‘Persona Non Grata’ Can Be Gratifying

After two weeks of my being savaged by the Archdiocese of Cebu for Blood Ivory: Ivory Worship, culminating (so far) in a suggestion by the country’s Cardinal Ricardo Vidal that I be deemed “persona non grata” and permanently expelled from the Philippines (a designation normally reserved to diplomats and the like) it is extremely gratifying to see comments like these rolling in from Filipino citizens on sites such as Rappler.com.

I’ve published a response to the Archdiocese and to Archbishop Jose S. Palma here, which applies as well to his predecessor, Cardinal Vidal.

My First ‘Persona non Grata’ (at least from a Cardinal)

Cardinal Ricardo Vidal of Cebu would like to have me declared ‘persona non grata’ for my story Blood Ivory: Ivory Worship.  The Cardinal suggests I lied about my interest in religious devotion. He is mistaken. I studied this topic and interviewed many people to help me understand the context for venerating holy images regardless of whether they were ivory. This was an honest interest in Filipino culture and is reflected in the story and here. No word yet how Cardinal Vidal would treat Monsignor Cristobal Garcia, the alleged pedophile and ivory aficionado featured in Blood Ivory whom Vidal promoted to Monsignor and made a leader in an archdiocese of 4 million Catholics, knowing Garcia’s past.  If that isn’t a lie of omission I don’t know what is.

Cardinal Vidal and Monsignor Garcia during the  Installation of Archbishop Jose S. Palma, 2011 C. Bryan Christy

“‘Of course I have a lot of things to explain,'” Vidal tells the Cebu paper today regarding Garcia. “‘Even if the Holy See will ask me about it, I have here the documents,’ Vidal said.”  Cardinal Vidal and Archbishop Palma are soon to be on their way to Rome for the canonization of Blessed Pedro Calungsod.  I wonder what the soon-to-be saint would think.