Thursday, September 16, 2010

Clean Little Hands

If people from the national government now say that the primary aim of Small Town Lottery or STL is to outbox illegal gambling like jueteng, why they allowed STL to operate here in our place when in fact the present mayor of San Jose have already erased it from the face of Occidental Mindoro during his watch as governor. When STL came, jueteng already ended, so why on earth they allowed STL operation to kick-off here in our province three years ago? Surprising isn’t it?

But the latest exposé of retired Bishop Oscar V. Cruz, head of Krusadang Bayan Laban sa Sugal, that several dioceses of the Catholic Church are also receiving money from jueteng syndicates did not surprise me anymore. Cruz, formerly assigned in Archdiocese of Lingayen-Dagupan, said that 8 dioceses in Luzon and Visayas allegedly benefit from jueteng payola. For those who are not Catholics, a diocese, - which comprises parishes, is a district under the care of the bishop.

One opinion writer even stated : “Is the Catholic Church still holds firm to what its late Cardinal Jaime Sin once told that he was willing to accept money, "even from Satan as long as it could help my flock." Sin reportedly said that in 2000 amidst reports that the Archdiocese of Manila was receiving a huge sum of money every month as donation from the Presidential Social Fund coming from Pagcor for the so-called Hospital for the Poor project in his archdiocese.

But we should also be reminded that the late Jaime L. Cardinal Sin, then Archbishop of Archdiocese of Manila issued a contradictory pastoral letter on March 25, 2002 about this very issue : “With paternal solicitude I now enjoin all the faithful, institution and ministries of the Archdiocese of Manila to refrain from holding activities that would even at least give a semblance of promoting or tolerating gambling that enslaves the person. Nor we should receive funds from such activities, even if the project we have is for the poor. Our thoughts turn to individuals and families who suffer from the ills of gambling. We ask pardon from the Lord for whatever sins we as sons and daughters of the Church may have committed, through our action or omission, that have led to this situation of suffering and vice.”

And let us suppose the allegation of Archbishop Emeritus Cruz that there are bishops and priests in 8 dioceses all-over the Philippines are collecting money from jueteng is true, maybe they are just following the footsteps of Mother Teresa of Calcutta : helping the desperate poor is the most important thing than minding and considering where that fund or money came from. But Cruz does not buy that argument ever since.

In the Catholic Church, there is no general rule or universal agreement regarding the acceptance of money from gambling in general by priests, bishops or nuns for any pastoral project or program. Nowhere in its teachings or laws can we find them. That is where the big problem lies. This is one of the biggest gray areas in Church so far. And aside from advocating against the evils of gambling and exposing how corrupt officials benefit from it, the Church should have a clear statement on this. A clear-cut policy declaring outright if taking money from such operation is evil or not. Then execute the law and punish the wicked men from among them (1 Cor. 5:13). Anything less is hypocrisy!

May this latest outbursts of Cruz serve as wake-up call not only to the newly-installed Aquino Administration but to long reigning Catholic Church as well.

But let us now set aside gambling and focus on this hypothetical case of donation-giving : Is it okay for the Church to have someone with checkered political career (or a known leader of a criminal syndicate at that) construct a church building under his name? Like in the first case, in the eyes of the Church, there’s a lot of shades of gray in this particular situation.

Both the Church people who accepts and those who declined to receive gambling money have things in common : they are adhered to the gospel value of love and charity to feed the hungry, provide water to the thirsty, etc; and the core theme of the PCP-II called “Preferential Option for the Poor”. Sadly, they differ in the quality of food and drink to give and those who are provided with such necessities using our clean little hands, I think, are being loved and cared for more deeply…

(Flicker Photo)

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