Carvajal: Failure of religion

Break Point

“All this is allowed to continue because too many people think like middle-class church-goers: Let’s pray and pretend we’ve done enough.” – Joshua Wong, pro-democracy protest leader, Hong Kong.

AS I write mass and social media are highlighting a Global Survey result that points to a rise in corruption in the Philippines. This is most probably true. But the thing to notice here is the not too subtle insinuation that if the rise is happening in President Duterte’s watch, it must be due to his “crude” and “killing” governance.

Yet, it only takes scratching the surface of our history to see that corruption has really never abated in this country. It peaked with Martial Law, but Edsa’s ouster of corruption-incarnate Marcos hardly made it break stride. It sprang back with a vengeance as soon as the system of exclusive elite rule was restored.

P-Noy ostensibly tried to stop it but to no avail. Duterte tries even harder but still, if the Global Survey is to be believed, no success.

This can only mean corruption is embedded in our culture. We are born into a society that accepts corruption as a given in life, a game one has to play to survive. Don’t rank-and-file employees (of business and government) take home pens, envelopes and paper etc. because they see their bosses take home the electric fan or the refrigerator or use official vehicles for private trips? (I am not saying anything here that I haven’t seen or experienced in my 76 years on earth.)

If it’s a cultural thing, then it’s a failure of religion which is the determinant element of a nation’s culture. It is a failure of the main religion, Catholicism, to provide mostly Catholic Filipinos with a straightforward moral compass. If our society is lost in a sea of injustice and corruption, it can arguably be concluded that Catholicism has failed to provide this society with a moral compass that points to the true North of honesty and integrity.

One only needs to note that graduation from a religious educational institution has not made a noteworthy difference. Graduates of these schools who go into business or government are, if not more, as unjust and corrupt as any graduate from a secular institution.

Ask me why and my answer is Joshua Wong’s. To paraphrase him, corruption is allowed to continue because too many middle-class Catholic church-goers think the way they were taught by their priest: You don’t need to call out elephants in the room; it is enough to attend mass, go to confession, put money in the collection box and pray for their sick, hungry and homeless victims.

Sadly, that’s all religion is to too many Filipinos. Failure of religion to provide a moral compass is why corruption continues to rise.


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