Monday, July 18, 2011

Multiply and Spread the Bread

Amidst the recent Catholic Church’s involvement in controversies like the PCSO-COA audit and its billion pesos investments in BPI, Philex and San Miguel, there are people who do not generalize the bishops and priests. No doubt, while there are bishops or dioceses who decided to invest money in various assets including stocks, there are many of them assigned in dioceses that are extremely poor thus incapable to enter into such financial venture simply because they do not have enough funds or they prefer other ways what to do with their money. The Roman Catholic Archbishop of Manila, for example, owns more than 300 million peso shares of BPI and is the bank’s 4th largest owner. Its share worth as of May 2011 is reportedly valued at more than P17 billion.

Pater Maurin of the Catholic Worker Movement in the US once said, “The world would become better off if people become better. And people would become better if they stopped trying to become better off.”

As I have previously stated, there are contradictions that we must explore, having in mind the fact that each diocese is independent from each other in administrative and pastoral concerns, like this recent investment of some archdiocese. I have read somewhere a quotation which says, “The Catholic church is not so much a museum of saints as is it a hospital of sinners.” And if I may add, “…a classroom of contradictions.”

Out of 86 dioceses all-over the country and 129 bishops and ordinaries of the Philippines, allow me to pick just one example, the legacy left by Archbishop Oscar V. Cruz in Archdiocese of Lingayen-Dagupan. Cruz, as we all know is former CBCP president, former Judicial Vicar of the CBCP National Tribunal of Appeals and Director of the CBCP Legal Office.

In 2003, a book entitled “Unholy Nation: Stories from a Gambling Republic” was published and there’s a story in page 137 called “Shades of Gray” written by my most favorite lady journalist, Bernadette Sembrano (who is by the way continue to appear at TV Patrol Weekend in ABS-CBN Channel 2 despite of her Bell’s Palsy). Allow me to share to you part of the interview conducted by Sembrano on then still active Archbishop Cruz.

When asked by the journalist, “How much money does your archdiocese have?” the prelate told her, “We do not have money. Every time we have money, we build. We do not accumulate, we spend money. We do not put money aside [except] just enough for salaries.” He adds: “I always tell our priests that we do not have money in reserve, but the moment we need it, we will produce it. You better believe it and it happens.” After the interview, according to Bernadette Sembrano’s account, Archbishop Oscar V. Cruz handed her a pair of small statue of angels and said, “Just keep your hands clean and the money will come.”

In July 5 to 9, 2004 the National Congress of the Clergy was held at World Trade Center in Metro Manila. Majority of the clergy who attended the Congress perceived that lack of transparency and honesty in the management of Church resources as the most weakening factor in the Institutional Church. According to its document called “History and Grace”, “1409 or 52% of the delegates, close to half of the Congress participants, have admitted that this situation weakens the Church all the more because the problem is from within. The clergy’s inability to manage the Church resources due to simple and plain dishonesty militates against very basic human and Gospel values. It brings to the fore the Gospel’s battle cry against sin and corruption, the moral imperative of honesty and truthfulness in the presence of the Lord and His people, the demand for responsible stewardship in the governance of earth resources… Should this Church be found wanting in this transparent, Gospel-inspired stewardship of resources, because the leaders themselves have failed to practice what it preach, the institutional Church weakens its moral foundation and credible leadership” (p. 213). Since then, a lot of things in different parishes and dioceses were gradually made to remedy this.

Maybe its high time now for the Church to have a second look and do concrete actions on the distribution of wealth equally with other poor dioceses and all of the 2,762 parishes in the land and not only during special occasions or in times of extreme charity needs.

May these controversies challenge us to invoke for financial transparency and the right to be informed on what our pastors (or the Parish Finance Council) have done to our donations and monetary contributions. Instead of buying the line of its detractors’ and falling into the cobwebs and unwittingly join in their wagons.

Multiplying the bread then spread it is in a way means of protecting the Church that we love from all her detractors…

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