A tourist guide, dressed as Jose Rizal, the national hero of the Philippines, entered the Manila Cathedral in the middle of a religious service. In the presence of the Apostolic Nuncio, the Cardinal Archbishop of Manila, and the other bishops and clergy, we walks up to the sanctuary with a placard with the name "Damaso" written on it. (Padre Damaso was the name of the notorious friar in Rizal's "Noli me Tangere") He shouted in protest against the Church's stand on the Reproductive Health bill. He was incarcerated for "offending religious feelings."
What really concerns me is that so many people in cyberspace and in media expressed their support for what Celdran did. They did not take offense at the fact that he violated sacred space. What he did was offensive not only because he embarrassed the members of the religious hierarchy present. It was offensive because he did not respect the sanctity of God's temple in which the Blessed Sacrament is in the tabernacle. But many (Catholics included) did not take offense. I could not understand why people would take offense at a pastor's threat to burn the Koran and find the desecration of a religious service in the Cathedral "heroic." In fact, in as much as the followers of Islam are openly against contraceptives, will Mr. Celdran take his protest into a mosque during a Friday worship service - and will he be hailed as "heroic"?
We could not help but see this coming: this religious indifference towards an obvious sacrilege. The faithful have been accustomed to Liturgy that is entertainment. We readily admit dancers and actors in our sanctuary. How could the theatrics of this protester be any different? If the liturgy has deteriorated into entertainment or into an arena to air our political sentiments, people are bound to lose any sense of propriety (to say the least) about liturgical services and sacred places. If our churches look like and function as multipurpose halls, if the tabernacle has lost its prominent place in the churches, then people are bound to treat our temples like ordinary buildings. I am sure that Celdran, in his walking tours of Intramuros, would readily enter San Agustin Church and speak at the top of his voice to his clients but he would be more cautious in entering the Golden Mosque in Quiapo. Surely, he will take off his shoes and speak in a low voice. How strange! And stranger still is the fact that many (Catholics included) would not have sensed the difference. The loss of the sense of the sacred is taking its toll.