JOSE Rizal was not for independence via armed revolution but simply for the Philippines to be a province of Spain. He was nevertheless executed for his scathing criticism of cruel and abusive Spanish friars. Church and State were one, and to criticize one was to criticize the other.
Church and State are separate now. Yet while taking highly partisan potshots at the government has become an ugly yet fruitless national pastime, all criticisms against the Catholic Church remain taboo. Catholic bishops and clergy practically belong to the oligarchy and continue like the friars to resent and react negatively to any form of criticism of their office or person.
Politicians kowtow to the Catholic Church for good-image and vote-getting purposes. Catholic priests bless, inaugurate public buildings and projects. Most farcical of all, politicians launch election campaigns with a Eucharistic celebration. We know, of course, how the inaugural Holy Mass never keeps them from buying and intimidating voters and cheating in all sorts of ways just to win their coveted offices.
Reality points to a separation on paper. High religious officials are still one with the oligarchy in maintaining the colonial legacy of an unjust social order that has since been systemically marginalizing the vast majority of Filipinos.
The former refrain from condemning a socio-economic system that functions inequitably under any administration. Instead, they go flagrantly partisan and speak against the corruption and abuses of only those politicians who dare criticize and tell some ugly truths about them.
Some people do criticize the Catholic Church to destroy it. But many others criticize with the pure intention of making it more relevant and truer to its mission of building God’s kingdom on earth. Such a critic was Jose Rizal. Such was Jesus Christ long before him. And both were condemned to death as traitors to their respective religions by their priests.
There are still many things wrong with the way the Catholic Church is going about its mission on earth like its over-emphasis on devotions and the fees charged for sacramental services. Most incongruous of all, the Catholic Church is ruled by celibate bishop-monarchs and priest-nobles who treat the laity as subjects that are incapable of doing anything more than attend rituals and obey without question the Church’s clerical nobility.
We will be commemorating 500 years of Christianity in 2021. Unless, as Rizal modelled, we dare call the Church’s attention to its faults and weaknesses, it will be business as usual for the Church in the next 100 years. And the Philippines will remain a scandal of corruption and poverty to its non-Christian neighbors.