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Mixed emotions over Church

I have very mixed emotions on what the Church has been facing lately: the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines’ pastoral letter, “Conquering Evil With Good” (1/28/19); the latest attack of President Duterte, “I’m telling you, the Church has to reform…” (PDI, 2/8/19); General Bato dela Rosa’s “I’m asking for forgiveness for all those killed in our war on drugs” (PDI, 2/7/19).

Who listened? Who read the pastoral letter? Have we come to a point where its proclamation hardly makes a ripple and its departure passes like a sigh? This one was painstakingly apologetic: to the faithful, by the bishops for taking so long to find their collective voice, for not being there for guidance and admitting their own need for it. It was a mea culpa asking for forgiveness for their “own share of failures and shortcomings”: for which “we bow in shame… and hold ourselves accountable.”

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What to do, then, in this “culture of violence” and “cycle of hate”? Take a stand and fight or take the high road? We learned “sublimation” and “supernatural” in school. In that spirit, I guess, the letter enjoined us to “silence and prayer.”

Still, we ask why the hierarchy is being conciliatory toward the President who has serially and virulently attacked the Church. Is it because he strikes back ad hominem, his favored argument? Twit him and he says “Why you!” and hurls the book at you. He’s a master of that kind of kill—talking person, not issue.

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The perfect time to go on attack mode was right after the apologetic pastoral and the Feb. 7 report of priests and bishops sexually abusing nuns; Mr. Duterte did. Ironically, he also took the moral high ground; this was his turn to advise that “… the Church has to reform….”

He said this not in his rambling, disjointed monotone but in the measured, emphatic style he used when he declared his muddled view: “You speak of human rights, I speak of human life.”

Bato has a certain innocence that is easy to like. He weeps. He runs away from crackling firecrackers. He draws laughter on stage effortlessly. Despite his solid build (“bato”), he seems soft-hearted and simple.

But does he realize that his “Father, forgive me,” contradicts his President? Dare he admit that “tokhang” is wrong and by extension his President, too? If he is sincere, Bishop Broderick Pabillo said, “he should use his influence… to put an end to the killings.” Bishop Ruperto Santos, on the other hand, said it’s “just for publicity, just showmanship.” Bato is in a spot.

At this juncture, there’s a need for clarification. The “Church” is not only, nor essentially, the institution. Made clear by Vatican II, the Church is the “people of God,” us. “Where two or three are gathered,” there is Church. Where does the people of God figure in this scenario?

The people of God’s territory is public life, whose socio-economic-cultural AND political character they must watch and transform. Priest and prelate know that, but, alas, they have trained their working circles for a small world, the parish, humming with parish-centered activities and endless fund-raising. Try bringing them “out.”

Priests should reconcile their being both priest and citizen. Subscribing to “the battles that we fight are spiritual” can’t split them into two.

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Outside these snug circles are the huge circles where most people look on, glassy-eyed. Fr. Freddie Dulay hit the mark when he wrote: “The message was in the manger/ But the king and the priests missed the mark/ Herod was taken up with temple construction/ Annas and Caiphas with tithing and religion.”

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Asuncion David Maramba is a retired professor and book editor, a columnist since 1984 and contributor to the Inquirer since 1992.

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TAGS: Asuncion David Maramba, Bato dela Rosa, Catholic Church, Church reforms, Inquirer Commentary, Rodrigo Duterte, Ronald dela Rosa
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