Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Fr. Gabino Olaso Zabala

Much will be made of the pending beatification of Fr. Gabino Olaso Zabala, one of the 428 martyrs of the Spanish Civil War who will undergo the process on October 28. The issue at hand: Fr. Zabala was known to have actively encouraged the torture of Fr. Mariano Dacanay, a native Filipino priest suspected of supporting insurrectionists, way back in 1896.

Before we engage in our new favorite national pasttime, it behooves to ask:

Is Fr. Zabala being beatified for that act of torture against Fr. Dacanay? Or is it for his act of blood witness some thirty years later?

To be sure, participating and encouraging the forced confession of Fr. Dacanay was an appalling act, but does this invalidate whatever acts of heroism he might have performed much later on? The point of many objecting to his beatification is precisely this blight -- a big blight, not a small one -- in his past. "It sends the wrong message to the world today," so they say.

I beg to differ. It's precisely the right message that we need to hear: that despite whatever dark pasts and unspeakable crimes, there's still hope for salvation and for glory. It's an echo of an earlier time, as documented in the Acts of the Apostles:

But they cried out with a loud voice, and stopped their ears, and rushed at him with one accord. They threw him out of the city, and stoned him. The witnesses placed their garments at the feet of a young man named Saul. They stoned Stephen as he called out, saying, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit!” He kneeled down, and cried with a loud voice, “Lord, don’t hold this sin against them!” When he had said this, he fell asleep.

Saul was consenting to his death. A great persecution arose against the assembly which was in Jerusalem in that day. They were all scattered abroad throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except for the apostles.

The objections, too, are another prediction come to pass:

"Friend, I am doing you no wrong. Didn’t you agree with me for a denarius? Take that which is yours, and go your way. It is my desire to give to this last just as much as to you. Isn’t it lawful for me to do what I want to with what I own? Or is your eye evil, because I am good?’ So the last will be first, and the first last. For many are called, but few are chosen."