Punchline

Fr. Soc’s Christmas rant

By Ermin Garcia Jr.

JUST when most expected to hear an inspirational message from mass celebrants on the occasion of Jesus Christ’s birthday on December 25, much like when Catriona Gray made Pinoys feel good about themselves with her inspirational reply to a question in her quest for the Miss Universe title, Catholics in the Lingayen-Dagupan archdiocese instead found themselves at the receiving end of a rant on how they have all become tolerant of the “vulgar” political situation in the country.

All the priests that celebrated the Holy Mass in the archdiocese were made to read Archbishop Socrates’ homily that he titled “Stand up for Newborn Jesus.”

 As some attested, many among the thousands in the archdiocese who heard mass left the churches and chapels shaking their heads on being made to listen to Fr. Soc’s ranting against the Duterte government disguised as the “meaning of Christmas”.

Worse, many even felt they were being accused of being “cowards and timid” by their bishop for not following his lead in condemning PDU30 and his government.  They said they were made to listen to his deep frustration and disappointment that DU30 is still the president in spite of efforts to oust him.

He didn’t have to ask “Where are the true believers of Christ?” after making a litany of what he perceived were the grievous sins of government, because they were there for Jesus!

Then he exclaimed: “Is this what we have become as a Catholic nation? The answer must be NO! We must resist the spread of vulgarity and the contagion of violence. There is no Christmas hope for the cowards and the timid. Christmas demands that we stand up bravely for the Lord!”

For the umpteenth time, he was again asking the laity to “stand up” to the government with the caveat- “for the Lord.”

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COWARDS? What was evidently haunting Fr. Soc was PDU30’s tirade against the bishops who ceaselessly asked for his ouster.  He wrote: “We your bishops are called “walang silbi” and you have been encouraged to kill us.” That was vulgar, he insinuated. Then he followed it with: “Christmas proclaims that the “walang silbi” are cared for not killed.”

Yet, his litany of the government’s “vulgarity,” literally a copy-paste of the litany of “sins” listed by the politicians opposed to the government to justify moves for his illegal ouster, was exactly what most believe triggered PDU30’s recent attack on the bishops.

Curiously, Fr. Soc again made it appear as if the “vulgarities” he cited were happening in the country for the first time. The killing of politicians have long been here yet he was never heard decrying the killing every election year since the Aquinos came to power, neither was he heard condemning the protection of shabu laboratories in all the regions by allies of the Aquino government.  He was silent about worsening poverty since People Power in 1986, and when government funds for public housing, maintenance of MRT, construction of dikes and dredging of rivers, etc.. were being misused. To this day, Fr. Soc has not raised his voice against the diversion of donated funds for Yolanda victims.

But one cannot begrudge him for his rant because that’s par for political discourse for politicians like Fr. Soc.  Where many felt he crossed the line in his Christmas rant was his insinuation that those who didn’t agree with him, those who refuse to stand up with him are “cowards and timid”. Tsk-tsk.

When Fr. Soc’s rant ended, and none of the priests bothered to expound on the true spiritual context of Christmas, many said it was wishful thinking to hear Fr. Soc say on Christmas day: “As Jesus was born for our salvation, let’s pray for our President and the men and women in government today, that they may set the right examples and be the true models of righteousness for our countrymen.” 

Now they know that praying for sinners is already beneath Fr. Soc’s calling.

As it cannot be denied that PU30 is hardly the polished statesman that we want him to be, he who cusses on every turn making Pinoys cringe in embarrassment, so is the fact that Fr. Soc has turned into an ultimate traditional politician using God as a front in order to be effective as a close ally of the political opposition that seeks PDU30’s ouster by any means. Tsk-tsk.

Bereft of references to Christ, “Stand up to the government, you cowards” was actually the message he gave to a captive audience across the archdiocese. Indeed,  spoken like a true blue politician in the opposition.

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CATRIONA’S MESSAGE. If you can call Fr. Soc’s Christmas homily inspirational, then Ms. Catriona Gray was heaven sent for her statements that moved the world. She was the voice of the poor children desperate for a better life, urging us to be more relevant, to be more sensitive to their needs, to be more positive in our views and actions.

Read the memorable statements again of Ms. Gray during the Q&A portions  before she was proclaimed Miss Universe 2018 on Monday, December 17 in Bangkok.

1). “Working in some of the poorest areas of my country, I found that it was a lack of child support, not poverty, that killed their dreams. A child once told me, “Cat, that’s just not my life, and those dreams aren’t made for me.” But I stand here today because someone believed in me and we owe it to our children to believe in them.”

2). “I work a lot in the slums of Tondo, Manila, and the life there is very poor and very sad. I’ve always taught myself to look for the beauty in it, to look for the beauty in the faces of the children, and to be grateful. I would bring this aspect as a Miss Universe to see situations with a silver lining, and to assess where I could give something, where I could provide something as a spokesperson. If I could teach also people to be grateful, we could have an amazing world where negativity could not grow and foster, and children would have a smile on their face. Thank you.”

Indeed, thank God for the likes of Catriona Gray who sees hope in us, who believes there’s a  silver lining to efforts when working with and for the poor.

Fr. Soc’s forgettable quotes?

1)  “There is violence against political opponents. The statistics of unsolved murders continues to rise. There are more drugs to buy. There are more criminals set free and the opponents are threatened with imprisonment. Everything is turned into a bad joke. The poor are poorer and the rich are getting poor. We scold children who bully their fellow children but we laugh at elderly bullies who flaunt vulgar humor… Accusations are hurled at innocent people without any basis at all. Fake news is unrelenting and the bashers against the truthful are shameless. Where are the true believers of Christ?

2). “We must resist the spread of vulgarity and the contagion of violence. There is no Christmas hope for the cowards and the timid. Christmas demands that we stand up bravely for the Lord!… The greater enemy to fight is cowardice and timidity. Tolerance is not a virtue. Tolerance of evil makes us accomplices. It is vulgar to laugh at vulgarity! (If you’re interested in reading the full text of Fr. Soc’s homily, here’s the link: https://www.veritas846.ph/stand-up-for-the-newborn-jesus/)

These led the flock to ask: “What happened to  Pope Francis’ thoughts on Christmas?” Pray tell, Fr. Soc!

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THANK YOU LORD… THANK YOU ALL! I thank our loyal PUNCH readers and advertisers who continue to believe in us, without whose support the PUNCH’s print edition would have been completely dumped by the digital age. We pray you will stay with us for another full year in 2019!

Above all, I have a lot to thank our Lord God for all these years since my father was murdered in 1966 defending the press freedom he enjoyed. He kept our staff intact and safe from harm in order that we can continue to accomplish the mission He assigned us.

Happy New Year!  To God be the Glory!

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