Is it time for a militant Church?
I can no longer hold it back, having hoped that the Church would finally come around to issue more forceful words against the killings, the escalating climate of prevarication, vulgar conduct and words, entire groups of spineless lawmakers, and unbelievable decisions emanating from them.
Finally, there was the headline: “Bishops decry slays of teens in drug war” (Inquirer News, 9/13/17). But my “at last” quickly turned to “alas,” for just below it was: “…. The CBCP exhorted the faithful to light candles and offer prayers for 40 days for the victims.”
Can’t the good bishops think of anything more aggressive than lighting candles, offering prayers for 40 days, and ringing the bells for 15 minutes at 8 p.m.? Friends lament how Church statements come across as malambot (appeasing? tame?), with a weak sense of urgency.
Compare the impact of “reflect, pray and act” with that of “take a stand, speak out and act.” Think of the serenity of “lighting candles in front of homes, cemeteries, public places and on the spots where victims are killed” — symbolical perhaps, but hardly as proactive as joining a rally or march, and being aware of the risks such activities attract. As for the bell-ringing, the Spanish layout of towns built around churches with bells as bearers of good and bad tidings is no more. Populations have fanned out tremendously in all directions. Who has heard or can hear the 8 p.m. ringing of the bells amid the cacophony of modern living? I haven’t, and our subdivision is neither that huge nor noisy.
Statement after statement from the Philippine PEN (Poets and Playrights, Essayists, Novelists), the Philippine Pediatric Society (Letters, 9/2/17), the Movement Against Tyranny (8/29/17), the Association of Major Religious Superiors in the Philippines, and youth groups (“We are afraid…. We are angry…. We are ready,” Letters, 9/5/17) boldly and repeatedly use “condemn” and “denounce.” In contrast, the Church’s tone is mild and measured with “appalled,” “decry” and exhortations like “summon up courage” and “don’t we know how to weep….”
Of course, the Establishment Church can come out bolder if it decides to. Remember the fierceness and persistence with which it battled RH? Obedient laity were deployed and organized to keep up the resistance (up to now, I’m told, all the way to the Supreme Court). In these parlous times, most parishes are still very parochial, revolving around the usual devotional and charitable ministries, and shying away from political action.
Meanwhile, Fr. Robert Reyes continues to make a stand by his lonesome; Bishops Deogracias Iñiguez and Broderick Pabillo have found common cause with the Movement Against Tyranny (MAT); the Redemptorist fathers in Baclaran are visibly militant (Letters, 8/25/17). Most especially, Bishop Pablo Virgilio David (no relation to me) is in the eye of the Caloocan storm, experiencing flesh-to-flesh encounters with police, witnesses, victims and their families, crowds.
Prayer and pious works are the face of “comfortable Christianity” (let me be clear that I hold prayer as an absolute necessity to any claim to spirituality). But “committed Christianity” is the call of the hour and it’s not a walk in the park.
We have been thrown right into “the peripheries,” into the “field hospital” that Pope Francis speaks of. So far, our Church is still walking gingerly through the battle zone. What if Cardinal Jaime Sin had retired to his chapel instead of calling the people to Edsa in 1986? What if in 2000, he and Cory had stayed with us at a book launch at Villa San Miguel at which both of them were among the guests of honor, instead of going to Edsa again to be with the people?
Yes, we will pray to say “Shepherds, your sheep are being slaughtered” (John Nery, 8/29/17) and to ask “Where is Jesus in your words?” (Nash Tysmans, 8/9/17). We will pray for another Cardinal Sin, for more Bishop Davids, for seminarians to be allowed to join the MAT rally on Sept. 21 (Luneta, 4-8 p.m.), as they did in 1986. We will pray.
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Asuncion David Maramba is a retired professor, book editor and occasional journalist.
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