Faith can move mountains so the lyric of a beautiful melody goes. In our case faith can move a carriage carrying the black Nazarene for miles and miles for some 18 hours. The estimated 12 million devotees cheated death from possible stampede. Only divine intervention prevented a serious tragedy.
How does this faith or folk religious practice compare with that of the middle class bourgeoisie who attend masses at the malls in crowded chapels elbow to elbow hoping that the sermon will be shortened and the Mass cut to half an hour so that they can indulge in their favorite week-end shopping with the family in tow?
Under Article XVII Section 2 of the Constitution the devotees which comprise almost 24% of the voting population can easily amend the Constitution which requires only 12% of the total number of registered voters to do so.
Informatively the EDSA revolution which overthrew a dictatorship was initiated by only two million citizens, roughly a sixth of the Nazarene devotees comprising about 15% of the 76 million registered Catholics in the country.
Witnessing the phenomenal surge of humanity from the Luneta Grandstand to Quiapo Church, some political scientists have wondered whether we are not seeing a potential another EDSA, Arab Spring if not a resurgence of Christian democracy. The good Lord knows that politicians have in the past tried to organize a Catholic vote which quickly petered out in the absence of a charismatic leader. Cardinal Sin could have been it as we had seen during the EDSA uprising. Unfortunately his call to the faithful was not a call to arms but rather a plea of a saintly shepherd of the Church to prevent bloodshed. In the process he was protecting both the government forces and the breakaways. To be sure the Prince of the Church did not entertain any political ambitions and quickly left the political scene as soon as he anointed Cory, which was quickly accepted, albeit grudgingly, by Doy and his Green Shirts who were at the forefront of the opposition to Marcos long before Ninoy and Cory entered the political scene.
On this score, it seems somewhat ironic that the son would now—by foisting on the populace the Reproductive Health Act which has caused so much angst among Catholic—go against the Church that his family owed so much to for their political fortunes.
Be that as it may, the chances of attempts to organize a National Union of Christian Democrats can be consigned to oblivion as long as its leadership is more concerned with votes and winning elections rather than promoting the social doctrine of the Church. This is anchored on the principles of solidarity, subsidiarity and the preferential option for the poor.
To galvanize the often unruly devotees of the Nazarene and turn them into political action, what is required is a critical mass of leaders with a moral compass that devote themselves to the conscientization of the faithful as did Eduardo Frei in Chile. He managed to form a credible Christian Democratic Party which ruled the Latin American Republic effectively for years. In Germany Konrad Adenauer’s Christian Democrats was in power for years and continue to rule under a coalition government. In my time as chief of mission to Italy, Andreotti and Cossiga’s Christian Democrats occupied the Quirinale, the seat of government for years.
In this country the National Union of Christian Democrats (NUCD) lost its franchise from the central headquarters in Brussels when it coalesced with LAKAS, which became the surviving party. Today LAKAS-CMD has lost its luster as it continues to suffer from internal conflicts and a leadership that has lost much of its credibility.
To politically empower themselves in the service of a just society, the Nazarene devotees must look beyond its touching and towel-throwing and pray for an enlightened Philippine leadership that can truly lead us to the way the truth and the light. Certainly devotion will help. But the Lord also wants the faithful to help in the heavy lifting of the cross – the yoke that now weighs heavily on the backs of the poor who cry to heaven for redress in this unjust society.
While it is perhaps too idealistic to pray for an absolute dictatorship with an archangel in Malacañang, the likes of St. Louis of France, to rule our seemingly unruly and ungovernable people, we can perhaps settle for the more mundane rule of law in a state without political dynasties, without pork and private armies, a state with a leadership that looks after the common good and not just the short term political gains of the rulers.