Supernatural

Supernatural was also published by The Manila Times on 31 May 2023.

Catholic priest Fr. Winston Cabading of the Archdiocese of Manila, who is also known as an exorcist, will be arraigned tomorrow, 1 June 2023, at Branch 81 of the Quezon City Regional Trial Court for “offending the feelings of the faithful”. This is part of a judicial process where the court formally informs an accused of the charges against him or her, and who afterwards shall be asked to enter a plea of “guilty” or “not guilty.”

The court had earlier issued a warrant that led to the arrest of Cabading on 13 May 2023. The case against him appears to be out of the ordinary, if one considers the notion that lay people, from whose ranks the complainant seeks redress of a grievance, are supposed to be beneficiaries of the guidance being given by church leaders. It is almost “supernatural,” if one takes the perspective of religious tradition where one is bound by sacred authority; one wonders if something like it has ever happened before, in the Philippines or elsewhere.

According to reports, the complainant–Harriet Demetriou, who once chaired the Commission on Elections and a former judge herself–sued Cabading for violation of Article 133 of the Revised Penal Code. This provision of the law prohibits acts that are “notoriously offensive to the feelings of the faithful”…”in a place devoted to religious worship or during the celebration of any religious ceremony.” Anyone who is found guilty of violating this law can be jailed for up to six months (minimum period of prision correccional). The late Carlos Celdran who was found guilty of breaking the same law (he disrupted a meeting of bishops and priests, among others, inside the Manila Cathedral in 2010 by strutting a “Damaso” placard), was sentenced to a maximum of one year.

But the Celdran case is different from this one: in the first, the religious sues a lay person; in the second, the lay person sues the religious.

Demetriou has been quoted as saying that Cabading, among others, “are the purveyors of lies and falsehoods against Our Lady, Mary, Mediatrix of All Grace”. Her complaint alleges that he “is known to profess his antics against Our Lady, Mary, Mediatrix of All Grace, usually in front of a large crowd of people or during any religious gathering or ceremony.” Citing, for example, his statements at the 4th National Conference on the Ministry of Spiritual Liberation and Exorcism held in August 2019, an event which she said “doubles as a religious Catholic gathering since part of the conference included the reading of the Gospel and the usual delivery of prayers”, she charged Cabading for emphasizing “how demons can appear to be holy, thus surreptitiously citing Our Lady, Mary, Mediatrix of All Grace for series of miraculous events.”

Harriet Demetriou.-Photo grab from Rappler.com

Harriet Demetriou.-Photo grab from Rappler.com

An exorcist of the Manila archdiocese and a member of Philippine Association of Catholic Exorcists (PACE), Cabading was quoted in the complaint as saying that fallen angels “can mimic anything they want,” explaining further that “they can ape or mimic or pretend or appear like God, Jesus Christ, the Blessed Virgin Mary, an angel of light, a holy angel, a saint in heaven, the souls of the deceased, or even a living human being.”

While Cabading denies having attributed to the Our Lady of Lipa as demonic, Demetriou argued that “it would not take for a scholarly approach to identify the persona he’s been referring to, which is none other than Our Lady, Mary, Mediatrix of All Grace herself. Although he did not specifically identify the exact ‘angels of light’ in his discussion, the same can be readily inferable with his years of constant hurling of contempt against Our Lady, Mary, Mediatrix of All Grace, and her devotees.”

“By referring to Our Lady, Mary, Mediatrix of All Grace as something demonic is notoriously offensive enough for us Mediatrix devotees…” and “the fact that he consistently mocks Our Lady and her devotees with almost complete impunity, would necessarily imply that I have also become a victim of his blasphemous indulgence and thus entitled to a cause of action for a criminal complaint,” she added.

It seems to me that by trying to guide the faithful out of the devil’s deceit, Father Cabading, the exorcist, has positioned himself in the middle of a battlefield that is full of evil spirits, and he is wrestling with the demons. He has picked the Lipa apparitions and, by extension, Our Lady, Mary, Mediatrix of All Grace of Lipa, which had been declared by the Vatican as a hoax, to warn the flock against falling for that deception.

Even non-Catholics can easily see why church leaders, from the Pope to the parish priest, are wary of Marian apparitions and similar occurrences that initially might appear to be a supernatural phenomenon. They pose reputational risks, especially if they give rise to suspicions where vested interests are making money from them.

Throughout the history of the Catholic Church, the Vatican has approved only seven of such kind of apparitions so far: 1. Our Lady of Good Health (India, approved in 1962), 2. Our Lady of Guadalupe (Mexico, approved in 1955), 3. Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal (France, approved in 1836), 4. Our Lady of La Salette (France, approved in 1851), 5. Our Lady of Lourdes (France, approved in 1852), 6. Our Lady of Knock (Ireland, approved in 1879), and 7. Our Lady of Fatima (Portugal, approved in 1930).

There have been several other apparitions, but approved only at the level of the bishop. The case of Lipa is unique not only because opposing judgements on the authenticity of the Lipa apparitions had divided the local bishops, but also because the Vatican had to rule in 2015, according to Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines president Pablo David, that “the matter of the phenomenon of Lipa is not subject to the authority of the local diocesan bishop.” Adding to the perplexity that the Lipa apparitions had become, at least among the faithful, is the fact that while Vatican had ruled that the Marian apparition in Lipa did not have a supernatural origin and character, and therefore not “not worthy of belief,” local devotion is allowed (there was a time when Bishop Rufino Santos ordered the statue of Our Lady, Mediatrix withdrawn from public view).

Why we continue to be attracted to supernatural events is a mystery to me. Bishop Soc Villegas once commented that we do not need apparitions to honor the Blessed Virgin Mary.

A day may come when nothing is hidden from our knowledge, and when it does, we will realize that all nature, being God’s creation, is supernatural.

Until then, something supernatural can come out of tomorrow’s arraignment if either Demetriou can find in her heart the courage to drop the case, or if Father Cabading can test the unknown by pleading guilty and go on sabbatical in prison. There, insights on how to wrestle with the devil should await him, and re-emerge with greater wisdom, helping us discern which fallen angels are able to “mimic anything they want.”

Incidentally, I wrote a novel [fiction] titled “Miracles of Quiapo” [still unedited] with the end in view of edifying the social teachings of the Catholic Church, of which I am a member, although some readers may find it offensive to their feelings.)

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