CBCP issues stern reminder to priests
Marking 2015 as “Year of the Poor,” the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) on Saturday challenged priests to stay simple and humble and not to fall in love with money.
CBCP President and Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas said there is much to be done in 2015, but the first thing that the priests should do is to simplify their “priestly lifestyle.”
“The renewal of the Church begins with the renewal of the priests. Let us take the lead in embracing the poverty of Jesus on the Cross,” Villegas said in a statement dated January 2, 2015.
The CBCP head issued seven “simplicity rules” that will help remind priests of their vocations and the true meaning of serving the poor and God.
He said priests should “avoid foreign travels and frequent recreation in expensive tourist destinations, even if such are paid for by friends and family.”
“High-end cars and expensive vehicles smack of vainglory and luxury. There is no excuse for any priest to have such high-end vehicles,” Villegas said.
He explained that priests need to have vehicles to reach poor villages and bring them the blessings of God, but “expensive cars alienate the poor from the Church.”
“We smell differently from the sheep,” he said.
He urged priests to always wear their clerical attire or clerical cross in public places as a symbol of poverty instead of loud-colored signature shirts and pants, adding a priest’s room and a bachelor’s pad “are exact opposites.”
“It is a serious sin of omission for a priest not to have a regular poor person to help whether for education, health or livelihood,” Villegas said.
“Be honest in reporting to the Curia the true financial condition of the parish or school. There are no fixed rates of offerings for the celebration of Masses, for confirmations, for funerals, for weddings and other sacramentals,” he added.
“Always give alms to the poor who come to you. Do not be afraid to be fooled nor turn them away empty. Do not be afraid to pamper the beggars. They have no one to help them.
If you have to make a mistake, make a mistake in being too charitable, in being too kind,” he added.
He said before priests were ordained, they were first trained for a difficult life in the seminary, deprived of the warmth of family life.
“We wanted to be priests hence nothing was unbearable,” he noted.
Villegas lamented that the “sickness of accumulating” possessed some priests.
“Money got stuck in our hands instead of sliding to the needy. The car became a status symbol even for the newly ordained when the chrism of anointing had hardly dried. The recreation became more sophisticated to expensive tourist sites unreached by the working class. We were no longer lacking in food; we were now choosing our food after being initiated into the palate of the filthy wealthy,” he said.
“It is bad for a priest to fall in love with a woman. It is worse if he falls in love with money.
Ordination gave us access to church money but that money is not ours to enjoy,” he said.
“We priests can start touching hearts again if we talk less about our powers and instead expose ourselves more to the power of Christ to change us. When we demand integrity from public officials, can we humbly say like Saint Paul ‘imitate me because I imitate Christ?’ In this Year of the Poor, self accusation must precede prophetic denunciation of social corruption,” he said.