A BISHOP I know pretends to champion social justice, but, right in his own backyard is brewing unrest.
“His true colors now show,” say a group of parish workers. “He is a moneymaker.”
For instance, he announced that he will celebrate masses in all parishes this Christmas season, and, with over 30 parishes in the diocese, and with the standard Php3,000 stipend the bishop gets per mass, the figures easily translate to Php100,000. The amount does not include enveloped gifts and the customary bananas and eggs in shiny wrappings.
In the past two years of his administration, fees for church services, e.g. baptism, weddings, funerals, etc., were increased, but salaries of parish workers, i.e. clerks, bookkeepers, and other staff, have stagnated. Worse, benefits accorded them in the past have been diminished, if not scrapped. The priests, meanwhile, now enjoy fatter pay envelopes.
The bishop also increased the compulsory contribution of parishes to the diocese from a flexible lower amount to Php8,000, regardless of parish size.
And how about the frequent foreign trips of the bishop and his priests abroad? How much money have they gathered from unsuspecting overseas Pinoys?
How ironical that the church is always inclined to lambast government for graft and corruption, constantly demanding for transparency and accountability on public funds, yet the church itself is evasive on how it handles church money. A journalist friend says the bishop always dodges questions about the finances of the diocese.
One of his predecessors, who served the diocese for decades, was, in euphemistic terms, also a financial whiz, but he was known to share his blessings. The older prelate did a lot of charitable work, including prison apostolate. He also regularly distributed gifts, in the manner of a true politico, to the poor, especially between December and February, his birth month.
Inversely proportional to church fees is the quality of homilies of our priests. Rapidly declining in substance, they have become painfully boring.
But maybe they can deliver more interesting, more insightful sermons if they spend more time actually doing meditation, and less time going to bars.
One priest is a known habitué of bar in a town named after Santa Claus. This priest is also known to carry a gun. I do not know if he has enemies or if it is just a hobby that he arms himself, but this really alarms me big time. I wonder if the bishop knows about this, but how could he not? This priest lives very near him, very, very near, nearer in fact than the swimming pool by the Bishop’s Palace.
But ‘Fr. Bar’ is not the only gun-carrying priest. In fact, another presbyter figured in a gun-pointing incident the previous year. His victim was a fellow priest who was so petrified he had to be temporarily adopted by the bishop. I am not sure why he did it, but I am sure the reason was not spiritual because last time I checked, Jihad was not Christian, but Islamic.
Let me make it clear that going to bars per se is not wrong as priests also ought to loosen up and have some fun, but frequenting sleazy night clubs, like some of them actually do, is, well, not so priestly.
Priests are as human as we all are. They can be weak and vulnerable, and so we should pray for them. I ask God to bless and enlighten our religious, in the same breath that I pray for my soul.
I never went to mass this 2009, not once, not even when I agreed, on reasons social and not spiritual, to be “ninong” to a child.
My mother asks that I go to mass every Sunday, “that’s the only gift I ask of you,” she begged.
Alas! It’s a gift that is too much to give.
But let me assure you, dear karikna, that I have a very healthy relationship with the Almighty. I will not speak too preachy less I sound like a priest, or my mother, so enough be said that I do not need an exorcist.
Happy Christmas, dear karikna.