Commentary

‘Ostya-gate’ and the Atenean faith: What’s the big deal? Here it is

Choose your path if you don’t think Catholicism is so hot, but don’t mess it up for those of us who have already made a choice

Ateneo de Manila announcement shared on social media

“IF you’re in a Catholic school, you have to respect the symbols of your faith. If you don’t want to, go somewhere else where religion is not on the curriculum.

Sorry, but that Ateneo high schooler should be expelled—not because he played with the host, but because he obviously doesn’t get it. And no, it was not a cute review, so it was so not worth the trouble.

Then again, sorry, but it must be asked: Who modeled this kind of disrespect?”

I had posted the above on Facebook recently after learning about that incident where a 17-year-old (read: not a baby) Ateneo high school student filched a consecrated host and posted a food review of it on social media. The result was a letter from the Ateneo de Manila University administration, outlining how Masses had to be suspended as the community did penance, as it were, for the sacrilegious act. An entire institution scrambled to atone for the stupidity of a clueless, attention-hungry kid on its premises, who probably thought he was being cute.

News flash: It was a lackluster, witless review, so not even worth the risk. So not cute. Even if the event has now been wittily labeled “Ostya-gate” by some media outlets.

I still believe the kid should be expelled, really, especially since he reportedly apologized through his nose, like he was saying, “Lighten up, what’s the big deal?”

You know how you’d feel if somebody had the audacity to hack into your precious social media?

This is the big deal, kid: Sacrilege (if you know how to spell the word) is a bad thing. You know how you would feel if somebody had the audacity to hack into your precious social media accounts and mess them up? Well, it’s a thousand times more awful than that, whether you believe it or not. As my friend posted in response to the above, “Faith is not an app.”

Interestingly, though, I was at an extended lunch recently with some of my dearest friends in the world. One of them, a mother and staunch Catholic, supported the expulsion idea, because there are rules. Another, however, also a Catholic and a mother, made the argument that all teenagers pass through a jaded, I-don’t-give-a-sh-t stage; some even consider it hip to be agnostic, or to not be a big fan of God, which she worries about in her only child. Not expulsion, though, she insisted, because that would definitely destroy a kid’s life.

I countered with a couple more considerations: one, did he apologize, sincerely? And two, has he done something this stupid before? My idea of a compromise: At the very least, flunk him for one year. He gets pulled out of his peer group and has to stay longer in school, and his parents (to the extent of their responsibility) are forced to shell out another year’s worth of tuition fees.

As a caveat, I am expressing my opinion here; writers have already written volumes saying they are not claiming moral superiority (then proceed to tell Catholics how awful we are, he he). What gets me, however, is people saying, why gang up on the boy when the Catholic Church itself sucks and tolerates so many more anomalies? You know: Why penalize the corrupt cop when the police chief is stealing luxury cars? That’s the most common argument for letting kids get away with murder: because their elders/superiors/teachers do it naman, eh.

Also, another news flash: Catholics DON’T have to stay Catholic if they don’t want to. It’s a choice; yes, despite the pedophilia and the Crusades and the Vatican rat line (how Pope Pius XII helped Nazis escape to South America after the war—yup, look it up), I choose to stay a Catholic (emphasis on the “I”). That’s not because of how my parents and schools (including the Ateneo) conditioned me, but because I have had too much of a positive experience in my life of my religion to change it, or to stop believing in a loving power beyond myself—in my case, a.k.a. Jesus Christ.

And then there’s my final question: Is he following any role models? Do his parents not care (not quite a fair question, because even the best parents can have problem kids)? Should Ateneo religion teachers wonder if they’re missing something? Then again, many Ateneans have grown up with a deep abiding faith in God; others have joined corrupt governments, and made a lot of money while others suffered. (Fore!)

It’s never too early to teach kids that, really, it is most definitely NOT all about you

The heartbreaking part is not that the aspiring food critic broke a bunch of rules; I never even knew about these huge atonement measures undertaken by Ateneo because of the sacrilege. It’s the fact that this boy doesn’t get it. After all these years in a Catholic school, he neither understands nor values his supposed faith. Does he pray (well, maybe now he’s praying)? Does he understand what the upcoming Passion of Christ is really all about? Most important, does he understand the role of God’s love in his life, regardless of what Canon Law etc. etc. says? If not, then stop pretending.

I’m not being judgmental; I have Buddhist and Hindu and Muslim friends, so that’s not an option. Choose your path if you don’t think Catholicism is so hot, but don’t stay against your will and mess it up for those of us who have already made a choice.

So what happens if he gets away with a finger wag and a slap on the wrist? Then he’ll think he can get away with it, and it will take a bigger personal crisis—a full-blown tragedy in his own life—for him to think about his faith and the validity of the whole “blah-blah” (hypothetically quoting him) about being an Atenean Man for Others, Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam, Magis, and all. They’re just big words to him, maybe, but for other boys, they have come to mean so much more, something uplifting, something faith-based. And many of these kids, I know, are still in high school—so it can be done.

It’s never too early to teach kids that, really, it is most definitely NOT all about you.

About author

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She is a writer, editor, breast cancer and depression survivor, environmental advocate, dog mother to three asPins, Iyengar yoga instructor and BTS Army Tita. She edits part-time for a broadsheet, but is headed towards a full-time vocation as an online English writing coach and grammar nazi.

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