By Marwil Llasos as posted on his blog.
Inquirer columnist Conrado de Quiros opens his column with a sound bite from Cebu Archbishop Jose Palma, “If we fight against the RH bill, we will make Mama Mary happy.” Then he pounced upon the Cebu Archbishop and incoming CBCP President, “Palma may not know it, but he has just produced one of the richest ironies of late.” To de Quiros’ mind, yes. But not to faithful Catholics who comprise the majority in this country.
De Quiros proceeded to answer his own question: “Who was Mary, the mother of Jesus Christ?” He noted how Mary is depicted today as “white Anglo-Saxon.” This betrays the columnist’s limited worldview on Marian iconography. De Quiros must have forgotten that closer to home, Nuestra Señora de la Paz y Buenviaje in Antipolo is a brown virgin and far from the “white Anglo Saxon” depiction that De Quiros claims Mary is depicted today. De Quiros is oblivious of the Morenita of Guadalupe who is depicted, well, with Indian and not white Anglo-Saxon features. I can go on to list depictions of the Blessed Virgin Mary that are not white Anglo-Saxon but with rather ethnic or native features (La Vang, Akita, Kibeho, etc.).
The Inquirer columnist observes that “[o]ccasionally, you see a more Pinoy version of the Madonna and Child in paintings, that of a brown-skinned and gusgusin mother and child (ah, but artists have always been the boy who can see through the emperor’s new clothes). And occasionally you see belens that have the same brown-skinned, if not gusgusin, version of the Madonna and Child. But so only occasionally.” But brown-skinned Madonnas are not alien to Filipino piety. They been with us since the Spanish times. Guadalupe is brown and so is the Antipolo. In Bicol, the Peñafrancia and the Salvacion are brown virgins. Yes, we have black Madonnas, too. Piat in Cagayan, Guadalupe in Loboc. Not to forget the oldest Marian image in the Philippines, De Guia.
De Quiros notes that what we generally see in churches is a Mary clad in white, grasping a rosary with hands that have never seen a day’s work. But what about the other depictions of Mary I pointed? De Quiros must have only seen the images of Our Lady of Fatima or Our Lady of Lourdes. But these are depictions of Mary in her eschatological lot. What De Quiros does not realize is that Marian iconography is not about portraits or actual pictures of how Mary looked like in Palestine 2000 years ago. Iconography is intended primarily to convey theological truth.
Then De Quiros pontificates that Mary represents the Filipino woman in far more ways than the Catholic Church has been able to fathom. The implication is that only De Quiros is able to fathom that truth.
Conrado De Quiros is correct that the term “Mama Mary” signifies a mother. He is correct. Mary is first and foremost a mother. It is in being a mother that the glory of Mary lies. Motherhood is a precious gift of God that contraception thwarts. Then De Quiros, with an air of infallibility, declares that “’Mama Mary’ already invests Mary with a rich or middle-class provenance. The wife of a karpintero is not called “Mama” by her brood, she is called “Inay.” I wonder what is the source of De Quiros’ ex cathedra declaration that the wife of karpinteros is not called “Mama” but “Inay” by her children. I have neighbors who are carpenters and their children call their mothers “Mama.” De Quiros is clearly generalizing.
So what if we call Mary “Mama Mary”? “Mama” is a more universal term of endearment used for mothers and by calling Mary such title underscores her universal motherhood. Mary is not just the mother of the poor but also of the middle class and the rich. She is the mother of us all. By insinuating that since “Mama Mary” is of rich or middle class provenance, hence, not appropriate for the poor, De Quiros is seems to involve Mary in a class struggle. That smacks of Marxism to me.
The Catholic Church refers to Mary as the Virgin Mary and we do take is as a matter of faith. And we take it, as what God’s Word teaches us, that the Holy Spirit had a hand in Mary’s pregnancy (Lk. 1:35). We don’t force this belief on De Quiros – he is free to reject it. It is obvious that De Quiros does not believe the clear teaching of Scripture. Fine. But he should not disparage those who do.
In stating that “it is inconceivable that Joseph and Mary did not have normal physical relations before and after the birth of Christ,” Conrado de Quiros has just taken the ranks of heretics like Helvidius. Here, De Quiros clearly embraces Helvidian heresy, the denial of the perpetual virginity of Mary. The Inquirer columnist justifies his heretical belief by stating that “[a]s far as I know, the instructions of the angel who came to visit Mary did not include a ban on sex, or stipulated that she marry Joseph to keep up a front. The marriage was for real.” What is his basis? His private interpretation of Scripture. Let’s chop to bits and pieces De Quiros’ “exegesis.”
De Quiros says that the “instructions of the angel who came to visit Mary did not include a ban on sex.” And who says it does? The Gospel account is about God’s invitation to Mary to be the mother of the Messiah. The angel tells her how her motherhood would come about, without the agency of a man. The angel was not imposing a ban on sex to Mary. There was no need to as it is clear in the passage that Mary was a virgin and determined to remain so as expressed in her question, “How can this be since I do not know man?”
Conrado de Quiros goes on to state that the angel’s instruction did not stipulate “that she marry Joseph to keep up a front. The marriage was for real.” The Catholic Church does not teach, in fact it condemns, the heretical notion that the marriage of Mary and Joseph was not real. Obviously, De Quiros’ grasp on Catholic teaching and theology is nil.
De Quiros is correct that Mary was the mother of a single child. Yet, his reason why it is so is absurd. He avers that “[t]he faithful will say that was because God caused Mary—or Joseph—to be barren afterward.” Who are these faithful who say that? The truth of the matter is no Catholic faithful will ever say such thing for the simple reason that the Catholic Church never teaches that God caused Mary or Joseph to be barren! Just what is De Quiros’ source for Catholic teaching?
Another thing. God did not order Mary to be chaste. She already was. And how could Joseph’s fate be worse than Job or anybody else since he was privileged to be the foster-father of the Son of God? De Quiros’ assumption of course is that sex is all that it takes in this life. Joseph, as true husband to Mary, has rights over Mary but that does not mean that he exercised it.
De Quiros comments that “[t]he faithless, or downright sacrilegious, will say that was because they practiced family planning.” I wonder who are these faithless or downrightly sacrilegious people De Quiros is referring to.
Conrado de Quiros categorizes Mary as dirt-poor. Poor, yes. Dirt-poor, no. How else could Mary ever have the luxury of a donkey in going to Bethlehem from Nazareth and from Bethlehem to Egypt and back to Nazareth? A dirt-poor woman could not afford a donkey. And Joseph, too, was not dirt-poor as he was a “tekton,” an artisan – some sort of a skilled worker with a steady income. Clearly, De Quiros’ command of Biblical studies is simply bereft.
Then here’s the rub. De Quiros stated that “[o]nly in the end for Mary to see the same son arrested by the authorities for being a troublemaker. Only in the end for Mary to see their friends, their neighbors, and their entire community rise against him. Only in the end for Mary to see him nailed to the cross like a common criminal. Maybe Mary had the profoundest of faith and was convinced her son, though of her loins was not of this world, but she was a mother, too. And what mother would not have wept at the sight of her son’s agony? And what mother would not have wished things had been different and her son had met with another fate?” Oh, so De Quiros would rather that Mary should not have consented to have a son in the first place. If Mary had the same thinking as De Quiros, the Savior would have not been born.
And then De Quiros asks, “Why should a proposal for the poor to breed children beyond their ability to raise them make Mary happy?” His question assumes that the Church teaches and encourages the poor to breed children beyond their ability to raise them. That is a false assumption. The Church also teaches responsible parenthood but insists on natural family planning to achieve it. De Quiros did not point out the fact that the Church differs only in the means and not on the end of responsible parenthood.
De Quiros argues that a decent life is impossible in a huge family which, in the urban slums in particular, dooms many of the girls to a life of prostitution and the boys to a life of crime. Prostitution and criminality are not attributable to big families alone. The government, too, has a big role to play in this regard.
It would also seem that to De Quiros that the poor do not have the right to have children. Thus, if we are to follow De Quiros’ logic, the poor should be sterilized so that they can no longer procreate. This is most welcome in a Nazi regime.
De Quiros further posits that “[c]ontraception is not abortion, where you can argue for an “unborn child.” He forgets that abortion is a back-up to contraception and most contraceptives, like morning after pills and IUD are abortifacients. Conception occurs at fertilization and these contraceptives (pills, IUD) prevents implantation of a fertilized ovum thus killing it.
Then De Quiros says “[u]nless you want to propose that couples never express their love for each other intimately unless they are willing to risk having another mouth to feed, even if they are not prepared to feed it.” I wonder who is suggesting that to De Quiros. Definitely not the Catholic Church. Couples are free to intimately express their love for each other, by all means. Yet, if they partake of the pleasure, they too must accept the consequences. If they can’t risk another mouth to feed, then they should abstain from intimacies or otherwise avail of natural family planning.
As expected, Conrado de Quiros ends his column by scoring the bishops and taking them to task for their position against the RH Bill. In essence, he wants the bishop to stop their opposition against the RH Bill because one of them asked for an SUV on his birthday. That’s clearly a non sequitor and an ad hominem attack. In melodramatic fashion, De Quiros decries how one bishop who asked for an SUV during his birthday led to the “grabbing the food that should go to the mouths of hungry street kids, seizing the medicine that should go to the bodies of infants afflicted with dengue, putting on hold the classroom that should go to enlighten the benighted.” After shedding crocodile tears for the plight of the poor as if he is the only one concerned about them, De Quiros generalized, “[i]f the bishops would just show a little more concern for the living…” Of course the bishops are concerned for the living. They run charities and social action programs that Conrado de Quiros vaguely know about. What about De Quiros? What has he done so far to help the poor?
We may also ask him back if condoms can be eaten by the hungry street kids, or pills could go to the bodies of infants afflicted with dengue, or sex education will improve the quality of education in the classrooms that should enlighten the benighted. Madre de Dios!
About the Author: MARWIL N. LLASOS, O.P. is a commissioned lay preacher, Catholic apologist and Mariologist. He is a member of the COMPANY OF ST. DOMINIC, a Dominican secular institute of consecrated life in the Archdiocese of Manila where he serves as Council Member and Formator. As Formator of the Company of St. Dominic, Bro. Mars is a member of the DOMINICAN FORMATORS CONFERENCE OF THE PHILIPPINES (DFCP). A Marian devotee and knight of Mary, he is an active member various Marian groups and organizations in the Philippines and abroad. A sought-after speaker and preacher, Bro. Mars extensively lectures on Mariology, Marian Apologetics and Marian Spirituality in different parishes, Marian groups and organizations in the country. As Catholic apologist, Bro. Mars is an Associate Member and Resource Person of DEFENSORES FIDEI FOUNDATION.