Priest contradicts one of most basic Catholic tenets
OFM Father Tony Rosales, in his letter (“A priest on ashes, children, nuns and sisters, Fr. Suarez,” Opinion, 3/18/14), contradicts one of the most basic tenets of the Catholic doctrine. He states that he avoids applying ashes to babies and children (as a religious sister was shown doing in a picture published in the March 6 issue of the Inquirer) “for the simple reason that it is embarrassing to tell them ‘Dust you are and to dust you will return’ or ‘Repent and believe in the Gospel’.” He continues to say, “What is there for a baby or a young child to repent, when we hold him/her incapable of sin?”
Has the good father forgotten that Catholic doctrine tells us that we are born with the original sin? It further teaches us that if these children die without the benefit of the Sacrament of Baptism, they are denied a place in heaven (in limbo?). Maybe, Father Rosales’ 46 years of priesthood finally made him realize, as millions of “recovering Catholics” are finding out, that these so-called doctrines are but one of many religious superstitious nonsense!
Rosales’ letter reinforces what I have come to realize as the state of Catholicism in the Philippines. If a priest of 46 years could be so ignorant of what his religion teaches, think of the “rank and file” Catholics out there. To say that many of them have no clue of what it is they believe is a colossal understatement. In the days when there were only parochial schools, at least our generation was informed. Today’s Catholics are “going through the motions,” “doing ritual for ritual’s sake, oblivious of its meaning,” as Rosales pointed out. I feel pity when huge numbers of churchgoers, driven to church by habit, make meaningless repetitive gestures and recitation, dictated upon by 2,000 years of conditioning.
How does it begin? Just take a look at the photo above, which was run on page A4 of the March 18 issue of the Inquirer (Lenten Exhibit: kissing Jesus’ leg). I did that as a young boy. Did I have a thorough understanding of the significance of that gesture? No, and nothing will convince me that these boys have the intellectual maturity to make sense of it. But that’s what I mean by conditioning in this context. In the Philippines, the pervasiveness of this process is palpable at every turn. (Public prayers at SM Malls, crucifix at every turn, there is even an optical shop that asks you to “READ” a passage in the Gospel, to check your glasses!) Spiritual maturity cannot take root in this kind of environment. The brain ceases to be rational and goes on “autopilot”!
So there you have it, Father Rosales. I forgot to ask, are you a “recovering Catholic” like me? I am sorry that I have to call attention to the only biblical passage that made sense: “Dust you are and to dust you will return.”
—EDWIN DE LEON,