Greetings from the Irreverent Ingming Aberia, the Philippines, to the Vicar of Christ, the Vatican.
Long before the Philippine National Police got its power to eavesdrop on what are being whispered over cell phones, the confessional box had been an impeccable source of information. It used to be that the priests knew who the mistresses of policemen were; now it is the other way around: the police know who the women–or men–our priests are having an affair with.
I am not qualified to say how playful people can be, or how clever we can play our adult games, hiding things from the eyes of a judgmental public. My aim in reaching out to you is merely to present the problem from another perspective.
The fact that the number of those who go to confession has decreased over time can no longer be ignored, indicating how low the level of our appreciation of the Church’s core teachings has become. I think one cause of the decline has been the growing disconnect between what our pastors say and what the believers are willing to accept as true.
1) The Church preaches the inviolability of life, from conception to natural death, yet your flock applaud the killings that are happening in our midst, with little distinction between what the Chatechesis allows as justifiable and what is not. Some appear to choose the teachings that work for them and discard those that do not, others simply switch to other belief systems, or become a non-believer altogether.
2) When life seems unfair, we, Catholics, should rejoice. (Perhaps this explains why we, Filipinos, can smile in the middle of a tragedy.) It re-assures us that God is in control. After all, The Son lived a thoroughly unfair life, having been deprived of health care when he was born, and spat at, mocked, and forced to go through unbearable pain at the time of his death. For what? For the love of others, including the wretched ones, the dump-bound souls, the forgotten, the poor and all sorts of pests and burden to society. And yet on many occasions that we go through our daily lives, we continue to pass up on the saving grace of an unfair life.
3) The Catholic faith makes it easy to believe in God because of the daily witness to the contrast between the true and the false. The true God gives us freedom to think and act like his foe, to defy him, to mock him, and to even look for every opportunity to depose him. The false God controls and makes people slaves. Years of preaching by our priests have not kept us from becoming false Gods on the one hand, and from being slaves of money, fame and power on the other hand. Proof? The Philippines is supposed to be a predominantly Catholic country, and yet we rank high in the list of the most corrupt among nations.
It is not only because of the scandals involving priests that appear to have contributed to the dent in the moral suasion of Church teachings. The way messages are being communicated can also be a problem.
Our President, Rodrigo Duterte, spends hours to deliver speeches. Often large chunks of these ramblings amount to nothing. So are some of our priests, not so much in terms of content, but more in terms of how messages get across, indicating lack of preparation on the part of the messenger. (Except the Jesuits, of course–we call this sipsip from where I come).
The suggestion is for the Bishop, even the Magisterium–where interpretation of the doctrine is to be the focus–to write standard homilies for the daily celebration of the Mass. This way the priest would have nothing to worry about except to read them. Footnote: Make these homilies short, concise, and to the point. Remember that the Word of God competes with cellphones, tattoos, fancy accessories, scanty clothing, etc. for attention. Remember also that we are more a slave of a false God than a fan of the true God. (When conflict arises, you know to whom we are likely to pay attention.)
This shall open opportunities for more strategizing.
We know that Vatican 2, when it decreed that, among other things, salvation is possible outside of the Catholic faith, has somehow dampened the enthusiasm for missionary work, probably also adversely impacting on the compelling light of priestly vocation.
I found it re-assuring, therefore, when you said that you will find a way to address the issue of the disappearing breed of priests. With limited understanding, let me share my thoughts.
The training for the priesthood need not take up to 9 years to complete. After all, long years of formation have not been proven to be effective in sieving away priests of questionable dedication.
We need not limit the admission of seminarians to the exceptionally bright students. They will have their codigo during homilies anyway.
Our being a predominantly Catholic country and an exporter of manpower open doors of opportunities for global evangelization. Let us preach as if the laity are diplomats and missionaries, so that when they go overseas, we can sow the seeds of faith everywhere. At the close of the age, our mission is done: everyone is deserving of God’s mercy, equipped with a chance passenger’s ticket in each one’s journey to the great beyond.
A final point–I support two things: One, any suggestion that paves the way for the canonization of our murdered priests. Two, a special citation for the one under whose administration they met their untimely death. I suspect you may need to suspend a bunch of rules to be able to do this. But this should be worth it. Like big corporations that spend good money for the services of a Devil’s Advocate, the Catholic Church is indebted to Duterte for exaggerating, and bringing home the point, about shortcomings among the clergy and all the Catholic faithful, bar none.