The book The Rhetorics of Sin is mainly about the influence of Manila Archbishop, Jaime Cardinal Sin. It is written by Mary Jannette Pinzon, a member of the faculty at the Department of Speech Communication and Theater Arts in the University of the Philippines, Diliman. The book shows Sin’s effect on the Filipino people and the government as a speaker and it shows how he influenced the events that transpired within the country with his speeches. The time setting is within the period 1972 to 1992 and most of the parts of the book focus on Sin’s speeches during the Marcos regime.
The book tackles the question whether Jaime Cardinal Sin violated the constitution by using the church to meddle with the affairs of the state. Jaime Cardinal Sin had two personas as a speaker. The first one was a citizen of the Philippines. One that had full rights of expressing himself. In the book, when he was criticized of meddling with state affairs using the pulpit, he would sometimes say that he was merely exercising his rights, his freedom of speech, not as a priest, but as a Filipino citizen.
He reiterated that priests or church authorities in general are also Filipino nationals and therefore had the right to speak about political affairs, and have varying opinions, and endorse their own political candidates. As long as they do not use the pulpit for these reasons, they are not violating the separation of Church and State. His other persona was as a leader of the church or a pastor. As a moral guardian of the Filipino people. One that guides rather than commands. Sin said that it was the church’s duty to be the shepherd that would guide the people to the right track.
He said that it was their job to ensure the moral well-being of all Filipinos, and that includes government officials. He used this reasoning to justify his comments that were occasionally said to be countering the government. He was quoted saying “But as a sociological moral body…the Church is called to ‘cast its radiance on all men,’ and therefore on all human activities, politics not excluded…not for the sake of dominating the world, but…for the purpose of serving mankind…”.
With this, he means that as long as the church is meddling in state affairs for selfless reasons, and not simply for power, their acts are not only justifiable but should even be expected. An example of Sin’s actions of going against the current was when he spoke up against the film festival that was the project of First Lady Imelda Marcos. This festival showed pornographic material and went against the teachings of the church. Many Filipinos kept quiet for fear of going against the government and this ignited Sin.
He criticized the government publicly, not to dominate, but to correct instead. Another example was when Sin was seen actively leading the church in helping in the preparation of the snap presidential elections. This raised more issues on the separation of the Church and State. He explained that the “Church is not politicking”, rather ensuring that there will be just and honest elections that will bring peace to the country. The government, at that time, was suppressive. It was tyranny and it violated the rights of the people.
Sin said that this was morally incorrect and he justified his speeches by saying that as a moral guardian, it was his job to correct these wrongdoings in the government. His impact on the Philippine Society was remarkable. People looked up to him and listened to him even though his response was met with passivity. Though, we can see that in the end his words were not spoken with futility. They were like coals that served to light the fire of the fight for democracy. This result was still unknown at that time, but despite of that, the present government sensed him as a threat.
It was seen that they had a tentative friendship. Sin could appear to be supporting the government at one moment and criticizing it at the other. On the other side of the coin, the government questioned the church’s motives and says that the church violates the separation of church and state. Sin aspired for change, but he wanted the change to be peaceful. In one of his speeches in 1972, he called the people for a revolution. A revolution of love. A revolution of peace for peace. The effect was not immediate, though his plea yielded results.
The Marcos regime continued the usual. The church too, proceeded as before, speaking when they deem it to be proper. This cyclical interaction yielded no visible reaction from the people. It was at the obvious fraudulence at the elections that served as a catalyst. Enraged by the blatant disrespect of the people’s will, coupled by Sin encouraging them through his speeches in Radio Veritas and behind the pulpit, the Filipinos came together. In 1986, Sin was the instrument that was vital for the EDSA Revolution. A peaceful revolution. A revolution of love.
And because of this, Sin was also instrumental in the removal of the current oppressive leader. He was responsible for the birth of a new era. The book, The Rhetorics of Sin, proved to be very informative and enlightening. It taught us the events that lead to the EDSA Revolution, which is a major part in Philippine history. What is good about it is that it told the story concisely, avoiding too much dates that are considered major hurdles in learning history for people like me. It also showed the readers a different side of the church.
It showed that priests or pastors or any religious leader for that matter, have more duties than church works. That their words have bearing on political and national matters too. But I believe that the most important lesson this book taught us is unity. When we work together, when we join hands for a single cause, we can move mountains. Though, it’s sad that the Filipino unity exhibited in EDSA that fateful day seems to have vanished, I feel that when time is right, when there is a call for us to stand together again, we will have no problem to walk hand in hand once more.