How the new Pharisees undermine the Roman Catholic Church
AS I WRECK THIS CHAIR By William M. Esposo
The Philippine Star 2008-04-29
There are true Christians among Catholics, but there are also Catholics who are not even Christians at all. Sometimes, even the shepherds of Christ’s Church are themselves lost sheep.

In fact, history documents many instances when even the top ranking leaders of Christ’s Church have been behind atrocious sins and crimes against humanity – the so-called Holy War and the Inquisition are just two examples of these. The late Pope John Paul II and the current Pope have been apologizing for all sorts of reasons over the sins of commission and omission by the Catholic Church in the past.

The Catholic Church has a track record of suppressing not only those of other faiths but even its own most holy people. Catholics who provided unusually outstanding contributions to bringing more people to Christ have been put under scrutiny, doubt and in the case of some, even torture.

Mystics and holy people like St. Francis of Assisi, St. Padre Pio, St. Joan of Arc and even Chiara Lubich, founder of the Focolare Movement, were subjected to varying degrees of unjust pressure, rebuke, reprimand or punishment from Church officials.

Sad to say, we have the same breed of confused clergy today mouthing condemnation and raising alarums of eternal damnation against members of the Catholic congregation who happen to outdo them in their avowed mission to win hearts and souls for Christ.

Even sadder still is when a former head of a Catholic lay movement manages to get a Cardinal at the Vatican to reprimand his former group – a group which has been winning accolades worldwide. I refer of course to Frank Padilla, former head of the Couples of Christ (CFC), now seen by loyal CFC members as the whisperer of false tidings to Bishop Gabriel V. Reyes, head of the CBCP National Council of the Laity, and his Vatican counterpart, Stanislaw Cardinal Rylko.

Padilla has claimed that Gawad Kalinga (GK), the CFC social action movement, has veered away from its evangelization focus. He found support in Bishops Gabby Reyes and Soc Villegas. But despite Bishop Reyes’s clout in the Council of the Laity, the CBCP eventually sustained the present setup of CFC and disallowed Padilla to take the CFC name with his breakaway group.

Per CFC sources, Bishop Reyes and Padilla utilized their access to Cardinal Rylko who then issued the controversial Vatican letter seeking an apology from CFC and for GK to maintain its Catholic focus.

A wide range of issues were raised by the new Pharisees. CFC and GK have since refuted these allegations, something most of the Bishops believed and accepted.

But underneath all these accusations hurled against GK is the reported proposal of Bishop Reyes for GK to centralize its funds with the rest of Church funds. Since donors had given support on the belief that this will be used to boost GK social action, the proposal was therefore out of the question.

It is a fact that many big philanthropists will not donate to anything remotely connected with religion. Placing GK funds with Church funds can altogether prove to be a counterproductive measure – that’s if it does not lead to another Monte de Piedad fiasco.

But this makes us wonder if all this hypocrisy that emulates nothing but the Pharisees is at bottom all about money. Considering the culture of greed that prevails in our land, it’s not surprising if evil eyes may have been attracted to the over P350 million annual cash donations GK is now known to generate from over 300 partner firms.

GK has endeared itself to the mainstream Catholics and non-Catholics alike all over the world for its effective approach in making Christ relevant to the poor and the homeless. GK is also present and is well-loved in poor Muslim communities in Mindanao.

GK is proving that authentic spirituality is what effectively builds loving homes and communities, not the mere preaching of Catechism. By sharing true Christian love, Gawad Kalinga is effectively bridging the biblical divide — the divide that has driven away worshipers and is so clearly visible in the waning numbers of church-goers.

The Pharisees also placed the CBCP in an awkward and vulnerable position. The Bishops preach that gambling is evil and yet Bishops and Cardinals are known to derive a big chunk of funds from gambling operations of PCSO and Pagcor. How can they provide spiritual inspiration to the faithful when they themselves are confused about their own perspectives?

We have seen vast examples of spiritual social activists who have transcended religious conditioning — Mother Theresa, Chiara Lubich, Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., to name a few. Instead of dividing people and passing judgment on others, they worked to integrate differing views and created a united and caring community. They shared common virtues: they were humble, loving, focused and sincere.

Christ did warn us: “Beware the devil quoting scripture.” The new Pharisees and their Vatican ally, Cardinal Rylko, cannot even be consistent with what Pope Benedict XVI has been pushing — social action.

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