Carvajal: Where is the Church

Break Point

NOT too long ago Manila Times columnist Rigoberto Tiglao opined that Covid-19 has shown up the Philippines’ two most useless institutions, namely, Congress and the Catholic Church.

Earlier I saw senators going about their favorite pastime of grandstanding so I wrote a column to ask where they were exactly in the war against Covid-19. To my great surprise, they honored me with a reply that, in fairness, SunStar subsequently published.

Now it’s time to ask the same question of the Catholic Church. Where is it in the nation’s struggle to contain the virus and help its victims, their families and the frontliners that take care of them?

The question is actually directed at the institution or the Church of the bishops and clergy. We might not agree with everything they do but we know exactly what government officials are doing during this pandemic. However, we know very little of what Catholic religious leaders are doing.

We know the archdiocese of Cebu has allowed the International Eucharistic Center (IEC) to be used as a place of quarantine for people who test positive of the virus. But the victims and the frontliners attending to them are mostly Catholics belonging to a parish. The badly hit barangays are parts of Catholic parishes. The question, therefore, translates into what parishes are doing to help residents (Catholic or otherwise) of these areas deal with their dire predicament.

We also know that parishes are complying with enforced health protocols that forbid gatherings for sacraments and devotions. So, the question also translates into what alternatives to physical sacramental ministry parish priests are considering. If sacraments cannot be administered digitally is the Church trying to find alternative forms or is it merely biding its time to wait for normal times to be back?

We know income from collections at masses has ebbed. Nevertheless, the institution remains extremely rich from rentals of its properties and income from its investments. Big business has donated millions but we still have to hear how much big religion, the Catholic Church, is good for in this fight.

Finally, is the virus modifying plans to celebrate 500 years of Christianity in 2021? Has it challenged clerical minds to look for more relevant and meaningful ways of celebrating this milestone or has it simply induced intellectual laziness?

Just like other leaders bishops and clergy are public persons, accountable to people they have been ordained to serve. Thus, it is hoped their silence is a case of the right not knowing what the left hand is doing as Christ has exhorted his disciples to avoid being pharisaical about it. Anyway, we hope it is not that neither hand is doing anything.


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