Predictably, this raised a collective howl from Catholics, who criticized him back, but I'll deal with that later. What I'd like to deal with is his accusation that the Church has many faults, something other critics of the Church have raised. To answer this, I'm sharing the Facebook note of Franz Santos, a colleague of mine at the Ateneo. He's currently the Araling Panlipunan subject area coordinator for the Ateneo Senior High School, and an astute observer of the world. Here's his take on the Catholic Church's 'hypocrisy.'
A Perspective on the “hypocrite” that is the Philippine Catholic Church - Franz Santos
Around 3-4 years ago, I was having a conversation with a Church historian and he was casually saying some interesting things about the Philippine Catholic Church that not a lot of people know about. I was so amazed with the facts so I told him that they (members of the religious) should tell this more to people to balance the hate the Church gets from its critics (admittedly warranted at times). But he just kept silent and did not react so we continued our history-related talk (and chismis).
I think the Church is like that. It concedes and introspects when criticized for the right reasons (sex abuses, materialism of some members of the clergy, improper involvement in politics,etc.), but does not aggressively publicize all the good that it has been doing here since the 16th century. So it is often misunderstood, and critics highlight the negative things:
- thanks to the Propagandists of the 19th century, isolated cases of friar abuses were popularized (and often exaggerated)
- thanks to the Republic Act No. 1425 of 1956, known as the Rizal Law, Rizal's works (especially the Noli and Fili) were required to be discussed in all educational institutions. this is good from a nationalist point of view. Unfortunately for the Church (and for historians), many people conveniently forget the literary nature of the books and actually consider it as source material for 19th century Philippine history.
- thanks to the wrongdoings of some members of the Philippine Catholic Church, especially when it comes to politics (RH debate, Pajero Bishops, defending PGMA, etc.) critics generalize the wrongdoings of a few and attribute the sins to the entire institution
So yeah, the Church makes mistakes, is sinful (like all of us), and it will be the first to admit that reality. But that's not the whole of it. To say that the Church is insensitive, useless and hypocritical, one has to consider not just the mistakes. For that we need history and social studies:
1) From the beginning, it was the Philippine Church who fought for the rights and safety of the natives against the abuses of Conquistadores and Encomenderos (search: The Manila Synod of 1582)
2) The Church was responsible for the material and intellectual development of the Philippines during the Spanish occupation (especially since the government had limited reach and funds!)
- missionaries planned and facilitated the construction of towns, roads, bridges, churches, etc. and developed key industries especially in the agricultural sector
- the religious educated the youth (by 1896, they were educating almost 200,000 Filipinos in 2,500 schools)
- the early friars were responsible not only for learning the languages in the island, but also for discovering their nuances to the advantage of the natives (e.g. “Customs of the Tagalogs” by Fray Juan de Plasencia)
3) The Church took care of the poor, weak and marginalized all throughout the Philippine's history (founded, ran and funded orphanages, hospitals, asylums, taking care of lepers and many others)
4) contrary to popular belief, while the 1896 revolution was anti-Friar, it was not anti-Church and the Philippine Church provided guidance and support for the Filipinos (check Schumacher’s “The Revolutionary Clergy”)
But we really don't need to read all these. We can just look at society today. As I often say, in the absence of a strong central government, the Church is always the 1st to help out.
1) Who joins farmers in their fight for justice so that they will be heard by the government? (e.g. Sumilao and Casiguran)
2) Who do the poor, marginalized and oppressed run to when they are persecuted or turned away? (offering sanctuary to enemies of Martial Law, feeding programs for the poor and other forms of social work). Go to your parish this Sunday and check out all their pastoral work.
3) Who continues to educate the youth? (from parochial schools to universities)
4) Who do the indigenous people run to when they are terrorized by both the AFP and NPA?
I could go on and on. But maybe we also just need to look at our own experiences. For all her sins (and more particularly, that of her clergy), i’m particularly thankful for the members of the Church. They helped me appreciate life and what i have. They helped me become more generous because of their examples and their works. They challenged me to be more loving.
So for me, let us call out the Church when necessary. After all, she welcomes dialogue. She won't tell us to "shut up". But let's also give credit where credit is due, and look at the bigger picture for perspective.
As I often say, if the Church wants to protest, she can just have a picket and stop all Church-related operations for a couple of days. Let's see what will happen to the country. But she is not like that, and she never will be. And that's why, whether we admit it or not, the Church as an institution is and will always be relevant in our country, even after 2,000 years.
(This post is dedicated to all my friends, former teachers and colleagues who are generously and courageously living out the religious vocation. Ad majorem dei gloriam!)