The Catholic Church continues to be one of the most powerful institutions in the world.
According to the 2019 Annuario Pontificio (Pontifical Yearbook), the number of Catholics around the world numbered around 1.1313 billion at the end of 2017. In the Philippines, a country that boasts a population of 104.9 million, around 86 percent are of the Catholic faith—eight out of every 10 Filipinos is Catholic (either nominal or practicing).
With their prowess, the church is still an institution that can challenge the status quo.
The institution of the church has been tested and proven in the past. In 1986, the Catholic Church’s role in the People Power Revolution became a pillar of movement. Former Cebu Archbishop Ricardo Vidal and former Manila Archbishop Jaime Sin were two towers that withstood the administration of former President Ferdinand Marcos. The former Manila archbishop appealed for Radyo Veritas to march along EDSA and supportive progressive groups in an effort to oust Marcos. The Catholic Church became a beacon of hope to the people.
Aside from Marcos, former President Joseph Estrada was also ousted in EDSA Dos. Led by the unceasingly disappointed masses, the Catholic Church was used as an instrument in his impeachment.
Today, after the signing of RA 10354, or the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Act of 2012; the divorce debate; attacks on marginalized groups, and President Rodrigo Duterte’s ongoing war on drugs, the consistency in the church’s stance on inequality was evident. Faithful to their social teachings, the church is on a mission to uphold the word of God, even though government propaganda has exposed the frailty of clergymen.
However, given the current situation with the killings in Negros, a disappointment with the Catholic Church was triggered after a pastoral latter condemning the incidents was only signed by four bishops—Diocese of San Carlos Bishop Gerardo Alminaza, Diocese of Kabankalan Bishop Louie Galbines, Diocese of Bacolod Bishop Patricio Buzon, and Diocese of Dumaguete Bishop Julito Cortes.
While those in Luzon was defending Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas and Diocese of Caloocan Bishop Pablo Virgilio David regarding sedition cases, the vulnerable people of Negros must be a top priority.
This kind of parochial mentality suggests: “The issue is outside of our turf, deal with it as we deal ours”—this must be corrected.
According to Catholic social teachings, a fundamental moral test requires looking at the quality for life for society’s most vulnerable. Where there is a deep divide between rich and poor, tradition recalls “The Last Judgment” and instructs one to put the needs of the poor and vulnerable first. However, looking at the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) website, there is no statement regarding the killings in Negros aside from Alminaza’s appeal. They are more concerned with the affairs of those named in the sedition cases than the loss of innocent life.
It is dismaying to see CBCP head, Davao Archbishop Romulo G. Valles, turn a blind eye.
As instruments of God, people are expecting the church to hear the cries of the poor. If the Catholic Church united in the way they did during the times of Marcos and Estrada, they can achieve victory.
According to scripture, “Faith without works is dead”—the ringing of bells every 8:00 p.m. and praying the “Oratio Imperata” is useless if the faithful are not active in spreading news about the carnage in Negros.
I urge Catholic schools in the country to post statements about the killing. By uniting as one, the impossible can be made possible.
According to Isaiah 58:5-7: “True worship is to work for justice and care for the poor and oppressed.”
Is the Catholic Church still aiding the oppressed or just selective with whom they choose to defend?
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