Last week, Fr. Dick Guillermo, a friend and a compadre (He's one of my Sophia's godfathers), wrote a very meaningful albeit long overdue reflection on the present thorny journey of our local church, the Apostolic Vicariate of San Jose (AVSJ). I have read his piece from his Facebook Wall and it’s called “An Appeal on Father’s Day”. The author, a diocesan clergy, firmly and courageously breaking his “deafening silence” and publicly revealed, though not naming names, that a priest, I assume the present Vicar General, filed a case before the Prosecutor’s Office, against two of his fellow clergy in our diocese and Fr. Dick calling it an “insane” move!
He recalled from his memory the initiatives they have done to extinguish the small fire before becoming beyond control. To my mind, in almost four centuries of existence of Catholicism in the Philippines, there was never been an instance such as this. A priest brought to a civil court a case against his brother priest(s). The young priest from Mamburao aptly posed urgent questions and challenges for our reflection and consequent action as people of God: “So where will AVSJ heading to? Perhaps what is happening now is more than enough reason to despair, to give up and to lose hope. After all, where can we find the solution? We all have been hurt and healing is nowhere to be seen. The future is dark, sunrise is not yet coming.” I am writing this as another reflection aside from the reflections I wrote since 2011, about the burning or DZVT and the Chancery Building and the close shop of the Saint Joseph College Seminary (SJCS) and every sad memories about the Social Action Center/Social Services Commission where I worked as a lay employee and spent half of my life in the pastoral program that once sustained me and my family, both materially and spiritually.
I firmly believe that the laity is part of this insanity, as what Fr. Dick calls it. This is in no way only about the priests involved in the case. We the laity are sinning by spreading around rumors that cannot be verified by records or facts. The influential and the powerful in our midst want to keep the Church out of social-political concerns. Majority of the church-goers prefer to be generous to celebrity and healing priests over our homegrown fathers and the fate of vocation of our very own seminarians.
Now more than ever, let us anchor ourselves to our theological method or Theology Spiral of See- Judge- Act which is a useful way of working to ensure the balance between reflection and action. I am inviting every member of the Basic Ecclesial Communities (BECs) and mandated religious organizations, personally and in the silence of our actions to reflect, stand and act on this issue to settle all of these through dialogue. If the laity is part of this problem, we are truly also part of the solution. Or, as I have said, we will be the doomed flock of Zechariah. To be silent in this present predicament makes us midwives to what the devils have bore upon us!
I am inviting you all to first reflect on these essential questions: What sort of message does it send to the fallen away Catholics who are already overly suspicious and skeptical whenever there is wind of anything adverse either brewing or potentially brewing within the Catholic Church? And more importantly, what sort of message does this send to Jesus, Who, in fact is our Church? But let not be passive. Let us reprove and expose them in gentle but gallant manner (Ephesians 5:11). If I could be of help in whatever concerted action in the future, I am just a PM away.
To end this entry, allow me to echo Fr. Dick's hard as steel words: “I appeal for prayers and understanding. I appeal for reason. I appeal for change.” Amen and ditto…
(Photo: Grabbed without permission from JD Guillermo’s FB account)