not quite carlos celdran: why i walked out of massPosted: October 3, 2010
MAKATI, Philippines – I can’t say I’m outraged. I don’t exactly know how I can neatly describe the emotion I feel right now after having walked out of mass. As I told a friend of mine, as I reflect on this day when I reach the big FOUR OH, I was hoping to bask in the blessing of having been given the gift of life and take time to “smell the roses” so to speak. But unfortunately, it was not to be.
I value and treasure my being in the Roman Catholic Church. I believe in the over-all goodness that it represents. I appreciate the time I am given to commune with individual priests, deacons and the lay religious who have gifted to me their time as I seek spiritual sustenance. Given, the overwhelming flock that they serve, I admire the dedication and commitment of the religious. And – I believe.
Yet, as I savor and soak up their teachings, I am also made aware by them of the fallibility of the individuals who have chosen to serve as men and women of God. They are fallible because like us, they are human beings. Even Archbishop Oscar Cruz said he would kneel and kiss the hand of Usec. Puno if it turns out that his jueteng allegations are proved wrong. But, you believe because you trust that the institution that they commit to – the Church, itself – will ultimately be there to keep in check the fallibility of its members. That the Church will ultimately in its collective wisdom and discernment stay true to the Faith.
But – my faith in the institution has been shaken.
This past week, we have seen heated exchanges between those who oppose and those who support the Reproductive Health (RH) bill. For transparency, I am not very familiar with the details of the bill. I can’t say I’m in favor nor can I say that I’m not in favor of it.
As with any proposed solution to a particular problem, it is very important to make sure that one understands what the problem is. In the case of the RH bill, this is quite contentious because not everyone agrees that there is a problem in the first place. The Catholic Church insists that there is no “overpopulation” issue in the Philippines. The proponents and supporters of the RH bill on the other hand say that there is and that this is the key contributory factor to poverty in the Philippines.
If one were to read between the lines, what both sides appear to be inferring is that poverty is the real issue. The RH bill people say that we need this bill to be able to address poverty by being able to maximize our resources when we are required to provide for fewer people.
The Church’s position is a little more nuanced. Let me digress a little bit with what will hopefully be a clarificatory discussion where we can compare both views with something close to an apples to apples comparison.
Having poverty in a country does not necessarily mean the entire nation is impoverished. Developed nations despite all their wealth all have poverty issues in one way or another. Poverty is generally said to be present in a country when a section of the population of that country lives below a certain level necessary to provide for an adequate standard of living.
If we were to boil this to math or economics, it would look something like this:
GDP / Population = GDP per capita
GDP per capita is one way by which the relative wealth of nations is measured. It basically shows what the average income of each person in a country would be if the country’s wealth was equally distributed among everyone in that country – walang labis, walang kulang. The Philippines has an annual GDP per capita of about $1,982 which would place us 108th of about 164 countries as ranked by the World Bank. The most common cut-off for the poverty line is income of $1.25 per day. Over a year that amounts to $456.25. By this standard alone, the Philippines could hardly be considered as impoverished.
The reality is that income is not equally distributed. Which is fine up to a certain point. Another reality is that some people based on luck, familial circumstances, hard work or a combination of all three will end up having more than others.
Did I digress too much?
My point is that both the pro and anti-RH bill sides have that commonality of trying to address the poverty issue (I’m hoping, anyway). The differences lie in their approaches based on their appreciation of the cause of this problem. The pro side says it is overpopulation, the Church says it is the unequal distribution of the country’s wealth, a significant portion of which is due to corruption.
I would submit that poverty could start to be addressed from both ends. Both sides would be ingenuous to suggest that theirs is the only solution as both acknowledge to a certain degree the other side’s position. The Church by saying population does need to be “managed” through natural means and by PNOY’s own campaign tagline “walang mahirap kung walang corrupt“.
So why did I walk out of Church?
I go to Church to be spiritually nourished. I am fine with a homily that touches on society’s ills or even a discussion of the Church’s stand on certain social issues. What I am not fine with is when you support a position with misleading facts and assertions. What I am not fine with is when these misleading and incomplete facts and assertions ultimately mis-educate the less discerning of your flock. Where is the morality in that?
I am not Carlos Celdran. While I was tempted to speak out during the homily, again, I am not Carlos Celdran. So, I chose to vote with my feet and walked out in the middle of mass.
With a following mostly composed of “cradle Catholics”, I daresay that the Philippine Roman Catholic Church has been severely remiss in its responsibility to educate its flock of the Catechism of the Church. A significant number (if not the majority) of Catholics in the Philippines have no solid grounding in the teachings, philosophy and traditions of the Roman Catholic Church. When I was in the United States, I became a cursillista in the Diocese of San Bernardino (California). I learned more during our three-day retreat about my faith than the rest of my previous years combined. I also began to appreciate how ignorant I was of my faith. I had to go to a country where the Catholic faith is a minority to appreciate what it is to be Catholic. I had to go to that country to find people who could satisfy my thirst for knowledge of my own faith.
That it is an indictment of the abdication of this responsibility to “educate” and “form” by the Philippine Roman Catholic Church. It is not enough to be born Catholic. You have to be formed to live your life as a true Catholic. Otherwise, one becomes a Catholic in name only.
I would hate to think that this abdication is intentional. One could think that by keeping your flock in the dark, you are keeping them ignorant of what being a real Catholic is and that by so doing make it easier for them to just accept whatever it is that is being spoken from the pulpit. Bear in mind, however, that by keeping them ignorant, you are also leaving the gate open for every other religious denomination to poach in your backyard. When you cannot even arm every Catholic with an answer to the question – “why are you a Catholic” – how do you expect them stand firm and not succumb to every other sweet-talking Pastor Tom, Dick and Harry. How?
Despite all this, I recite Symbolum Apostolorum with all my heart, all my mind and all my soul because – I believe.
“Credo in Deum Patrem omnipotentem, Creatorem caeli et terrae, et in Iesum Christum, Filium Eius unicum, Dominum nostrum, qui conceptus est de Spiritu Sancto, natus ex Maria Virgine, passus sub Pontio Pilato, crucifixus, mortuus, et sepultus, descendit ad ínferos, tertia die resurrexit a mortuis, ascendit ad caelos, sedet ad dexteram Patris omnipotentis, inde venturus est iudicare vivos et mortuos. Credo in Spiritum Sanctum, sanctam Ecclesiam catholicam, sanctorum communionem, remissionem peccatorum, carnis resurrectionem, vitam aeternam. Amen.”
I guess I’ve vented enough…
- Aquino’s support for contraception angers Church (reuters.com)
- Philippine tour guide’s protest offends Catholics (foxnews.com)
- Manila tour guide arrested for heckling during Catholic mass (newsinfo.inquirer.net)
- Philippine tour guide’s protest offends Catholics (seattletimes.nwsource.com)