Relevant but misplaced context

By Ermin Garcia Jr.


I DO find the homily of Archbishop Soc Villegas last Maundy Thursday before priests in the Lingayen-Dagupan Archdiocese timely and relevant.

I share his observance that Godliness among laity seems to be waning, and the felt indifference of parishioners appears to be growing. This truly is lamentable if not downright deplorable.

I agree that the teachings of God in life and family are under attack. Moral values are being interpreted and justified to suit convenience.

I can’t agree more when he called on the priests “Do not let evil intimidate you, dearly beloved priests. Do not let your threats silence the clergy of Lingayen-Dagupan.”

And there is truth to his statement that “In the Philippines, we are Catholics. We do not kill bishops and priests in the Philippines,” he said. “But (in the Philippines) we bash bishops.

We allow our idols to curse the pope. We make fake news about one another. We remain safely anonymous in hidden Facebook and Twitter accounts.”

This is happening.

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MORE DISCERNING PARISHIONERS. But what I found disturbing was the wrong and misplaced context applied to his observations and impressions.

Surely, many Catholics in the archdiocese are aware that there is no deliberate and willful design by government or a political group to persecute the Church in general, or the clergy in particular.

I have not heard nor read any condemnation of the Catholic Church by any Christian sector or by the Muslims, not in mainstream media or in social media. Even the agnostics have not been heard to discredit the Church’s teachings about Christ and the priests who preach them. 

In fact, I do sense that majority of our parishioners (including Duterte loyalists) do not share President Duterte’s off the cuff, disrespectful and insensitive remarks about the sins of some bishops and priests.      

Parishioners today are more discerning than ever.

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UNLI-BASHING. What I have come across are bashing of the Archbishop Soc by ferocious and unforgiving Duterte loyalist-bloggers, not because of who he is or what he represents but because of his statements that are obviously parroting the lines of the anti-Duterte camp.

But the unli-bashing is limited to his statements, and nowhere have I read anything to imply at the very least that the priests under his jurisdiction are to be damned as well.

I have not read any blog or article that refuted Christ’s teachings, or questioned the rationale behind CBCP’s campaign reminding the government of the 7th Commandment  – “Thou shalt not kill.” What most criticized was the inconsistency of the bishops in invoking it.  The bishops have been politically selective in invoking it in governance.

For the most part, many of the bloggers and critics of the archbishop are sympathetic with the priests in the parishes who are doing a yeoman’s job trying to keep the Christian moral values among their parishioners intact. No priest is being openly threatened or ridiculed or insulted contrary to the impression conveyed by Fr. Soc in his homily.

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NO PERSECUTION. Fr. Soc’s heroic statement: “This is not the time for cowards. This is the right season for martyrs and this is a moment of glory…” would have rung louder if the same were aired when the Aquino government went to town with its illegal DAP, when it liberally approved licenses for casinos while turning a blind eye to the rampant illegal drug trade. Where were the bishops? Even Fr. Soc was quiet.   

So, if the parishioners are indifferent to his and his fellow bishops call for martyrdom, it is because of the perception that the bishops have allowed themselves to be used as a mouthpiece of the anti-Duterte groups. They waded in political grounds acting sanctimoniously and that was obvious.

Note that then Rufino Cardinal Sin was careful about being ultra critical in his views and statements about the Marcos government before EDSA 1985. His voice became the rallying point only when then President Marcos’ persecution of his political enemies became much too obvious.  He urged the laity to defend Messrs. Fidel Ramos and Juan Ponce Enrile and thousands from all sectors responded and rushed to EDSA. EDSA Power was his crowning glory for he stood up for the people for the right reason at the right time. 

But the persecution of the clergy that Archbishop Soc and the CBCP speak of today are nowhere felt nor seen. Surely, he can’t expect the laity to jump each time he and the CBCP issue a statement condemning the government, not after what has become obvious.

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GIVING UNTO CAESAR. It’s time he and the bishops step back and begin to focus anew on the spiritual needs of their parishioners (particularly the self-confessed drug pushers and users) and stop dwelling on self-serving political antics. (Note: The rolling down of huge tarpaulins from the church’s loft expressing the laity’s “love” for their priests and bishops after the holy mass was hardly a spontaneous response. It was scripted and a misplaced love!).

I am taught: Mark 12:17 – “Then Jesus said to them, “Give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.” And they were amazed at him.” Matthew 22:21 –“Jesus said “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s; and to God the things that are God’s.”

And, Romans 13:1-7 – “Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. … Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves.”

I pray the good archbishop will not label this piece as another bashing or he misses the point, again.

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PARTYING HAZARDS. The months of April – May are not only great party time in Dagupan City (Bangus Festival) and Lingayen (Pista’y Dayat) but great bonding time for families and friends. It’s still the traditional vacation time for grade and high schoolers.  

The good news is – there are more attractive and accessible local destinations today than at any given time. Try Google and discover these. Or better still, get tips from our The North Vista column by Simon Vistro.

Go west! Hundred Islands alone features more exciting attractions and activities. Check out Bolinao and Anda, etc. Go east.  Check out Tayug, Rosales, Sto. Tomas, etc.

I don’t want to sound like a party-pooper but it must also be told that there lie the hazards of partying and bonding time.

Health-wise, over-eating is the biggest risk. Watch out for heat stroke, sunburn (and jellyfish sting at the beach).  Money-wise, it’s the season for thievery and robbery, and over-spending. Security-wise, more families find themselves in vehicular accidents and drowning incidents.  

Stay safe. Stay focused on the hazards and return home tired but happy and satisfied and make a note to plan better next year! Hehe!

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