A CELEBRATION is indeed in order. Five hundred years of Christianity has forged us into a nation of God-fearing people and there’s a lot in that to celebrate. But the medieval Spanish brand of Christianity also underwrote (with a promise of heaven as payment) the system that made us inferior citizens of a land the colonizers unchristianly grabbed from us. This other side of things calls for a reckoning.
Magellan’s expedition was essentially a commercial undertaking intended to search for spices, gold and other economic resources to enrich the kingdom of Spain. On the side they made Christians of us even as they unchristianly divested us of sovereignty over our homeland.
The Catholic colonizers looked down on us as racially inferior. If they had considered us their equal, they would have traded goods with us. But because they considered themselves superior, they took over our land as if it rightfully belonged to them.
To console us for the loss of our human dignity, Spain taught us to appreciate the higher dignity of a child of God. Ironically, however, our main duty as children of God is to obey God’s representatives on earth, the civil and religious officials of the time.
To this day, we accept the marginalization “God’s representatives” have imposed on us as a matter of obedience and on the strength of our Faith’s promise of a heavenly reward.
This brand of Christianity brought us to where we are today, a nation ruled by a political elite that, much like the colonizers, hug exclusive rights to the country’s wealth, leaving the majority in the rough outer edges of society.
Yes, we celebrate. But considering our dire social condition of gross injustice and inequality, shouldn’t we temper it with a sober reckoning of the damage our Christian Faith (as taught and practiced then and now) inflicted on the Filipino psyche?
The Catholic Church recognized this damage in the final message of the Second Plenary Council of the Philippines (PCPII) in 1991: “As we approach the year 2000, Christ bids this community — the laity, religious and clergy of the Catholic Church of the Philippines — to be a Church of the poor.”
But 10 years later, Council delegates agreed they have failed. What about now? Has the Catholic community finally become a Church of the poor? Evidently not.
Ergo, together with a year-long Panaw sa Pagtuo, how about a year-long series of consultations among laity, clergy and religious on how to finally make the Catholic community a Church of the poor?
In any case, our Christian faith just cannot be taught and practiced in the next 100 years the way it was taught and practiced in the last 500 years or this country would end up in a darker place than where it is now.