Shell Shock

by Juan L. Mercado

The Catholic bishops of Bacolod and  Lipa  were shell-shocked  by the election results. Earlier, they  shoved  candidates, who supported the reproductive health bill,  into a “Team Patay”. Through ads  and sample ballots, they urged repudiation.

Juan Edgardo Angara, Alan Peter Cayetano, Loren Legarda and Francis Escudero, however, coasted  into slots  2,3,4 and 7, reported  Inquirer’s Carla Gomez  from Bacolod.  Bishop  Navarra insisted he was  “happy” that  “Team Buhay” candidates, Koko Pimentel and Cynthia Villar, won.

In Lipa, church groups tried to guide the electorate, Archbishop Ramon Arguelles  said. They failed.  “I am not happy”, he texted Inquirer.

Elections  are not  about making  bishops “happy”;  seeking the   electorate’s will is.  Most of the 16 archdioceses and 72 dioceses sought  precisely that.   Cebu archdiocese, banned Team Buhay/Team Patay posters. The church backed the nationwide  “Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting”

By focusing on single issues like the RH bill, the church squanders credibility, cautioned an Inquirer  editorial: That  loss came when “a  force for social justice” was  needed most. “The Church could have raised the flag for social justice, better governance, the war on poverty and corruption…”

Arguelles, Navarra et al. didn’t agree. So, can they try this one please.  An “inward looking  church becomes self referential, sickens and fails to go to outskirts of existence.  That leads some to expend most of their energy censuring others…If the church stays wrapped up in itself, it will age.

Still no go?  That’s the core of  a   four minute intervention, at the last Rome  conclave, by  Argentina ’s Jorge Bergolio. We now know him as  Pope Francis. 

Will  insights on a “post RH-Philippines” be helpful?.  Excerpts:  “For far too long, the church  felt it was safely ensconced in a ‘Catholic country.’  (But ) the demographic majority hid many structural weaknesses. The roots of change  were there but were not seen.

“There was already a deep dissatisfaction and a desire for change  And the church leadership was out of touch with the religious sentiment of the people.  In many ways,  the church had been trapped in an illusory self-image. And it became insensitive to it’s weakness…

“The church had become conformist and controlling, both  with its faithful and  society. One of the keys to understanding is precisely the measure in which the church has become “self-referential”.

“Certainly, the majority of priests lead an exemplary moral life. They  carry out their ministry with dedication and enjoy support and affection from their people. But we face strong remnants of inherited clericalism.

“The days of the dominant, or domineering role of clergy,  within what people call the “institutional church” have changed. But part of the culture remains. From time to time,  (it)  reappears in new forms. The term “institutional church” has meaning only in a context of clericalism.

“Understanding the nature of the church will come not from media strategies or simply by structural reforms… If we focus only on structures and power, there is a risk that clericalism might be replaced by neo-clericalism…

“The Christian presence in society is not achieved by the imposition of a manifesto or simply by high-profile social criticism (like Team Patay or Team Buhay? ). It is more about the witness people give to Christian principles, mediated within the particular responsibilities they carry.

“Take a brief look at the changed demographics Church attendance is very low in some areas, especially in socially deprived areas. The presence of young people in the life of these parishes, however, is minimal. The strong backbone of good Catholics  is an aging group.

Youth participation in church is among more conservative young Catholics. They are limited in numbers and make few inroads into the lives of their peers. Is this where the future lies?

(A  Social Weather Stations survey on Catholics who scurry out the back door and faltering church attendance, even among non-Catholics,  raised hackles mid-April.. SWS  found that  9.2 percent  did  toy   with the idea.  Only 37 percent of Catholics go to Mass once a week —a dip from  the 64 percent who did so in 1991. Church attendance among non-Catholics is  also on the skids.

( “The reaction  has been a  denial   that a problem even exists,” Inquirer columnist Solita Collas-Monsod wrote. , “Archbishop Angel Lagdameo of Iloilo  (stressed) churches are filled. But is the data incompatible? Economist Monsod “did a little arithmetic, starting with 2013 midyear population estimate: 97.3  million.

( Bottom line: Churches crowded with worshipers and the results of the SWS survey are completely compatible. Stop playing ostrich, and face the problem,  Monsod wrote. . And what is that?

( “Rather than empty churches, it should be empty souls that should sow terror in  our hearts,” Sun Star’s Melanie Lim  answers. “ We should not be afraid of people no longer going to Church. We should be afraid about people no longer caring about their neighbors.”)

The church (here) requires lay men and women whose faith will challenge us to expand the parameters of our hope beyond the narrow confines that each of us individually and as communities consciously or unconsciously fix for ourselves… The church has to re-find its ability to form leaders  in a country that faces ( radical ) challenges.

Now  for  the  credit lines. These  are excerpts from  the paper   “A Post-Catholic Ireland”. Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin presented this   at  Fordham University ’s Center on Religion and Culture, April 24..


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