QUESTION number two is: was there a Catholic vote in elections 2013? Lipa Archbishop Ramon Arguelles and Bacolod Bishop Vicente Navarra, who both went to extremes in getting Catholics to vote as one, have admitted disappointment that bloc voting by Catholics was simply non-existent.
How can there be a bloc vote when precisely the likes of these two bishops moved heaven and hell to divide Catholics into two opposing camps on the Reproductive Health (RH) issue? Instead of rallying Catholics around core social issues like official corruption and mass poverty, they went a hair short of imposing their views on RH as dogma, which it is not, and in making RH a core election issue when it is not.
Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) head Jose Palma did right in not allowing pro-Team Buhay and anti-Team Patay posters in Cebu churches. Archbishop Palma remained true to his anti-RH Law stand without going out of the context of core socio-moral issues affecting the poor. He simply asked Cebu Catholics to vote wisely and, judging from the results, that’s exactly what they did. And that’s how everybody, including Catholics, should vote, freely and wisely.
At a Vigil for Pentecost, Pope Francis was reported to exhort Catholics to “become courageous in seeking out people who need help rather than sitting around dissecting theology” and that the Church should not “remain barricaded in transient structures which have lost their capacity for openness to what is new.”
The Pope could very well have addressed this to Filipino bishops who threaten with hell fire Catholics who have prayed for and acquired the courage of their conscience to walk a moral tightrope in responding to people who need help. He could have very well addressed this to the Catholic hierarchy that remains barricaded from social reality in closed authoritarian structures.
Communications technology have un-barricaded Catholics from contrasting but no less compelling theologies other moral leaders bring from life-changing engagements in battles for social justice. If bishops should want to regain the credibility they lost through authoritarian imposition, they have to learn to evangelize by joining in the battle and thus earn the moral authority to ask Catholics to follow.
With all due respects, bishops would be more authoritative with inherently rational and valid teachings that can stand the scrutiny of contrasting, but not necessarily antagonistic, positions of other moral leaders, both Christian and non-Christian.
Undoubtedly, the Catholic Church is a tremendous force for good in society.
Unfortunately, it cannot influence the world by preaching from behind the safety and comfort of their barricades.