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Commentary

Silent Church betrays Lord

/ 12:39 AM December 31, 2015

Our Lord envisioned the Church to serve as an oasis where His people can find safety and sustenance as they walk through the desert of life. Many times, however, because of its silence the Church fails to provide safety to her children as they twist in the wind and get blinded by the merciless desert storm of deceit, false promises of politicians, injustice, class discrimination and low-quality education.

The famous champion and hero of racial equality, Dr. Martin Luther King, said: “In the end, what will hurt most is not the words of our enemies but the silence of our friends.” The Church is a friend and a defender of the weak and defenseless, especially the poor. But many times this friend of the poor is silent and withdrawn, and seemingly interested only in protecting its own hide. What do I make of this? Is the Church an accomplice or plainly an inward-looking institution fearful of venturing out of the sacristy to wage war against the evildoers of this country?

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Of course, the Church is aware of who the enemies are—the human rights violators, the adulterers, the election cheats, the money launderers, the drug mules, TV programs that corrupt the young, the corrupt officials of the Department of Education that tolerate the publication and use of what Antonio Calipjo Go calls “sick books.”

The huge influence of the Church to mitigate these problems is a reality. But it is a sleeping giant often consumed only by parochial concerns and dismissive of the bigger, more important issues of the land.

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Who can say that the template of resistance against evildoers has not been invented yet? There is the excellent example of St. John the Baptist who had the guts to directly accuse King Herod of being an adulterer and paid with his own head for it. In sad contrast, the Church has mastered the “art” of compromise, obfuscation and harmless methods exemplified by its toothless pastoral letters that hardly anyone reads, and uninspired sermons that are, at best, good cures for insomniacs.

Unfortunately, even the Sunday sermons of Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle on TV lack the punch and the sense of urgency demanded of a cardinal in these parlous times. It appears that the Church has already lost its soul and the capacity to actively push for genuine reforms especially in government institutions. Instead of putting itself as a leader of reform, the Church shamelessly hides under the mantle of the so-called “separation of Church and State,” whatever that means.

The Church is committing a big mistake by being coy about the many challenges in Philippine society. It is disgusting to see it acting like an ostrich instead of pushing and sponsoring genuine national renewal like it did once during Edsa 1.

By its silence, the Church betrays the Lord who did not slink away from denouncing the evil deeds and hypocrisies of the Pharisees and the Sadducees, describing both of them as “whitened sepulchers that are white on the outside but reeks of dead peoples’ bones inside” (Matthew, 23:27). Unlike the cowardly Church, Jesus Christ chose to put His life on the line to save us all. Thus, instead of being tight-lipped on the burning issues of the day, the Church should arrest its slide to obsolescence by doing the following:

1. Put  pressure on the Ombudsman to issue a warrant of arrest against Vice President Jejomar Binay for plunder, and to throw him in jail. Incidentally, this is the most anticipated event in the country at present.

2. Put pressure on Malacañang to certify as urgent the freedom of information bill.

3. Object against the presidential candidacy of Mayor Rodrigo “Kill” Duterte, who has been linked many times by United Nations human rights bodies as well as the Philippines’ Commission on Human Rights to human rights violations.

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4. Put pressure on President Aquino to reduce the current income tax rates to equitable levels; and

5. Demand the expulsion of incompetent Transportation Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya from the Cabinet.

Of course the “goody-gooders” and some lawyers and politicians would gag the Church by reminding it to keep off government issues. But the issues that cause people harm and obstruct their right to be happy and safe in a democratic country like the Philippines are not just legal issues. They are human rights and Church issues as well.

Christ got himself involved on issues outside purely Church issues when he said, “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s” (Matthew 22:21). Who among us would have the nerve to accuse Jesus Christ of meddling?

The writer, a poet and a professional harmonica player with a degree in philosophy from San Jose Seminary (Ateneo de Manila), was a consultant of World Bank- and ADB-funded community development projects in Pakistan, Bangladesh, India, Sri Lanka, Indonesia and the Philippines.

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TAGS: Catholic Church, Catholic Church in the Philippines, Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte, freedom of information bill, Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle, Transportation Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya, Vice President Jejomar Binay
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