Carvajal: Relevance

Orlando P. Carvajal

THE late Bishop Ben Tudtud was returning from a meeting of CBCP (Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines) in Baguio when I chanced upon him at the Cagayan de Oro airport. After the usual pleasantries, I asked him, tongue-in-cheek, what earth-shaking stuff CBCP discussed this time. I’ll never forget his disappointed shrug of an answer: “Communion in the hand and stuff like that.”

Covid-19 has, of course, put the issue to rest and disallowed communion in the mouth. But yes, time was when bishops spent long hairy hours discussing whether or not to allow communion in the hand.

Also, at that time I was posted in Davao and supported the formation of Basic Christian Communities. Years later, after I have left the priesthood, I learned that CBCP had outlawed Basic “Christian” Communities in favor of Basic “Ecclesial” Communities.

I still can’t figure out what is so wrong with the word “Christian” that it cannot be used to describe a community. Later, I learned that CBCP considered Basic Christian Communities as too much of a Protestant thing. So, what happened to Vatican II’s spirit of ecumenism that we must now build “ecclesial” not “Christian” basic communities just so to dissociate ourselves from something Protestant?

Anyway, today the CBCP continues to be engrossed in petty stuff. Millions are homeless and hungry; corruption is rampant; drugs are destroying families, etc. yet all some bishops can think of this Lenten season is urge people to lay off their gadgets as penance. Of what help will it be to suffering Filipinos if we did penance by giving up something simply for the sake of giving it up?

Why not motivate Catholics who have more in life, like land for instance, to give some of it up at an affordable price so our urban poor can have a house and lot of their own? Better still, why doesn’t the CBCP teach by example and build houses for the poor instead of commercial buildings for potential profit?

Or how about mobilizing parishioners to help carry the cross of thousands of employees who have lost, are losing and will lose their jobs due to the massive business slow-down Covid-19 is causing? Wouldn’t this be a more relevant penance and answer to the Covid-19 crisis?

Bishops are smarting from President Duterte’s prediction that the Catholic Church will disappear in 20 some years. They fail to see that the only thing eternal in the Church is the spirit of Christ. The institution is human and must seek relevance by doing whatever it takes to be true to Christ’s spirit in any given historical moment.

Otherwise, it will die. Only Christ’s spirit will live on in the hearts of those who truly live His life of mercy and compassion for the less fortunate among us.