Para sakin ang importante ay naumpisahan na ang paguusap. The conversation has now begun inside the Supreme Court,” Boy Abunda at the orgal arguments on gay marriage, at the Philppine Supreme Court 21 June
Boy Abunda`s exuberant statenent was made as the oral arguments on the Same sex marriage petition of known Duerte megacritic Atty Jesus Falcis begins at the recently jolted Supreme Court. This seeks to upend our laws on marriage to grant him the right reserved exclusively for men and women. To say that the Lesbian Gay Bisexual and transgendered (LGBT) movement has made cultural headway to promote social acceptance of itself is a moot point.
Major media networks, especially those that blossomed in the post EDSA era have extolled the virtue of gay, leading to a large acceptance of the lifestyle among Filipinos. Recent surveys show a growing acceptance of gay lifestyle and marriage, despite the LGBT movemements claim that they are still struggling to gain it in what they call conservative Filipino society.
The Duterte Tirade and its curious context
What do all of these have to do with President Duterte? Curiously, this in my view serves as one of the things that prompted the recent "tirade" of President Duterte against certain doctrines in Christian Bible that elicited responses from many of his supporters, fueling his disgust at the Catholic Church heirarchy.
The "tirade" also comes as a response to Lingayen Archbishop Socrates Villegas recent statements alluding to the death of three priests to the behavior of the Duterte administration (with all its failed logic), and the protest actions precipitated by his statements.
Unfortunately, many Catholics shared social media content proclaiming this false narrative, practically blaming government for the deaths despite the fact that perliminary investigations have yet to be completed.
Nonetheless, the deaths of the three priests need to be investigated since the purported motives are not at all related to the statements being used by Villegas.
Initial information will easily show that they are not " antigovernment priests". One was known to be vocal against the controversial Iglesia ni Cristo, while another was rumored to be engaged in an extramarital affair. The earliest death in 2017 was of a retired priest who helped in the release of a political prisoner. Villegas trying to frame them as antigovernment advocates smears their reputations with falsehood. I believe this is wrong, as it tries to influence outcomes of the investigation, and conflates the unfortunate events with partisan politics.
Too much politics driving the flock away?
That said, the Catholic Church heirarchy in the Philippines has put its political positions on governmental affairs front and center and have been involed in political movements that have caused changes of government.
While doing so, it has to face the reality of dwindling churchgoers, higher rates of marriage annulment, drug abuse among its youth, high teen pregnancy and HIV rates, corruption with ranks of the clergy and scandals over child sexual abuse. The Falcis petition and the seeming popularity of it serve as mirrors to the Church`s role as shepherd.
Instead of dealing with these moral issues, some of the more vocal elements of the church heirarchy have positioned themselves as de facto defenders of drug lords and "tambays, kingmakers of politicians, making steange bedfellows with certain feminists and advocates of divorce and abortion."
Has these Church leaders failed to fulfill role as shepherds to prevent the rise of lifestyles and practices not in accord with its teaching?.
Read its publications such as the CBCP Monitor and you will see that it has an article and opinion on everything in secular politics, makes its position known loudly, but puts family life, and the spiritual well being of its flock as a secondary concern in the inside pages.
Likewise, many bishops and priests are known to be regular political commentators on matters where they have no expertise. Social media has given them the opportunity to do so. A famous priest recently commented on the Philippine stock market. Why people listen to his opinions on stocks are beyond me. Is all that political talk by Bishops meant to cover up these things?
What the tirade means
Having explained the wider context of the speech, we see the backdrop of a church heirarchy unable to stem the tide of disbelief and an erosion of support for the political positions espoused by segments of the Catholic Church heirarchy aligned with those opposing the Duterte government. To my mind,his angry tirades are meant to shake the Church leaders- a call to focus on what matters- the soul and how we as souls, should prioritize it in viewing the imperfect world in need of deep moral change.
Truly, the CBCP has been an active voice in politics, but church attendance has been dwindling, with many parish priests content with their regular crowds, yet unable to factor their parish activities in the daily spiritual lives of their parishoners. This to me is more bothersome, as it may be surrendering its credibility as a moral force in exchange for making political statements on behalf of others.
Worse, it is not as vocal on many things that have a deep impact on the family life of many in its flock- the Dengvaxia scandal and the call to protect "tambays" and the human rights of drug lords, for example. Is the church heirarchy averse to tough government? Its own moral positions are tough ones that need guidance for many to follow.
Besides, it is clear that some elements of the Church heirarchy have become become frequent political attack dogs on behalf of politicians and political agendas, but not in defense of the faith. Their silence on the Falcis gay marriage petition is telling
Pope John Paul II in a dialogue with Latin American Bishops admomished them against being too in touch with the "world of the Lord" that they may have forgotten the "Lord of the World".
It is therefore not surprising that acceptance of morally repugnant things like gay lifestyles and long time corruption (at least until now), is clear.
Strong government is good to push Christian teaching
I would think that a strong government ought to help many solidify their moral options against the drug trade, economic inequality, criminality and yes, the tambay and gay culture that surely cements the permissivenessof todays society, that has also encouraged many Catholic Filipinos to abandon their evangelical and apostolic calling.
Sadly, the Church heirarchy led by Villegas misses out on these by focusing on personality politics.
The deeper context
The larger context of the Duterte tirades ought to force Catholics to start thinking more about the real work of the church heirarchy and those involved in evangelical Christian movements -to be better shepherds of our individual and collecrive consciences to push for the flocks well being to build Gods Kingdom. Excessive involvement in secular politics steers Christians away from performing the prephetic evangelical role.
We hope that the upcoming dialogue with the cbcp ought to jolt them in the direction.
This essay is the authors opinion and does not necessarily reflect the prespective of Resurgent.ph and its owners and editors. Photo: CBCP