Thursday, October 4, 2007

Filipino Crucifixion: what do you think??

Okay, I came across this last night on a show called "Taboo" on National Geographic TV. Apparently it's a well known Easter tradition that many Filipinos engage in extreme mortification during Lent and Easter, even to the point of getting nailed to a cross to emulate Christ and the thieves as their Passion play. They are not actually crucified, but they do get real nails through their palms and feet, and are stood up on a cross (equipped with a platform to stand on) for a few hours. Others open cuts on their backs and then walk the streets flogging themselves.

I didn't do any further research, but as I understood the narrator the Church has disallowed these practices, but they continue.

Just looking for thoughts on this. Aside from the Church's ruling, is this too extreme? Or do you consider it to be a legitimate point on the continuum of mortification?


Laura The Crazy Mama said...

Good grief! Don't we have enough suffering in our everyday lives and worry about our loved ones without exposing ourselves to practices like this? These kinds of rituals seem to take place in places where there's plenty of suffering and poverty to begin with. If anyone should be doing this kind of stuff, it should be people in the richest, spoiled parts of the world (but I don't believe it should take place at all). It always seems to me to be sort of a hold over of pagan practices. Would you be so proud of your son if he was the one "pretend crucifying" himself up there on the cross? I wouldn't. I would tell him to get his ever-lovin' arse down from there and take care of the body God gave him to do his work and take care of his family! Really, what good are they going to be to their family with big ol' holes on their hands and feet and infected scratches on their backs?

Traditio said...


Starting with the following definition of mortification:

“Disciplining of the body and the passions by self-denial or self-inflicted to gain mastery of the will.”

So we see that mortification is not an end, but a means to an end. But what is the end? Breaking open the big-fat-green-book and going to paragraph 2016, we find that end:

“Spiritual progress entails the ascesis and mortification that gradually lead to living in the peace and joy of the Beatitudes”

So the for mortification, the end is “living in the peace and joy of the Beatitudes”, or “Spiritual progress”. Classic examples of accepted mortifications would be fasting or being charitable to someone even when it’s really, really, tough. A passage from the Bible that deals with this can be found in the book of Romans:

“For if you live according to the flesh, you will die, but if by the spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.” Rom 8:13

Now it would not make sense to say that a small amount of something objectively good (not “good” in the sense a Lil’ Debbie fudgy-wudgy bar is “good”) is OK, but a lot of that same something is not, since the “goodness” of something is not a function of quantity but of its ultimate end.

So for these “crucifixions” to not be OK, it would need to be shown that they differ from accepted forms of mortification not in degree, but in kind. Or, that they do not exist in the same continuum.

To be on the same continuum, they would have to bring about the same ultimate end to a greater or lesser extent (thus the continuum). So what is the ultimate end of these “crucifixions”? Well, since they are part of a play, it would be entertainment and/or money – not “Spiritual progress”. And since their ultimate end differs, it follows that they are not of the same kind as accepted, Church approved forms of mortification.

So instead of Rom 8:13 applying, it would be more appropriate to look to 1 Corinthians:

“Do you not know that you are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? If anyone destroys God's temple, God will destroy that person; for the temple of God, which you are, is holy.” 1 Cor 9:16-17

I would say that’s an objectively “bad” thing.

swissmiss said...

Mortifications are good, but there are so many ways to do this, like St. Therese taught us. Way back when, penances that people often had to carry out were very extreme, but this doesn't seem to be working toward any type of santification if it is part of a play. If you do things publicly, you have received your reward of public attention, but to do things in private, where God only sees, you will be rewarded in Heaven.