Does the Catholic Church recognize its greater crisis?
AS I WRECK THIS CHAIR By William M. Esposo
The Philippine Star 2008-06-15
“We do not deny the fact that we are really in crisis.” — Davao Auxiliary Bishop George Rimando was quoted on the front page of the STAR on May 19.

He also said: “We can see now that some of our parishes in the archdiocese are encountering financial instability brought by the crisis that we are experiencing in our country.”

Somehow, Bishop Rimando’s words give us the impression that he considered money as the greatest of the Church’s concern. He did not even recognize what we consider most critical to the Catholic Church ‑ conflicting actions of Church leaders with what they preach to the faithful.

The Catholic Church in the Philippines is steadily losing its following and this, not declining revenues, ought to be the Church’s greater concern. When the Catholic faithful starts losing faith and trust in the clergy, who can blame them for seeking spiritual alternatives?

Thirty years ago, the Catholic Church got worried over the rise of the Charismatic Movement as many Filipinos became attracted to the more dynamic Charismatics. To them, the Catholic Church seemed too dogmatic, static, irrelevant and had this inclination to preach instead of love, as Christ wanted.

This fear of losing out to the Charismatic Movement resulted in the Catholic Church trying to fight fire with fire, so to speak, by launching its own Charismatic Movement. I believe this was what gave Mike Velarde the opportunity to develop El Shaddai which many view today as another political fiefdom founded on religious pretenses.

From where I sit, wrecking another chair, the Catholic Church reaped a worse problem with Mike Velarde than those Charismatics they originally feared. I can hardly recognize the Christianity I was taught with all the umbrella and handkerchief gimmicks of Mike Velarde. There is also this persistent issue of unaccounted funds of the El Shaddai. If you see Mike Velarde’s house in Ayala Alabang, your impression that ‘God is good business’ will be reinforced.

Look at how the Church today cannot even take a united stand in guiding its flock to fight the evil in their midst. An evil regime continues to destroy our democracy and our value system. Some Bishops recognize and fight the evil while some even defend it.

Look at the different position the heads of the Council of the Laity in the Philippines and at the Vatican adopted over the Frank Padilla induced issues against Gawad Kalinga (GK) — against the stand of the majority of the Bishops who supported GK on the same issues.

Look at the vast tracts of land held by some Bishops where not a portion has been devoted to provide a dignified domicile for the least of our people. Many Catholics are scandalized by it.

Is this rooted to Catholicism having been imposed on Filipinos as a tool of conquest and subjugation, rather than a path to spiritual salvation? The cross and the sword were part of Spain’s grand strategy to achieve its imperial ambition.

This is not to discredit the good number of well-meaning priests and nuns who came here with a pure heart and sincere purpose. But the despicable reputation of Spanish friars cannot be denied. These friars fathered children, lived lives of depravity and decadence and worse of all ‑ they served as collaborators in effectively subverting Filipino nationalism.

Let us not forget our past because up to this day, Filipinos are plagued by the same formula of psychic subjugation ‑ applied since 1521 and now maintained by the new generation of profiteers and exploiters. It is no wonder that some so-called spiritual leaders in this country are able to develop what are clearly political bases (more than spiritual communities) ‑ where they could best take advantage of the unwitting flock, use them as political leverage.

We cannot overlook the inconsistency of the Catholic Church in our political affairs. To a foreigner, the events of the last 25 years alone raise questions as to where the Catholic Church in the Philippines really stands, what the real core values of the Catholic Church leaders are.

How does one reconcile the role Jaime Cardinal Sin played in leading the removal of the Marcos regime in 1986 with today’s two Cardinals ‑ Cardinals Gaudencio Rosales and Ricardo Vidal ‑ who support an evil regime?

One can only conclude that either Cardinal Sin is a champion of freedom and democracy and that Cardinals Rosales and Vidal are siding with evil, or vise versa.

This is not to suggest that the Catholic Church should be totally removed from politics. This will be going against Christian spirituality which asks each one to take up the cudgels for the poor and the oppressed. By all means, the Catholic Church, just as the late Pope Paul II led the world in fighting the Communist oppression, must and should take a stand whenever evil rules the land.

The Catholic flock is disillusioned when Church leaders support largely perceived evil rulers, when these Church leaders appear to be rationalizing and sanitizing evil. This is so reminiscent of Cardinal Richelieu, who effectively utilized his Church title to consolidate royal power as King Louis XIII’s designated Chief Minister.

If we want to ferret out the cancer in our society, we must not confine ourselves to guilty lay persons. As a matter of fact, spiritual leaders, who have the virtual license to strike fear and awe in the minds of worshippers, can do more harm to the country in perpetrating attitudes that foster a worse form of social cancer. They can transform simple political choices into complicating matters of faith and conscience.

Note how religious wars and animosities pass on from generation to generation. Filipinos once hated the Japanese for the brutality they inflicted here during World War II. But all that is now forgotten. In just 20 years, Filipinos transformed from Japanese haters to Japanese admirers and patrons of products that were made in Japan.

In contrast, how come Filipino Christians and Muslims continue to distrust each other and engage in conflict to this day? That is what a religious element brings into a conflict.

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