Sunday, January 6, 2013

The Catholic Church In The Philippines Under Siege

The Roman Catholic Church has often been criticized in the past, but never more so in the last 12 months. In the Philippines because of the Reproductive Health Bill (now a law), criticism against the Catholic Church has quadrupled in all fronts...print, TV, radio and the internet.  In social gatherings, it is unavoidable that church topics are talked about and it is appalling to listen to people maligning priests and being so critical of the Bishops.  What is even more worrisome is the fact that these pronouncements are said by Catholics! If these negative comments and gross opinions came from non-Catholics, agnostics, atheists and the like, that would probably be tolerable.  But when Filipino Catholics start listening and believing criticisms, opinions or media hype generally written by non-Catholics, that to me is unacceptable. Why is this happening?

Today more and more Filipinos are becoming nominal ("in name only") Catholics, especially among the younger generation.  Gone are the days when families prayed and went to mass together and parents were active participants in their children's Catholic formation.  Most people are now too busy with worldly preoccupations that religion, relationship with God and Church are set aside.   I wrote something about this in my other blog. I stated then that while the Roman Catholic laity in the Philippines are indeed Christians, majority do not really have a real understanding of their Catholic faith nor do they know what Catholicism is all about. This is the major reason why so many baptized but nominal Catholics are easily converted to becoming Born-Again Christians or Protestants. Also the many scandals and abuses (reported and unreported) that happen in the Church, and the private way these are handled by Church authorities are more reasons given by those who are going against Catholic teachings. It is quite disheartening for people like me who love their Catholic faith to listen to these critical and often slanderous comments. 

It is time for the Catholic Church in the Philippines to stand up and pay attention to what is happening to their flock...many of whom can  no longer be called faithful.  The RH Bill has been signed into law and next on the agenda is the Divorce Bill.  But all is not lost. There are still many things we can do.  Those of us who remain steadfast to our Catholic faith must come together and help our Church fight the growing apathy and indifference amongst us.  Onward Christian Soldiers!

Sunday, December 30, 2012

The Reproductive Health Law vs The Gift of Life

“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.” Jeremiah 1:5

Last December 22, President Aquino signed the Reproductive Health Bill into a law (RA 10354). There was no funfare and no press release was made. In fact if not for a media leak, the palace planned to announce it after the new year.   During the house and senate vote the week before, as I was listening to the explanations of our representatives and senators, both pro and anti-RH Bill, I was appalled by the line of reasoning of many of them. Some of the arguments used by those who voted NO are shallow and self-serving, saying our economy is dependent upon OFW remittances and that we should populate the earth with Filipinos. While those who voted for YES have convinced themselves that too many Filipinos will be the destruction of our society, that the only way to solve poverty, prevent maternal and child death and espouse women's rights is to promote a contraceptive mentality amongst our people. They have convinced themselves that they are doing this for the Filipino women, exercising sovereignty and the separation of church and state by not being influenced by religion, yet are willing to be influenced by foreign funding agencies. They seem to have conveniently forgotten the fact that the RH Bill was introduced because the Philippines does not have an enabling law on population control, which is part of the requirement of the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) of which the country is a signatory, the UN and the US (aka USAID).  So what sovereignty are they talking about?  They have misled the people into believing that this is a reproductive health law when in reality, it is a population control law.
Life is a gift from God. From the moment of conception, every human life is precious and every human life is sacred. Amidst all the rich variety of life on earth, human life is cause for special wonder. We alone can contemplate the beauty around us. We alone can create art and music and literature to express this beauty. We alone can love one another.   And so, it is deplorable that there are people who are against life and seek to redefine, limit and destroy it.  If we were not human upon conception, what were we then?

I cannot understand how government and policy makers can look upon human life as a threat to development.   Is it not humanity who makes development possible?  Family planning (FP) programs introduced in the country since the early 70's failed not because of the absence of an enabling law, not because of the influence of the Catholic Church, not because people are poor.  It failed mainly because of lack of education, poor implementation and lack of access to health services and FP programs.  A new law will not ensure implementation, more so when it is an unjust law.  The government should instead focus on eliminating graft and corruption; provide jobs, low-cost housing, free health care and good education to all Filipinos.  When you have all these in place, you limit if not totally eliminate poverty.   Overpopulation is not the cause of poverty!   And who can predict if the RH Bill's provisions will indeed control the population?  If it fails...then can an abortion amendment be far behind?  Proponents say this will never happen, but once there is an enabling law, it is fact that amendments can be easily made.  Experience worldwide shows that once abortion is legalized, even in limited and extraordinary conditions, it becomes more widespread than was first intended because then, interpretation can become relative. I am truly horrified with the thought. Someone asked me why I am scaring myself  with "future ghosts" when these are not realities yet.  My answer was simple.  With the deterioration of moral values in the world and it seems that now-a-days nothing is objectively right or wrong, who is to say that an amendment to allow abortion will not happen 20, 30, 40 or more years from now?  Do we want to go the way of "developed" countries where human life has been devalued and disrespected?
Human life is beautiful...human beings should value each other, help one another, treat each other with respect from the moment of conception to the end of life.  

If the RH Law says that Filipinos have a right to choose, then I choose not to obey this law that.  After all, Obedience to God comes before obedience to man. 

12 weeks old fetus

Sunday, February 26, 2012

The Gift of Love

St. Valentine's Day came and went without me noticing. But that is expected since this particular day has always been a non-event in my family.  I don't know if the organizers planned it or it was just incidental, but it was also the first day of a conference I am attending on the "nuptial mystery".  Although, not one of the speakers mentioned anything about Valentine's day, love was at the heart of the lectures that day. 

There is an old song called Love and Marriage that says...

Love and marriage, love and marriage
Go together like a horse and carriage
This I tell you brother
You can't have one without the other

Love and marriage, love and marriage

It's an institute you can't disparage
Ask the local gentry
And they will say it's elementary

Try, try, try to separate them

It's an illusion
Try, try, try, and you will only come
To this conclusion

Love and marriage, love and marriage

Go together like the horse and carriage
Dad was told by mother
You can't have one, you can't have none, you can't have one without the other!

This is exactly what the Catholic Church teaches. Angelo Cardinal Scola writes in his book, that "only in the category of nuptial mystery do we find a way to adequately describe the phenomenon of love".  Love in the context of marriage is a gift of self, a surrender so that two may become one. 

To read more on the Nuptial Mystery, go here and here too.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Whose Star Did You Follow?

Today is the Feast of the Three Kings.  It is also the Epiphany of the Lord, the day commemorating the manifestation of Jesus Christ. Listening to today's sermon, I was struck by the question the priest asked..."whose star did you follow this Christmas?"  

In spite of all the commercialism, bright lights and worldliness that surrounded the Christmas season, I'd like to believe that like the shepherds and the three Kings, I too followed the star of Jesus, the Way, the Truth and the Light.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas!

May the light of Christ bring us peace, joy and love as we try to live a life that will lead to sanctification.  A blessed Christmas to all!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

The Feast Of The Immaculate Conception

December 8 in the Roman Catholic Liturgical Calendar is the Feast of the Immaculate Conception.  It is a holy day of obligation and traditionally, the day 8 to 9 year old children studying in Catholic schools have their First Holy Communion. But despite the importance and significance of this feast day, many Catholics remain confused about the meaning of the Immaculate Conception.  A lot of people actually thought that this referred to Mary becoming pregnant while remaining a virgin! I remember in med school while getting the history of pregnant young girls who would insist that they were virgins and pretend to be clueless as to their being pregnant, we would label their pregnancies as that of an immaculate conception...which of course, was a total misconception. Having been educated in Catholic schools all my life and regularly attending mass, it's weird that I never really understood what the Immaculate Conception was. It was only in my late 20's when I began to seek a greater understanding on why I was a Catholic, that I finally realized the meaning behind the Immaculate Conception.

"We declare, pronounce and define that the doctrine which holds that the Blessed Virgin Mary, at the first instant of her conception, by a singular privilege and grace of the Omnipotent God, in virtue of the merits of Jesus Christ, the Saviour of mankind, was preserved immaculate from all stain of original sin, has been revealed by God, and therefore should firmly and constantly be believed by all the faithful.
—Pope Pius IX, Ineffabilis Deus, December 8, 1854"

Simply put, this means that Mary possessed sanctifying grace from the first moment of her existence and was free from the lack of grace caused by the original sin at the beginning of human history.  Mary's salvation was won by her son Jesus Christ through his passion, death, and resurrection and was not due to her own merits.  The dogma of the Immaculate Conception was further validated by the 1858 apparitions in Lourdes, France of the Lady who called herself "I am the Immaculate Conception" to Bernadette Soubirous, a poor and uneducated girl. 

The Feast of the Immaculate Conception is a poignant reminder for us to be more protective of life, especially in today's society where contraception is  more desirable that conception; and that we should strive to be immaculate by showing absolute respect for human life from the time of conception to natural death.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

The First Sunday of Advent

Today is the first Sunday of Advent and since the 900s AD, it has been considered as the beginning of the new liturgical year for most western churches.  The Roman Catholic Church celebrates the Advent Season for four Sundays before Christmas Day, starting with the Sunday nearest to the feast of St. Andrew the Apostle (30 November) as the first Sunday and ends on Christmas eve (December 24).  

The word Advent comes form the Latin word adventus meaning coming. For us Christians and Catholics, it also means the beginning. Every person I believe likes to have the chance for fresh starts and new beginnings. Every day should be considered a blessing as it allows us to start anew. The Season of Advent is the time for us to once again reflect on our relationship with Jesus.  It is the time to "Be watchful! Be Alert!" as Jesus in today's gospel (Mark 13:33-37) tells his disciples.  How do we do this?  The answer is Love.  Being vigilant and attentive is a natural consequence to those who love.  Don't we as parents to our children know how it is to watch out and patiently wait for them? It is easy to do anything if we do it out of love. It does not have to be big things...St. Therese did only little things but she did it with love.

This Advent Season, let us ask ourselves...What are we watching out for? Are we paying attention to what it is that Jesus wants us for us in our lives? How have we responded to the call of "whatever you do to the least of my brethren, you do it unto me"?  Do we love as Jesus does?
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