By Joe America
Occasionally, I write an article that is intended mainly to provoke discussion. Why? Usually because I am confused and the discussion that follows the article helps me sort out my ideas.
This is one of those articles.
About 86% of the Philippine population belongs to the Catholic Church (Center for Global Education). The Catholic Church promotes the teachings of Jesus and the compassion of Mary. It is a ritualistic Church that has a well-structured worship, kneeling, chanting and singing, communion, holy rituals, holidays celebrating the birth or death of Jesus (his rising, actually), and others. Churches can be a simple hollowblock room or a cathedral, but all are elegant for the statues, candles, linens, and quiet holiness found within. Priests are for the most part pious. Women play a subordinate roll. Some of the Church doctrines go against modern social conventions: the Catholic Church objects to family planning, gay marriage, and equality for women.
It is a church of discipline, and yet a forgiving church. This is awkward because the forgiving makes a lot of the discipline meaningless. We’ve published articles here in the past about the dangers of forgiveness and the restraints imposed by doctrine: (“Does Catholicism make us more tolerant of corruption?“, by Andrew Lim). But I’ll go even further than that for what has developed this past year.
I have come to the conclusion that the Philippines is not really a Catholic nation after all. I’ve learned from a whole lot of Bible study in my lifetime that neither Jesus nor Mary would allow followers to engage in the wanton killing of one human being, much less 10,000.
But death is out of control in the Philippines in 2017. And the Catholic Church, it’s congregation, and its priests, are largely quiet about it. I’m not sure any tears have been shed, except among the families and priests of the dead, up close.
I can’t help but think that a REAL Catholic nation would be weeping for each child left fatherless, each woman widowed, each innocent sent to heaven or hell without last rites, and each drug addict not granted the possibility of forgiveness and resurrection, or a chance to find a constructive place in Philippine society.
I think the Philippines, rather than Catholic, is a superstitious nation, a ritualistic nation, and an emotional nation. The personal rites taken up by many . . . drivers as they motor off to start the day or soldiers heading into the battlefield or teachers before beginning their lessons . . . are self-protective rituals, not testaments of faith. They are directed INWARD, not outward. They ask for gifts, and give little. Or they give words, but not acts.
Well, that is not comprehensively true, I know that. There are many who are compassionate and true to the teachings of Jesus and heart of Mary, and are REAL Catholics. What percentage of the church-going public is that? I don’t know. Maybe 5% to 15%, as a guess.
The lack of an outwardly directed faith permits a wall to form between individuals and all the pains of the outer world. The wall stops words of good will from going out, even prayers. It stops acts of compassion and mercy. And it pushes away all the weeping and sorrow from the thousands of suffering souls “out there”.
It is a powerful wall. Maybe even built by Satan, I don’t know.
I do know that Jesus and Mary would stand aghast at the way Catholics in the Philippines praise and honor them, and all they stand for.
. . . the way Catholics in the Philippines sing words of praise but dishonor them, and all they stand for.