WHEREAS the year 2012 for the Catholic Church in the Philippines has been star-studded with choicest blessings the likes of a 2nd saint, a 7th cardinal, the Year of Faith and the New Evangelization, among many others, it has also been the year of so many onslaughts against the family and life capped with the passage of the Reproductive Health Law. The best and the worst of times, indeed. Or so it seemed.
After that monumental RH defeat, a chorus of columnists and one or two international news agencies outrightly jumped into their conclusions that the Catholic church do not anymore enjoy its glory days and command of its faithful followers (as if it were the agenda of the Church, in the first place); but without citing the news lead of catholic media that there was in fact so much pressure and pork applied to the legislature by the Palace. The words of the chair of the Episcopal Commission on Family and Life, Bishop Gabriel Reyes, capture it well: “It’s already like dictatorship because the executive already controls the Congress and the Judiciary…Forcing a congressman to change his principle and conscience for pork barrel, government projects, political favors…it’s also as if you are bribing the congressman. Isn’t that corruption?”
Of course, it was all about money and political power. It never was about values and principles—or faith, if you may. That is why the cursory analysis of the secular media that the Catholic Church has lost its grip on its followers is not really so plausible affront. The closest that it can get is the reality that the Church needs to sincerely admit and do a “mea maxima culpa” that it has been too complacent with its serious task of doing catechesis. Ironically, catechetical or integral formation has been the pastoral priority of the Second Plenary Council of the Philippines and its succeeding recalls, but it never landed on good soil.
A recent interview with a young professional who was mesmerized with the “teachings” of the pro-RH advocates revealed that she did not know or was not taught about the teachings of the Catholic Church about life and the family. That maybe said, too, with other teachings of the Church. Listening to some legislators justify their votes on the RH Bill was like looking at a barometer of how Christianity—or mere religiosity—has taken root or otherwise in the hearts of Filipinos. Really, the number of baptized Catholics does not easily translate into the equation of catechized Catholics.
And there is another rub. This has floated lately in an article of a columnist, known for being a Palace apologist, who accused the bishops for raising lately the issue on the alleged irregularities of the PCOS machines during the last elections as “a conspiracy to cast doubts on the validity of the 2010 elections” and, consequently, to spite President Aquino for pushing and signing into law the RH bill.
This certainly is not in the least of intentions among the bishops. But Palace spin doctors will henceforth use this gambit whenever the Catholic Church becomes critical with this administration. But, of course, the bishops know better.
New Evangelization for the Church in the Philippines
CONCERN with the New Evangelization has been the overall theme of the Second Plenary Council of the Philippines (PCP-II) in 1991, of the National Mission Congress for the New Millennium (NMC) held in Cebu in September/October 2000, and of the National Pastoral Consultation on Church Renewal (NPCCR) which the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) sponsored in Manila in 2001. Especially since PCP-II a great number of synods and pastoral assemblies have been established and carried to term in various dioceses.
These synods and assemblies called for extensive surveys and studies on “Faith and Church situations” in many sectors of the country. They involved much serious discussions among members, ordained and lay, in Catholic communities on different levels. Reports, summaries of the deliberations and conclusions of these assemblies were sent to the Holy See for review. Religious orders and congregations, and a good number of lay institutes and organizations have also held, on the national level, analogous conferences since PCP-II.
Thus we in the Church in the Philippines come to this program of the “New Evangelization” already with considerable prior extensive and intensive study, reflection, deliberation and resolution. In truth we have been trying to earnestly pursue “renewed evangelization” especially in the last twenty-five years.
This task of New Evangelization calls us to continue more earnestly the initiatives and projects which have been ongoing under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. We are called to examine more deeply the pastoral situation that we all face together as Church in the Philippines.
We are asked to explore and discover “the new methods and means for transmitting the Good News” more effectively to our people, always under the guidance of the Spirit. Above all, we are challenged anew to foster in the Church in our country a renewed commitment and enthusiasm in living out the Gospel in all the diverse areas of our lives, in “real-life practice”, challenged anew to become more and more authentic witnesses of our faith, especially to our Asian neighbors!
— Live Christ, Share Christ, Pastoral Exhortation on the Era of
the New Evangelization, 2012
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