at heart, and early on in his short eighteen-year reign brought back the persecution. But he was wounded in battle against the Sassanid army in June 363, from the hands of one of his soldiers according to the historian Libianus.
His physician Oribasius of Pergamum fought to treat his slashed liver and suture his damaged intestines to no avail. Julian the Apostate died, supposedly gasping “Vicisti, Galilaee,” “Thou hast triumphed, Galilaeen” with his last breath.
I don’t know how this Duterte episode in the life of the Church will play out. Like everywhere else that contraception, abortion, same-sex unions, fornication, and euthanasia have been made a state religion, we might probably see a Philippines reel under the moral devastation wrought by the general loosening of morals and the pouring out the contents of Pandora’s box: pornography, divorce, same-sex unions, emptying of churches, making illegal the display of crucifixes, abortion, euthanasia, rape, and drugs.
But the Church will emerge triumphant from this somehow.
Of that I’m certain. I can only hope it will not be at the cost of Duterte’s soul.