The much awaited visit of the likable Pope Francis to the country is a balm badly needed to soothe the knotty relationship between many disgruntled faithful followers and the Catholic Church brought about by what is perceived as too much meddling of its leaders in the affairs of the state.
It is bad enough that some high-ranking prelates have been accused of corruption in their own diocese and identified as being at the receiving end of a largesse in different forms from high ranking government officials, but when they also start using the pulpit to pontificate on politics and other state matters, then it simply leaves a bad taste in the mouth of many. It turns them off, promising never to attend mass again, though continues going to church affirming their belief in God and feeling fulfilled in their self-communion with Him.
This was alarmingly becoming the trend, making the separation of the church and the state no longer distinguishable. It was discomforting seeing that church leaders who were already acting as holier-than-thou were also behaving as if the were more knowledgeable in running the affairs of the state and, in particular, the welfare of the people than our elected government officials.
It was never more evident than when our lawmakers/politicians in congress were debating over the passage of the Reproduction Health bill into law. Ultimately it became a law, but not before the leaders of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) went agog, urging people to denounce it as evil, even as it was welcomed by the poor in our society, to whom the measure was specifically crafted for, as it meant teaching them to be responsible parents.
It was during these times that many felt the church’s leaders were going berserk confronting what they perceived was the evil of politics, while showing themselves as the epitome of morality, but in so doing was losing the sight of their responsibility of saving souls and understanding the plight of the poor.
They somehow lost the very purpose of their existence, that which aside from teaching biblical doctrines should also be preaching the gospel of salvation following the words and deeds of Christ.
In fact they have been quite remiss in doing their important task that God considers pure and faultless: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.
Thus, electing Jorge Mario Bergoglio to the papacy and him opting to be known as Pope Francis, after the venerable patron saint of the poor, St. Francis of Assisi, the new pontiff simply signaled from the very beginning a new emphasis on poverty and simplicity, on mercy and compassion.
Pope Francis, as the leader of the over 1.2 billion Roman Catholics, is the best thing that has ever happened to CBCP.
The transformation that Francis is doing on how the church should be viewed and what the priests should be doing are in itself guidelines of their vocation.
In his first lengthy papal interview, Pope Francis says bluntly that the church has been too focused on the issues of abortion, gay marriage and contraception and suggests it find a “new balance” to deliver its message.
Virtually every public message from Pope Francis has included the word ‘mercy’. But by constantly emphasizing mercy, he has made clear that he expects the Church to apply its teaching with compassion.
What is important in Francis’ teachings, which, if followed and practiced religiously and devotedly by all members of the clergy will find peace in its relationship with the state, is his strong advocacy of expressing a fundamental love and respect for people of all kinds, all persuasions, all races and all orientations. Love begets peace and harmony amongst people.
Pope Francis could not have described better what the church should be doing today when he said: “The thing the church needs most today is the ability to heal wounds and to warm the hearts of the faithful; it needs nearness, proximity. I see the church as a field hospital after battle.”
If CBCP today, through its head, Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas, has issued a 7-point warning to priests as the Catholic Church in the Philippines marks the Year of the Poor, and as the Catholic Church around the world observes the Year of Consecrated Life in 2015, it was simply echoing Pope Francis’ warning to do away with similar Vatican bureaucracy and against clericalism and materialism.
We all know about materialism, but what is this animal called ‘clericalism’?
Clericalism is basically the bad idea that only the ordained and religious are fully Catholic and that laypeople are more or less second-class. With that idea comes a host of other bad ideas, such as “Father is always right,” “Never disagree if a bishop does it,” and “Don’t question anything a priest or bishop does.”
Hmmm! Sounds familiar!
(For more of Pope Francis’ instruction/enlightenment that is serving well and slowly changing favorably the outlook of CBCP’s leaders, please visit this link: http://www.nbcnews.com/news/other/pope-francis-attacks-tyranny-unfettered-capitalism-idolatry-money-f2D11658760).