The way they're going, I wouldn't be surprised if more Filipinos turned Buddhist or Islamic or downright atheist. The Catholic Church is giving them every reason to. Except for luminous exceptions like Pope John Paul II and, nearer home, Archbishop Angel Lagdameo and the Association of Major Religious Superiors, the Catholic Church seems determined to preach only the new theology that God wants to reward the wicked and punish the good.
The Church's latest disincentive to faith is the letter of the Vatican's Pontifical Council for the Laity to Couples for Christ seeking to "correct" what is wrong with it. What's wrong with it presumably is that it is devoting its energies to Gawad Kalinga (GK), Tony Meloto's brainchild. Still more specifically, what's wrong with it is that GK is overemphasizing social work and accepting donations from pharmaceutical companies manufacturing contraceptives.
I know Meloto, we were both scholars at the Ateneo de Manila University and worked as porters at night to pay for our room and board at the dorm. I'm convinced that if the ranks of Catholics in this country have not gotten paper-thin, it's because of people like him. He is living proof that God works in mysterious ways and prefers his tribe rather than those who claim to be "close kami ni God" [“God and I are close”] who are Vatican's lieutenants and many of this country's bishops, to convey his truth to the world. I haven't met a more resolutely Christian person. Hell, I haven't met a more resolutely sincere person.
What on earth, or heaven, is wrong with accepting donations from companies that produce contraceptives? I leave the question of abortion to the usual suspects, but contraceptives? It's not as if they are weapons of mass destruction or toxic elements that cause cancer, like cigarettes. Condoms merely prevent human substance from exploding in the wrong places. Bombs induce inhuman substance to explode in the very wrong places, like public markets and hospitals. Particularly these days when the specter of famine sweeps not just across a few lands but across the world, courtesy of a runaway population outstripping food production, you've got to wonder if the Rock, which was what Christ called the Church, hasn't become a pebble.
Why shouldn't Meloto accept money from those companies to feed and house the poor? Tony himself cries out eloquently, and not without a trace of sarcasm: "Should all Catholics who work with pharmaceuticals resign? Why is it OK for many Catholic organizations to receive money from them and not OK for GK to care for the poor...? If loving this country, serving the children, is anti-life, then I need to be enlightened again as a Catholic because I only desire to be faithful."
What I myself find galling is that the Vatican should worry about GK accepting money from companies that manufacture contraceptives and be smug about its clergy in the form of the Filipino bishops accepting money from a patently poisonous source. That poisonous source, or cholera-producing well, being Malacañang and its milking cows, the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. and the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office. The latter two directly engage in gambling, an activity that, completely unlike safe sex, has been known to spread disease, if of the mind. Meloto merely accepts money from pharmaceuticals that promote contraception, the bishops accept money from someone who promotes the abortion of democracy. Meloto merely accepts money from pharmaceuticals to do nothing more than feed and house the poor. The bishops accept money from a hypocritical to do everything in their power to keep her in power just so they could fatten and gladden themselves.
But the more mind-boggling thing is the charge that GK is overemphasizing social work. You would laugh, except that it hurts. Again Meloto cries out: "My pain as Catholic and as Filipino is seeing our people suffer from poverty and our country labeled as corrupt. We have not done enough for our poor countrymen. Poverty in the only Catholic country in Asia is a failure in discipleship and Christian stewardship. My dream is for the world to see that it is possible for a Catholic country to rise from poverty because we practice what we preach." That makes him more Christian than Gaudencio Cardinal Rosales. Hell, that makes him more Christian than the Pope.
How in God's name is it possible for anyone to do too much social work in this country? That is like accusing a doctor of prescribing too much medicine to someone fighting for his life. At the very least that a lay organization like Couples should somehow betray the Christian spirit by moving heaven and earth to feed the hungry and house the homeless is batty. What, they get to be more Christian by spending their time attending Mass and avoiding de-coupling while living sad, sad lives?
At the very most, that even a religious organization itself, which the clergy represents, should somehow betray its Christian teachings by plucking the hungry from the claws of hunger and the homeless from the lash of wind and rain is battier. Didn't Christ say what you do for the least of your brethren you do for him? Didn't Christ say not everyone who says, "Lord! Lord!" will enter the kingdom of God? And didn't Christ spend his time on the road with fishers and a well-known prostitute rather than in the temple with the Pharisees who were better-known prostitutes? I do not claim to know the ways of heaven, but when St. Peter goes out one day to meet Meloto who has praised his God silently by doing the most for the least of his brethren, and the bishops who have praised their God loudly by refusing to condemn the most corrupt of their "sisthren," I have a good idea whom he will send upstairs and downstairs.
Christ did say one other thing. It wasn't that the sick shall inherit the earth, it was that the meek would.
Cartoon from mikeanderson.net