FROM a sociological viewpoint, the nation’s nagging problems are systemic. They are rooted in a social structure that subconsciously divides society into two distinct but unequal enclaves: one, the rich and powerful few who control the economic, political, and cultural lives of, two, the majority of Filipinos.
But through a theological window, our problems can be seen as the failure of religious institutions, specifically of the Catholic Church, to provide Philippine society with a genuine spirituality, one rooted in Christ’s gospel of love and compassion, justice and peace. How otherwise can this predominantly Catholic society tolerate the shockingly inhuman conditions of the majority of its people?
There is absolutely no theological justification to the mostly Catholic oligarchy’s steely refusal to make the nation’s economy inclusive and to give all of society’s sectors an effective voice in government. There is, moreover, no theological justification to the institutional Catholic Church’s reluctance to work to change that unjust social order.
There is only a sociological explanation. The Philippine Catholic Church is the same institution Spain’s monarchs used in tandem with their military to grab our land and make us serve as serfs under feudal lords who at the time were mostly the dreaded Frailes. Somehow the institutional Church managed to retain until now its power and privilege in Philippine society from which comfortable perch it has no way of feeling for Filipinos groaning under an unjust system.
The institutional Church as a privileged member of the establishment is an oligarch in its own right. I don’t particularly go for Rep. Edcel Lagman’s brand of politics, but he is right in calling out President Duterte to dismantle religious oligarchies although it would seem he was alluding more to the Iglesia ni Cristo that practices block voting.
Like the rest of the oligarchy the institutional Church stands to lose so much in a change of social structure. Thus, instead of working for structural changes, it is content in siding with whatever faction of the oligarchy allows it to keep its (untaxed?) wealth, power and privilege.
I suspect Catholic bishops are against Duterte not for love of the Filipino people (whom factions of the oligarchy have taken turns oppressing) but because Duterte, unlike Marcos who coddled bishops, is disrespectful of them and threatens to erode their power and privilege, of which they have more than they humanly deserve, like if shorn of their religious appurtenances.
Pope Francis has been calling on bishops to work to change unjust economic structures. But in the Philippines, there are no signs bishops are moving in that direction.