When SOGIE Equality Bill Finds an Ally in a Catholic Activist Nun

Posted by Alvin John Ballares | Posted on September 12, 2019
Sister Mary John Mananzan, a Catholic nun running an all-girls school

You’re not mistaken; this post is by me, among all people, a secular Humanist. In case you missed it, I don’t believe in any god, not anymore. I believe in humans and their instinct to do what is good and right based on lessons passed on by our ancestors from 6 million years ago. But like many Filipinos, I had Catholic education from the most well known religious orders — from Ordo Praedicatorum (OP) and Ordo Sancti Benedicti (OSB) to Missionarium Saletiniensis (MS). The Bible was a textbook for kids like me who had to pass the Christian Living Education subject year after year. But my musing isn’t about my premium education. This isn’t about my unbaptism either. This is about a nun speaking up for a minority who has been long denied voice.

WHO IS SISTER MARY JOHN?

Sister Mary John follows the old, monastic Rule of Saint Benedict of Nursia, founder of the order that established San Beda University in Manila where I did much of my primary studies. She is a feminist activist nun who participated in the 1986 People Power Revolution, and was one of many resource persons invited to the recent hearing on the SOGIE Equality Bill. Her understanding of a bill that many fundamentalists contest doesn’t come as a shock to Bedans like me. We know the Benedictine way of life to be full of sense of community, dedication to peace, and tradition of prayer and work. Unlike other religious orders that see institutionalism as a formula, OSB adopts a moderate path that values individual zeal as much as human relationships.

TRAINING AND ACCEPTANCE

Keeping open to all grade school students of the University, my teachers had hoped for nothing but the best for my individuality and autonomy. It is how I developed the need to contemplate on my life, appreciate my own uniqueness, and move in the service of others. My high regard for political democracy and dignified manual labor has been influenced by Bedan education as well. I recall my female teachers expressing love and support for my early homosexuality at age 11, and the Black Monks embracing a young gay boy like me when I opened up about my circumstances. Because of their unconditional concern for my well being, I’ve found pride in my identity in spite of the physical and verbal abuses from homophobic and curious classmates. I was much accepted, not tolerated.

A POSITIVE SHADE

It’s true, the Filipino LGBTQ+ movement has well latched on her quaint words as a rallying point for a progressive cause. The while, secular Humanists like me think Roman Catholic Church is never the institution LGBTQ+ human rights activists should be consorting with. Anyway, the Holy See has been known to espouse exclusion rather than inclusion. For example, Catholic schools remain free from all tax liabilities which means no Filipino has got any thing out of the enormous profits these academic centers generate for the Vatican. However, when bibles and crosses are used to condemn gender diversity in the name of a presumed loving god, points by a nun that tell of realities are well taken.

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