Faithless in Church (x)

I tell myself that religion is an institution and faith is my personal relationship with God. It just happens that the expression of one's faith is usually done through religion.

What if the institution that you trust with your faith is fast losing its bearing? Does it lessen one's faith or faith turns a blind eye to what the institution is doing? Too often we hear of the phrase Blind Faith to describe our relationship with religion, but a distinction should be made that Faith is attributed to one's belief in a God and not belief to an institution such as the Church.

In this clear delineation of Faith and Institution, it is easier to be objective and impartial when it comes to acts by the Institution.

Too often the Institution involves itself in a lot of political issues using Liberation Theology as the foundation to justify the involvement of the Roman Catholic Church in political activism, particularly in areas such as social justice, poverty and human rights. On the other hand, the current Pope, Benedict XVI is strongly opposed to this school of thought and has seen the decline of its influence within Catholicism since its inception in the 1930s.

History aside, my practical side questions the motives of the Institution and its moral ascendancy in meddling with political issues. The current opposition, whether it is a common Juan or a political party has every right to claim the right of speech and expression when they are subject to the same government taxes that each citizen has to bear. If the Church is willing to pay the government taxes on its collection and properties, by all means give them a platform or a dais to lecture the people.

A doctor that clinically diagnoses a patient's condition is just as effective as the treatment he or she prescribe. As a citizen I definitely don't need a quack doctor to tell me what everyone already knows as an issue if you don't have solutions to work on. Organized gambling, prostitution, child labor, impeachment, poverty, over population and birth control. These are some issues that the Church should provide a tangible and concrete recommendation without having to throw it back to the government to resolve. The time for rhetoric is done, words without action are just letters arranged in a pattern.

Another contention to consider is that criticism works both ways.

There is also the matter of delivering a pill and being able to swallow one as well. The Institution often criticizes the government on a lot of issues from all angles but have been silently mute on the criticisms or issues that face the Church.

A casual scan of local (Cebu) Church related scandals and issues reveal a disturbing pattern of the Church being tight lipped when it comes to one of its own. The recorded cases and reports of Fr. Jose Belcinas (child molestation), Fr. Jovencio Rabusa (physical and sexual abuse), Fr. Apolinario Mejorada (acts of lasciviousness) are just some example of cases that up to now are unresolved and eventually (conveniently?) forgotten.

The case of Fr. Belcinas has its own share of interesting developments, initially charged with rape, the accused was reportedly "happy" when the sentence was commuted to sex with a minor. Read the statement again and let me know if something is definitely not right.

Fr. Rabusa was alleged to have stated that he is willing to be transferred to another parish as long as the case launched against him by the child he allegedly punched are dropped. In the first place the priest is in no position to make demands, if indeed he is not guilty of the charges why allow himself to be transferred?

In the case of Fr. Mejorada the Office of the Cebu City Prosecutor in a resolution dated June 9, 2003 dismissed a case of sexual abuse lodged by former altar boy Michael Gatchalian against the priest citing extortion as a primary motive. This is after the fact that the priest has previously paid off a total amount of Php200,000 to the complainant. Perhaps the last demand of Php10M was just too much.

A fourth case involving Fr. Loreto Jumao-as was similarly placed on limbo when the alleged victims refused to identify themselves as they are "afraid to come out".

An interesting item to note is that psychiatrists believe that psychiatric or medical intervention rarely helps the erring priest or individual from repeating the act unless they are pulled out and placed in an environment where they don't have access to the same condition that prompted them to act. The current Church prescription for pulling out the erring priest, rehabilitation and reassignment to another parish may not be sufficient to break the cycle of abuse.

The combination of an all powerful and morally upright church, a colonized blind loyalty to the Institution, a fear of social stigma and access to children is a fertile environment for abuse.

The criticism seems to fall on deaf ears, blind eyes and mute mouths when the Church is involved. The Church should be realistic in the reality that if they exercise their propensity for political intervention they should also be ready to face censure and analysis from the people.

The keyword is people. The flock, as we are affectionately referred to. A flock though is a mindless mass that follows the loud barking of a dog and its shepherd. Unfortunately, humans are not sheep nor are we mindless. The Church should do well to listen carefully to the people, be accountable to the citizen.

The flock allows the material Church to exist but Faith does not depend on a single Church to subsist.

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