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Catholic values assessment meter for candidates

Rev. Eutiquio  Belizar, Jr., SThD

By the Roadside

 

 

YOU see them stopping by to visit the Blessed Sacrament in parish churches. And you think to yourself: “Hmmm.” On camera they seem so pious. They come to greet the bishop, the parish priest, parish personnel, and parishioners alike. Meek as lambs, they shake your hand and appear embarrassed to even make a pitch for their candidacies. Some even make sure they do not forget to light a candle, pray before Mama Mary’s image or the local patron saint for their intercessions. Or so it seems.

 

Again you feel like applauding. In fact, you are so edified someone as Catholic as you is running for office.

But are they for real?

 

To answer this question alone is worth all the combined effort (or shall I say “force”?) of bishops, clergy and lay faithful can muster for the sake of the faith. I know this might sound like a rigid fundamentalist stance. But the last time I checked, the Philippine Constitution protects one’s freedom to practice his/her religion together with the freedom of expression and speech. I assume that also includes the right to identity, from among those running for office but especially for Congress, the Catholic in fact from the Catholic in name.

 

And I say it is only being realistic. The instances in which so-called “Catholic” candidates once voted into office have disappointed the Catholic faithful is beyond counting, at least in this country. If so-called “Catholic” politicians were truly Catholic in profession and practice, would we still have this yawning gap between rich and poor in these our beloved islands? Would we still long for genuine land reform for our dirt-poor farmers who are far too many? Would we still be talking about the “culture of corruption” that contradicts every tenet of the faith, not to say even basic human decency? Not only do we have Catholic-school-or-Catholic-university-educated politicos who commonly flout basic human and Filipino values; many have actually turned away from their faith as well for the sake of the almighty pork barrel and the secular ideologies of their parties or party-mates (many of whom still profess to high heavens they are Catholic “since birth”).

 

The RH Law is once such evidence that stares us in the face.Other ominous items are on their agenda: the divorce bill, same-sex marriage etc. It is time the Catholic faithful had a tool to spot the truly committed Catholic candidate from the bogus ones.

 

I propose that there be national and diocesan commissions that should be tasked to do no-nonsense research on national and local candidates, objectively and meticulously examining their public or significant private statements, track records and actual advocacies. If they profess to be Catholics, does it show from the gathered evidence? The commissions could then assess if, based on record and fact, a candidate can be considered hostile or friendly (proven authentic or proven inauthentic?) to the Catholic faith and its values.

I do not believe in compelling Catholic voters to vote or not to vote for certain candidates. We are not a cult. We are a (in fact, “the”) Church. But I do believe that Catholic voters should have a tool made available for them to be guided on their choices, one that specifically identifies candidates’ values that are either compatible or incompatible with our values as Church and as Catholic. I am aware that there have been similar efforts in our past elections but not as serious, as systematic or as widespread as one would hope they are.

 

Let me cite the why and the wherefore for such effort:

To help realize the Vatican II vision of the Catholic laity bringing Christian values to the public arena: politics, economics, culture, education etc.:

– To create a greater awareness among the voting Catholic public of faith criteria that should guide their choices of leaders or lawmakers;

– To provide a catechetical tool and opportunity for both Catholic candidates and voters to know their faith and its values that concern the public arena directly or indirectly;

– To prod Catholic candidates and voters to take their faith more seriously, especially in its implications on society;

– To spot and affirm genuine commitment to Catholic values among those who actually or potentially hold government office as well as efforts to deceive voters for purposes of election or re-election;

– To instill a greater of responsibility and accountability among Catholic candidates and voters.

– To respond to the challenge of the Master: “Whoever acknowledges me before men I will acknowledge before my Father in heaven. Whoever rejects me before men I will reject before my Father in heaven” (Mt 10:32-33).

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