The Arrogance of the “Holy”
By Atty. Farah G. Decano
THE arrogance of the “holy” dates back even to the time before Mary Magdalene. The sinners who owned up to their transgressions became punching bags of those who were unable to confront themselves of their own wrongdoings. The seemingly immaculate jeerers spat on the faces of the contrite and threw stones at them. They could not stand the presence of the sorrowful because they were their ugly and monstrous reflection.
This “holier than thou” attitude is still very much with us in the present times. To me, I see either envy or fear in this attitude.
Envy. The mockers exhibit envy, because those who repent and acknowledge their sins and get to pay for them, eventually find liberation from the daily pricks of their conscience.
Fear. Mockers are afraid to confront their own demons by masking their offenses with self-righteous attitude. They shout to the top of their voices when they drumbeat their immaculate purity, their impeccable track record, and their so-called successes. Why? To drown the inner voices that tell them about their own misgivings.
I am reminded of the novel written by Nathaniel Hawthorne, “The Scarlet Letter”. It juxtaposed the internal struggle between one who has confessed and one who has not. In the story, Hester was condemned to wear the letter “A” on her chest for the rest of her life. The purpose was to identify her as an adulteress and publicly shame her up to her last breath. Interestingly, she never revealed the identity of her accomplice in her misdeed. Alone in suffering the humiliation, Hester encountered varied reactions about the letter “A” sown on her clothes: denunciation, curiosity and derisive smirks. Later, Hester grew accustomed to society’s treatment of her and realized that the letter “A” on her chest was her freedom. The other party to the offence however, Pastor Dimmesdale, endured the pain of his secret. Self-flagellation at increasing levels did not ease his conscience. He was a prisoner of his own sin.
Pastor Dimmesdale tried to immerse himself in saintly activities but his efforts to quell his nagging scruples were in vain. While he did, at sometime point, blamed Hester for his interior struggle, the same was not sufficient. Blaming others or making use of others as scapegoat can never solve a conscience cringing in misery. He finally found deliverance from his agony when he publicly confessed to being the father of the fruit of his adultery with Hester.
Jesus Christ taught us how to treat the contrite. He cautioned us that only those who have no taint can throw stones at them. We cannot wear a “holier than thou” attitude with the penitent.
This biblical teaching perhaps applies within the personal realm. How would these holy edicts apply in the reality of politics?
This brings me to mind President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo who publicly declared her apology for her lapse in judgment. She expressed regret for calling up a Comelec Commissioner in order to, allegedly protect her votes. Should not the public condemn her?
Condemn her personal acts committed as President of the Philippines but not her person because no one knows the wrangling in her heart and mind then.
In the personal dimension, the individual is answerable to his/her conscience. In the political dimension, however, the conscience are the people. Leaders are answerable to the people who must not fear exacting accountability as regards their official acts. The people must ensure that their so-called society’s guides are performing their tasks efficiently and effectively.
The people as the collective conscience of the nation may act “holier than thou” as regards their leaders. No one else could perform that function but them.
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