Wednesday, March 19, 2014

“The conversion of the church . . .”

If PHL is to ever succeed in reforming itself, where should we be looking first? Given that the church is a significant part of our culture, shouldn’t we be looking at the church and its influence on who we are? For example: “In repeated broadsides at the culture of clericalism, Francis tells his fellow hierarchs that they are not to think of themselves as “a royal court” . . . That was just one in a series of blasts he issued in the days leading up to his first-year anniversary on March 13, reflecting an insistent theme of his young pontificate: Bishops are to lead by serving, not dominating. The centralized Curia, too, must not be “an inspector and inquisitor that no longer allows the action of the Holy Spirit and the development of the people of God.” [Pope Francis' Reforms For The Catholic Church May Be Bigger Than Anyone Dreamed, David Gibson, Religion News Service, 8th Mar 2014]

“Hierarchical “careerism” is “a form of cancer,” Francis has said, comparing bishops who strut about in church finery to “peacocks”. . . “Little monsters,” he calls such clerics . . . “I am a sinner”. . . “This is the most accurate definition. It is not a figure of speech, a literary genre. I am a sinner.” And in his landmark exhortation . . . he harped on the need for the conversion of the church: “Since I am called to put into practice what I ask of others, I too must think about a conversion of the papacy.”

Before Francis there was Rizal: Padre Dámaso is one of the notorious characters in the novel Noli Me Tangere. The novel was written by José Rizal, one of the leaders of the Propaganda Movement in the Philippines. Noli Me Tangere (Touch Me Not or "Social Cancer") . . . exposed the abuses of the Spanish friars (belonging to the Roman Catholic Church) and the Spanish elite in colonial Philippines during the 19th century . . . The novel . . . represented the state of Philippine society under Spanish colonial rule. It was intended as a liberal-nationalist wake-up call for the people of the Philippines.”[Wikipedia]

Haven’t we been proudly proclaiming that we’re the only Catholic nation in this part of the world? What do we really mean . . . that we don’t need conversion, for example? “[I]n his landmark exhortation . . . he [Francis] harped on the need for the conversion of the church: “Since I am called to put into practice what I ask of others, I too must think about a conversion of the papacy.”

Like it or not, our reality has been characterized by a culture of dependence on the one hand and condescension on the other? “The culture of dependence first has to be confronted and diminished. To start with, there should be a change in the attitude of politicians, epitomized by [Budget Secretary] Butch Abad’s condescending statement about patronage being inevitable. The masses should not be treated like parasites whose existence depends on the dole-outs of politicians.” [Political patronage, Greg B. Macabenta, Ad Lib, Business World, 11th Mar 2014] “Note that “poverty” is what Abad heaps the blame on for the prevalence of political patronage. What he conveniently failed to acknowledge is that political patronage perpetuates poverty. It’s not even a chicken-and-egg situation, where you can’t tell which came first. Rather, it’s a process of making a bad thing -- like poverty -- even worse through patronage, until the latter becomes the dominant factor in the lives of a populace. Until the people become totally dependent on patronage. Until patronage becomes the means for manipulating, controlling and corrupting them.”

“Unfortunately, through the years, we have repeatedly bowed to self-interest groups when new programs are introduced to move our country forward. Whenever departure from the status quo comes up, self-interest groups stand in the way of progress. And with hired glib tongues and strong political connections, they have been able to keep the status quo; they have retarded and stunted national progress and our economic growth... Enough is enough!”[Hostaged by spoiled brats, Romeo G. David, Map Insights, Business World, 10th Mar 2014]

How do we confront the dichotomy of dependence and condescension? For example: Growing up . . . her [Chelsea Clinton’s] parents would . . . routinely challenge her to debate them on issues . . . “It taught me early on, particularly as a girl and a young woman, not only was it OK to have an opinion and point of view, but I was expected to have an opinion and point of view.” [Chelsea Clinton challenges tech crowd to help others, Rick Jervis, USA TODAY, 11th Mar 2014]

If the church needs conversion, what about PHL?

I’ve spent more than 25 years as a professional outside the Philippines – where I logged 20 years – and if I have a bias, it is because I have internalized what an egalitarian society is about. And so I could relate to the worldview of an expatriate in the Philippines. Wrote Mike Wootton, The missing piece in the Philippine economy, Views from a Brit, The Manila Times, 11th Mar 2014: “I do not think that investment incentives alone are the means of stimulating long-term industrialized development. Incentives are a bonus, it’s the business environment that is critical and the business environment in the Philippines is significantly less sophisticated than the advanced gizmos that you can buy would indicate. Technical and commercial competence, knowledge and skill are grossly undervalued in the Philippines, purely because money is such a powerful facilitator and for as long as the structure of the Philippine economy remains so enamored with money, then long-term job and export creating investment will just not happen. The oligarchs need to raise their game and government such as it is needs to recognize and properly value and prioritize knowledge and skill above those so coarse and basic “big bags of money.”

Could Francis inspire us to seek conversion? “In his first year in Rome, Pope Francis' comments on everything from gays to atheists have gotten most of the attention, but his aggressive efforts to reform the Vatican's scandal-scarred financial apparatus show he's not all talk. What has happened is nothing short of an earthquake in the internal governance of the Holy See . . . The biggest structural change to the Roman Curia in nearly half a century. Francis has gone full-speed ahead and Vatican finances are going to get cleaned up.” [Not Just Talk: Pope Francis Cleans Up Finances in First Year, Tracy, 13th Mar 2014]

“From a secretive bank accused of money-laundering to corrupt purchasing contracts, the Vatican's business operations have been a source of intrigue and embarrassment for a church with 1.2 billion members worldwide. For a short time, regulators stopped the Vatican from accepting credit or debit cards . . . There was also the Vatileaks scandal with new allegations of financial skullduggery and cronyism. One example: The Vatican paid $741,000 for a nativity scene in St. Peter's Square, twice the going-rate, according to a leaked document. This man [Francis], who comes from — as he put it — the ends of the earth and had no intention of doing this job, he is a freer man to deal with this. The fact that this is likely going to be a short pontificate means he doesn't have to think about the long game. He can get it done now.”

“Francis has certainly not wasted any time in demonstrating that when it comes to the Vatican's money, he means business. In June, he named a trusted aide to supervise the bank and weeks later axed its director and his deputy. In January, he ditched four of the five cardinals tasked with overseeing the bank, including Benedict's secretary of state, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone.”

“The pope is the only stockholder for the bank, and he fired the board of directors . . . When you take those away from the people who had it before and give it to an entirely new body run by an outsider known to be a no-nonsense guy, you have created — at least in Vatican terms — a real earthquake. These people are supposed to be holy, and they're stealing! If you want people to put money in the basket, you want to make sure they know their money is used efficiently and well and for good purposes.”

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