Last week Archbishop Cardinal Tagle raised eyebrows in Cebu during the International Eucharistic Congress when he spoke directly about the greed and corruption of Philippine politicians who are so much a part of the throwaway society of greed, corruption, materialism and waste.
“Politicians, will you throw away people’s taxes for your parties and shopping, or guard them as gifts for social service?” He said politicians when elected consider the public treasures as their own piggy bank and plunder it wherever they can without being caught.
In recent years several senators and others have been charged with plunder and theft of billions of pesos.
The young cardinal’s statement against corruption and thievery is just touching the painful wound of poverty and low wages suffered by 99 percent of the one hundred million Filipinos. The painful truth is that the Philippines is just part of the great global inequality that is driving more money into the bank accounts of the super rich and ripping it off the hard working poor and middle class people and driving hundreds of thousand into demeaning poverty in slums and working brothels for the sexual satisfaction of the rich.
There are 62 multi-billionaires on this planet who have more wealth than the poorest half of the entire planet’s population. Oxfam found that since 2010, the wealth of the richest 62 people – according to the Forbes’ billionaires list – has risen by 44 percent while the wealth of the poorest 3.5 billion people fell by 41 percent.
Yes it’s hard imagine and harder still to understand how they got to be so vastly wealthy and still growing by the second as the earning on their money keeps rolling in.
Meanwhile the wages of the majority of people have shrunk in past twenty-five years. The lowest paid of all are women.
The most exploited and abused are the young girls trafficked into the sex industry and they will tell you that they are forced to do it because of poverty, their younger brothers and sisters and parents are hungry. As many as 16 million people experience hunger in the Philippines according to surveys of national hunger.
The Philippines is a very wealthy country with minerals, rich agricultural land, and resources galore. Yet the one percent of the population own or control it all. If that is ever questioned or challenged, then the military and police will remove the protester, permanently. Death squads are common among politicians to get and retain power and wealth.
How does such gross inequality face up to Christian beliefs and values? It doesn’t. There is no contest, such social injustice is in direct contradiction and opposed to all that the Gospel teaches us and for which Jesus of Nazareth fought for and was killed because of his stand with the poor and for social justice. We are all equal before God and equal members of God’s family but others deprive most of that equality by greed and selfishness. Truly these are the sins of the world.
What he wanted above all was a world where justice for the poor was paramount and at the heart of human society. It was because he, humble son of a carpenter, confronted the inequality and mistreatment of the poor that he ignited the ire and anger of the ruling wealthy elite of his time.
If only he had not spoken out so openly and truthfully and harshly against those politicians and rulers of his day, he might have worked on much longer and given us greater knowledge, wisdom and inspiration.
The elite set out to shut him up permanently especially when he condemned them as corrupt. He compared them to putrid tombs of the dead looking nice outside but nothing good but dead men’s bones inside. Besides they were a brood of vipers too, he said.
The fact that he confronted the money moguls of the temple, the Wall Street of his day, kicking over their tables and ended their dirty money grubbing business in the house of God that they conspired to have him charged and sentenced to the death penalty.
The Eucharist is his goodbye dinner by which he wants us to make him present among us and remember his mission and go out and put it into action by word and deed.
Cardinal Tagle did not get that truthful or confrontational in his sermon but it is a good start. He will soon get the spirit of Pope Francis who has been more outspoken against the unjust system of wealth generation and against the corrupt form of capitalism that fleeces the people of their miserable wages with high prices, low wages and corrupt practices in government which they control.
As a result, the poor are ever poorer and oppressed by the cruel and brutal exploitation and enslavement by the rich who leaves them in slums and poverty so they can get richer.
The Catholic Church as institution is undergoing a revival mainly due to the worldwide popularity of Pope Francis who has a simple lifestyle and a message that lifts up the hearts and spirits of people everywhere. He strives to make real the social values and teaching of the gospel.
The Philippine church, for one, has to divorce itself from the dirty donations and gifts of the rich in the house of God which are bribes to overlook their sins of greed, selfishness and exploitation.
Unless the rich become like the wealthy man Zacchaeus in the Gospel who confessed, repented and vowed to payback four times what he stole, the rich will be like Dives who spurned Lazarus, the dying beggar, at his gate and went to hell for his sins of greed and avarice.
True repentance and giving back is the only road to a clear conscience and reconciliation with the oppressed. That too is the way to a more just society.
The institutional church must be less dogmatic and follow the way of Pope Francis or become irrelevant in the modern world. We to must do our share and be just and committed to help the oppressed and exploited.