"We have seen many abuses among the clergy... another very rampant abuse is (making the parishioner) listen to long, winding, boring, unorganized, mumbled homilies. In jest but certainly with some truth, the people say our homilies are one of the obligatory scourges they must go through every Sunday."
-- Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas, president of Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines
MANY parishioners will agree with Archbishop Socrates Villegas about priests doing badly with their homily, the segment of the mass that explains text in the scriptures.
True, only few priests rise above the usual ill-preparedness and dull delivery. Most are long, rambling, not well-thought-out, oversimplified or too complex, full of cliche and jargon, and offering neither relief from doubt nor new energy in faith and clearer insight into liturgy.
But then how can a sermon, "a solemn and moralizing talk," be anything but dull? Priests who don't bore their audience to sleep or death are rare and they draw more churchgoers and bigger alms pool.
Scourge and abuse, Villegas said, comparing it to other excesses of the clergy on alcohol, drugs, sex, child offenses, gambling, or wealth-hoarding.
He believes a terrible homily-giver should be barred or expelled from priesthood. But shouldn't rigid training at the seminary and continuing education on public speaking for active priests work better?
Parishioners would rather bear a poor homily speaker than suffer a pedophile or a drunk in their convent.
And to an excruciating sermon, don't underrate churchgoers' capacity to let their minds stray or shut down until the ordeal is over.