Sermon For The Catholic Bishops

[Originally posted on 3 February 2017]

Pardon my irreverence, but I, a layman, wish to address this to the leaders of my Church. This I do with reluctance, but somebody said that writing is an act of desperation.

Let me preface my rant with recognition that all generations are indebted to you for sharing with us the means to reconcile with God. For those who long for eternal life, no access to anything can be more valuable. Hence you have earned your heavenly reward, regardless of how sinful like us you may be. For this I consider you, and the clergy in general, as the most powerful group of people on earth.

Or at least the second most powerful group of people on earth. I cannot ignore the power of the wretched—the homeless, hungry, deserted, destitute, disabled, sick, dying, condemned, among others—to send people to the gates of immortal bliss. While you are an indispensable facilitator of a process, the wretched ones succeed, with God’s mercy—even in just a single moment of grace, as when Jesus, dying on the Cross, assured a repentant sinner that he would be with Him in paradise—by means of “summary promotion” or, shall I say, in keeping with the madness of the times: “extra judicial redemption.”

Nagging questions with the least of His brethren in mind beg for answers. Why does inequity continue to humiliate us? Social justice—what is it? Why can’t it be of service to all? If anyone can be responsible for illegal drugs, among other crimes, why are the poor getting the penal treatment almost exclusively?

Corruption debases social justice. Public funds meant to redistribute resources, and promote social levelling and justice, end up in private pockets. And because these private pockets are tied to those who control government (not necessarily the ones we elected to office) and private business (already deemed rich even before they were born) the cycle of deprivation among the many continues. Worse, corruption gives rise to the rich ones having control of any crime of real consequence, and the wretched ones become victims many times over.

Corruption, it has been said often enough, is product of a dysfunctional culture. Who teach us values? Elders? Community? One can look at the educational system (itself not free of corruption), but I, in search of a big brother, prefer to look at you and my Church. Have you failed us? The problem with lay people like me is we know almost next to nothing about what really is happening. Perception we get from managed hype, fake facts and news, for example, can get the better of us. Misinformation highlights the need for leadership by example. Thus, this question: Why would it be so hard for me, a rascal, to break the law if I perceive you, virtuous and prayerful ones, to be freely violating your own vows?

I think that is where we have long been—there is gross breakdown of law and order, so common and so viral. A few snapshots:

  • A Justice Secretary endorses appointment of administrators of prison facilities on questionable grounds, making it easy for us to believe that those government properties have become breeding ground of unthinkable mixes of crimes, including illegal drug trade.
  • Rogue cops on the prowl (legally armed and dangerous).
  • People are killed under government custody. And as if this is not enough, the dead are mocked by lies, empty threats and histrionics.
  • Politicians and judges seemingly on the payroll of criminals.

The list is endless, including what some insinuate as your flirting with the Arroyo government in exchange of a muted dissent to the Garci scandal, but you get the drift.

It has reached a point where, at election time, the one professing to hate crime the most, seen on TV with balled fists and clinched jaws, easily gets the vote. Unfortunately, the crime-busting President we elected has himself created conditions for more crime to flourish.

The ongoing war on drugs is underpinned by summary condemnation. By reflex, suspects either had to surrender or flee; but those who had neither the means nor the links to power have been stopped dead on their tracks, literally. I add them to my wretched list. That their fate has become irreversible—and their cases are now up for resolution before the Supreme Judge—is indicated with asterisks. The list exploded in a matter of months. Reports say the number of casualties has now reached 7,000. This war puts to shame the deadly might of Yolanda, Ondoy and Pablo combined.

The good news is, with external help, we managed to somehow rise from Yolanda and the other natural disasters. It is therefore not hard to hope that we can always overcome whatever there is that hampers us; that we can correct our wrongs; that we can heal ourselves.

We Filipinos, I suspect, are a favored race. Our country is a beacon of Christianity. Its light just cannot be dimmed because at its core there is rot. All we need is renewal. But this should entail drastic actions. Crazy times call for crazy measures.

Perhaps God so loved the Philippines that, apparently not done with a Pope who publicly chastises fellow priests, He sent one mental wreck after another so that this nation may rediscover its gift of sanity. Out with conventional thinking. We need one who defies labelling; one who shuns decorum; and one who loves not only to chastise but also to defame you. Rodrigo Duterte maybe wild with his facts, but exaggeration works beyond being a figurative speech if he succeeds in jolting you out of your comfort zones.

I don’t think it is enough that you condemn the killings and the tenacity by which corruption has crept into our lives. Restore our pride in the clergy. Done by choice, self-denial is God’s expression of power. More courage, please. Embrace poverty. Be one among us. It feels good to be wretched.

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