Tuesday, October 05, 2004

Still practicing ‘split-level Christianity’

Still practicing ‘split-level Christianity’

By Bob Garon
TODAY Newspaper
Tuesday, October 5, 2004 1:07 AM

Dear Tito Bob: The kind of people (and even some priests) on this side of the world is absolutely different here than in the Philippines. There’s no "pataasan ng ere” among parishioners, although, of course, some people tend to be snobs. There are no reserved seats for the VIPs. Unlike the “Church of the Poor” in the Philippines. Our bishop said Mass a few months ago and people just sat where they want to. No one “bought” his/her seat. There are no intrigues, or chismis. I’m happy to serve the church here as a volunteer in the St. Barnabas Cathedral bulletin and in the liturgy subcommittee of the parish pastoral council in our own parish, Our Lady of Perpetual Succour.

Filipinos are very religious, but there’s still a need for an “examination of conscience.” There was once a remark from a priest that the country is the only Christian nation in Asia and yet has produced only one saint. Quite a shame, really.

Hope you can comment on this. I also hope that your column will always help make readers aware and involved toward renewal and healing.

Pietro Albano
Nottingham, England

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When there is inequality in society, it is difficult for the Church not to be a reflection of this. It would mean that the Church, its priests and its influential members would have to lead the way in changing the ways and values of society.

This is clearly not this case here in our country. The Church still gives privileges to the rich and the powerful that it courts. Its priests, by and large, do not reflect the poverty of the masses unless they are forced to do so. Given the chance, they will live much better than the people they serve. This, even if 90 percent of Catholic priests come from poor families. When they become priests, their lifestyle suddenly rises far above the families that raised them.

You are correct in saying that “there’s still need for an examination of conscience” among our people. More than that, I think, the first ones to make that examination of conscience should be our religious leaders. A people is always a reflection of its leaders. This is especially true of religious leaders. And a quick look at our sick, corrupt society says much about the failure of our churchmen.

If we are so overwhelmingly Catholic and Christian, why are we so corrupt, so tolerant of evil among us? Why does the cross sit so comfortably in the midst of evil? Is it perhaps because our churchmen, our priests are too tolerant of all that is evil in our midst?

I think there is something very wrong with the religious leadership. There is a serious vacuum, an absence of effective leadership that can bring about real change in our Catholic society.

There is a failure to link religious practice to everyday behavior. We are a nation of Christians who practice “split-level Christianity,” as Fr. Jaime Bulatao, SJ (my former professor), put it so well in a book he wrote years ago. We are piously practicing our faith on Sunday, but on Monday morning we forget all about it till next Sunday.

We have lots of religious practices, but we are not practicing our religion and reflecting its true values in our everyday lives. If it were so, our country would be very different today. But it isn’t. In fact, we seem to be slipping deeper and deeper into the slime and corruption and every form of dishonesty. Our faith seems to be only cosmetic, but not something whose basic values we have internalized. You’re right, Pietro, it’s time we all made a serious examination of conscience and invited our priests to lead the way in doing so.


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