Church unwittingly endorses vice; notes on the sacred and the profane

(Note: This is an improved and elongated version of an earlier post)


SOMETHING CAUGHT my eye when I visited the Catholic church in Batac recently. Among the souvenir items they were selling at the parish office was an ash tray imprinted with the name and logo of the Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception Parish.

While I would not say that smoking is evil and that smokers are baaad folks, I feel uncomfortable with this apparent endorsement of the vice.

“It would have been perfectly okay if it were a candle holder, but an ashtray?!?  And the name of the Blessed Virgin is even there.  That’s so off,” say my friends who were shocked to see the item.

Some bishops and many priests light up, and I don’t mind. But to sell smoking tools… inside the church?! That’s too much.

I bought a piece of that ash tray though because it is a very good example of the blurring between the sacred and the profane, which is quite interesting for sociologists like me. The church, fountain of the spiritual, confuses the people many times with its trysts with the material.

By the way, I asked for a receipt to make sure that it is really the church which officially sells the ceramic item, and they issued me with one bearing the heading, “Diocese of Laoag”.

A few years ago, I wrote His Excellency Ernesto A. Salgado, then bishop of the Diocese of Laoag about something I found disturbing. I was listening to a radio broadcast of the Siete Palabras where the soft-spoken prelate made a pitch against prostitution and the exploitation of women. I was moved by Salgado’s message.

Cold water was doused on my face however when right after the bishop’s part, the list of sponsors was read, and one of the major financiers of the program turned out to be Discolandia, the red light district in Ilocos.

I felt uneasy because I don’t subscribe to a late cardinal’s principle of “accepting money from the devil so long as it goes to a good cause, e.g. to the poor,” the same cunningness shown by some church officials who accept donations from gambling—legal or otherwise.

When I worked for a development foundation for children, we would not accept anything from companies or persons who have anything to do with the production of liquor, cigarettes, lewd works of art, and other products and services that run counter with what our organization stood for.

To his credit, Bishop Salgado wrote me back, thanking me for my concern, and vowing to look into the matter. The station manager, whom I also wrote, likewise pledged proactive action.

Please do not misconstrue that I am subscribing to the idea of a dualism of the human person—that one’s temporal side must be taken care of solely by the state, and that his/her spiritual well-being by the church. The priest cannot say, “I do not care if you are starving to death, my job is to nourish you with the “bread of life”. The human person must be dealt with as a whole. That is why we admire the church in its crusade against mining, corruption, and abuses in governance; and in its advocacies for the poor, the weak, and the oppressed.

Of all the social institutions, it is the church that is largely hinged on symbols. From the vessels used in liturgy to the vestments of the clergy to gestures of worship, signs and symbols shape our religious constructs. They are repetitive and constant to the point of being hypnotic. There is disillusionment however when there is a disconnect between a symbol and the teachings of the church.

That is why people raised eyebrows when Sergio Utleg, bishop of Laoag, served as barker for a mall, a monument of materialism. That is why the better priests and parishioners were dismayed at the construction of a capricious swimming pool—symbol of imprudence in these hard times—in the bishop’s palace. And that is why cultural enthusiasts lament the humongous Mc Donald’s golden arch that now dominates the Laoag City landscape. Located right at the door of the city, the lot occupied by McDo, threat to the renowned healthy diet of Ilocanos, is owned by the diocese.

Certain church officials seem to have no problem with smoking, materialism, illegal gambling, and the banes of the fast-food lifestyle, but are quick to condemn harmless transvestites who participate in wedding marches.

I must concede though that should the parishes sell beer mugs, I would be happy to buy one and actually use it for an evening unwinding with friends one of these days. Beer sparks good conversation, and the mug would be a good jump-off point.

Beer is good, and the pope is German.



I posted the picture of the ash tray in my blog and some readers gave the following feedback.

Lita, a devout Batac parishioner, who now lives in New Hampshire USA, asks…

Couldn’t they have sold school or religious stuff with the church logo at discounted prices? These will even promote more devotion. Whether those ash trays are decorative or not is beside the point. Ash trays are for cigarette ashes.

Jen, a student from Manila blurts out…

GRABE! Hindi ko ma-imagine na magbebenta sila ng ganyan sa loob ng simbahan. Naisip siguro nila in demand yan hehehe. Pero mali nga. Kulang na yata sila sa pinagkukunan ng pondo kaya kapit na sa patalim.

Donna of the Netherlands (formerly of Pasuquin) is amused…

Ha..Ha..kaloka naman talaga ang church nowadays. Kaninong idea kaya iyon? Sa lahat ng church na napuntahan ko dito, puro religious articles lang ang ibinebenta.

When there is an ashtray, people are invited to smoke. In our house, there is no ash tray, So guests automatically know that smoking is not allowed inside.

Author: Herdy La. Yumul

A hesitant academic pimp, writer

34 thoughts on “Church unwittingly endorses vice; notes on the sacred and the profane”

  1. An ash tray??..oOOps!what a surprise.I can’t imagine, a church?!selling an ashtray?!..As far as I know, ash trays are for smokers,and here in the dictionary says that it is a receptacle for tobacco ashes and gtherefore what i know is true. Then, if ash tryas are for smokers and smoking is a vice which is bad, definitely it should be aginst against the church. Then,why are they selling it?…In my highschool years at ICA, we students have been educated of good values,gospels, and our deep faith to God. We have open our eyes seeing only good traits from our educators, nuns and priests which are our models to build up our Christian faith and to become a faithful servant.That’s why I am shocked when I read your article talking about an ash tray endorsed by the church which we ICAdemians consider it as our home, our home in the sense that our day will not be complete if we do not enter and pray even just for a minute.At first, when my eyes finished reading the title and looking on the ash tray,Immaculate Conception Parish printed on it,what actually and immediately came out to my mind is tha”It cannot be.”…For me, smoking is destroying your whole being given to you by God. It is a blessing that God created us in his own image and likeness, therefore we must not ruin ourslves.We must throw away our wickedness. Drunkards and smokers are sinful people because they do not know how to respect and value God. Don’t they know that destroying and killing themselves in a way of cigarettes and even liquors is a sin because in his teachings,God and you are one,destructing yourself is like destroying him.

    1. OMGosh. Disgrace talaga ang Catholic Church sa Christianity. What do you expect from a sect na ang daming unbiblical na turo? Pagluhod sa bato, pananalangin nang paulit-ulit, pagbibinyag sa mga sanggol (dapat kasi may sapat na kaisipan na yung bibinyagan), pagtutol sa pagpaplano ng pamilya, etc… Napakaraaaami pa. Sorry, catholics.

      1. Hello, micko.

        hmmm… I really do not mind what people do in worship as long as:

        1) What they do, no matter how strange, make their lives more meaningful and help them cope with the problems of human existence; and
        2) They do not cause detriment to society at large.

        As a powerful institution, I feel that the Catholic Church fails miserably on criterion #2.

    Eh anu kung nagbebenta ng ashtray ang simbahang katoliko?????meron na bang batas na pinagbabawal ang paninigarilyo at kung merong mang batas na ganun sa tingin ko ay lahat na ng mga tao ay magiging PARI AT MADRE…………jajajajajajaja

  3. Kapag ganyan ang nakikita sa loob ng simbahan eh sino pa ang maniniwala sa kanila. Parang sinasabi nilang mabuti ang manigarilyo. Siya nga naman kapag ang mga pari mismo ang naninigarilyo ay sasabihin nilang mabuti ito, pero ang masama sila ay mga alagad ng diyos. Anong silbi ng mga sermon nila kung sila mismo ay hindi nila sinusunod ito.

  4. Ash tray???Very shocking naman… Sa totoo lang pangit tignan na nagbebenta ang simbahang Katoliko ng ash tray..Para kasi itong nagpropromote na magsigarilyo..Well, sabihin na lang natin na may mga nagsisigarilyo pero ibenta ba naman itong ash tray sa loob ng simbahan….!! I’ve studied in catholic school beside this church and they taught us how to keep our life and treat it more than any precious stone…Church plays an important role in everyones life..Why do they sell this kind of stuff??Is it for budget or what?? Tanong ko lang..Smoking is very dangerous to our health….It’s just like your damaging what God gave you…And we must remember that life is only once in a lifetime.. Kung pwede lang eh mabuhay tayo ng mahaba just like Abraham and other persons in bible pero alam natin na hindi tayo mabubuhay ng ganitong kahaba..Therefore, we should live life to the fullest everyday ika nga..
    Dapat i-pull out na nila itong ash tray sa loob ng simbahan..

    fLamemiSha.. 

  5. haha lol.. Maybe the church just want to have a clean surrounding; an “ash-free country”… haha. However, it looks like its a kind of business. the question is , “Is church a house of business, too???
    I thought church is house of worship. Church is against family planning but not against smoking… its kalokohan!

  6. we all know that most people smokes kaya siguro ito ang naisipan nilang magbenta dahil itoy ay demanding lalo na sa mga smokers na ayaw ikalat ang mga filter ng sigarilyo kung saan saan lang, well maganda rin naman ito dahil nagiging malinis ang kapaligiran natin pag gumagamit ng ashtray, pero di dapat ang simbehan ang magbenta nito sa halip sana ay tutulan nito ang paninigarilyo pero sa halip ay parang kinukunsinti pa nila ang paninigarilyo. baka nga tangkilikin pa nila nag mga nagsisimba na manigarilyo kahit sa loob ng simbahan. siguro ay talagaa ngang gipit na ang simbahan sa pera dahil tumatangap pa sila ng mga donasyon na galing sa negosyong may kinalaman sa pagusbong ng prostitusyon . sana ang simbahan pa dapat ang tumututol dito pero parang kinukunsinti pa sila. pero kahit sinabi ng simbahan na para sa naman sa mahihirap ang nalilikom nilang donasyon ay hindi parin ito tama dahil galing ito sa masama. kaya nga minsan ay nawawalan ako ng tiwala sa simbahan but not all the time……….. jejejeje

  7. an ashtray business in a church..what an irony?
    whatever the intention of the ashtray business, i think it doesn’t justify the things that church is trying to teach to the people, much to the young minds. i hope the Diocese will give attention and action to this.

    1. Parishioners from Batac, can you kindly check at the parish office if they still sell those ash trays?

  8. As a Christian I like to think as the church as an spiritual edifice and not a mixture of social and economic establishment. Of course its social concern is supposed to be a manifestation of the Christian faith but ironically, the concerns like the public announcement of the sponsors of mass, services or programs of the church would raise questions on the secular teachings of the church.
    I am reminded of the biblical part in the new testament where Jesus physically tried to cleanse the temple of worship when such was used for commercial and trading purposes. If Jesus were here today, he will do that with the churches!!!! He reminded during the cleansing of the temple that the purpose of the church is for worshiping God and mixing it with other things is against the spiritual principle of its being there as a temple of God.
    In another part of the New Testament, Jesus criticized the Pharisees and the Saducees (temple priests) about their supposed spiritual performance as seen by the people but inside are rotten in thoughts and in deeds thus liking them as “ whitewashed tombs but inside them consist of decaying and rotten”.
    The church should symbolize the spiritual and Godly things and not becoming materialistic.
    moreover, thinking about the Church as an income generating institution is very controversial. what is a church anyway? is it a business establishment? as far as i know a church is a physical structure used for religious activities. take note of this, “it is used for religious purposes”. as in religious purposes. when we say religious, we are relating to or manifesting faithful devotion to an acknowledged ultimate reality or deity like god. so may i ask you, is selling an ashtray in the church is part of religious activities? (naninigarilyo ba ang diyos?) NO. . This is way beyond its purpose and its nature, that is to nurture the spiritual needs of the members. Although, this is what the Spaniards for more than 200 years had deeply and mistakenly taught us, that money and the church pair together. If there is no money given to the church, then one can not go to heaven”. This was a case of misinterpretation of the true meaning of being a member of the church.
    This is history repeating itself in a simple sense, many thinking that buying church artifacts or ashtrays with the face of virgin mary would be helping one to go to heaven!!! It’s the same as buying figurines of the saints or the statues or pictures of Jesus which one thinks as blessed and needs to be placed in an altar of worship. This is preposterous as a church money making venture defeating what the church really should be, a spiritual place not a business center!!! wake up fellow Christians, specially those who are on the higher ladder in christian faith(priests/bishops). are you INSANE? you are the leaders of the church. why are you allowing this to happened?

  9. ouch!.the church?? selling ash try??? i cannot imagine that the church are selling ash trays ..with the logo of the Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception Parish.but selling ash trays in the church are not some cases some people are over reacting of what the church do.

  10. hmm… asthtray binebenta sa simbahan parang ang ang laswa naman na pakingan yan mga pader d lang naman kau nahiya sa mga debuto nyo.baka gusto lang na ipamukha sa mga debuto nyo na kau ay isang hamak na smoker o ano na dian.kahit nagbenta pa kau ng ganyan sana wag nyo na lang inemprenta yong pangalan ng simbahan o d kaya sa tindahan kau magbenta d dian sa mismong bahay ng mahal na apo.

  11. Maybe the church thought of this as a solution to the country’s overpopulation. And if many people will die because of smoking, hooray! more money for the church. LOL

    It is such as waste to put all of my hopes to the government and to our cute persistent politicians so I thought of putting all of my remaining hopes to the church, praying that someday a hero will emerge out of nowhere to save mankind just like the movies and animes I have been watching. But my hopes has been shattered after reading this article. The church is beginning to become like the government where the popes, the priests, are becoming like the politicians who only thinks about money and power. The priests who should be teaching their people good morals and good values are encouraging their people to smoke by selling these ash trays which is said to invite people to smoke. Our teachers who should be teaching us holy things are not doing their parts well, instead, they are busy doing something else, maybe for money, acceptable, but selling ash trays? abominable, wicked, vile. They should have thought of different ways to raise funds like having a concert or a stage play for example or by soliciting or by selling souvenirs, but not ashtrays or anything that promotes vices. Well, the world is changing, but it does not mean that the church will comply to this phenomena. They should try their hardest to make the world as holy as before or making the world a better place than before. I think that should be the church’s mission.

  12. I am shocked upon reading this article. I just cant imagine a church selling an ashtraywith its very own logo?! It seems that they are really proud of selling an ashtray and parang ineendorse pa nila na smoking is good. Mas ok pa sanang isipin na ang pari ang nagtitinda ng sigarilyo pero ang gamitin ang pangalan ng simbahan para lang magkapera???That’s too much! naghihirap na ba ngayon ang simbahan at kung anu-ano na ang itinitinda?! Pati pari kinareer na ngayon ang pagpapatayo ng mall, sana nag-civil engineering na lang sila para pati simbahan gawin na nilang mall.
    Mga tao nga naman ngayon, pati simbahan dinamay pa sa mga kalokohan. haizt.!

  13. Sa totoo hindi ito ang first time na makabasa ng ganitong isyu, minsan pa nga’y nakapanood ako sa T.V. na mas malala pa dito. Akalain mo, gingamit pa ang pangalan ng mga banal na tao para lang makabenta ng ashtray at iba pa. At yung iba pari naman, nagpe-“faith-healing” na nga may bayad pa at hindi pa kasama doon ang mga gamot na rineseta niya na mabibili mo lang sa loob ng simbahan. Di ba nakakawalang respeto? daig pa nila ang mga businessman.

  14. HINDI magtatagal sigarilyo na ang isusunod na ibaenta ng simbahan!!!!jajajaa!!!…I first studied at ICA when I first go for my school until I graduated in high school, beside Immaculate Conception Parish. I can’t really imagine that they really sell an ash tray. My God! sisters and fathers what happened to you??
    I grew up in ICA, it was my second home then. They thought us on how to be a good Christian, not only that but to be good in everything. We have a religion subject for the entire ICAdemians from elementary to high school. Every 1st friday and 3rd monday of the month lagi kaming pumupunta ng church and they even require us to attend the mass every sunday. Pumapasok kami ng simbahan upang makinig ng sermon ng pari pero paano naman kami makikinig sa kanilang sermon kung may itinitinda naman pala silang ash tray at parang sila pa ang nagtutulak sa aming mga kabataan na manigarilyo. ICA opened my eyes TO SEE GOOD,TO THINK GOOD AND TO DO GOOD and not only me all the ICAdemians.

  15. Bakit nga naman sila nagbebenta ng ganung bagay. Minsan hindi nga ako naniniwala na mga pari o mga bishop-bishop na yan. Kung baga’t ganun na sila eh kung sino na silang mabait na tao. Minsan nga dito sa bahay naririnig ko yung mga sermon ng pari kasi kapitbahay lang naming yung simbahan ng katoliko. Ang dami dami niyang sinasabi sa mga tao at parang galit pa pero yung mga sinasabi naman niya eh hindi naman niya magawa sa kanyang sarili.

  16. .in first time i hear this situation,i already know what should i say.In my own,selling ashtray in church is not legally given a right to sell.And church is not selling area,all i know was this is the place we can ease our problem and peace of mind while praying.WE ARE GOING TO CHURCH TO PRAY,NOT TO BUY “ASHTRAY”!

  17. ash Tray???wala bang iba???o gusto lang nila ng kakaiba.Pero hindi naman siguro tama yun. Hirap na hirap na nga ang simbahan para panatilihin ang imahe ng kabanalan nito tapos ash tray ang souvenir nila, parang nagyayaya sila ng sabay sabay na magyosi ang mga magsisimba gamit ang souvenir nila..

    tenks sa article na to sir dahil na laman kung pwede pala ang ash tray sa souvenir suggest ko nga sa simbahan namin,hehehe

  18. aw biruin mo mismong simbahan ang nageendorso ng paninigarilyo bagamat hindi sila nagbebenta ng yosi maliwanag pa sa sikat ng araw na pinapalaganap nila ang paninigarilyo at isa pa ay ang pagpinta ng pangalan ng mahal na virgin mary sa ash tray nakakahiya. gano na ba kadesperado ang mga simbahan para silay magkapera?

  19. hmp.nagironic kasi kasla da lang ienendorse ti smoking considering nga they must be anti to it.kasi nga smoking is bad and dangerous.

    i think it is improper to put the Logo of something holy to just an ashtray.

    these are sacred symbols and should be given due respect

  20. .cgro mr. author gxto din ng sinbahan na yan na maipalganap ang clean and green. .
    . . pangit nmn cgurong tgnan ang lugar na mraming kalat ng sigarilyo. . hmmmm. .
    . .
    .wala nmn sila balak na i advertice ang pag gamit ng yosi. .
    . .pwera na lng mr. author kung makita mo ulit na nag bibigay ulit ng gnung souvenir na may kasamang isang stick na ng yosi. .

  21. Ganito na pala ang simbahan ngayon!!!!Church always preaching the bad effect of cigarette smoking and drinking alcoholic beverages,pero sa tingin kaya nila tama ba ang ginagawa nilang pagbebenta ng ash tray lalo pa’t nakatatak ang ang pangalan at logo ng simbahan? I think it’s not, kasi kung pag-isipan nating mabuti,parang tinutulak pa nila ang mga taong magbisyo kasi ang ash tray ay para sa sigarilyo, so sa tingin nila gagamitin mo ba sa iba kundi sa bisyong paninigarilyo?…Souvenir? eh kung school supplies nalang kaya ang ibenta nila? kahit budburan pa nila ng napakaraming logo ng simbahan, at least naman kung gagamitin iyon ng studyante lalo na sa exam. baka magawa pa niyang manalangin kung makikita ang logo ng simbahan…BRAINEE!

  22. To be honest Sir, I didn’t knew about the ash tray being sold with that tag until I read your article.. They could have been sold other materials than ash trays, there are lot more things around us, even more useful than those ash trays.. Things that can help people in attaining a healthy and happy life..

  23. I just entered the politics proper, as a new voter, I don’t know which of the candidates is the best to vote. As a first timer, I just voted those who are familiar to me, which should not be. For a beginner like me, I still don’t have enough knowledge with the proper way of choosing the right candidate. Us youth, needs to educate ourselves in choosing the right candidates.

  24. I feel disgusted and disappointed knowing that a church who carries a very sacred image to people endorses vices through selling ashtray with the name of the Blessed Virgin was there? how pathetic this is.
    If they are really aware of the sacredness of everything they are doing inside the cumbent or in the church, why would they alllow such things like things.? Unreasonable and unacceptable. Feel sorry for this.

  25. church is holly, and what’s good in church is when they have some failures they always speak for circumstances by nature they don’t admit that they failed to have a target. Ok with that of ashtray then i think some priest are smokers too, but what’s the harsh thing is the name of the parish is in the ashtray, that they are pertaining Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception Parish have an idea of entrepreneurship even against with the health of the people. Offer vices and you will earn vices too, it’s a cycle.

  26. i think church is not a souvenir shop and i think they are not encouraging people to smoke, but they do. because of the ashtray people may thin that church are willing to open for cigarette smokers, i mean they are in favor to smokers. maybe they can sell other products but not ashtrays.

  27. The Catholic Church does not particularly consider smoking to be sinful or even improper. You may be surprised to hear that your remark about the positive social aspects of beer applies equally to tobacco, as those who use it can attest. Open your mind.

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