DEEPLY woven into the fabric of our culture is the religion of medieval Catholic Spain. As claimed by Catholic Spanish Royals, it was introduced with the expressed aim of Christianizing us. But, whether expressed or not, it had the undesirable effect of making the natives meekly accept the negative realities of life under Spain’s colonial rule.
Not surprisingly, the medieval Spanish brand of Catholicism has remained the most dominant element in Filipino culture. In spite of Vatican II, the hierarchical (hence authoritarian) Catholic Bishops Conference has stuck to its traditional core belief and practice of reducing the social behavior of Catholics to that of avoiding sin and going to heaven.
Nevertheless, this Church remains the most potent cultural force in the country. It programmed Filipinos into accepting past and present unjust structures; it can re-program them into adverting to the injustice of these structures and into working to replace them with what conforms to the Christian standards of justice.
Unfortunately, the Catholic Church (of bishops and clergy) has instead become a stumbling block to meaningful social change in the country.
We are in a bad political, economic and cultural place because we have been ruled exclusively by an oligarchic elite that single-mindedly promotes the perpetuation of unjust structures of domination. Instead of standing squarely with the suffering many, Catholic bishops and clergy have chosen to cool their heels inside the tent of a faction of the oligarchy that maintains unjust and, therefore, un-Christian social structures.
Archbishop Socrates Villegas’ homily at Noynoy’s funeral is the latest proof of the bishops’ acceptance of oligarchic rule in the country as shown by their siding with the faction that treats them with reverence and does not call them out for hypocrisy and bias for the wealthy.
There’s no question that Noynoy deserves the accolades Archbishop Villegas accorded him, but he might have turned in his grave when the Archbishop used the funeral mass to politically assail his successor and fellow oligarch. (Note that oligarchs unite when their hegemony is threatened. Thus, the Aquinos did not prosecute the Marcoses; the Dutertes coddle them; and the rest have welcomed them back into the game.)
It would also seem Pope Francis does not approve of politicking. I have a sneaky suspicion this prompted him to move Cardinal Tagle up to his next level of incompetence in the Roman Curia and Bishop Broderick Pabillo down to the vicariate level of competence.
If bishops and clergy are to advocate for just socio-economic structures, as Christ and Pope Francis want, they need to stand squarely with the poor and not with any faction of the oligarchy.