• Can we ever reconcile corruption with our Christian faith?

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    Amidst the bubble of public enthusiasm over the apostolic visit of Pope Francis, which begins tomorrow, this question asks itself because of the unresolved corruption scandals that have plagued and continue to plague the country, despite its apparent overflow of Christian piety. How could so much unbridled corruption, not to mention so many other grievous crimes, happen in this predominantly Catholic and God-fearing country?

    The quickest anti-Christian knee-jerk has been to blame the Christian faith for it, by suggesting that corruption has become endemic because Christianity (specifically Catholicism) permits or even encourages it. They cite the sacrament of confession, which allows a wrongdoer to seek forgiveness for his sins by confessing them to a priest, as being principally responsible for it. Catholics do not mind committing the most grievous offense because they are confident of being easily pardoned for it, so the theory goes.

    It is an awful lot of nonsense. It reflects a completely perverted view of religion and reason, and specifically, of the sacrament of penance and forgiveness. No one offends the law of God or the laws of men because he practices his Abrahamic faith; he does so either because he has no faith or because he fails or refuses to follow the teachings of his faith. He sins not because of his religion but in spite of it.

    If he is Catholic and penitent, he could seek forgiveness by confessing his theft or plunder to a priest. But no priest could absolve him, in persona Christi—-in the name of Christ, unless he returns what he has stolen — this is called “restitution”– and performs whatever penance is imposed upon him by the priest. Full satisfaction of the penance restores him into a state of grace, and he could then worthily receive the Holy Eucharist and be reunited to Christ. Otherwise, if he receives communion unworthily, he commits sacrilege, which compounds his original offense.

    To the best of my knowledge, this is how the Catholic religion and the sacrament of penance work. Because this religion is based on love, it is full of joy and hope, but it does not spare the faithful of a strenuous life. It does not make it easy for a Catholic to sin or to live a corrupt and immoral life. The call to universal holiness is what he is taught to take to heart; for the greatest tragedy, as the French writer Leon Bloy puts it, “is not to become a saint.”

    In a predominantly Catholic country, one could expect the highest positions of leadership in the non-confessional state to be occupied by serious Catholics who try to live their lives with utmost fidelity to God. One also expects its secular politics to submit to the guidance of Christian ethics. This is what a long tradition of theologians and philosophers, from Augustine through Aquinas to Maritain and Joseph de Torre, have taught. But we have not seen this in the long history of our Republic. We have had masonic presidents, even a Protestant one, but never a real Catholic who was eager to put the whole country under the sovereignty of God, as the preamble of the Constitution provides.

    Most of them profess to be Catholic, but they proudly proclaim that they do not follow all the teachings of their Church, as though it were possible for anyone to be a good citizen without obeying the traffic rules or paying one’s taxes. They wear their Catholicism like a hat, which they use when going to church on Sundays, but they leave it outside the door whenever they report for work or go elsewhere on weekdays.

    By all sorts of political excesses they have destroyed the primary values of democracy, but they invoke democracy to reject the role of Christian morality and tradition in the affairs of the State, consistent with Jean Jacques Rousseau who saw democracy and Christianity in an antithetical relationship. This happens whether or not they have heard of Rousseau at all. But Christianity, according to the future Pope Benedict XVI, as the source of knowledge, antecedent to the political action on which it sheds light, ought to be seen “not as revealed religion but as leaven and a form of life which has proved its worth in the course of human history….

    “The truth about the good supplied by the Christian tradition becomes an insight of human reason and hence a rational principle, (which) does not inflict violence on reason or on politics by means of some kind of dogmatism,” writes Ratzinger. “The basic moral insights revealed by Christianity are so obvious to all and so incontrovertible that even in the conflict between confessions, they could be regarded as insights that every rational man takes for granted. They possess a rational evidential quality that remains unaffected by the dogmatic disputes of a divided Christendom,” he points out.

    Indeed, Christianity has taught mankind everything it knows about the human condition; this is why it stands as the foundation of Western civilization, which was built, according to Sheed, by listening to God while looking at man. And yet all this we seem determined to undo, both by our considerable malice and by our colossal ignorance. The main source of this folly is the State, as presently administered.

    We have a president who, although known to be a baptized Christian, defies characterization as far as his precise moral and religious situation is concerned. To pursue his personal and political ends, he has not hesitated to corrupt Congress, intimidate the judiciary, and take liberties with the national treasury without any trepidation or qualms of conscience. And no one has raised a voice in protest from among those who have been corrupted.

    For all intents and purposes, both corruptor and corrupted have abolished the regulation of the moral law from the practice of politics, as though the state had become the source of truth and morality, which has no philosophical, scientific, or rational basis. The question of right or wrong, good or bad, moral or immoral no longer figures in considering the merit of a particular idea or act. The only criterion that seems to matter now is expediency: can one get away with it?

    Sadly, for all the many good things that could still be said about the Philippines and Filipinos, this is the kind of Christian society which Pope Francis will find when he comes tomorrow. Everything is being done to provide him with a much bigger crowd than the four million-strong assembly that welcomed Pope Saint John Paul II during the World Youth Day celebration at Rizal Park in 1995, and to make sure that he is safe from all harm. One hundred million Filipinos, without exception, would like to do everything to ensure the safety and comfort of the Holy Father. But nothing is being done to remove all the moral, spiritual and political obstacles that stand in the way of making the Philippines a truly transformed nation.

    In a gentle reminder to the faithful, the Pope has asked that they focus on Jesus rather than on Francis. This seemed like a mild reproach to the local hierarchy which for months has been asking the Catholic faithful to kneel after every Mass and pray “that we may be eager to meet and listen to Pope Francis.” The real rock star is our Lord, rather than his vicar.

    Francis will be the third pope to visit Catholic Philippines, but Jesus, the son of the living God made man, has long preceded the first papal visit, and has been on our altars for all of the nearly 500 years since we fist embraced Catholicism. He waits for the faithful every second of every day at the tabernacle even when they do not come. He is the source of the love, mercy and compassion which the Pope bears to the Filipino people. It is to him that we look for our conversion, transformation and salvation.

    fstatad@gmail.com

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    21 Comments

    1. Those who professed to be faithful and defenders of faith, and those who aspired and become involved in the running of the state were the ones who recieved the wrath of Jesus Christ when He went to the Synagouge and found out that it become a marketplace and a convergence of thieves and racketeers. The supposedly Temple of God was desecrated without abandon by the same people with authority and power.

      These, has never changed since time immemorial and still synonymous to countries where the running of the state is meddled by religion.
      Philippines and its religio-political combination is a cancer that needs a General Surgery as the only cure.

      Godbless Philippines.

    2. To the question, “Can we ever reconcile corruption with our Christian faith?” the answer should be a definite NO, but because of the basic misconception of how good and merciful God is and his forgiving nature to those who truly repent, the fear for Him which should be enough to impel him to desist and abandon his criminal intent, instead misleads him into the rationalization that he can seek forgiveness later. In that sense he considers his act of corruption reconcilable with his Christian faith. The corrupt, therefore, does not even consider God or his religion when he commits it. To him his religion is not even in his consciousness because it is not a deterrent or consequential to his action. Thus he suffers no guilt in his mind and can easily profess innocence, his concern alone being not to get caught. Just look at those who are being charged of plunder, theft, robbery, corruption, see how relaxed and self-righteous they are? They are even trying hard to look indignant, Do you still wonder why there is no more delicadeza in this country, and why we are going to the dogs?

    3. Vicente Penetrante on

      The devil likes to tempt more the God-fearing. At times, he even inflicts physical harm to those who will not listen to him, like Job in the Bible and many saints.

      Now, it is necessary for him to bring us atop a mountain, show and promise the richness of the world to tempt us. It is enough to tempt many of us by a Forbes Park house or condominium.

      What you are looking for are saintly leaders. Let us pray for that.

    4. On the topic of ‘Christian faith’ and corruption, and how is it affecting the society and the mindset of the populace, is all too predictable, especially in a country like Philippines. One fundamental flaw in Filipinos psyche, expresses some of our compatriots frame of thought, it comes in the form of a few words – ‘Chosing between lesser evil’.

      A catch phrase that defines how Filipinos do not really understand the meaning of the word, because a ‘lesser evil’ will not translate into ‘goodness’, since when did the act become a gauge to quantify a quality of deed. Stealing a single peso is no lesser offense than stealing a million pesos, it is the deed that makes it wrong and not the quantity – the ‘value’ is all in the act of stealing not the amount stolen.

      Religiosity, depends upon a person’s own consciousness and how a person conducts oneself conscientiously among other humans. For, it does not mean that when a person who can memorize the whole bible from cover-to-cover or quote verses out of thin air, make that person a disciple or disciplined in ways required of him daily – sadly this is the state with which a ‘religious’ person measures another of one’s ‘faith’.

    5. Anyone who does not follow His commandment “love one another as I have love you” has no right to think/call himself/herself a Christian.

    6. “….never a real Catholic who was eager to put the whole country under the sovereignty of God.” You must mean under the sovereignty of the Vatican since isn’t it the only interpreter of God’s word? You mean you want a return to the days of the Spanish friars? You are mixing the faith and the Church as one but, although you can philosophically argue that way, can you you dispute that there is always a difference between teaching and practice? There is the faith, and there is the human organization that professes to adhere to it. Can you honestly say that God is happy with the way his friars behaved in this country for the last 500 hundred years, not to mention the Church’s history for the last 1000 years or more? If the Church is not responsible for this cesspool of immorality we are swimming in today, what is it responsible for then? You are an intelligent man so you know that the best way to teach is by example. “By their deeds you shall know them.”

      • The author was quiet about corruption when his boss, Marcos, was plundering the country. How’s that? Look who’s talking!

    7. How many times have i said that. What type of religion says just confess & repent your crimes & you will be forgiven. Wow who wouldnt like to receive that guarantee. It opens the door to steal, rape, kill or whatever you want to do. All you need to do is visit a priest & confess & show true remorse ( good acting is allowable ) & you are absolved of your sins. No wonder so many want to be catholics.
      Its like legaising rape & then seeing rapes increasy by the thousands & wondering why. The correlation is clear & obvious.

      • Hi Dustin-
        In defense of what the author wrote, he mentioned sacrilege, that means compounding your sins if you are not really sorry after confession and commit the sin again and again. But forgiveness is the main message of the New Testament and should be welcomed with joy by those who are willing to receive this gift, a condition that was not available during the Old Testament with continuous animal sacrifice that according to Apostle Paul cannot take away sin. If you will study the last book of the NT, the saints were given a white robe, why? Because sin cannot be purged, it is there forever to remind you of what you had been. And because God cannot look at sin, you must be covered with a white robe. If only people understand what sin is… This is the religion you are asking about Dustin but not necessarily Catholic, whose most of the teachings are extra biblical. Thanks for reading.

    8. victor m. hernandez on

      Amen +. I, you and I, and Pope Francis will decrease. He (The Lord God, Jesus Christ) will increase in me ( in you and me, and to others). That God’s presence will increase in us, and His love will radiate to others through us, his fervent and committed followers. The focus is not Pope Francis, ut on God, the Lord Jesus Christ. That Jesus Christ’s mercy and compassion, and love will be among each and everyone of us, no exception. Amen +

    9. You are again one hundred percent correct, Sir Kit Tatad.
      The explanation for the corruption of very very many baptized Catholics and church-going Catholics, as well as the tolerance of the majority of the population that should be steadfast against corruption, is that unlike the Catholics in places like Hong Kong, Singapore, India, for example, where baptized Catholics are a minority, sometimes an oppressed minority, is this: the majority of the baptized Filipino Catholics are really ignorant of the teachings of their religion. During big feasts, a bigger number of them show up and fill up the churches. But the Sunday church attendance of Roman Catholilcs is at best only 25 %. That means only one-fourth of all baptized Catholics bother to obey the commandment to observe in their Sabbath duty. How many bishops and parish priests tell their church-going flock often enough–in their homilies–that they must do basic pieties like doing a serious examination of conscience and then going to confession before receiving Holy Communion?
      I go to Mass every Sunday and during weekdays as much as possible. My work makes me go to other churches than my own parish quite often. I seldom hear priests urging the faithful to be serious about examining thir consciences and going to the sacrament of penance and reconciliation before DARING to receive our Lord in Holy Communion.
      If every one who is a Catholilc–incuding the politicians and government officials–examined their consciences regularly and went to confession, there will be more morality in the government and even in the also corrupt Philippine private sector.

    10. Jose A. Oliveros on

      That phrase “to put the whole country under the sovereignty of God as the preamble of the Constitution provides” should remind us of what Justice Jose P. Laurel wrote in the decision that he penned in the1937 landmark case of Aglipay v. Ruiz: “When the Filipino people, in the preamble of the Constitution invoked the aid of Divine Province in order to establish a government that shall embody their ideals x x x they thereby manifested their religious and placed unfaltering reliance upon Him who guides the destinies of men and nations.”

      In another part of the decision, Justice Laurel emphasized that: “Religion, as a profession of faith to an active power that binds and elevaes man to his Creator is recognized. And n so far as it institutes into the mind the purest principles of morality, its influence is deeply felt and highly appreciated.”

      In his Moral and Political Orientation, Laurel emphasized that: In the field of government and public service, the inculcation of this principle of righteousness is imperativ. There can be no good government, regardless of its form, without morality. x x x In the ultimate analysis, righteousness is the only moral basis of good government. The dismal failure of many governments recorded in history is always traceable to their moral collapse.” (pp. 33 – 35)

    11. The great pretender!! Ito ang makikita at mababakas mo sa ating gobyerno at sa maraming tao!!
      Lalo na si Aquino!!nagsasabing matuwid na daan!!
      Magagawa pala niya ng ganito kabilis ang pagpapaayos ng mga lugar na dadaan ng pope!
      Bakit ang mga taong ang taggal ng nakikiusap sa kanya na tulungan sila hindi niya magawa!
      Ito ilang araw lang gagamitin para sa pagdating ng pope ay halos ubusin ang pondo ng bayan ngayon kung tutuusin ay para lang nagtapon ng napakalaking halaga na hindi naman mapapakinabang ng mga mahihirap!
      Anong lohika ang pinagkukuhanan ng mga ito!
      Ito ba ang kaaawaan ng dios ,na puro pakitang tao lamang!
      Ipokrito!!natutuwa ka ang langit sa mga ganito!!

    12. Most catholics use christianity to commit, justify corruptions. Both the church and the government connive to achieve corruptiobs. Think about it!

    13. P.S. Can we ever reconcile corruption with our Christian faith? Perhaps for now but, definitely NOT in the Philippines.

    14. I think “Christian” piety should be distinguished from “religious” piety. In the Philippines, it’s a case of too much religion, but much less of “Christ”-ianity.There is too much display of material things by the rich and famous (and powerful) that the poor and down-trodden aspires to be like them. Look around Metro Manila. What do you see? Big billboards (bigger that any of those you see in other countries) showing good food, good life and richness. Who sees these billboards; mostly the poor. Where is Christianity? How many are like the Gates, Waltons, etc., who are willing to give almost all of what they have to the people and to the world, are in the Philippines?

    15. Jaime Hernandez on

      The Phlippines being a Christian country is the most corrupt in Asia. The Pope knows this. Whatever enlightment Filipinos expect can only emanate from within. A heart & a soul to begin with. Pope Francis is the beacon & messenger. It’s up to us to follow his lead. If we can’t get rid corruption no matter how much we are visited by the head of the church nothing will ever happen.

    16. sonny dela cruz on

      I have only one question that I have not found regarding Mr. Tatad mentioned of Law of men & Law of God. Many of our politicians right now looks very religious but corrupt at heart. Money is their god. My question is, did Jesus punished Judas for his sin with a kiss on his cheek for 30 pieces of gold?

    17. Corruption is irreconcilable with our Christian faith. Corruption is stealing, is dishonesty, is everything against the teachings of Christ. Corruption is an act of injustice and a grievous sin against charity. How in heaven’s name can these corrupt politicians ever experience joy at the coming of the vicar of Christ?

      The test for whether we have lived our lives according to our Christian faith is to see whether we can defend what we did, had done and had been doing before the throne of judgment when we face God.

      The late Mayor of Manila, Arsenio H. Lacson once said that before he does anything, he was always in the habit of asking whether he can defend what he intends to do in Plaza Miranda .

      A safer and valid moral guide is to ask whether we can defend how we have live our lives according to Christ’s precepts and teachings . It’s true forgiveness is always available for a penitent soul.. But no forgiveness is available for one unless he returns what he has stolen, in the case of theft and plunder — this is called “restitution”– and unless one performs whatever penance is imposed upon him by the priest.

      And this will be the sad and tragic end of a thief and plunderer. For all the billions in the world, is it worth languishing in hell for all eternity?

      • ILVING TABIOS ZAMORA on

        I think it was President Magsaysay who actually said that, the thing about “… depending it in Plaza Miranda…”….

        My take on Christianity: It is a foreign ideology imposed on our people, It is Christianity that corrupted the Filipino people, the alpha and omega of its dysfunctional and damaged culture.