Again, on the Alesna calendar

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Thursday, January 23, 2014


I COMMEND the riter who sought to engage a monsignor of the Archdiocese of Cebu on the “calendar issue.”

My concerns however is on the greater structural realities of our Church. Among these is propriety, transparency and accountability, most especially by the ones in the hierarchy.

I believe the issue is timely for two reasons. First, 2014 is the Year of the Laity.

Second, the Holy Father has been saying much about poverty and simplicity.

The controversy shows how deeply rooted clericalism is in our Church. Meaning that there remains a wide gap between the clergy and the laity.

The result is a hierarchy that is sometimes not transparent. Also, lay people do not know where to go should there be grievances over matters related to clergy.

I have asked a few priest-friends as to the standard operating procedure of the Archdiocese’s grievance process. All they say is: “well, go to the bishop.”

The availability of a bishop, however, is a greater problem. Booking for an appointment with His Excellency is not an easy task. This may be the reason why some Catholics go to the media for refuge.

The letter writer was right in invoking Pope Francis’s words to provide basis for his thoughts. But I would like to point out that even before Cardinal Jorge Bergolio became Pope Francis, the church in the Philippines already said something equally radical more than two decades ago.

In the Second Plenary Council of the Philippines (PCP) in 1991, the Philippine Church said that the “option for the poor” takes on the “greatest urgency in our country where a very great number of our people wallow in abject poverty while tremendous social privileges and deference are accorded to the rich and powerful” (III, 309e).

No less than its official acts and decrees say that the Church should “detach from possessions” (no. 125), should not deprive the poor of their right to receive in abundance the spiritual help and goods of the Church (no. 126) and that “pastors and other Church leaders will give preferential time and attention to those who are poor and will generously share their resources in order to alleviate poverty . . .” (no. 126).

The most striking line, however, is in no. 133, which says that “pastors should not compete for the most prosperous parishes or offices...Rather, they will live simply in order to share what they have with the needy.”

Given the stature of the person/s (monsignor/s) involved, it is important that we consider things not just from the practical or technical point of view.

The matter must be discerned by no less than the monsignor himself in the light of what the Church (of which he is a servant) has propagated as its values.

The controversy, therefore, is a question of witnessing and modeling. Apparently it is not good, irrespective of the source or donor, for anyone who claims to be a servant of the Lord to publicize what poor people may perceive as a lavish lifestyle.

The standard of simplicity has already been given by PCP II: the poor.

Thus, laypersons should now maturely face their challenge. We need more participation and proactive involvement on the part of the lay. This year is devoted to us.

To be empowered means more than just being lectors and collectors in the Church. Lay people should “think and decide” with the Church.

Unfortunately, we are in dearth of empowerment. I know that there is a Council of the Laity in most if not all dioceses but I am not sure what so far they have made in order to empower lay people.

If our bishops demand transparency from the government, there is no reason why the Church hierarchy should not be subjected to the same standard.

If we are to be consistent with the Gospel-values we claim to believe then we should live by these values irrespective of our rank in the hierarchy. --Rhoderick John Abellanosa, Cebu Theological Forum

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on January 24, 2014.

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