Sunday, April 25, 2010

Zaldy on the Church

I enjoyed reading the Marianas Variety's editorial by Zaldy Dandan from last Friday and I wanted to share it with you:
I FIND it amusing that because of what the New York Times calls “a sexual abuse crisis,” some commentators now believe that the Roman Catholic Church is “doomed.”

A British opinion writer in Uganda titled his recent piece “The Catholic Church’s Funeral,” in which he lashed out at the church’s “wretched backward teachings on contraception,” and declared that “I for one would not mourn at its funeral but celebrate.”

The church is Western civilization’s most ancient and enduring institution. For over 2,000 years, as an American political science professor once noted, “it has been a target of all the great movements of European history — the Renaissance, the Reformation, the French Revolution, the industrial revolution, communism, and fascism. Through it all, the Catholic Church has endured, and at times even prevailed.”

So no, I don’t think that pedophile priests can accomplish what cataclysmic historical events have failed to do. In the CNMI and back home, Asia’s only Christian nation, life as a Catholic goes on for the faithful. In a society where the church is the central feature, we have learned how to separate the decency of our faith from the fickleness of its adherents.

In late 19th-century Philippines, the Spanish friars were considered by our patriots as the principal enemies. A lot of these priests were notorious for their abusive behavior, which included avarice and lechery. When the revolution broke out in 1896, many friars were summarily executed, but native priests simply took over the parishes and the church lived on. During the 1899 constitutional convention, the provision that would have made the Catholic Church the state religion of the republic was defeated by a single vote only.

For Catholics in the NMI and the P.I., the church is not just a set of beliefs, but an abiding presence from the moment we’re born: christenings, confirmations, fiestas, Lent, Christmas, weddings and funerals. To turn our backs on the church is like forsaking cherished memories. To abandon our faith because some of our priests are sick perverts is like saying we should give up on the entire human race because of the barbarism we have inflicted on one another since time immemorial.

For every degenerate priest there are hundreds who are true and good like the courageous priests back home who publicly criticized the dictatorship even when it meant detention and torture, and who, together with nuns, blocked the tanks at Edsa in 1986. Here in the CNMI, Bishop Camacho spoke out against labor and human rights abuses when the government was still denying them. And then there was Father Maximilian Kolbe. During World War II in Poland, he was arrested by the Nazis for providing shelter to refugees, including 2,000 Jews. In Auschwitz, where he was imprisoned, the rule was that if one of them escaped, 10 would be locked in a bunker where they would be starved to death. In July 1941, one of the prisoners couldn’t be found. It turned out that he drowned in the camp latrine. But the Nazis believed he had escaped so they selected 10 men, one of whom had a wife and children. Kolbe volunteered to take his place. After weeks of dehydration and starvation, and with the rest of the men already dead, Kolbe was still alive. The Nazis then killed him with an injection of carbolic acid.

These are the priests who, for the faithful, represent what is pure and sacred in their church.

The church, to be sure, must do a better job of screening new priests and going after those who commit wrongdoing. But as long as humanity exists, there will be virtue and depravity among us, even in an institution that tries to help us make better life choices.

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