PGTW: Stop Taking Those Selfies…

POP GOES THE WORLD By Jenny Ortuoste for Manila Standard-Today, 26 September 2013, Thursday

Stop Taking Those Selfies…

…or you’ll go to hell, you horrible self-centered people.

Short of saying that, Roman Catholic Bishop Emeritus Teodoro Bacani said in a homily to 2,000 parishioners a few days ago that people are becoming increasingly “…selfish, this is what we need to do away with,” decrying the attitude focused on “I, me, myself [like] those who keep on taking selfie photos.”

Stretching a metaphor, he said the world, is about “picture-taking and not picture-giving,” meaning that people “are in dire need of God.”

He probably does not take any photos of his own, otherwise he’d know that people generally take pictures not only for themselves but to share with others.

The bishop also in effect warned that this ‘selfishness’ could lead to the creation of a negative personality that would commit criminal acts, saying “If by any chance, you don’t take pictures [of] yourself, you take from the pork barrel instead.”

This ridiculous non-sequitur reminds me of that dark time when the dictator Marcos banned Voltes V and other mecha anime shows because they would lead to violence among children, an unproven assumption that falls apart considering that those shows were watched by people of our generation, who are none the worse and are in fact now productive members of society.

Bishop Bacani also appealed to the public to spend less time watching television dramas and more time on their knees. “Let’s shorten our telenovela time a bit, just 15 minutes. Let’s use the 15 minutes to pray the rosary in our homes.”

A telenovela is thirty minutes long. How can you watch just half of that? You’d never find out the latest with Lally and Vincent or the pang-aapi of Chichay by Joaquin. Unless, of course, the good bishop would permit us to pray the rosary while we’re watching the other half of the show.

You’d think the Catholic Church in the Philippines, or this particular bishop at least, didn’t get the memo from Rome about “small-minded rules” and the counter-productive rigidity that is alienating people from the church.

In a landmark interview last month, Pope Francis said he realized that “eventually people get tired of authoritarianism…I say these things from life experience…”

He warned against intolerance, saying, “the thing the church needs most today is the ability to heal wounds and to warm the hearts of the faithful…the church sometimes has locked itself up in small things, in small-minded rules….And the ministers of the church must be ministers of mercy above all.”

People could be doing worse things than taking selfies. Look at it as documentation of one’s day – a diary of sorts, in images rather than words. Even famous people take selfies. The most recent celebrities who’ve done so are the two mega-Bills, Gates and Clinton, who posted a photo of themselves together on Twitter last September 24.

Pope Francis himself has been in a selfie. That photo, taken last August with a group of young Italian people who had visited him on a pilgrimage, went viral on the Internet. A report on says, “The Pope told the young crowd he wanted to meet with them “for selfish reasons…because you have in your heart a promise of hope.”

(Even the Pope admits to being “selfish” about his desire to connect with the youth.)

He went on to tell them, “You are bearers of hope. You, in fact, live in the present, but are looking at the future…Make the future with beauty, with goodness and truth… Have courage. Go forward. Make noise.”

The Pope knows full well that young people will be using the tools of today to “make the future.” Can’t the local clergy see that? Or are they still stuck in the same medieval mindset Jose Rizal lambasted in his novels of a century ago?

Lest we make mountains of molehills, Bishop Bacani was merely denouncing the evils of selfishness. However, the examples he chose failed to make his point.

Rather than micro-managing our downtime, the church should concern itself with more important things, such as ministering to not only the spiritual but also the physical needs of the families in Zamboanga displaced by the ongoing conflict there. A five-year-old has been raped in one of the evacuation centers. Has the church a reaction to that?

Watching TV dramas in their entirety and taking selfies are small things. Intolerance, narrow-mindedness, and lack of mercy – these are aspects of selfishness that Bishop Bacani should warn against, as the Pope himself is doing.  ***

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