"There are Damasos in the Church," says Father Robert Reyes, expresses support for Carlos Celdran in opinion piece

At 8:40 p.m. on January 31, 2013, an essay by Father Robert Reyes, more popularly knows as "The Running Priest," titled, "The Pain of Damaso" was posted on the Philippine Online Chronicles.

At 8:40 p.m. on January 31, 2013, an opinion piece by Father Robert Reyes, more popularly knows as "The Running Priest," titled, "The Pain of Damaso" was posted on the Philippine Online Chronicles. In it, he weighs in on the conviction of artist Carlos Celdran and the state of the Church in the Philippines. We are posting his full essay on this page, as it has also been reported on a Tumblr site:


The Pain of Damaso

by Fr. Roberto P. Reyes


Padre Damaso of Noli and Fili fame is a black eye on the face of the Philippine Church, today as well as in Rizal's time. To be a priest and be called Damaso is not pleasant to say the least. Carlos Celdran's creative protest before the altar of the Manila Cathedral against the Church's position on the RH Bill has now earned him the verdict of guilty and a jail sentence of more than a year.

I will not go into the merits of the case, nor prolong the discussion on the RH Bill. I wish to go through the multi-tiered pain represented by the name Damaso.

Is Carlos Celdran in pain? Yes, but not in the way that others may understand. I know him and he is a friend. He is a bona-fide citizen of the Republic of the Philippines. We have shared much about the excesses of the Catholic Church long before he ever thought of his "Damaso act" in the Manila Cathedral. Carlos's pain is that of a Catholic who ask questions and seeks answers but is told instead to shut up and behave himself. While his Damaso act could have been better done outside the cathedral and not inside while an inter-faith gathering was going on, it was his choice for which he was ready to face the consequences.

There is another paradoxical twist to Carlos's pain. His creative protest against the Church's intrusion into the affairs of the state earned the ire of Manila Cathedral rector Msgr. Nestor Cerbo who later filed a case against him. In the meantime, officers of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines forgave Celdran. But now, the courts which are instruments of the state decided to convict and sentence Celdran. While Celdran's Damaso Act defended the state's program on population management, it is the courts of the same state that is putting him behind bars.

Are there real Damasos in the Church? Are they in pain as well?

There are Damasos in the Church but they are not in pain. And this is what prodded Rizal to create the dastardly character of his novels called Padre Damaso.

This painlessness, apathy, and snobbery on the part of some members of the hierarchy and powerful laity of the Catholic Church is not part of the "pain of Damaso" but that which he causes and inflicts upon others.

I cannot look at Carlos Celdran and simply say, "Buti nga," and "you deserve to be jailed" without experiencing conflicting feelings. Some of the Church's leaders are culpable. Some may be guilty and need punishment, and more importantly, reform.

I feel the pain of those alienated by some of the leaders of the Church. Carlos Celdran may be doing us the favor of reminding us of the sins of the past as well as the present. Painful as it may sound, it is not so much Carlos Celdran who is on trial but Padre Damaso once again.

Fr. Roberto P. Reyes
31 January 2013
Juan de Plasencia Franciscan Novitiate
Liliw, Laguna



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