The CBCP (Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines) should pause and take a spiritual soul-searching retreat for a few days. Their representatives are stumbling all over the place and every mistake is creating deeper doubts on their own Catholic faithful.
On the day Carlos Celdran posted bail on October 1, CBCP headlined its website thus: “Manila priests pray for Celdran’s enlightenment.” Unfortunately, based on comments on Twitter and media websites, most people rallied behind Celdran — making him hands down, the more enlightened one.
By choosing to have Celdran arrested, CBCP actually fanned the fire that is now starting to consume them. Celdran’s arrest and the Church’s apparent determination to pursue a case against him will drive an even wider rift between itself and its Catholic faithful. What happened to turning the other cheek?
It strikes many folks that the Catholic Church has removed itself too far from the realities of today’s networked world. When Pope Benedict XVI went to visit the UK, he wanted to extend the Vatican’s reach to places known to have historical ties with the Church. Instead, he unwittingly inspired the ventilation of heretofore less publicly known cases of child molestations by Catholic priests. The BBC even directly implicated the Pope — when he was still Cardinal Ratzinger — for purposely dilly dallying action in defrocking a pedophile priest.
The Catholic Church has a notorious track record of backtracking on ‘truths’ when it finds this convenient. Joan of Arc was convicted by a jury led by the Catholic Church but she was subsequently named a saint after history ended up glorifying her life and her name.
Last year, the German Catholic bank, Pax Bank, apologized after admitting it had invested in arms, tobacco and contraceptive stock. BBC reported that aside from investments in tobacco companies, Pax Bank bought stocks totaling 160,000 Euros in American contraceptive pill maker Wyeth and 870,000 Euros in British defense company BAE Systems. If this isn’t what we call enormous hypocrisy, then what is?
In the 1980’s, the Vatican was implicated in money laundering when Roberto Calvi, Chairman of Italy’s second largest bank, Banco Ambrosiano, went bankrupt. Investigations by the Bank of Italy revealed that much of its money had been siphoned off via the Vatican Bank, also known as Institute per le Opere Religiose (Institute of Religious Works).
The shroud of Turin has been debunked as a hoax by many scientists but, lately, the Catholic Church is recognizing it as though it is a legitimate relic of Christ’s last image imbedded on cloth. In the absence of any material relic, will the shroud be the closest thing to connecting Catholics to Christ? The truth is that most Catholics are deeply connected to Christ. It is the Vatican and its clergy that they find hard to relate with.
How can the Catholic faithful continue to trust the Church when its practices contradict its preaching and when found out, become mostly evasive and protective of its own failures? How can they appreciate the confusing logic of their priests who force people (even threatening with excommunication) to practice only natural birth control — when sexual abuses of priests and subsequent cover-ups by their superiors are well documented?
In the case of unplanned pregnancies due to the failure of natural birth control methods, will the Catholic Church care for all the children born to poor families who are now struggling to put body and soul together? They should at least do that.
When fetuses are left on doors of Churches instead of toilets and garbage bins, what are the mothers actually communicating to the Church? The mother probably has enough conscience and remorse to want divine protection for the soul of her child more than for her own soul.
The Catholic clergy needs to undertake a lot of soul searching. Its credibility has sunk even to lower depths and recent statements of its bishops and representatives are giving people even more reasons not to trust them. The transcript of CBCP president Bishop Nereo Odchimar’s statement threatening excommunication to President Aquino clearly validates that he indeed had suggested that recourse. Thus, when he eventually ended up denying this, he only boosted growing doubts on the credibility of Church people.
When you communicate half truths, when you deliberately mislead, you will be supplying media with a spade for digging your own grave. This is Public Communications 101 that is drummed up on every executive who face media. For the Church who makes preaching the Truth its very core message and purpose, it is unthinkable that they cannot even get passing grades for Public Communications 101.
If Church authorities remain too proud to practice humility and sincere penitence for their transgressions, they’ll find it harder to win over what is now a deteriorating confidence and trust from its own members.
In case they’re not aware of it, whether they want to admit it or not, the Catholic Church and its clergy in the Philippines are in crisis. Ironically, the only way out is the very principle they claim to preach — the truth. It is only the truth that will set them free.
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