AFTER 500 years of Catholicism, if the Philippines is to drop its dubious title of poorest and most corrupt in the region, one institution that has to turn on its head is the Catholic Church. It has had the greatest influence on the attitudes and values of the Filipino people and must, consequently, take responsibility for what the country has become.
Through a sociological lens, I do not see much to celebrate of Catholicism’s past 500 years. Sure, we have the greatest number of baptized Catholics, Catholic Churches, Catholic educational institutions, Catholic priests, nuns and other religious in the region. But we also have the scandalously greatest number of destitute people, many of them living lives unworthy of human beings.
Our non-Christian neighbors in Japan, South Korea, Singapore etc. are relatively well-off, yet their respective business, civic and religious decision-makers do not enjoy a standard of living significantly higher than their average countrymen/women. They take better care of their people than we Catholic Filipinos do of ours.
Yes, we have the numbers and if this merits a celebration, then by all means we celebrate. Still the Catholic Church must not shirk its responsibility of at least turning a corner in the next 100 years. It simply cannot continue going down the same road that led this country to the moral, economic and political dark place it is at today.
To do this, together with the celebration and continuing long after its glow has faded, the Catholic Church must conduct a thorough evaluation of its performance through the centuries. At bottom it should ask what it did wrong that a whole community of (non-Christian?) Catholics should produce a society that is so corrupt and unjust as to render the majority of its people destitute.
It is imperative that Catholics of all kinds, rich and poor, religious and lay, devout and lapsed, are asked this bottom-line question. A consultative assembly of the clerical and religious elite will yield nothing more than self-serving answers.
According to Christ, the world should know we are his disciples by our love for one another (John 13:35). What is happening now is we are known to be his disciples more by going to mass, praying the rosary, praying to patron saints, dancing for the Sto. Niño and pushing people away so we can touch the image of the Black Nazarene.
The Catholic Church wields the greatest influence on the attitudes and values of Filipinos. Hence, it must accept the great responsibility of guiding them towards building a just or Christian society, one that comes with socio-economic systems that, as Pope Francis requires, give everyone equal access to the fruits of creation.