26 July 2006
Image by Mia 2447 (flickr.com/); at the top, she writes 'I wish I were a Catholic for a split second' and at the bottom of the photo she continues, ' so I could go to church here.' In December 1896, 110 years ago, the Philippine national hero Jose Rizal had one last chance to become Roman Catholic again - if he would just prepare and/or sign a retraction letter. Did he or didn't he? I have my own answer now, which I shall give you in a little while but, first, let us examine the retraction letter in its fullness. Here it is, from Gregorio F Zaide's Jose Rizal: Life, Works And Writings (2003: 223):
I declare that I am a Catholic, and in this religion, in which I was born and educated, I wish to live and die.
I retract with all my heart anything in my words, writings, publications and conduct that has been contrary to my character as a child of the Church. I believe and profess what it teaches. I submit to what it demands. I abominate Masonry as an enemy of the Church and as a society prohibited by it.
The Diocesan Prelate, as the superior ecclesiastical authority, may make this manifestation public. I declare this spontaneously, in order to repair any scandal which my acts may have caused and so that God and man may pardon me.
Manila, December 29th, 1896.
That is a beautiful piece of writing if you haven't noticed.
Rizal was born a Catholic; he was raised and educated a Catholic; he lived a Catholic until he went to
‘I retract with all my heart anything ... that has been contrary to ... the Church.’ One of these things would be his extreme ridicule of Catholic practice – by both priest and parishioner, master and slave, friar and Filipino – in the
The disrespect was too much. I do not wonder now why the Catholic Church was vehemently against Claro M Recto’s bill that eventually became the Rizal Law. And the Church was right: Having studied the Noli all these years, we have taken for granted that what the Noli paints about Catholicism is all that needs be said about Catholicism: a painting is worth a thousand words; a book is worth a thousand paintings. Why, in 1887 right after the book came out in March, even Rizal’s friends complained that Rizal could have painted the positive side of the natives instead of the negative, which was what everybody else have been painting all along. I would have written Rizal a stinging letter myself!
Oh, I am a Catholic and in this religion in which I was born and educated I wish to live and die. We had religion class in high school; in college, at the University of the
Rizal retracted because he believed it was right, finally! For his family, for his friends, for himself. I understand he said to one of the priests who accompanied him on his personal death march: ‘My pride was my downfall.’ And at the very end, what did he shout? ‘Consummatum est!’ It is finished! The pieces of the jigsaw puzzle fit perfectly.