‘New evangelization’ and plunder
I can bet my month’s earnings that most of the suspected, accused and guilty (the guilty know they are guilty even before they are proven guilty or innocent in court) in the blockbuster multibillion-peso plunder case under investigation are Catholic Christians by affiliation, or profess to be. At least one of them had, at some point, surrounded herself with members of the clergy, and reportedly even donated sumptuous sums to them.
Some could say, But of course, it’s but logical and proportionate because Catholic Christians are the majority in this country. But of course? If we follow that logic or computation, and because there is a more or less equal number of men and women in this country and planet, then why is there not an equal number of men and women convicts in prison? Male convicts largely outnumber female convicts behind bars.
These thoughts have been running in my mind these past days. Being a Catholic Christian (by birth, choice, current affiliation, and in practice), I can point to my own and not be called a stone-thrower or pharisaical. Those from other faiths or affiliations have not openly pointed at this condemnable state of affairs (they’d rather hammer at doctrines and “false teachings”) lest they be accused of being like the Pharisee in the Bible, but I am sure the figures are not lost on them.
And so, here I am, pointing it out and hoping not to get stoned back to a pulp. At least I am pointing to the mote in my own Church’s eye.
I bring this up because of the Philippine Conference on New Evangelization (PCNE) which will be held on Oct. 16-18 and which is expected to draw some 5,000 participants from all over the country and abroad. Might this gathering help bring some healing to this country’s depraved and wounded state, and bring about renewed vigor to combat the evil rampant in our land? The fruits may not come now, but maybe in the next generation?
The venue is the University of Santo Tomas, with its new Quadricentennial Pavilion serving as plenary center. The main organizers are the Archdiocese of Manila under Luis Antonio G. Cardinal Tagle (chair) and the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines’ Episcopal Commission and Catechesis and Catholic Education. Msgr. Garardo Santos is vice chair, and former Ambassador to the Holy See Henrietta de Villa is executive secretary.
A report recently quoted Cardinal Tagle as saying that “the eyes of the Vatican are on us”—not for the Vatican to police but to know what the Philippine Church can contribute to the experience and clarification of the new evangelization. A Vatican observer might be present. But more important, I think, is what Filipino Catholics will take back to their respective communities and the local churches that will fire up the practice of their faith and that will bring about positive change.
As forcefully stressed in the vademecum for the media and the PCNE announcements: “We are still challenged by pluralism, burdened by much graft and corruption in politics and governance, saddled in economics with ‘inequalities of the grossest kind’ and widespread poverty resulting in the poor becoming poorer and the rich becoming richer, and confronted with increasing imbalances in the educational sector.” (Emphasis is mine.)
The three-day gathering will feature many simultaneous talks and sharing sessions on various topics. I hope graft and corruption in high places, in the ranks, in government and outside government, in nongovernment organizations, and even religious institutions will be brought into discussions. I am sure Church-related NGOs will be well-represented at the PCNE.
If I remember right, Commission on Audit Chair Grace Pulido-Tan (one of the “three Furies” exposing and investigating the plunder case) said—and I paraphrase—that in the end, even with all the preventive and punitive measures, it is really the individual person who will make the choice for the good or for the evil. “Ang tao pa rin.”
Which just easily brings us back to our core values that we learned from our parents, teachers, churches, experiences. What we learned in kindergarten, at play, from nature, from life. Take only what is for you. And give back. Is it really so difficult to choose what is right and just and honest? It must be, it must be, especially for those who are in touch with tremendous power and for whom immense wealth is within reach with a little “creative” effort.
(If I may digress a bit, that is why I am for the abolition of the Sangguniang Kabataan in the barangays where the young and impressionable can be and are exposed early to financial maneuverings by “creative” adults. I am not saying barangay officials are generally corrupt, not at all, but there are incidents that one can’t help wonder about, like why do some barangay candidates kill for an elective position?)
I am honored to be invited to the PCNE preopening ceremonies (Oct. 15) presided over by Cardinal Tagle, and where my latest book, “You Can’t Interview God: Church Women and Men in the News” (Anvil), will be among those presented and blessed. As of today, I am not sure if Anvil will have a booth at the PCNE. But the book will surely be in National Bookstore outlets.
The book consists of some 50 profiles, feature stories, essays, interviews and column pieces I have written on Church women and men—inspiring lives and a piece on the dark side. All, except two, came out in the Inquirer. Sr. Mary John Mananzan, OSB, wrote the foreword. Send me e-mail if you want to see the book’s eye-popping front and back covers. Book design is by Joshene Bersales, cover by Francis Manio.
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