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Clerical materialism

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OFFHAND, THIS has nothing to do with the Marxist theory, neither of the historical nor of the dialectical kind. Notwithstanding the engagement of Catholic clerics, especially in Latin America in the ‘60s, in the fusion of Christian teachings with Marxist doctrines that birthed Liberation Theology.

Aye, that which was posterized with Dom Helder Camara, the good archbishop of Recife in Brazil, via his single quote: “When I feed the poor, they call me a saint, but when I ask why the poor are hungry, they call me a communist.”

Ah, the poor, beatified by Christ Himself as the possessors of the kingdom of heaven, may the Church have any other choice as central to its salvific ministry?

Preferential option for the poor. Thus, it came to pass from the social turbulence of the ‘60s to stand in the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, thus: This love of preference for the poor, and the decisions which it inspires in us, cannot but embrace the immense multitudes of the hungry, the needy, the homeless, those without health care and, above all, those without hope of a better future.

“Without the preferential option for the poor, ‘the proclamation of the Gospel… risks being misunderstood or submerged’.” So Pope Francis himself decreed in Evangelii Gaudium.

No other pope in recent history has dedicated, aye, committed so much of the Petrine ministry to the poor as Francis, befitting the name he chose – that of Assisi’s “man of poverty.” This is not to say though that it all began with the Argentinian Jesuit.

The Second Vatican Council (1962-1965) declared: “A Church that embraces and practices the evangelical spirit of poverty which combines detachment from possessions with a profound trust in the Lord as the only source of salvation…”

Segued to: “The Church encompasses with her love all those who are afflicted by human misery and she recognizes in those who are poor and who suffer the image of her poor and suffering founder. She does all in her power to relieve their need and in them she strives to serve Christ.”

Church of the Poor

“The Church of the Poor” found centerstage at the Second Plenary Council of the Philippines (1991), defined as “one whose members and leaders have a special love for the poor…. It is not an exclusive or excluding love in such a way that there is no room in a Christian’s heart for those who are not poor. For always, the Christian must love all persons… Christ was able to love well-to-do people like Zaccheus and the family of Martha, Mary and Lazarus.”

Furthered PCP II: “The ‘Church of the Poor’ is one where, at the very least, the poor are not discriminated against because of their poverty, and they will not be deprived of their ‘right to receive in abundance the help of the spiritual goods of the Church, especially that of the Word of God and the sacraments from the pastors’.”

Alas, do they still read Vatican II and PCP II in seminaries today? Alack, have they ever been given serious study?

Sacramental menu

With the list of sacraments diminished to a pricy restaurant menu — baptism and confirmation, P1,500 or P500 per godparent whichever is higher; matrimony, P20,000 with aircon but excluding the flowers, P1,000 per sponsor; requiem Mass, P1,500 excluding blessing at P1,500 too… — what poor can still avail himself of that “right to receive in abundance” the Church’s spiritual goods.

This is akin to, nay, worse, than the selling of indulgences that drove Martin Luther to hammer his Ninety-Five Theses at the door of Schlosskirche, Wittenberg, sparking the Protestant Reformation.

What Church of the Poor can ever obtain among clerics sporting the latest fashion, be it in clothes, gadgets, cars — aye, SUVs being the padres’ preferential option. Their good life extending to gastronomic treats in the priciest restaurants, to tours – more for pleasure than pilgrimage, and even to casinos.

The social conscientization imperative to serving the poor, reduced to the absurdity of pa-sosyal malorientation.

A scandal to behold: the cura of a rich parroquia clinging to his post as though it were titled property. Or, if ultimately pried from it, taking with him all parish valuables, leaving the successor to start from scratch in his turn at accumulation of material wealth.

It did not take a Duterte to impact upon us the lifestyle of the rich and famous that churchmen have immersed themselves in. The ditty of the barrio polosador during my boyhood finds currency even today in my seniorhood:

Nung bisa cang mate danup, maquiasaua cang mosicus. Nung ala yang upang tumiup, ala cang panialing baguc.

Nung bisa cang mate cabsi, maquiasawa cang pari. Magmisa ya saguli, atin na cang panialing babi.

Laments Francis: “There are perhaps – not many – some priests, bishops, religious congregation who profess poverty yet live like a rich person…I would like these religious men and women, Christians, some bishops or some religious congregation to strip themselves more [of riches] for their brothers and their sisters.”

God or mammon

“The sin of incoherence between life and faith,” the Pope called it. The dichotomy of serving God, or mammon, as Christ put it.

It is not sheer random that among Francis’ very first pronouncements upon arrival in the Philippines in 2015, was a warning to churchmen against succumbing to “a certain materialism which can creep into our lives and compromise the witness we offer.”

Said Francis: “Only by becoming poor ourselves, by stripping away our complacency, will we be able to identify with the least of our brothers and sisters.” That was but a paraphrase of the Holy Father’s earlier admonition to churchmen to “be shepherds with the smell of sheep.”

In his homily during the rites of Holy Orders at St. Peter’s Basilica some years back, Francis counseled: “Always have before your eyes the example of the Good Shepherd, who did not come to be served, but to serve and to seek and save what was lost.”

Expounding: “Conscious of having been chosen among men and elected in their favor to attend to the things of God, exercise in gladness and sincere charity the priestly work of Christ, solely intent on pleasing God and not yourselves or human beings, [or] other interests.”

The exact contradiction rising at a recent priestly ordination in Pampanga. The sacredness of the occasion submerged to the materialism of the pomp, pageantry and extravagance grafted into it.

Is a budget of close to P400,000 for an ordination – for catered food, flowers and decors, entertainment, stipends – a thing of God? Is soliciting for that gargantuan amount, indeed, taxing even the poor parishioners for it, an exercise in gladness and sincere charity? Is that even permissible in the Church of the Poor?

The candidate for ordination did not simply go to the parish church. He went on a triumphal parade around town atop a flower-bedecked pick-up truck waving both hands like a politician on the campaign trail, or a homecoming beauty pageant winner. Stopping and alighting a block away from the church to the beat of ati-atihan drums and met by dancing costumed maidens.

If that was a thing of God, I had to seek another God. For whatever god that was pleased by it could only be Mars, triumphal parades being in his honor, and Vesta, with the dancing maidens making out the vestal virgins.

One who passes himself off as steeped in church history, culture and religiosity justified it all as a return to the hallowed tradition in priestly ordination called daquit pari – when the priest was fetched from his house and taken to church.

For all his purported intelligence, he readily lapsed into idiocy.

Daquit pari clearly references an ordained priest, not a candidate for ordination. In this wise then, it is daquit deacuno – fetching the deacon.

Daquit pari covers post-ordination, when the priest is taken on a procession from his house to the parish church to celebrate cantamisa, his first Mass as celebrant.

Most scandalous though were reports – yet to be personally validated, though – that the candidate for ordination walked to church under a baldachin – that canopy used over the Blessed Sacrament during ecclesiastical processions!

Comes to mind Matthew 23:5-8, referencing the pharisees thus: “Everything they do is done for people to see: They make their phylacteries wide and the tassels on their garments long; they love the place of honor at banquets and the most important seats in the synagogues; they love to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces and to be called ‘Rabbi’ by others.

No, we are not witnessing something pharisaic here. What we are seeing is self-apotheosizing. An apostate then, I’d rather be.

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