July 16, 2006

Fr. Roy Cimagala

Year of social concerns

I’M happy to learn that our bishops have declared this year as the Year of Social Concerns. I suppose it’s one concrete way of sensitizing everyone of the need to develop a deep and effective social mentality.

We cannot exaggerate that need. We know that man, while an individual person, is also a social being. The two positions, while distinct and demanding specific requirements, cannot be separated. They always have to go together.

We just have to find a way to blend these two dimensions together, avoiding the extremes of selfish personal individualism and pietism on the one hand, and mindless, impersonal socialism and activism on the other.

With the Church’s stress on social concerns for this year, I guess the idea is to correct a Christianity that tends to be too ‘vertical’ in its attitudes and practices towards God at the expense of her ‘horizontal’ duties towards our neighbor.

Other ways of describing this anomaly are a Christianity confined to the churches and alienated from the world, a Christian life excessively concerned with personal sanctity but indifferent to the apostolate in all its expressions.

Love for God always entails love for neighbor. Our Lord said, “As long as you did it to one of your least brethren, you did it to me.” (Mt 25,40) Love for God would be nullified if there is no accompanying love for neighbor.

But like Christ, we have to know how to show this love for neighbor, how this social mentality ought to be developed and expressed. I believe we have big problems in this delicate area, not yet properly understood even by ecclesiastics.

One clarification can come from Pope Benedict’s first encyclical, Deus caritas est, where he said: “The formation of just structures is not directly the duty of the Church, but belongs to the world of politics, the sphere of the autonomous use of reason...

“The Church has an indirect duty in that she is called to contribute to the purification of reason and to the reawakening of the moral forces…

“The direct duty to work for a just ordering of society, on the other hand, is proper to the lay faithful. As citizens of the State, they are called to take part in the public life in a personal capacity—in the many different economic, social, legislative, administrative and cultural areas… for the common good.”

I find these words clear enough, and yet they are frontally violated when some Church leaders (bishops) choose to take concrete sides in social and political issues.

With brazen show of primitive clericalism, acting like prima donnas, if not like clowns, complete with shrill voices and comic gestures, they directly and actively participate in political activities, pontificating on issues that are open to opinion.

Some have managed to convey to the press ideas that are clearly dangerously improvised, with hardly any basis scientifically or pastorally. In the end, only embarrassment for the whole Church is achieved.

Some even dare to quote gospel passages to justify their actions, much like the devil who, in tempting Christ in the desert, also quoted Scriptural lines with clearly twisted intentions.

They say their cause is just and useful. They fail to realize that their actuations lead to recklessly using the Church merely to voice personal opinions and partisan views, or to develop social and political theories, etc. Amazing!

At this age where information come to us quick and fast, it pains me to see these clerics still out in the dark insofar as proper Church attitude and clergy behavior with respect to social and political issues are concerned.

Is this the way to unite the Christian faithful, to strengthen our sense of Church? Where are the corrections, the measures to keep us away from these leaders who are showing clear signs of being false prophets?

The clergy should concentrate on our specific field of concern. That’s more than what we can handle without straying into areas for which we have no direct authority.

(Email: roycimagala@hotmail.com)

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