My worst fears were confirmed when the CBCP announced the theme for next year’s celebration of 500 years of Christianity: “Gifted to Give.” Taken at its face value it is a spiritually uplifting theme. I can imagine how a religious and pious clergy-led-by-the-nose laity might already be swooning over it.
But here’s what I fear is wrong with it. Here’s why it rings hollow to people who put their ears to the ground.
If the Catholic Church is the people of God, why is the theme chosen by His Excellency Luis Cardinal Tagle alone without any open consultation with the laity? For lack of the latter, the theme smacks of the clericalism that continues to render the laity completely dependent on the clergy for answers to questions of faith and morals. I fear it further bodes a celebration whose every part will be dictated by the clergy.
As explained by the Cardinal, the gift refers to our Faith that we should pay forward by giving it to non-Christian nations. The theme is an encouragement for us to go on a “missio ad gentium” or become a missionary Church.
But this is so delusional and presumptuous of Catholic religious leaders. Many of our non-Christian neighbor-nations are taking better human care of their people than we are of our own. What Christian Faith do we give to other nations when, contrary to that Faith’s teachings, we are outrageously neglectful of the welfare of our own poor of which, as a result, we have millions more than our non-Christian neighbors?
We should get our act together first. The Spaniards gave us our Faith but negated it by taking our land from us, treating us cruelly (unchristianly) and using religion to make us accept colonial oppression as God’s will. And we have done the same ever since. We have not preached genuine Christianity of justice, love and compassion to others. We have only preached religiosity, piety and a Faith that begs for God’s help even in the pettiest of life’s problems.
Gifted to give to the world? What do we give when countries that do not have the gift of our Faith are taking better care of their own people than we are of our own? The institutional Catholic Church has been outrageously insensitive to the plight of millions of impoverished Filipinos. Individual Catholics are, but the Church as an institution is hardly visible, if at all, in the fight to eliminate gripping poverty in this country.
As the saying goes “Nobody gives what he does not have.” Judging from the fact that this Catholic nation is most corrupt and has the worst incidence of poverty of any Asian country, what it has is sham religiosity and piety not living Faith in the just, loving and compassionate Lord Jesus Christ.
If we don’t have it, what is there to give?