Church should wield its influence more resolutely
Randy David argues that the almost magical attraction felt by many Filipinos to Duterte’s “charisma” should not be attributed to ignorance and lack of reasoning ability (“Charisma and Rodrigo Duterte,” 11/28/21).
Competence and charisma can overturn conventional standards when voters choose their leaders. From a sociological perspective, the majority of the citizenry can be mesmerized by a charismatic, even if corrupt and incompetent, leader whose unconventional, irreverent, and narcissistic ways appeal to them.
This can be traced to growing anti-elitist sentiments and a profound longing for change ignited by deep frustrations over the broken promises by past leaders. But why is this “charisma,” which is illusory and mostly contrived thanks to mass media, seemingly impervious to countercultural and constructive influences from supposedly enlightened institutions of society such as the church, schools, and media? These watchdogs of morality and civility are expected to advance life-giving values and neutralize the corrosive effects of iniquitous and death-dealing systems. Why have they failed to deliver?
As a Catholic, I have always wished that our religious institution would finally wake up to its general ineffectiveness to convert the hearts and minds of Filipinos to the Gospel values that ground its existence and mission. That we are the only Catholic nation in Asia and yet the most corrupt testifies to this failure.
Understandably, the Catholic Church, as a human organization, has had to deal with its own weaknesses and internal issues since its founding, including endemic clericalism and even corruption. And to be sure, many complex factors have contributed to our society’s disintegration. But think of what the Church can do to combat the corruption, dishonest self-promotion, lying, killing, and stealing perpetrated by evil men and politicians in our society. The Church can reach out to all its members through its extensive network of local dioceses, parishes, and affiliated organizations. It can match the geographical reach of even the most well-entrenched political dynasties. It can effectively send out its messages of repentance, moral regeneration, and spiritual salvation, which have reverberated throughout human history and enabled the transformation of individual lives and communities.
The 2022 elections will be a watershed moment in our country’s history. It has galvanized powerful forces of tyranny, deception, and plunder never before seen in our history. We need contradictory forces to stop them in their tracks. I hope the Catholic Church will choose to wield its manifest influence more resolutely to help its members discern authentic from fake charismatic leaders, separate the grain from the chaff among all the candidates, and direct the outcome of this political exercise toward real social, economic, and political changes that rest on humane and Christian foundations.
Donato Soliven, [email protected]
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