A listening Church?
Part of being a Church is being willing to listen, even to the most humble and simple of people. And this is the hopeful direction indicated by a recent Vatican move, as reported in the US-based National Catholic Reporter (NCR), asking national bishops’ conferences around the world “to conduct a wide-ranging poll of Catholics asking for their opinions on church teachings on contraception, same-sex marriage and divorce.”
The call, asking for the bishops’ groups to distribute the poll “immediately as widely as possible to deaneries and parishes so that input from local sources can be received, was signed by Archbishop Lorenzo Baldisseri, secretary general of the Vatican’s Synod of Bishops.
NCR reporter Joshua J. McElwee says the poll, which comes in a questionnaire sent to national bishops’ conferences globally in preparation for a Vatican synod on the family next October, “is the first time the church’s central hierarchy has asked for such input from grass-roots Catholics since at least the establishment of the synod system following the Second Vatican Council.”
The theme of the upcoming synod is “Pastoral Challenges of the Family in the Context of Evangelization.”
The questionnaire, a copy of which was obtained by the NCR, asks the bishops to “quiz their populations on topics that sometimes have sharply divided the US church, like the Catholic teaching prohibiting the use of artificial contraception, the possibility of a divorced Catholic to remarry or receive Communion, and the number of young people choosing to live together before marrying.”
But, says the report, “while Baldisseri asks in his letter for wide consultation on the question, an accompanying letter sent with the US version of the Vatican document does not request American bishops to undertake wide consultation in their dioceses.” The letter of the US bishops only asks them “to provide their own observations.”
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How will the Philippine bishops respond to this bold challenge from the Vatican and presumably from Pope Francis himself?
So far, I have yet to read or hear of any official reaction from the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), or of any corresponding effort to gather the views of Filipino Catholics from all walks of life, including those “guilty” of the perceived “transgressions” mentioned in the Vatican document: using family planning, especially modern family planning to limit the size of their families; living in under one roof without the benefit of marriage; engaging in same-sex relationships; or engaging in second or third (or more) relationships without undergoing a Church annulment.
This is strange, indeed, especially given how the CBCP and individual bishops have not been shy about sharing their own views on social, cultural, spiritual and even political matters.
Will the bishops take time to gather our views? Are they listening—or want to listen?
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Here’s a follow-up to the appeal made by the SVD Southern Province in behalf of the people and of the faithful in Bohol and Cebu. As you may well know, Bohol and Cebu were hit by a powerful earthquake recently that saw towns and structures, most painfully the heritage churches, devastated. More than a hundred people died and many hundreds more are still in evacuation centers or camping out in the open.
Fr. Eugene Docoy, SVD, coordinator of the SVD relief and rehabilitation effort, writes that a little more than a week after the temblor, they were able to distribute the first of the relief goods to the worst-hit towns of Bohol. On Oct. 24 and 25, writes Father Eugene, the SVD Justice and Peace and Integrity of Creation commission, together with volunteers from the University of San Carlos and Holy Name University, joined together to deliver goods to more than 5,000 families in Balilihan, Sagbayan, Danao, Catigbian, Antequera, San Isidro, and the upper Maribojoc barangays of Busao, Toril, Agahay and Cabawan. The last barangays compose the parish of Busao which is administered by the SVD.
Though damaged roads made it difficult to access many areas, Father Eugene says that “with the innovative, resourceful and hardworking and quick-thinking lead organizing team, composed of veterans Bren Abrenica, Fr. Eleno Bucia and Fr. Boboy Sarabia… goods were successfully delivered.” At the same time, a 10-vehicle convoy left the gates of Holy Name University to deliver more than 5,000 packages of goods.
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“For a number of days, the volunteers did (an) impressive job of canvassing, purchasing, sorting, repackaging, loading and shipping of goods,” writes Father Eugene. “In the actual distribution, the volunteers were the ones who made sure the process was orderly and fair. They were the ones that provided the faces of the unknown donors to the beneficiaries.”
Father Eugene pays special tribute to the SVD community who went the extra mile “to provide space for the processing of goods and to make close to a hundred volunteers feel at home and welcome despite limitations in facilities, being themselves victims of the earthquake.” He makes special mention of Fr. Vic Uy, rector of the SVD community, “who, despite his senior years, drove very long hours for three days straight, first to distribute coupons to beneficiaries and then to guide the convoy to these parishes in the two days of actual distribution of goods.”
Although further collections and distribution of goods are planned, “already now we would like to sincerely express gratitude to all our benefactors and donors. You will never know how much hope and happiness are generated by your spontaneous generosity. In the midst of so much pain and desolation, what the earthquake victims need most are our prayerful thoughts and the fact that we do care.”
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