In terms of educational institutions, Catholic schools are the most prevalent in the Philippines. They also boast three major schools known for excellence, however, only the affluent are able to afford them. Nevertheless, Catholic education has been embedded in our culture and history.
Following the recent attacks on Catholic doctrine and practices by President Rodrigo Duterte, a few friends posted their indignation against the president on Facebook, while others changed their profile pictures to an image that read “My God is not stupid.”
But what is behind these attacks by Duterte? Why is he attacking Catholic doctrine when he is a product of reputable institutions such as Cor Jesu College, Ateneo de Davao University, and San Beda College?
I would assume the formation of his Catholic faith was “half-baked.” By questioning fundamentals like original sin and the existence of heaven and hell, one must ask if his religious education or Christian living education (CLE) teachers were negligent in their teaching. Maybe his notoriety for absenteeism led to him not being able to grasp the church’s teachings.
One thing is for sure, the attacks are connected to the priests and bishops who scrutinize his administration.
A sad climate for Catholic education
Putting things into context, there are over 14 million students enrolled in elementary schools in the Philippines, another seven million in secondary school. However, despite the country being 79.5 percent Catholic, only a small minority has access to Catholic schools; meanwhile, those who do have access often take their faith for granted – I can attest to this as most of my students who excelled in CLE were not Catholic but of other Christian denominations.
Students who were educated in Catholic schools from elementary to secondary school, and tertiary in some cases, carved out a certain catholic charisma for themselves based on the order they learned under. They look to transform the Philippines and their schools are known for being “person for others,” a phrase which imitates the works of Christ. Catholic education also stresses the importance of teaching through incorporating lessons within their curriculum, which led to CLE.
Easy to comprehend but hard to digest
Religious education often places greater emphasis on memorizing dogma and theories.
When I taught at a reputable Catholic school in Bacolod City, I was stunned when my students asked, “What is the difference between a Roman Catholic and a Catholic?” or “What is the point of going to church every Sunday?” I thought it was a joke, but they were serious.
This experience showed how teachers only emphasized memorization without applying rationality. If you look closely, Catholic teachings are beautiful; the theology gives importance to social relation, it is why there is a challenge to make a preferential option for the poor, a war is being waged against tyrannical rule, and compassion is offered to those in need.
Stories of people whose lives have been changed after an encounter with Jesus should be emphasized in education, along with the importance of the Eucharist and applying the teaching of Christ’s mercy. Such teachings should instill virtue and prevent bigotry and intolerance of the LGBT community, single parents, and the not-so-perfect individuals often condemned by fanatical religious educators.
The Catholic Church in the Philippines is very lax, which is why so many are persuaded to join other religions or why many often become “nominal Catholics.” The president is a creature of this dilemma and his words and actions could be deadly to one’s faith.
If more emphasis is made on teaching through action rather than mental exercises, maybe we can produce good leaders in the future who embrace Catholic teachings and defend the faith. One longs for a leader who bring about change based on what has been instilled by their Catholic institution, which would make Catholic institutions a “beacon of hope” for the country./WDJ