THE CATHOLIC CHURCH ,Â Â as the Shepherd of the Flock, not only has the right but the duty to speak up in these days of tempest and woes.Â
The two times the Church’s voice boomed and echoed across the nation- two presidents fell from their thrones. Marcos in 1986 and Estrada in 2001. Her voice, though not the only one, was perhaps the strongest . And why not?
It leads about 80 million Catholics in the country- the third largest such Catholic community in the world and more than half of the 148 million Catholics in Asia.
It matters not that Marcos and Estrada were unpopular inÂ their last years in power. And it matters Â even less that Â today President Rodrigo Duterte (who recently called the church as “full of shit”) has a 76% acceptance rating and 84% of Filipinos believe in his anti-drug war.
The Church is not engaged in a popularity contest and a Miss Universe Contest to win the nod of judges.Â Her moral authority (and therefore accountability to) Â comes from God and she Â will renege on Her job if she does not speak for the sheep in times of grave uncertainty and perhaps peril.Â
“Let us not allow fear to reign and keep us silent.” just about summarizes the core of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) statement today to be read in all churches. Â
Allow us to paraphrase the content of the Pastoral Letter:Â
“We Â all want change. But change must come with truth and justice.
Life comes from God and only He (not man) can take it away.Â Every man must be given the opportunity to change his ways (not killed)Â Â as the Church itself has likened itself to a church of Mercy – a hospital for the wounded.
To kill oneself (by taking drugs) and killing others are grave sins. These people therefore Â need rehabilitation not execution. Anyhow, it is a known accepted legal fact that all men are presumed innocent until proven guilty. To kill them is to commit another wrong to correct a “perceived” wrong.Â
We must know that the root of drugs and criminality is poverty for the majority. The government must provide work and decent wages. Especially in this nation where the delivery of justice is also slow and compartmentalized.
To be silent (amidst all these killings) is to be an accomplice to the crime.Â Even as we acknowledge our shortcomings, the Church must speak versus evil.Â We are in full solidarity with those who were killed and their families.Â And there is a need to provide livelihood, education and health for the poor.
We make this statement cognizant that the year 2017 marks the 100th year of the Apparition of our Lady of Fatima (for which this nation is a devoted Marian devotee). “
That many have been cowed into silence is the least excuse for the Church to become deaf, blind and mute.Â It doesn’t matter that the battle be lost as in the Reproductive Health Bill- the measure of stewardship is to have made a moral imperative- to have a principled stand immersed in Gospel truths. She does not have to win all her battles.Â
True the era of a Cardinal Sin, Archbishop of Manila died with his departure in 2003. At his death the huge Manila Archdiocese was divided into multiple dioceses reducing the clout. But clout is not the issue – it is Â about saying God’s piece despite all that.
The apostles were human and sinned like all of us mortals. That was not an impediment in their preaching the Gospel as it must not today even if our president calls them corrupt (receiving material gifts from GMA) and hypocritical (some bishops and priests siring children and maintaining girlfriends).Â
But even Digong’s presidential spokesperson Â Ernesto Abella encourages the Church to speak up and maintains no clergy will be targeted from doing their sacred duty to their spiritual constituency,
But for the Catholic Church to speak in majesty in a nobler crucible – she must also exert efforts to reform and not just because the Holy See’s Secretary of State is now closely watching the Philippines.Â
She must purge -and not protect -those of her members (in the clergy) Â who have become a positively immoral scandal to their people- Â from among Her ranks. She must shed the image of pomposity and grandeur in the midst of want and remember the child wrapped in swaddling clothes in a dusty manger as a moral replica of what God wants their lives to be.
Some of Church dioceses are incredibly rich; others are “hand to mouth” existence. The RCAM (Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Manila), for instance, has 327,000 shares of stock Â in the BPI bank worth P30-Billion and several millions in Philex Mining Â and San Miguel Corporation, among others.Â When it remodeled the Manila Cathedral for P 200-M, Ramon Ang of SMC and George Ty of Metrobank contributed P 50-M and P 20-M, respectively.
The point made is that the Church, if it wants to, can be a big moral and financial force to reckon with if indeed she wants to participate in the alleviation of the plight of the poor.
This can be done by the rich dioceses sharing their wealth and disposal of “sleeping assets” like real estate and help the other Â poorer dioceses in their livelihood and health advocacy. Point hopefully Â has been respectfully Â made.
But the Pastoral Letter also clearly defined one practical role of the church in the drug program as it quotes:” work together to solve the drug problem and work for the rehabilitation of the drug addict.”.
The church Â supportÂ to Duterte’s war against drugs Â is already proven in Bohol since the Drug Rehab (Without Walls) Â program of the newly-installed Tagbilaran Diocese Bishop Abet Uy (while he was Talibon episcopal vicar) was adoptedÂ MondayÂ by the provincial government of Bohol.Â
The good bishop emphasized that the Catholic Church is not per se against President Duterte.Â In fact, its two bishops in Bohol (together with Bishop Daniel Patrick Parcon) Â were the main guests during the Â Provincial Peace Â and Order Council and the Provincial Anti-Drug Council Â last Tuesday which finalized and approved the “Drug Rehabilitation Program for Bohol”.Â
Finally, the Â President, of course, Â has a more nationwide perspective and currently updated and has disbanded the anti-drug unit of the PNP and stopped the war (temporarily) by the PNP and the NBI as the former Â of the Â the two are in his words ” corrupt to the core.”Â
Be that as it may, the Catholic Church will blare the trumpets, sound the alarm Â and then today Â declare her voice- perhaps in the most resounding way yet- against the Drug War and Extra Judicial Killings.Â
The true sheep Â among Â the flock are expected to listen and take heed.Â Are you one of them? Shalom!
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