In his column on “Irregular Families?” (3/23/18), Michael Tan revealed some very significant government statistics on Filipino marriages (i.e., declining number of marriages in the last decade, a third of female population that were never married, a significant percentage of women in live-in relationships).
They constitute a disconcerting set of factual realities that can explain the acceptance by the majority of our predominantly Catholic nation of the divorce bill and should jolt the Roman Catholic Church hierarchy from its complacency and ivory-tower dogmatism.
If the state of many marriages in the country is so distant from the permanent, stable, and sacred state that is envisioned for couples bound together by the sacrament of matrimony, something must be wrong with the way Catholics are being formed and guided by the Church. This explains why Catholics can have a casual and dispassionate attitude toward divorce and the dissolution of marriage bonds.
As a Filipino Catholic, I think that our institutional Church has been generally remiss in guiding its members, particularly those facing distressed marriages, and providing them pastoral care and doctrinal formation.
It has been too preoccupied with self-preservation and maintaining physical and bureaucratic structures to even have time to prepare couples for marriage and resolving marital difficulties.
More fundamentally, it has for centuries routinely shepherded a community of believers that has not gone past ritualistic practices and self-oriented spirituality owing to its own ministers’ neglect of the spiritual formation needs of the faithful.
The result has been a church of unthinking, passive and doctrinally and spiritually undernourished members, who believe that being a Catholic in good standing merely entails attending church services on Sundays and major liturgical feasts (Lent, Advent, feast of patron saints) and for more enthusiastic members becoming church servers of the parish priests (lay ministers, lectors, etc.).
I am saddened as a Catholic by these developments and close to losing hope in ever seeing the Church recover from its sick and lethargic condition.
No wonder many erstwhile Catholics (here and elsewhere) have either stopped practicing their religion finding it irrelevant in their personal lives, joined other non-Catholic Christian religious sects which are able to offer greater fellowship and spiritual dynamism, or simply became an agnostic or atheist.
Sadly, the Church hierarchy and ordained ministers have much to do with these tragic outcomes because they have not seen and addressed the growing uneasiness and deterioration in the faith of their flock that they are supposed to shepherd.
They seemed content and even pleased with the status quo for as long as church coffers are overflowing, Mass attendance is high, church buildings are constantly being added or improved, and lay leaders are kept at bay and submissive in parish pastoral councils.
Despite being 80-percent Catholic (at least nominally), the Philippines remains to be immersed in widespread poverty and endemic corruption, and the majority are not morally disturbed by, or at least tolerant of extrajudicial killings, and now, are even in favor of having divorce in the country. This should be a huge wake-up call for the institutional Church!
DONATO P. SOLIVEN, Antipolo City
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